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Fashion Police   by Greta Christina

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Reviewer Greta Christina has worked in and around the sex industry for over a decade writing about it, editing books about it, and living it. She edited Paying For It, a collection of articles by all kinds of sex workers: dommes, escorts, peep show girls, T-girls. Her novella called Bending is out in Susie Bright's book Three Kinds of Asking For It (published by Simon & Schuster and can be found at amazon.com). In response to overwhelming member requests for reviews of sex toys, sexy films, and other sex whatnots, Ms. Christina brings her girl-about-sex wisdom twice monthly to Adult FriendFinder. You can check out Ms. Christina on her web site, www.GretaChristina.com.
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FASHIONISTAS
Written, produced, and directed by John Stagliano. Starring Rocco Siffredi, Belladonna, and Taylor St. Claire. Two-DVD set. 4 hours 40 minutes. Evil Angel. Also available at Good Vibrations, http://www.goodvibes.com, and other porn-positive outlets.


I've been hearing raves about "Fashionistas" ever since it came out. Serious, drooling raves, from people who've been around porn for a while and know a rare good thing when they see it. I'd heard that the video was beautifully and skillfully filmed; that it was beautifully and ferociously fucked; that it was both wildly kinky and wildly sexually explicit. I was intrigued, of course. Seriously good production values and seriously hot sex don't often make it into the same porn video -- and SM and any kind of sex hardly ever do. So I decided I had to check out this avatar of pornographic virtue for myself.

"Fashionistas" stars Rocco Siffredi, so right off the bat you know you're getting something pretty fucking filthy. He plays Antonio, an Italian fashion designer who's come to America to work on a new line of fetish-fashion wear -- and gets involved with the Fashionistas, a small fetish-wear design house that enthusiastically practices the sadomasochistic sex its designs are made to enhance. Antonio is intrigued with Helena (Taylor St. Claire), the aggressive, black-widow-spider boss of the "Fashionistas" operation, who uses her kinky charms to draw him into her business and her bedroom. But he's increasingly attracted to Jesse (Belladonna), an Ugly Duckling/Cinderella type, who's shy at the office but an impossibly insatiable submissive fuck-monster at home -- and who's the real creative spark of the "Fashionistas."

This is definitely a gosh-darned good porno. The sex -- much of it, anyway -- is passionate, intense, and unbelievably dirty. Rocco is always a filthy nasty bad bad man, and here he's at his best: fierce, rough, sadistic, almost angry, yet with a passionate admiration for dirty girls who can take what he dishes out. The casting of his sex partners was mostly well-done and in some cases inspired; the actresses are well able to keep up with Rocco's frantically savage pace, and Belladonna and Taylor St. Claire are more than a match, meeting his deeply kinked libido with their own inspired perversions. The cunt- and ass-licking is gorgeous, with faces shoved right up into it and getting down to business, instead of that stupid "sticking out the tongue and lapping so the camera can see" crap that everyone does in pornos and nobody does in real life. "Fashionistas" is beautifully filmed as well; not super-arty like Andrew Blake or Michael Ninn, but made with skill and care, and an eye for beauty that doesn't get in the way of the sex. And yes, Virginia, there is both SM and genital sex in the same video, even in the same scenes. (More on that in a bit.)

For all its raunchy sex, "Fashionistas" still spends a fair amount of time on plot -- in a way that really works. The shifting connections among the characters adds to the complexity and tension of the sexual power games, making them hotter and more compelling. It's not your usual porn-with-plot where the sex is irrelevantly plonked down in the middle of the story with no connection to anything. It's that rarest of gems, a porn plot that makes the sex more interesting by making you care about who's fucking and why. It dabbles in the messy emotions and compulsions driving the characters' sex lives, making it that much easier to grab onto the characters and get carried along for the ride.

This is definitely a video that's not afraid to get messy -- not just sexually messy, but personally messy. Complicated. The dominant/submissive power games are far more multi-layered than you usually see in fetish videos, with power struggles, and mid-scene switching, and the whole freaky "who's really got the power" question right up on the surface. There's the first scene with Rocco, where he's fiercely topping the girl and is suddenly on the floor sucking her toes; a bitchy topwoman who orders her submissive to bite her nipples; a later scene with Rocco where he's seduced by two Fashionista girls who offer their submissive bodies to him for his use and abuse... until the boss-lady shows up and turns the tables on him, ganging the three of them up to slap him around and smother his face with their tits and asses... until he turns the tables back on the boss, smacking her and pulling her hair and angrily jabbing his cock into her upraised ass as deep and hard as he can, while she squirms with suffering and relief and grinds her face into the sofa.

The complex, ever-changing power dynamics, while they create a delightfully excruciating sexual tension, are also oddly reassuring. Especially in the case of Rocco himself. With all the fucked-up shit he dishes out to the women in the video, the spitting and the pain and the scary breath-control blowjobs, it's somehow comforting to see him taking it. It's not simply that you feel more confident of his skill and empathy as a top when you see him giving it up (although that's certainly true). It just makes him seem more vulnerable: less like a tightly-wound, insatiably perverted fuck machine, and more like an actual messy human being.

A fine example of the movie's sexual creativity is the scene where the ugly-duckling girl, Jesse, goes home by herself, ostensibly to work on a promotional DVD for the firm. Instead of working, she puts in a homemade porno she produced, starring herself as a submissive beauty, bound and displayed in contorted poses in an elaborately constructed bondage frame. Watching the video of her own submission and torment, she slowly strips off her street clothes and dances for herself in the mirror, seducing herself like a stripper or a harem girl, and finally writhing on the floor and spreading herself open for the pleasure of a dominant who isn't there. This is, of course, a very clever porn-making trick, a fiendishly creative way to get two sexual scenes into one. But it's more than that. It's also an inspired way to get across the convoluted layers of sexual submission in the real world. Jesse is the submissive in the video scene (and in the "real-world" scene with her mistress that follows) -- and yet she's the producer of the video. She's the one who arranged for the scene to be recorded, for her own pleasure: both her sensual pleasure in the scene itself, and her voyeuristic pleasure in watching it afterward.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Belladonna is a stunningly beautiful submissive, as well as a nasty, nasty girl who needs to come over to my apartment right this minute and get the punishment she so richly deserves. She suffers beautifully; she completely opens herself up, not just her holes but her entire body and her entire being. Whether she's being sadistically tormented or sexually used, she goes limp and soft in the loveliest and most tempting way, completely relinquishing her body, to sensation as much as to her tormentor. She's one of the most enthusiastic, expressive porn performers I've seen in quite a while, with that all-too-rare skill in porn: the ability to make you feel what she's feeling, to make you experience her hunger, her suffering, her openness, her subservience, deep in your very own body.

But if you'd rather leave the kinky stuff to someone else, you should know this: While there is quite a bit of very kinky activity in this video -- spanking, face-slapping, hair-pulling, breath-play (mostly in the form of choking deep-throat blowjobs), more spanking, bondage, nipple clamps, clothespins, fetish wear, still more spanking, very rough sex, and heaps and heaps of dominance and submission role playing -- it's nowhere near as heavy as your average SM fetish video. The sex is all in the context of dominance and submission, but except for the breath play, the physical kink isn't harsh. Physical punishment is doled out mostly with bare hands -- hard core SM toys like crops and floggers and whips and paddles barely make an appearance.

And when these tools are used, they're used as a tease more than anything. A riding crop comes out and is briefly used on a submissive's feet, but then it gets put away and is never seen again. A violet wand makes an appearance at a play party, but it gets used for a few moments and then disappears. A top in an on-stage performance brings out a vicious flogger and uses it to lash the beautifully reddened bottom of a squirming girl, but after a few lashes, the toy gets set aside in favor of more bare-hand spanking. And at this same performance, two pony girls come out on stage -- and then don't do anything except stand around being decorative. We do see one of the pony girls later, but while she does get dominated in the form of spankings and slaps and the ubiquitous choking blowjobs, she doesn't do anything particularly pony-esque.

More problematic, the quality of the sex varies quite a bit. The intensity phases in and out, with many stretches that are exceptionally wild and raunchy and passionately heartfelt... and other stretches that are pretty much your run-of-the-mill porno fucking, more than a bit on the mechanical side. I was actually tempted more than once to fast-forward through the sex scenes, to get to the next bit of plot.

And most troubling of all, the big climactic scene at the end (warning: plot spoilers ahead), the one that the entire two-disc video has been leading up to and getting you all worked up about, is something of a letdown. It's not bad, mind you -- if I'd seen it in any other porn movie, I'd probably have enjoyed it quite a bit. But it's not nearly the freaky fireworks show you've been led to expect. A lot of this is the fault of the rest of the video, the way the whole thing is structured. "Fashionistas" builds this tremendous erotic tension between Rocco and Belladonna, tempts you with their growing curiosity in each other... and then, right near the end, just when matter and antimatter are about to come together, the video zooms off into a long sexual tangent between two secondary characters. Don't get me wrong: I think anticipation is a wonderful thing in porn, and it's far too often overlooked. But it can go on way the hell too long, to the point where teasy excitement turns into frustration turns into lack of interest. To make matters worse, the tangent is one of the more lackluster sex scenes in the movie... and it goes on for what seems like forever. I don't usually advise fast-forwarding through porn, as I think you can miss good stuff that way; but when you get to the scene between Rocco's assistant and his ex, I'd strongly urge you to hit FF.

But the biggest problem with the final scene is the scene itself. It's nowhere near as kinky, as intense, as enthusiastic, or as passionate as many of the scenes that led up to it. There's a huge build-up to this climax, over four hours of build-up, as Rocco and Belladonna's curiosity in each other gradually develops into near-obsession... while Belladonna sneakily inserts her kinky home movies into fashion promos she's giving Rocco, and both of them indulge their perverted desires with everyone else in sight. And yet, after all the beautiful, theatrical, crazy-ass shit that both of them have been up to, and all the high-test kinky images that Belladonna's been seducing Rocco (and us) with... when they finally get together, they basically just fuck. It's not a terrible fuck scene, and it does have some dom/sub elements. But I'd been waiting for a serious explosion when these two finally collided. The whole damn point of the movie was that they were made for each other, the furiously impassioned top and the insatiably willing bottom, and everything was building toward the moment when they finally could relieve their cravings in each other. There really should have been more to it than some fairly rough sex on a sofa.

My final verdict: On the whole, pretty gosh-darned good. Quite good, actually. Despite its flaws, "Fashionistas" is definitely several cuts above the average dirty movie, in many intriguing ways. And if you want a porno that has both explicit sex and at least moderately heavy SM (and you don't feel like traveling to Europe to get it), you should absolutely see this video. It's just not quite the "Citizen Kane" of kinky porn I'd been led to expect.



Visit Greta's blog: http://gretachristina.typepad.com