May 16, 2022

GENRE | Taking 'Pleasure' – A Swede in Porno Valley

"Women should have more power over what happens to them at work."
Sofia Kappel Ninja Thyberg | Pleasure Neon
Neon / MK2 Mile End
Swedish filmmaker Ninja Thyberg dives deep into San Fernando Valley pornography culture in a raw but unflinching portrait of professional adult film work in Pleasure. Set mostly within the actual porn industry and starring many real-life performers, the explicit depiction toys with its subject matter and titillation by emphasizing the decidedly less sexy elements of sex work and performance.

Sofia Kappel stars as wide-eyed nineteen-year-old Swede, Bella Cherry, who arrives in Los Angeles with ambitions of becoming an adult film star. She soon learns her chosen path involves increasingly more graphic acts of sexual exploitation. What's most shocking is the moments of sheer mundanity and everyday bullsh*t being in porn is just like any other job only severely heightened.

It's a shockingly frank and honest depiction of clear misogyny within the adult business thanks to obvious power imbalances. Kappel is so poised, confident, vulnerable, ambitious, determined, frail, and powerful all in the same breath as her Bella struggles to navigate porn stardom as a complete outsider.

Thyberg said she aimed for viewers to walk away not being able to watch or enjoy pornography the same way. It's clear she succeeded. Porno is a fantasy and Pleasure breaks that fantasy with its almost psychological sense of twisted (shockingly mundane) intimacy turned into complicity. This entirely female-driven story of adult film and sex work shows how very real and unglamorous the images we find salaciously pleasurable really are.

Pleasure screens at the Rio Theatre tonight and on May 23rd.

More | YVArcade / AV Club / Indiewire / Paste

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