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INSIDE STORY: THE TALENT OF MAX HARDCORE

Written by: sexiw

 

The Filth Meisters May Be Moving Out Of The Limelight Of Cannes Back To Their Haunts In Milan, Hamburg And Vegas, But The Insatiable Demand For Porn Movies Is Still Funding A Multi -Billion Dollar Business. Kate Spicer Reports

After hours of humour-less organised interviews with the media-savvy, puffed -white latex stockings up film world there's a cynicism among all but the most genuine of film lovers at Cannes. This is when the festival hacks turn their attention to the unruly courtesan on hand with her entourage of photogenic fools.

It is time for a bit of porn colour. Except this year there is no smutty parallel universe going on at the other end of the Croisette. This year the porn industry's gongs, the Hot D'Or, were at the Lido in Paris in February, shown on French TV in a Saturday night double bill with the Cesars.

The public arrival of porn six years ago was never popular with the festival organisers, but the money the porn exhibitor paid to be in Marche International de Film was always welcome. A few years ago all the premier peddlers of filth in the western world were here under one roof. There are fewer now. The film industry's dirty little sister is slowly packing up her glittery thongs and leaving Cannes. The sex industry people are disappointed; they like the juxtaposition of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis with chicks and dicks getting their kit off on the beach. But the filth meisters favour the sex-specific trade fairs in Hamburg, Milan, Brussels, Vegas and Paris. 

One pornocrat, Mike Blatt of Caballero Video, mutters, 'What's happening to this business? Jena Jameson, she's a big name talent, just did the Howard Stern movie, I hear she's been reading for Harrison Ford and Disney. How do you like that? A Disney movie.' In the public eye, porn still has the edginess of a renegade underworld, the same dubious glamour of gangsters and terrorists. But beyond the freak-show curiosity the porn industry is dull, with a fledgling GCSE style business practice trying to match a billion dollar bottom line. Josie Faria Snyder is director of International Sales for LA-based Sin City.  She takes all her meetings in a boardroom at the Royal Hotel Casino. Today her 10am slot is with British buyers looking to acquire films at the high end of the market. Snyder is giving the hard sell on Boobwatch II. One of the British buyers, Jessica Hardman, expresses her distaste with Boobwatch I: 'I thought it focused too much on these huge breasts. It's not for us.' Snyder says, 'I urge you to take a look at II, it's not focusing so much on the big breasts, I promise.' Of the 100 films a year Sin City produces, maybe three are acceptable to Hardman and partner Nigel Wingrove of Purgatory Films. Normally Snyder wouldn't ask if they want to see the film. Her other customers would take a whole package of videos based on genre - 'I'll have your full range of Amateur and everything you got on anal, I can't get enough of that stuff at the moment'. The only thing to haggle over is the price.

It's different with this novice British buyer. Like a 12-year-old kid buying cigarettes, it feels like he's making mischief first, money second. He sticks to big budget 'arty' porno, and won't be buying Fuck Jasmine: he wants porn to sell in Tower and HMV. The third film Wingrove chooses is Fetish: 'You're gonna love this movie,' says Snyder, 'everything is right up there, high budget, 35mm film, and the most fantastic soundtrack, similar to Enigma (as in Gregorian chants). I can see you guys being into it.' Movies are sold partially on actress and director reputation, but mostly on the words and pictures on the video's cover.

Fetish stars Rocki Roads, Samantha Strong, Colt Steele and Dick Nasty. Sin City has been 'listening to what the market wants'. And what the market wants is an oversexed schoolboy poem on the inside of the Fetish video cover: 'As helpless as a leaf in the wind, I felt something cold against my flesh. It felt like an eternity. As the warmth of her tongue snaked it's (sic) way along my inner thighs . . .' This is the mark of classy porn.

Hardman laments the ugly male actors. 'Oh I know,' says Snyder. 'I keep telling them to get better looking guys because there are a lot of girls out there wanna watch porno.' Female 'talent' doesn't audition, she just gets a call, like big Hollywood stars. Men must audition, unless they have a whopper reputation. 'You gotta know if and how well they can get it up in public', as the deadpan actress, Serenity, tells me later.

In Cannes there are as many women as men in the porn bunker. Some are employees, others own companies. Ona Zee and Theresa Orlowski are ex-talent who moved into film production and distribution. Teri Edelson of Millennium International is a porn broker, her clients are ready with more than 1,000 low-end porno compilations like Ready To Drop (pregnant women) and Ancient Amateurs. How long before the investment banks have porn derivative desks?  Women within the industry don't balk at content.  Even in the mainstream, it was Sherry Lansing, chairman of Paramount Motion Pictures, who was said to have been the only Hollywood studio chief not afraid of the under-age sex in the remake of Lolita.

