Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life
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As a basis for the inner family drama, it holds up okay, but it ends up getting lost in the speedy shuffle of the rest of the footage.
Sex on film has existed for as long as film itself. Art is meant to reflect the entire spectrum of human emotional connection, and the good ol’ genital IKEA instructions are no exception to that. However, what a lot of erotically-tinged films tend to run into is an issue of balance: satisfying the urges of the brain and the… other brain, as it were. This is especially true in the realm of documentary cinema, where sexual activity is often attached to the production’s own aims for realism. And with this look at famous ex-porn-star Jonathan Agassi, it somehow manages to maintain that balance, and yet mishandle it at the same time.
The depiction we get of Agassi is one that ends up hitting a lot of unfortunately familiar points when it comes to stereotypes attached to the industry: neglected childhood, daddy issues, a need for an ulterior identity (the title is a quote from Agassi himself); it may be true to the man himself, but it doesn’t make for particularly revelatory content. If anything, it keeps reaching moments of cringe when it shows Agassi discussing elements of his work, even watching some of it, with his mother. As a basis for the inner family drama, it holds up okay, but it ends up getting lost in the speedy shuffle of the rest of the footage.
If anything, that problem exists with most of what we are shown. We get ample exposure to Agassi at work, along with his foray into drug use to keep himself going, but rather than making for a vital look at either him or his place within the business, it comes across like its ultimate fate will be as a collection of scenes that gay men, straight women and the odd straight man will watch on mute ‘for the articles’. It lacks the subversive fire of a Bruce LaBruce feature, the insider’s insight of Wash Westmoreland or even the personal liberation of John Cameron Mitchell. Even more so, it lacks the vitality that documentaries need to establish their own existence, as its timing doesn’t feel particularly urgent, the context is sparse, and the insights made…
Actually, that last one may be its strongest attribute, as even with its lingering shrug of an impact on the audience, the process of participating in this production appears to have had a lasting effect on Agassi himself. His working relationship with director Tomer Heymann seems to have given him some kind of closure in regards to his relationships with his work and his family, namely his father. It’s the kind of outsider’s eye effect that shows documentary filmmaking as its own branch of therapy for those involved. And to that end, it’s difficult to be too harsh about the film as a whole, since it gave at least one person in the world a chance for clarity. But from the outside looking in, it’s just as difficult to vibe with that kind of confession outside of its own bubble.