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Black Venus
cast: Josephine Jacqueline Jones, Jose Antonio Ceinos, Emiliano Redondo, and Mandy Rice-Davies

director: Claude Mulot

95 minutes (18) 1983
Fabulous DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 3/10
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
In a world where hardcore donkey porn is only ever a few clicks away, the appeal of porn that does not actually feature any sex may seem rather hard to fathom. However, in truth, the history of the softcore genre is also the history of cinematic censorship, as the softcore industry was an attempt to make money out of people's desire to watch attractive people humping without falling foul of the various public morality laws that stand in the way of the average citizen and their unquenchable thirst for filth. Black Venus purports to be based on a story by Balzac and features not only a former Miss Bahamas but also Mandy Rice-Davies who was involved in the Profumo affair over her relationship with Viscount Astor. This is not something you can say about Bend Over Boyfriend - volume 13.

The film tells the tale of a beautiful black woman who falls in love with a struggling artist named Armand. Though Venus loved and inspired Armand, he could not pay the bills forcing Venus to go out and work. Initially taking work as a model for a dressmaker, Venus is quickly offered money to chastely spend time with an elderly gentleman. Upon hearing this Armand flies into a drunken rage, accusing Venus of betrayal and thus forcing her into the arms of Madame Lili who seduces her and then turns her into a prostitute. Upon realising what has become of his muse, Armand shoots Venus dead before killing himself.

It is unsurprising that this film should have such an anti-male message. Indeed, one interesting fact about the softcore genre is that during the 1980s and 1990s, filmmakers attempted to make films with a female audience in mind. This meant that the films could evade charges of misogyny but also that they could be pitched at mainstream cable companies as films 'for couples' rather than lonely single men wanking in their bedsits. While this approach to pornography resulted in such innovations as explicit scenes without 'money shots' and plots based upon relationships rather than people just taking their clothes off, it also lead to films frequently portraying female protagonists set upon by unpleasant men. Clearly, Venus' problems with Armand are due to these creative pressures.

However, in the case of Black Venus, the desire to appeal to a more high-minded and feminine audience has resulted in a plot that is hopelessly melodramatic and over the top. This is almost the exact opposite of the plot design in your average porn film that tends to be made in the same spirit as Hollywood action movies; more bang for your buck. The problem is that, even by the standards of the softcore genre, this film's sex is pretty underwhelming. The women are undeniably beautiful but the sex scenes seldom last more than 30 seconds and are about as sensual as a medical examination, as the sex act limits itself to a quick squeeze of the breast and a stroking of the buttocks. The scenes are all shot on nicely designed sets featuring exotic and well chosen costumes but director Claude Mulot seems unwilling to string more than a couple of camera angles together, and the overwrought and melodramatic plot only serves to dispel any erotic atmosphere that the film might generate.

This failure to be sensual, let alone sexy, is enough to sink the film but it is also deeply surprising. Indeed, far from being some film-school hack, Mulot was a giant of 1970s' French porn; writing and directing a number of films for the great French porn star Brigitte Lahaie. Clearly, by the time Mulot came to make Black Venus the creative juices had simply stopped flowing as aside from one other film, Black Venus proved to be his last project.

Black Venus represents a lost age in the history of the cinema. An age where images of people having sex were genuinely difficult to come by (ho ho-ho) and pornographers had to try and stimulate their audience whilst completely failing to deliver what a porn film should be about, namely people having sex on film. With an interesting cast, a good budget, a high-minded script and an accomplished director, Black Venus should have been an ode to a day gone by. Instead it is merely a silly period drama in which women have their breasts and buttocks squeezed.

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