In the porn bunker the nationalities display certain characteristics. One buyer says business with the Italians is like breaking bread with the Mafia, although the crowd at Joe D'Amato's booth are no evidence of this. D'Amato is maker of such cult classics as Caligula, Porno Holocaust and Notti Erotiche Dei Morti Viventi (Erotic Nights Of The Living Dead). The director, who goes under 20 different pseudonyms, sits with his staff and producers puffing on Marlboro and drinking espressos. His producers are coming to London this month to see people at the BBC. But his reputation is being eclipsed by the fancy new hardcore directors who use the Enigma style soundtracks and terrifying soft focus camera techniques; the guys who take it dead serious.

Making porn is illegal in Italy, not that anyone would prosecute. The two producers are not worried by the legal ramifications of the presence of a journalist. No, it's just that they play bridge with various members of the Florentine nobility and it might be socially embarrassing. Here, the predominant Italian trait is humour, the sort of gallows humour that would be unseemly in a British newspaper.

The Germans are clinical, earnest, humourless and have an insatiable desire for the hardest of hardcore. Christina Roth of Magma films is perplexed by any request for high quality softcore. Of the 600 films in her catalogue, two are soft. One is a porno version of the Picture Of Dorian Gray called Portrait Of Passion. 'I think it is very soft and what you require in the UK. The other stuff I think would disturb your British people.' The most bizarre sight to delicate British eyes are the Americans, who are so confoundingly natural about it you'd think they were playing a joke. Porn is the second, if not the, biggest employer in the San Fernando Valley and even the lowliest clerk will talk to you on the phone like an IBM-style business clone. California is the undisputed capital of porn, producing 7,800 titles last year. Newsweek recently put the adult industry's 1996 revenue at $ 38 billion.

The British like to come to Cannes and peep like prurient teens. Two British film producers are trying to persuade Serenity to drive along the Croisette in their promotional car wearing one of their T -shirts. Why? 'The photographers are desperate for opportunities like this.' 'Dad's in insurance sales, mom is a homemaker, my sister does marketing for independent movies.' Karen Blumstein, International Sales Executive for D'Amato's Pico Films lives in a world of XXX-rated ever increasing multiple penetrations. Does this anal gang-bang big boobs ugly hunk hump fest give her career satisfaction? 'I respect my clients. Everybody is professional. It doesn't matter whether you are selling Independence Day or Hamlet X, this job is all about creating something that's marketable. Look, the girls we work with want to be in this business.' Pierluigi Sacchetti, the producer afraid of upsetting his bridge partners, interrupts: 'I don't think they come to LA to be porno actress, they want to be real actress then they don't get work, they do a little modelling, some harder stuff perhaps, and then a porno movie. Once they do the porno they can make good money from stripping - $ 10,000, even $ 20,000 a night.' 'I can see though', Blumstein says, 'that in terms of exploitation, exploiting a vulnerable woman in the porn business is a sure-fire way to make money.' Sacchetti says the women are okay: 'But if you see a big asshole he's definitely a man.' Here he is, stetson, light blue jeans, cowboy boots, the smell of booze on his breath and a nervous girl on his arm. 'He is disgusting.' 'Boy, he's sleazy, that man gives me a rash.' Max Steiner, aka 'Max Hardcore', a star of the new genre, Gonzo porn, home videos made by porn stars. 'Are you a journalist? Anything you wanna ask? I play a character called Max Hardcore.  I star in and direct all my own movies. I like to hire girls who have had no exposure.' He recruits female co-stars by 'going up to girls in the street'. Selection criteria? 'Small ass, blonde hair.' He goes up to them, or his cohort who speaks the relevant local (usually east European) language, and persuades them to star in movies which involve him, a camcorder, his Hollywood Hills villa, and the bandying of the word 'Bitches'.

According to Hardcore about 90 per cent of the world's female population are potential co-stars. 'I say, 'You're very pretty.  Are you getting enough attention? Is your Daddy giving you enough love? Would you like to have a cup of tea?'.' So he seduces them? 'I seduce them, encourage them, give them what they need . . .  Basically, talk to me and you'll end up in a porno movie.' What about the women who don't 'need' his attention? 'If a girl feels repressed then I'm sorry I can't do much to help her.' At 39, with six years in porno behind him, Max looks forward to a long career. Monica, the recent 19-year-old acquisition on his arm, 'will have a year, maybe two'. Monica's mother and only tongue is Hungarian.

On D'Amato's stand the Italians are still smoking and drinking espressos.  Their rules for working in the business vary. From Sacchetti's 'Never go to bed with the actress, is too easy, you got to have some respect for the people who are working.' To D'Amato, 'You got to have a sense of humour in this business, or you are fucked'.

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