Year:  2019

Director:  Isabel Peppard, Josie Hess

Rated:  R

Release:  November 19, 2020

Running time: 71 minutes

Worth: $16.00
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Morgana Muses

A poetic, moving, life-affirming yarn extolling the virtues of sex positivity and self expression.

Morgana Muses isn’t like other porn stars. In her mid-50s, the Sydney-born pornographer looks more like a cheerful great aunt or hipper-than-usual nanna, rather than the creator/star of numerous works of feminist porn with titles like Labia of Love and Ladies and the Tramp. The first time we see her, Morgana is chatting amicably with co-directors Isabel Peppard and Josie Hess about the best way to bury her in a shallow bush grave. Sure, it’s for a photoshoot, but it swiftly becomes clear that like its subject, Morgana isn’t like other documentaries.

Morgana tells an extraordinary story, the tale of a woman who found herself in a loveless marriage, alienated from friends and family and – after the inevitable divorce – decided to end her life. However, a final encounter with a sex worker, a sensual swan song of sorts, reinvigorated Morgana and after she discovered such a thing as “feminist porn” existed, the newly erotically emancipated diva decided to try her hand at creating some of her own. What follows is a story of love, loss, acceptance, the power of creativity and the often corrosive nature of mental illness. For even when Morgana’s DIY sex flicks have her travelling to Berlin film festivals and beyond, depression lurks in the dark corners of her mind.

Creativity and mental illness aren’t exactly new topics for documentaries, however where Morgana differs from most are the strange, art film-esque interludes used to illustrate the narration. Moody shots of Morgana’s eye staring from within a too-small house or lying in ashes painted with darkness, give the documentary an ethereal vibe, a dreamlike quality that’s more David Lynch than Michael Moore. Striking imagery and Morgana’s own words tell the story, in lieu of intrusive narration, which works for the most part. However, it would have been nice to see a little more of the shooting and distribution of the porn, with a deeper focus on the challenges of marketing such a niche product in a relatively isolated market like Australia.

Overall, Morgana is a great success. A poetic, moving, life-affirming yarn extolling the virtues of sex positivity and self expression. While the subject matter may cause discomfort to some, there’s a cheerful, inclusive universality to the piece and an impressive sense of style that will appeal to art wankers as much as the more literal kind. Much like its subject matter, Morgana is an engaging Aussie original and a film not to be missed.


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