O: The places you'll go

Gram Ponante
I enjoyed Ernest Greene's O: The Power of Submission very much. It was not because Carmen Luvana suddenly became an actress (although she does look fetchingly intellectual in a black turtleneck sweater) but because the movie didn't make the standard "it's only porn" excuses that a lot of films do that start out ambitious but eventually cave in as the director's vision can't be reconciled with the studio's resources, the crew's need to get it done without going into overtime, and the cast's apathy about the script.

Instead, everyone seemed on board with the project, which was an adaptation of Anne Declos' revered BDSM tome from 1954 Paris. All adaptations are vulnerable to attack by people faithful to the source material, and here Greene needed to make some tough decisions.

"The setting, which has caused some controversy among BDSM types who treat what was essentially a stroke-book written for a lover on a dare as some kind of holy writ, has been updated to modern Los Angeles, and not just as a matter of convenience," Greene told me.

"I see many similarities between the louche, sybaritic and cynical yuppie pervs who inhabit the author's post-war Paris and their counterparts amid the Jaguar-and-McMansion fetishistas of contemporary L.A."

Greene said nothing of men under 5'9" who drive Hummers or people who own dogs one can fit into a handbag.

"In the author's day," he continued, "Paris was a rough town, characterized by scarcity, dethroned from its position as a center of high culture by the humiliation and disgrace of defeat and collaboration in the face of fascist aggression and left with little claim to international regard beyond its popular media products - the films of the Nouvelle Vague and the rise of haute couture thanks to Chanel and Dior."

"I just bought some sneakers at the New Balance outlet."

"In short, (Paris) was a shallow and trendy town full of strivers and sharks, some of whom prospered while most settled for what they could get."

"Like Los Angeles."

A lot of things seem better when they happened many years ago, but Greene saw a positive change in the way people look at alternative sexual relationships today, crediting "a self-aware community of kinksters."

"It was in reinvention of the characters (to fit the new reality) that constitued the most radical change, and nowhere more so than in my conception of O herself (Luvana'ss character). I'd always found her frustrating in her prototypical form - a weird concoction of romantic vulnerability, cold-hearted calculation, passivity, manipulation, lust, greed and shame."

"She completely stole my modus operandi," I agreed.

"In the book, right after her return from Roissy, there's a short but revealing description of her sex life prior to meeting Rene (Tommy Gunn's character in the movie has been given the name Ray) that makes her out to be, as a rule, predatory, selfish and casually cruel. I always felt there was a much deeper backstory buried in those few paragraphs and it was in part from that backstory that I mined the materials with which I reconstructed O as Carmen played her."

The movie is worth watching for the great cast as well as what they have to say, even if that is not the lifestyle for you. O manages to get Greene and company's point across without, pardon the term, flogging it to death.

Read the review here.

Read a related Gamelink article here.

Previously: O: The Humanity; Carmen Luvana, smeared with cocaine, getting fucked on a pile of cash

See also: Adam & Eve

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