Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai directs Rocco Siffredi, Gabriele Galetta and Kelly Stafford in this documentary following the final year in an Italian male pornstar’s stellar career.
I’m not going to be bashful and pretend I don’t watch porn or have never heard of Rocco Siffredi but I’m pretty sure I’ve never knowingly enjoyed one of his movies. For rather vanilla heterosexual reasons, male porn performers never really register with me and his particular brand of sex work seems to be a very European form of rough sex… choking, slapping, spitting and endurance gangbangs. If that’s your cup of tea, then ding dong diddly… but it is a bit too consistently pain and humiliation focussed for me. Yet watching his final year be captured by a pair of respected arthouse documentary makers is a fascinating experience. Some intuitive and talented people are using all their skill to spotlight and catalogue the career and neuroses of one of the biggest brands in the ‘lowest’ form of entertainment. It makes for a strange experience that ticks all the current documentary boxes with mixed success.
The best moments are the fly on the wall, behind the scenes working days of a higher end porno shoot. These feel relatively unguarded and certainly show all the movement and fluids you’d expect… if not anything that would be considered gynaecologically hardcore. If you aren’t sure if this is a viewing experience for you then let me set the scene. The movie opens on a high resolution, artistically lit close-up of Siffredi massive schlong in the shower and then holds on it. Then minutes later we are chatting to a just off-shift female performer while she is still on her knees and before she’s had a chance to wash her face. It is fair to say the documentary pushes itself right up to the limit of what can be shown in a mainstream arena. So buyer beware… it is pretty unflinching and not family viewing. The details Demaizière and Teurlai capture though by not being shy are often insightful; the egos of the men, the false romantic intimacy the female performers generate to make the filming day palatable, the masks slipping when there are technical hiccups that prove this is the regular bullshit they have to deal with on what very much is just another paying job for them, Siffredi’s tragically parasitic relationship with his cousin Gabriele – a failed stud who now works behind the camera. Gabriele’s regularly foiled ambitions to add a Fellini-esque set up to the fucking scenes, or his tantrums, or his dedicated mopping of the floor at the close of a day’s work adds much of the humour and humanity to the project. He’s a sad little counterpart to the named star, one who completely forgets he is on camera for the most. Their interactions have the same farcical joys and symbiotic bad blood of the central relationship in the brilliant rock documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil. Two men almost cursed with each other for eternity.
Where Rocco slips up is allowing its star just a little too much rope to hang himself with. There are cringe worthy scenes where he tries to provoke positive acclamations from his sons who clearly do not want to talk about their father’s prolific reputation. Then there are the artier moments when Rocco is filmed alone dealing with his sex addiction demons or praying to his saintly dead mother. Often filmed in a self-consciously chiaroscuro style, they stand in direct contrast to the pleasing awkwardness of the behind the scenes procedural footage. They almost feel like a spoof of the more visually pretentious form of doc that has emerged in the last twenty years. I’m pretty sure they are meant to be taken at face value… or at least show the directors know what a preening, ridiculous figure their subject really is… but they begin to grate very quickly.
Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk
We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/