9 to 5 – an examination of the dying of the adult DVD industry?

The Boston Underground Film Festival is in full swing and while it’s probably best known and loved for it’s plethora of campy, schlocky and gory no-budget horror films it can bring some quality documentaries to it’s lineup as well. One such specimen was 9 to 5: Days in Porn.

After a chance meeting with an adult film editor in the cutting room, director Jens Hoffman spent more than two years meeting and filming some of the best known players in the San Fernando Valley adult film industry – the Hollywood of the genre.

Among his profiles are Mark Speigler, the talent agent who appears to have a bluetooth surgically implanted in his ear. The man is overweight, unshaven and by no means attractive. Nonetheless, he is clearly a deft businessman as he drives a Cadillac SUV. There’s the 19 year old Sasha Grey – the up and coming young actress who entered the industry after sending a Manifesto to Spiegler in which the former film student (who identifies Godard as a primary influence and initially whated to take “Anna Karina” as her stage name) expressed her desire to explore the far reaches of her own sexuality and the sensations of the flesh (Grey is now modeling for American Apparel and starring in Stephen Soderberg’s next film in addition to her adult repitoire.) There’s the Porn doctor: the former actress who now runs a non-profit dedicated to ensuring the physical and mental health of those in the industry. And most heart-warming was Belladonna and her husband, who produces films but says he’d be out of it the next day if his wife left the industry.

The film itself was surprisingly graphic – in my opinion to a degree not really necessary to advance the film. A “fountain” scene in particular was just beyond the pale.

By far the most intriguing story was that of Sasha Grey. She’s a very young woman (19 at the time of filming) but one who, while she may not have the most maturity, certainly has a philosophy. While she is definitely not the archetype of the industry star (petite, girl next door figure and dark brown hair) she has apparently gained significant success in her few years of performing. One of the participants notes that people come to the industry for at least one of three reasons: Because they’re a sex addict, because they want to be rich or because they want to be a celebrity. I’m not quite sure which one Sasha is but she appears that she may be on her way to making the jump to a certain type of mainstream fame: something that is almost unheard of.

Sadder and perhaps more common is the story of Mia Rose, who admitted to sleeping with close to 100 men before her 18th birthday and who lives and works with her sister. Late in the film her sister moves out suddenly and without warning and Mia is left to sit lonely with her dog, clearly demonstrating that while she says she is more happy than ever in her life it is still clear that her baggage continues to follow her.

Jens Hoffman was on hand in the theater and took Q and A after the film. He mentioned that most of his filming was done during a significantly revolutionary time in the industry. While video and DVD had dominated since the 1980s, in the last few years the rise of the internet has shifted the locus of power in the field from the West coast to Miami where the biggest web distributors are located.

This film made me convinced that someone needs to make a documentary about “Max Hardcore” – one of the most marginal filmmakers in the industry due to the reputedly extremely violent and transgressive content of his films and the rumors of forcing his actors to perform acts against their will. I would hope that this film would specifically address Max’s court case that the Justice Dept. venue shopped and in which he was convicted of multiple counts of obscenity. My fascination with 1st amendment issues knows no bounds!

I would definitely recommend this documentary for those who are interested in more background of the daily lives and the day to day of this most unusual but most American industry, but beware: as I said, the film is quite graphic, so know what you’re getting into before you bring your granny to the screening.

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