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Rocco

Year: 2016
Production Co: Program 33
Director: Thierry Demaizière/Alban Teurlai
Cast: Rocco Siffredi, Annika Albrite, Kelly Stafford, Abella Danger, Casey Calvert, James Deen, Maddie O'Reilly, Dahlia Sky, Bonnie Rotten, Mark Spiegler, John Stagliano

There's an absolutely classic moment in Eagle vs Shark where hero Jarrod (Jermaine Clement) kicks his foot in frustration at a rock on the ground and exclaims 'I'm so complex'. It's a classic line because Jarrod likes to think his life and struggles are emotionally far-reaching and profound, but he's just a suburban bozo who's not very smart and has way too inflated an opinion of himself.

Rocco Siffredi (or whatever his real name is) struck me exactly the same way. He's slept with hundreds, maybe thousands, of women on film in his decades as one of the most famous male porn actors on the planet. But even though he's lived the kind of life most men would give anything for, he wants us to believe his life is full of profound artistic darknes and existential turmoil.

As the filmmakers follow him around the world while he tries to mount (fnur fnur) his final production, he talks about his childhood, family and emotional development like he's full of dark, twisted, secrets that have led to a sexually abberant adulthood, constantly searching for a happiness he knows he'll never find... or some such bullshit.

And look, he might have some of those twisted secrets – we all do. But some of the stories he tells (like the spontaneous oral sex with a friend of his mothers' while they mourn her death together) are not only ridiculous, they're an obvious attempt to self-mythologise by a guy who wants us to think he's gone beyond sex into some intense spiritual ennui that can only be found on the other side of banging pornstars.

In fact the film itself undermines him, revealing the spit-and-shoe-polish nature of the modern porn industry. While he tries to design and execute his final production, Siffredi suffers from a laughable series of indignities. In one, they get a brilliant scene before they all learn his longtime camera operator and offsider has forgotten to take the lens cap off (or something similarly ridiculous).

Legendary producer/director John Stagliano hears Siffredi's ideas about the religious iconography and metaphor he wants to include and just stares at him, bemused. The cameraman sidekick and Siffredi's co-star, veteran British pornstar Kelly Stafford, get into an argument and end up standing on the side of a highway in California looking like they're about to punch each other.

Maybe my view of the film was somewhat coloured by my view of Siffredi himself. I went into it not liking him because of what I know of his predilections. And yes, I know when we see him mistreat women on screen it's a persona and (you presume/hope) he's doing it with their full consent.

The film makes great pains to portray him as a normal guy with his wife and two teenage sons. But when he meets American pornstar Abella Danger and immediately asks if he can stuff his whole hand into her mouth, doing so until she gags and coughs and sprouts tears from the effort, you just can't look at any man who wants to do that to a woman and not think there's something fundamentally wrong with him.

Other than that the film itself is well shot, directors Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai wrangling a bit of an avant garde approach that's well designed and attractive even if little of the contents of the film or the man it's about are. When one of the co-stars of his production – the accused rapist pornstar James Deen – shows up, it endeared itself to me even less.

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