BLACK & WHITE & SEX
A filmmaker (Matthew Holmes) interviews a sex worker who calls herself Angie (Katherine Hicks, Anya Beresdorf, Valerie Bader, Roxane Wilson, Michelle Vergara Moore, Dina Panozzo, Saskia Burmeister, Maia Thomas) for his documentary film, asking probing questions. But he gets more than he bargained for.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Bravura filmmaking on a taboo subject, John Winter's Black & White & Sex rips off the covers and thrusts us into the open volcano of the sex worker's inner persona - at least as dispensed by the eight women playing the role of Angie, who has been hired to respond to a series of probing questions from a filmmaker who is recording it all on camera with a small crew.
Shot ironically in black and white (because the subject is far from black and white) and presented in multiple frames, the film explores society's often simplistic (black and white) views on sex - at least those for public consumption - and the different framings we have for sexual activity.
Each of the eight actresses plays the same Angie - but a different character in her own right. This is the film's clever device: instead of trying to overlay a single character on several women, Winter allows each of them their own individuality - just as sex workers are each individual human beings, but identified under a single label. And usually a false name.
It takes a while for the metaphor to sink in - partly because we are so focused on the tantalising, frank and sometimes confronting dialogue between subject and filmmaker in this film within a film-in-the-making.
But there is much more to the film than its symbolism and its frank exploration of the work itself. The conversation between filmmaker and subject takes on a combative form as Angie challenges and confronts all of the filmmaker's assumptions, misconceptions and false attitudes.
In the process, we are confronted by the general ignorance of male and female sexuality, by the hyper-hypocrisy of film censorship over sex v violence, by the taboo of sex workers enjoying their work and by the simplification that all sex workers are drug addicts.
The performances are spectacular; each Angie is unique, authentic and riveting. This is a singular film that is destined to be recognised and acclaimed in the future. Audiences will, one hopes, find the film, even if most of today's gatekeepers (many cinemas) stand in their way for now.
First published in the Sun-Herald
Review by Louise Keller:
Foreplay, penetration, orgasms and happy endings are the pitstops of this ambitious, fearless film in which a sex worker called Angie is the means by which the topic of sex is explored. In his debut feature, producer turned director John Winter's concept of a single set, multi-cameras, a minimalist soundscape and striking black and white cinematography achieves its climactic intentions with eight actresses playing the central role of Angie, each one adding something unique to the offering. It's a confessional, but it's not what you think. In an act of seduction, the voyeuristic, provocative and erotic is countered by a surprising sweetness and playfulness as the manipulator becomes the manipulated. Or is he?
With an intimate fly-on-the-wall approach, this is a film about the making of a film in which the director (Matthew Holmes), only seen in shadowy profile, interviews a sex worker. He wants her to talk about herself, what she does, what she feels and basically asks her every question anyone ever wanted to ask a prostitute. It's confronting, intriguing, sensual and utterly complicated, as only men, women, life and sex can be.
Topics canvassed are intimacy, consequences, honesty, possession, love, understanding, power-play, submission, control and trust - each one penetrating deeply. Surprisingly, the rating is MA15+, despite the language, nudity and subject matter. Some of the dialogue is titillating (excuse the pun) with lines like "Women love to have sex; men have sex to love. It's the only way they can love."
The eight actresses (Katherine Hicks, Anya Beyersdorf, Valerie Bader, Roxane Wilson, Michelle Vergara Moore, Dina Panozzo, Saskia Burmeister, Maia Thomas) are extraordinary and totally different from each other - in age, shape, manner and style and wear all kinds of sexy clothing including skintight corset, mini skirt, slinky dress, boots and stilettos. Winter keeps us engrossed throughout by the subject matter, lively banter and putting us right on the edge of a precipice - we never know what is going to happen next. If you're hoping for a happy ending, the post-coitus cigarette may offer a clue.
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BLACK & WHITE & SEX (MA15+)
CAST: Katherine Hicks, Anya Beresdorf, Valerie Bader, Roxane Wilson, Michelle Vergara Moore, Dina Panozzo, Saskia Burmeister, