Execrable: Listening

Listening (2014)
Directed and written by Khalil Sullins
Produced by Jamal DeGruy, Travis Nicholson, Khalil Sullins, Pardis Sullins
Starring Thomas Stroppel, Artie Ahr, Amber Marie Bollinger, Christine Haeberman, Steve Hanks, Arn Chorn-Pond, Pamela Cedar
A compelling concept and some deep, decent concerns regarding the societal dangers of abused technologies are buried under a crushing cumulation of clichés, inanities and melodrama in Sullins’s first (and mercifully only) feature. Two reputedly brilliant educands (Stroppel, Ahr) enrolled at Caltech develop an apparatus that digitally transcribes thought; in collaboration with another decidedly dubious student (Bollinger, who resembles a tentatively reformed stripper), their invention is upgraded to enable wired telepathy. Disaster arises from a series of timeworn tragedies, inexplicable personal and ethical idiocies, and infringement by a covert division of the CIA, which impresses both undergraduates and expropriates their technology to further a program of mass cerebral control. “Primer for morons” was a phrase popularly applied online to this daffily disappointing science fiction upon its initial release, and more than a few elements seem lifted from Shane Carruth’s microbudgeted masterwork: two geeky protagonists, one of whom is miserably married; betrayal inspired by desperation; blued and yellowed footage. Comparisons are otherwise invalidated by stale, stupid theatrics, bountifully discomfiting dialog, frequently overcut sequences, and Edward White’s conventionally overwrought and relentless score, all typical of Hollywood’s hokum. Sullins frames his shots well, but he’s a schlocky storyteller. Every other turn of his plot is either a gaping hole or simple improbability, and its climax and conclusion alike are palpably predictable. His actors aren’t guided any more capably than his script’s written, wavering as often as not between ham and lumber. Worst, adolescent sexual sensibilities are incarnated in Ahr’s obnoxious character and ridiculous exhibitions of Bollinger’s figure, such as a close-up of her cleavage during a pivotal moment. Scenes set and shot at a Buddhist temple in Cambodia are as mustily conceived as anything else here, but almost refreshing in contrast to the stifling ugliness of the movie’s interiors, as well as urinary tints that ruin otherwise adequate photography. What a wonder of irony is a decerebrate thriller concerned with cerebration.

Instead, watch Scanners or Brainstorm.

Sublime: Evolution

Evolution (2015)
Directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Written by Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Alante Kavaite, Geoff Cox
Produced by Nicolas Villarejo Farkas, Ángeles Hernández, David Matamoros, Julien Naveau, Sylvie Pialat, Benoit Quainon, Sebastián Álvarez, John Engel, Genevieve Lemal
Starring Max Brebant, Roxane Duran, Julie-Marie Parmentier, Marta Blanc, Mathieu Goldfeld, Nissim Renard
Distant from lush forests where the little ladies of Innocence were secluded, Hadzihalilovic’s eerily, elegantly elliptic second feature probes the seaboard secrets of an austere, insular village. Similarly severe women domiciled there with young boys in their care feed a vermicious stew and administer an inky medicine to their charges, who are subjected to strange experiments in a dank, nearby hospital where they’re eventually committed. One peculiarly inquisitive tad (Brebant) among them discovers another boy’s corpse in the reef of his island’s bight, then witnesses the surrogate mothers’ bizarre, nightly, coastal congress, realizing too late the danger his keepers pose. For its economy, dialogue is essentially effective from the mouths of the directress’s naturalistically convincing cast, and she wisely paces this quiet nightmare elicited from a juvenile trepidity with exquisite deliberation, introducing her setting’s seascapes and landscapes in panoramas, then focusing on swimming and swaying benthos, tenebrious revelations and subtly suggestive gestures that communicate perhaps more than any conversation. As in her debut, water’s here a literally and metaphorically transitional medium, almost so ubiquitous in the umbratile hospital where our protagonist is befriended by a sympathetic nurse (Duran) as on the strand where weltering breakers underscore with Jesús Díaz’s and Zacarías M. de la Riva’s perturbing, poignant music portent and peril. Hadzihalilovic’s superbly stygian, spartan fantasy proposes a societal and interspecific parasitism, and that mercy may not be exclusive to humanity.

Mediocre: In Defense of a Married Man

In Defense of a Married Man (1990)
Directed by Joel Oliansky
Written by Sasha Ferrer, Norman Morrill
Produced by Linda Otto, Alan Landsburg, Howard Lipstone
Starring Judith Light, Michael Ontkean, Jerry Orbach, Pat Corley, Nicholas Campbell, Johnny Galecki, Cynthia Sikes, Tony Rosato, Gema Zamprogna, Errol Slue, John Colicos, Patricia Hamilton, Bob Zidel, David Hemblen, Colin Fox
Under most conditions, an eminent attorney (Light) would risk recusal by defending her husband (Ontkean) in court against a charge of murder; as the deceased (Sikes) was his colleague and mistress, any objections from the prosecution (Campbell) regarding conflict of interest are at best untenable. Ferrer and Morrill fished for ratings by outrage and likely landed every middle-aged housewife who exclaimed, “Well, they should leave him in jail for a while, anyway,” after stomaching this courtroom drama’s first half-hour over thirty years ago, but its succulent story’s plotted and scripted well enough for any casual viewer’s enjoyment. Low-grade photography and editing are offset by credibly tense performances from a reliable cast (excepting rotund Corley as one of the arresting investigators, who seems to be impersonating William Hootkins’s corrupt detective from Burton’s Batman a year anterior). Light, Ontkean and Orbach were all contemporaneously or contiguously observable during prime time (on Who’s The Boss?, Twin Peaks and Law and Order, respectively). They’re cast in congruence, but anyone alert can deduce the dumped doxy’s mysterious murder…especially those who’ve seen Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Palatable: The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (A.K.A. Every Man for Himself and God Against All) (1974)
Directed by Werner Herzog
Written by Werner Herzog, Jakob Wassermann
Produced by Werner Herzog
Starring Bruno Schleinstein, Walter Ladengast, Michael Kroecher, Brigitte Mira, Enno Patalas, Hans Musäus, Gloria Doer, Volker Prechtel, Volker Elis Pilgrim, Clemens Scheitz, Henry van Lyck, Willy Semmelrogge

“[W]e shall never succeed entirely in extirpating from the heart of man this original credulity which is a principle of his nature, a radical condition of his existence, so much so that we could consider it a characteristic of the human species, and say: credulity is one of the attributes that distinguishes Man from the animals.”

–Dr. Benjamin Verdo, Charlatanry and Charlatans in Medicine: A Psychological Study, 1867

Whoever would now imagine him the princely foundling, victimized naif, tortured wunderkind against crushing odds would’ve surely been as gulled by the mysterious teenager as so many in Nuremberg were for five years in the early 19th century, after he arrived suddenly to fascinate its locals, then deplete the charity of his several benefactors. Picayune, pretentiously paranoid persona, schizoid scammer, querulent, mythomaniac, pampered brat all probably described him accurately, yet this assessment is tangential to his characterization in the dreamily, alternately soothingly and shakingly speculative fairy tale that Herzog educed from the storied oddball’s pseudobiographic lies. Here, Hauser’s lifelong confinement in a cellar is concluded when a gruff stranger (Musäus) frees him, teaches him how to walk, leads him to Nuremberg, and abandons him. The inelegant innocent is housed first by one of his jailers (Prechtel), then by a kindly schoolmaster and philosopher (Ladengast) after a stint in an exploitative circus’s sideshow. Thenceforth he strives to read, write, play music and comprehend the worlds within and beyond him, succored by his caretaker, local clergy (Patalas, Pilgrim), and a milord (Kroecher) whose custody of him is prompted by the intrigue that his charge inspires among townsfolk and high society alike, and which ends when his inscrutably bizarre behavior and provocatively peculiar perspectives embarrass his patron. As genteel characters, the entire supporting cast are fine foils for goggling Schleinstein, whose droll, piteous, exceptional creation of the frustrated aberrant conveys arduous articulation by his haltingly intense delivery. His age was well over twice Hauser’s, but the autodidactic musician and painter proved a strikingly suitable lead, perhaps because the many ordeals that he suffered in his much longer life so often paralleled those that Hauser likely fabricated, fictionalized by Herzog in his discerningly, interchangeably intimate and observational style. Beautifully crafted and replete with allusions and auguries, never does this fiction moot nearly everyone’s first, forever unanswered question: who was he?

Recommended for a double feature paired with The Marquise of O.

Mediocre: Cries from the Heart

Cries from the Heart, A.K.A. Touch of Truth (1994)
Directed by Michael Switzer
Written by Robert Inman
Produced by Linda L. Kent, Jack Grossbart, Joel S. Rice
Starring Melissa Gilbert, Patty Duke, Bradley Pierce, Markus Flanagan, Roger Aaron Brown, Lisa Banes, Peter Spears, Joe Chrest
Poised peckish and proximate across the menopausal rubicon, Gilbert and Duke reunite in this sappily stodgy drama addressing two of America’s most prevalent phenomena. One single mother (Gilbert) concludes that she can’t cope with the megrims and tantrums of her autistic son (Pierce), who she commends to residence at a school for developmentally impaired children. There, his pedagogue and communicational therapist (Duke) nurtures his self-reliance and capacitates him to type what he can’t say through the controversial and abusable practice of facilitated communication. His text on their laptop’s screen alerts her to sexual predation committed by his caretaker (Spears) after hours; whether it’ll suffice as admissable and credible inculpatory testimony in court is quite another matter. Switzer’s routine direction hardly curbs Inman’s hokiest dialogue, delivered with particular zest by dedicatedly dowdy Gilbert. She’s so invasively, irritably irrational as a beleaguered mother that anyone whose eyes roll at her senseless hysterics can’t help but notice that the molestation suffered by her pitiable offspring isn’t his only problem. It’s serviceably hypnagogic when Gilbert and Duke aren’t combatively clucking at each other.

Mediocre: Superman III

Superman III (1983)
Directed by Richard Lester
Written by David Newman, Leslie Newman
Produced by Pierre Spengler, Robert Simmonds, Alexander Salkind, Ilya Salkind
Starring Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Robert Vaughn, Pamela Stephenson, Annie Ross, Annette O’Toole, Gavan O’Herlihy, Marc McClure, Jackie Cooper, Margot Kidder
Robert Donner’s ill-advised termination from the production of Superman II was followed by Richard Lester’s radical reshoots and redirection, which resulted in a fun but decidedly desipient campout. This second sequel is — in sequence and magnitude — much more of the same, an uninhibited farce that’s likely to keep viewers laughing…and wondering whether the Salkinds were partaking in Richard Pryor’s copious cache of cocaine. A lovably, hitherto unemployably doltish autistic savant (Pryor) finds his forte after years of penniless hardship as a programmer for a multinational conglomerate where he scarcely subsists on a stingy salary. To supplement his income, he resorts to the salami technique, thieving hundreds of thousands of unpaid half-cents until his conspicuous consumption almost immediately signals this fraud to the company’s tyrannical tycoon (Vaughn), who exploits his genius for computation and programming to commit perverse, profitable plots, all of which are foiled by The Man of Steel. The halfwitted hacker’s then tasked with the synthesis of Kryptonite to solve his employer’s heroic problem, but by substituting tar for an unknown element in the radioactive compound, he accidentally produces an inferior imitation that depraves Superman into a boozy, churlish, cyprian prankster. Two points are readily evident from Lester’s steadfastly silly style: his fondness for skillfully staged, lowbrow humor, and absolutely none of the veneration for his source material that Donner, Puzo and the Newmans exhibited before him. This is a mean fantasy, though a fine comedy, replete with fun visual gags (as throughout a disastrously slapstick exordium) and risible delivery and improvisation from its leads; unsurprisingly, wacky Pryor and wry Vaughn are hilarious in this capacity. Reeve’s as affably bland as ever (and convincingly vicious as the iconic protagonist’s vile variant), slickly pattering with Cooper, McClure, O’Herlihy, and gawkily cute O’Toole as once and present crush Lana Lang in lieu of Lois Lane, here restricted to not five minutes onscreen after Margot Kidder insubordinately protested Donner’s dismission. Production values are mixed: good costuming and several splendidly sumptuous sets can’t compensate for schlocky special effects (most notably and inexplicably those front-projected), or excessive B-roll and recycled footage, much of which was shot for the first two films; Geoffrey Unsworth’s picturesque establishing shots are clearly, contiguously contradistinct from Robert Paynter’s intentionally lusterless footage. After a remuneratory yet disappointing theatrical run, III was omnipresent on telecasts and especially cablecasts through the remaining ’80s; nary a late Xer hasn’t seen the purgation whereby our polluted superhero somehow sunders into sinful Superman (Reeve) and upright Clark Kent (Reeve) to trade blows in a junkyard. It makes as little sense as most else before and after, but for whoever’s willing to leave logic behind, Lester’s expensive, nearly surreal antics might just tickle anyone willing to interpret them as a parody of the Silver and Bronze Eras.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Office Space.

Mediocre: Max Dugan Returns

Max Dugan Returns (1983)
Directed by Herbert Ross
Written by Neil Simon
Produced by Herbert Ross, Neil Simon, Roger M. Rothstein
Starring Marsha Mason, Jason Robards, Donald Sutherland, Matthew Broderick, Dody Goodman, Charley Lau, Sal Viscuso
That title suggests a sequel that isn’t, and hardly contributed to the fortune of this fair flop, which exhibits its big names operating at mixed competencies. Twenty-eight years and a consequential chasm of bitterness are measured by a glib and wily scamster (Robards) when he pays a visit to his estranged daughter, a lucklessly penurious schoolteacher (Mason), who first spurns the shady old goat’s $687K of purloined cash offered in exchange for their rapprochement and quality time with his grandson (Broderick)…until his entreaty elaborates that his final few forthcoming months are especially precious, ere his failing heart beats its last. Within his first week of residence with them, he buys new appliances and utensils to replace those aged and faulty in their kitchen, and for her son a deluxe entertainment center, boombox, camcorder, and batting lessons courtesy of former ballplayer and batting coach Lau…while inadvertently drawing unwanted notice from the dexterous, decided detective (Sutherland) who may not be so smitten with his daughter as to ignore mounting felonious clues. Simon’s specially snappy script should satisfy his fans: his every other line’s an amusing zinger, and nary a single conversation’s bereft of badinage that meets his usual standard. Would that his story was as solid as his dialogue and premise, for so much of it is nonsensical. Why does Robards’s ex-con tender his largess with increasing conspicuity when he’s otherwise so cautious in concern of the police’s attentions? Why is he intent on domiciling with his daughter and incidentally involving her as a apparent accessory to his criminality? What’s the point of his mythomaniacal machinations when they elicit so few laughs and waste screen time when enjoyable elusion might occur? By opting for spectacle over little surprises to satisfy cinematic conventions, Simon produced a middling, porously plotted tale that could’ve been much more engaging. Robards is charismatically, unfailingly funny as the titular principal, masterfully balancing pathos and irreverence as an incurable constrained but never discouraged by remorse and moribundity. In equally fine form, Sutherland underplays what too many actors wouldn’t to quietly stress his character’s cunning, and Broderick makes the most of his winsome, one-dimensional onscreen debut. The weak link here is Mason, who hits her marks as well as the leading men but plays her hapless widow as an unappealingly shrill shrew. Sensible casting in lieu of Simon’s misplaced nepotism would’ve assigned her role to a bubblier actress like Catherine Hicks, who could invest it with felicity, and bears to Mason no small physical and esp. vocal resemblance. David Shire’s score is pleasant enough, but dated and distractingly miscued; it belongs to some much more energetic comedy produced twenty years prior. Analogously anachronistic are the opening and end titles animated by Kurtz & Friends, which are cute but would’ve better befit a Saturday-morning cartoon, circa ’72. This picture represents a decussation of several careers’ trajectories: Broderick would attain stardom in WarGames a few months later, and Kiefer Sutherland can be spied in a cameo, but after a string of filmic collaborations, it was Simon’s last with both Ross and Mason, who divorced him shortly after its underwhelming theatrical run. His commendation of familial fidelity is admirable, but Simon’s stagey focus on chatter and neglect of structure seldom recommended him…in this medium.

Mediocre: Holidays

Holidays (2016)
Directed by Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer; Gary Shore; Nicholas McCarthy; Sarah Adina Smith; Anthony Scott Burns; Kevin Smith; Scott Stewart; Adam Egypt Mortimer
Written by Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer; Gary Shore; Nicholas McCarthy; Sarah Adina Smith; Anthony Scott Burns; Kevin Smith; Scott Stewart; Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer
Produced by Tim Connors, Kyle Franke, John Hegeman, Adam Egypt Mortimer, Louise Shore, Aram Tertzakian, Dwjuan F. Fox, Brian James Fitzpatrick, Spencer Jezewski, Gabriela Revilla Lugo, Olivia Roush, Georg Kallert, Rob Schroeder, Peter J. Nieves; Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer, Jon D. Wagner, Adam Goldworm; Jonathan Loughran, Gary Shore; Stephanie Paris; Jonako Donley; Nicholas Bechard; Joshua Bachove, Jordan Monsanto, Kevin Smith; Amanda Mortimer, Jaime Gallagher, Jason Hampton, Sharmila Sahni; James Avery, Andrew Barrer, Nate Bolotin, Roger Coleman, Gabriel Ferrari, Will Rowbotham, Nick Spicer
Starring Madeleine Coghlan, Savannah Kennick, Rick Peters; Ruth Bradley, Isolt McCaffrey; Ava Acres, Petra Wright, Mark Steger; Sophie Traub, Aleksa Palladino, Jennifer Lafleur, Sheila Vand, Sonja Kinski; Jocelin Donahue, Michael Gross; Harley Morenstein, Harley Quinn Smith, Ashley Greene, Olivia Roush; Seth Green, Clare Grant, Kalos Cluff; Lorenza Izzo, Andrew Bowen, Megan Duffy
The best among this octad of shorts set during popular holidays are amusing or arresting, and the worst will leave one wondering how much sway and resources were wasted to insure their inclusion. Both a homely teenager (Coghlan) and her pretty, popular bully (Kennick) long for the affection and attention of their handsome swim coach (Peters); as Valentine’s Day and a talent show organized by the bitchy blond to raise money for his coronary surgery approach, her harried victim dementedly devises a way to kill two birds with one rock. After a one-night stand during St. Patrick’s Day, a childless teacher (Bradley) finds that her creepy, newly-enrolled student (McCaffrey) is inexplicably aware of her gravidity, but an anguine offspring isn’t what she’d expected. A trepid little girl (Acres) terrfied by sacred and secular legendry is scarcely stanched by her single mother (Wright) on the eve of Easter, and a nocturnal encounter with a stigmatic, leporine monster (Steger) confirms that her fears are not merely justified, but consubstantial. One young woman (Traub) is cursed to conceive — regardless of contraception — after her every copulation; following nearly a score of abortions, her physician (Lafleur) refers her to a woman (Palladino) who conducts ceremonies to promote fertility in the high desert, and meditates to celebrate Mother’s Day by cultivating hew latest attendee… Recorded by her dad (Gross) on the Father’s Day when he vanished decades before, an audiocassette’s program guides a lonely schoolteacher (Donahue) back to the littoral locus where it happened, and possibly to his fate. Rather than let the camgirls (Smith, Greene, Roush) in his employ out to party for Halloween, a perverted, pigtailed pimp (Morenstein) tries to rape one of them and falls afoul of their revenge. By theft and criminal negligence on Christmas Eve, a gutless father (Green) procures for his son (Cluff) immersive VR glasses that rely on online information to personalize each wearer’s entertainment. He’s commoved and contrite to discover that they also channel mnemonic data, but soon learns that he’s not the worst malefactor in his household. Seeking another date after he murders his first (Duffy), an awkward, hypersensitive, homicidal maniac meets a lonely lady (Izzo) on New Year’s Eve, but may not live to regret that they’ve too much in common. First, the worst: like all of his output, Smith’s segment is obnoxiously overacted, shoddily shot and cut, aggressively unfunny and pointless save as an excuse to grant both his annoying daughter and fellow epulose parasite Morenstein more undeserved screen credits. That a man with over twenty years of professional experience still produces movies this amateurish is astonishing. Better yet tiresome, Kölsch and Widmyer’s cordial contribution is well crafted but perfectly predictable, for which Kennick’s porky performance seems less an homage to De Palma than to Tarantino. Neither has (S. A.) Smith any surprises in her hoary ode to unbid maternity. Mortimer’s handling of Kölsch and Widmyer’s second script is equally mediocre though much more lively, gorily ringing in a new year. A cut above these, McCarthy’s syncretic reconception of the messiah is just clever enough to deserve a viewing. His sillier, superior, serpentine synthesis of Irish and Norse folklore results in Shore’s pompadoured black comedy, one of St. Patty’s few filmic lampoons. Eminently photogenic Donahue’s once again a believable unfortunate in Burns’ genuinely original, recursive vignette, in deserted settings of which he cumulates tremendous suspense with fine composition and his star’s potent presence, regrettably squandered on a silly climax undermining a conclusion that might’ve been chilling. Stewart’s penultimate comedy is probably the best of these, working a fun scenario and Green’s terrific comic knack for hilarious results. Promotional materials touted this anthology as “subversive” at the honed edge of X-treme marketing, but there’s little here that one could consider genuine subversion, itself a fait accompli imputable to commerce. At this late date, the jest in a few of these is but an afterthought. A salient absence of Jewish and Muslim holidays further explodes any lingering pretense of authentic audacity. Those few palatable portions do not a tasty cake make, the most significant slice of which oughtn’t have been intrusted to the moronic, perennially feckless celebrity.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Tales from the Crypt.

