From the sprawling type of isolation found in Mad Max to the urban glitz-o-rama of Madison Avenue, Ninn's frames of reference in Sex (not to be confused with the Vivid titles of the same name) march before the judges' stand, spit and polished, in full parade regalia. Ninn's film, a spine-tingling noir tone poem, plays like a hypnotically driven elegiac. Within an audio track that sounds a little like the Gregorian chanting Santo Domingo monks in barbership quartet form, we witness the fortune and fall of Gerry Pike. As the film develops, Pike's a guilt-charged set of muscles and mane from the sticks who, through being at the right sex scene at the right time, makes it big as a male model in the acrid world of show biz.
Ostensibly, Pike is the good guy. But his show biz patrons, Tyffany Million and producer Jon Dough, exhibit enough ruthlessness and guile (Dough especially) to win the WWF World Tag Team Championship. Jon is having a career year playing pricks, and his earlier work in Mitch Spinelli's The Face seems to have served as training ground for what he brings to the table in Sex — as a producer of what, we're not precisely sure. But, gadzooks. One quickie scene even seems to imply that Dough has commandeered Pike to suck his dick, though this action is proclaimed fairly subtly, and briefly, with Dough's back to the camera with Pike assuming the altar boy position.
Chasey Lain, more descriptively, brings out the hetero, battering ram side of Dough's character. She's Million's victory offering to Dough for signing Pike and Chasey accomplishes her assignment with a docile blow job and doggie finish to what seems like an eternal Greek chorus of: "You Gotta Know Who's In Charge of the Show." We get the point after about the fiftieth repetition of this line that Dough is the big cheese in the swiss melt of the entertainment world.
Pike, as a male lead, is a refreshing change of pace. His dulcet tones (most of the time he sounds like Daniel Day Lewis yelling out to Madeleine Stowe over a waterfall in The Last of the Mohicans) adds rare body and flavor to the somewhat wafer-thin main course. In, just under two hours, Pike has loved Sunset Thomas, lost her, suffered a major guilt trip when he hears through the grapevine that she's been "raped by cowboys," becomes a cab driver, achieves Fabio status, descends to palookaville and then finds himself a 70ish year old-man with a remarkable penchant for recall delivered with the same kind of shameless sentimentality that's made F. Scott Fitzgerald the patron saint of romantics and drunkards.
Ninn's Sex is, prosaically, about power, passion and pain; about whispered deals in dark alleys, flights of ego, and Jack Daniels nightmares. Yet most of the action is defined within the parameters of a well-dressed stage setting or two, some hi-tech future-world props and Pike's conscience ringing loud and clear through the compelling voice of narrator Simon Delo who reminds you of Barry White attempting to contact the living from the disco great beyond. A couple more minutes of Delo and I was expecting a rousing rendition of "My First, My Last, My Everything."
It's really the riveting opening and closing sequences that are the film's life-giving essence. Those of you who can relate to Romeo Is Bleeding, will see some visual similarities. Picture the haunts of the drifter — the scorched earth, the roseate sky and windswept mesas. It's here, in his salt flat element, that Pike's character delivers a tempestuous doggie scene with Sunset at sunset that hastens to remind you of pastoral moments in Paul Thomas' House of Sleeping Beauties where Marc Wallice's henna-rinsed hair was as much a vital prop in a sex scene as a dick and a dandelion.
Because of the way the supporting cast kind of blends in as onlookers, masturbators and interactive participants it's hard to distinguish just where some sex scenes end and others begin. I number eight of varying length. Each one stands as a powerful gem of mesmerizing constructional vision. They don't unfold as much as strike, attack and lash at the viewer's sensibilities like the old Rocky Marciano one-two. Pike's scene with Debi Diamond, part one-on-one, part foursome with Misty Rain and Diva is a marvel of this kind of flailing formidability that sets standards in editing and creativity for an adult film never before seen. Incredible cinematography, scintillating original music and special effects never seen or used in an adult film before make this film the original work it is.
More than a routine sexual exercise, Michael Ninn's Sex is a beautiful, eloquent statement with deep feelings. It's a monumental adult film that will actually have you thinking about life — as complicated as that gets, sometimes.