Film Flame

Mark Ebner is our SCREENMANCER AT LARGE reporter since 1997, also an investigative journalist and author of "HOLLYWOOD INTERRUPTED"
Find out more about Mark at Hollywoodinterrupted

I'm not ready to declare a conspiracy, but more than a few Sundance programmers are clearly obsessed with pornography.  To wit:  Speedy Boys, some camp muscle boy thing called Beefcake, and Sex: The Annabel Chong Story.  

Brought to you by the distribution team behind Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, first time director Gough Lewis' documentary about a feminist scholar-turned porn star/gang-bang recipient succeeds as a documentary.  Almost.  As it turns out, Chong a/k/a Singapore-born Grace Quek is a profit participant in this film.  Maybe that's why she turns up the volume when discussing the nuances of double and triple "penetrations."  There's an agenda here, and I tend to believe that the angle is to make audiences believe that it's not an exploitation flick in and of itself.  You decide. 

"Sex" opens with a clip of Chong on Jerry Springer.  Then we find her in the classroom at USC where she is clearly pissed off (though we don't know about what) in a Feminist Theory class.  A classmate allows that she's fucked practically the entire campus, so it's no surprise she got into porn. 

Chong takes a talking head moment to describe her upbringing as "Singapore-Chinese, middle-class Protestant."  She wanted to be a ballerina, but ended up masturbating with her friends at her convent school.  At about 18, she came to America under the not-so-weird notion that, in Los Angeles, she'd be "in the center of Armageddon."  All this serious talk is intercut with shots of her in a supermarket buying cucumbers to be used for "anal sex preparation." 

The hype begins, as a search for 300 men willing to participate in "the world's largest gang bang" commences.  In one breath, Chong boldly declares that she's "willing to take the risk of AIDS" because she believes "the sex is good enough to die for," and that the reason she's doing the gang bang beyond the sex is "to shake people up about all these women being passive sex objects."  She's taking on the role of a stud, and wants to see how people react to it. 

Then we move into the actual gang bang, hosted by Ron "The Hedgehog" Jeremy.  50 men in, Chong wipes the semen off her stomach and declares that she felt like she'd only been fucking for five minutes. 

The filmmaker brings us into the Quek family home in Singapore where we visit her wary but unwitting parents.  Her mother finds out about Grace's career choice, and is devastated.  As is Grace, in a particularly nasty scene of self-mutilation. 

In an attempt at soul switching, Chong winds up in London, a city she describes as "a city with an undercurrent of loneliness, sadness and desperation to it."  At this point, the same could be said of her.  She has an epiphany and decides to leave pornography.  "I want my mom to understand," she wails.  "I want my mom to be proud of me." 

Flash-forward one year, and a refreshed Annabel Chong is ready to go back into porn.  Towards the end of this film, she walks right into the arms of hardcore porno director Robert Black.  So much for Chong's intellectual goals of smashing the stereotypes of porn actresses portrayed as victims.  Black is known for making "rape videos."   

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