Sublime: Destiny

Destiny (1921)
Directed by Fritz Lang
Written by Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbou
Produced by Erich Pommer
Starring Lil Dagover, Bernhard Goetzke, Walter Janssen, Eduard von Winterstein, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Paul Biensfeldt, Károly Huszár, Hans Sternberg, Karl Rückert, Erika Unruh
Upon his visitation in a pastoral town, stern, somber Death (Goetzke) pays handsomely to lease a parcel alongside a cemetery that’s been designated for its graveyard’s expansion, where he erects a sepulchral stronghold inaccessible to all save a doughty, doleful damsel (Dagover) whose young fiancé (Janssen) he’s consigned to the hereafter, and for whose restoration she obtests. So moved is the Grim Reaper by her impassioned impetration that he challenges her for a chance at her wish: incarnated as treble doxies of as many men soon to meet their end, they may be reunited if she can rescue but one of them. In a Persian city of strident muadhdhins, whirling dervishes and veiled beauties, the sister (Dagover) of a cruel caliph (Winterstein) struggles to rescue her secret lover, a Frank (Janssen) pursued by authorities after daring to visit her in a mosque during Ramadan. Lusty, conspirative Venice is the backdrop of a tragedy whereby a corrupt councilman (Klein-Rogge) designs to dispatch during Carnival the sweetheart (Janssen) of a noblewoman (Dagover) to whom he’s hatefully engaged. Finally, Dagover and Janssen are enamored assistants to a preeminent magus (Biensfeldt) who’s commissioned to entertain China’s tyrannical Emperor (Huszár) on the occasion of his birthday in exchange for his life; when the despot claims her and imprisons her man, she may need more than magic to save them both. For its innovatory set design, Orientalist and Italian charms, dated yet vivid special effects and Lang’s captivating composition, his fatalist, fabular fantasy is nearly as impressive as it was a century ago. Moreover, its presentation of morbid theurgy is among the medium’s first and best, serving to influence many posterior. Creating her woebegone, mettlesome maiden in broadly histrionical strokes, Dagover inhabits another of many sacrificial heroines prevailing in Weimar cinema, and Goetzke’s implacably forbidding as a solemn foil to her often hysterical fervor. Exciting, funny, touching, poetic and rich with symbolic auspices, Lang’s centennial classic evokes a bittersweet poignance reliant on the verity of its burden: ever salvational, love may endure a quietus that it can never defeat.

Recommended for a double feature paired with The Seventh Seal.

Palatable: Escorts

Escorts (A.K.A. High Class Call Girls)
Directed by Dan Reed
Produced by Dan Reed, Tom Costello
Starring Emily Banfield, Cookie Jane
No realm of commerce has been unaffected by online interaction; for the obsolescence of pimps and madams, and its suppled transactional dynamics, prostitution is no exception. Two tart trulls (Banfield, Jane) residing together with their cute dogs in one of London’s richest districts command considerable compensation from a carefully selected clientele as fond of their personable ribaldry as their artificially augmented anatomy and lineaments. Obnoxiously likable and oversexed, they could be easily misappraised as mere dingbats, but their entrepreneurial acumen and ambitions would belie such a facile estimation. These cocottes receive trustworthy tricks, only accept cash, and leave very little to chance. Banfield narrates a crucial, collapsed relationship and addiction to cocaine spanning from her late teens through her mid-twenties, whence she rebounded into the relative comfort and security of pornographic and meretricious careers, while Jane’s metier apparently attends her insatiable libido and aversion to conventionally respectable labor. Interviews with the latter bawd’s parents disbosom their discomfort with their daughter’s chosen profession, as well as a contrast between that quiet desperation of Albion’s past and graying generations, and the histrionic, often hysterical effusions that have come to typify the urban British ethos over the past forty years. Some scenes are instructive for the uninitiated, depicting online discourse between the trollops and their potential and frequent customers, or a house call when they’re administered injections of Botox. As Jane launches her own online agency whereby her circle of escorts can negotiate libidinous encounters, Banfield saves and seeks a permanent partner as her career winds down. Despite Chad Hobson’s largely direful music, Reed’s strictly observational portrait of these cyprians is usually as amusing as its subjects. It also instantiates how molls and johns alike are mutually exploited in their engagements, and explodes the delusion advanced by some feminists that empowerment neutralizes exploitation; here, technology manifestly conduces a harlot’s market of which exploitation’s immanent.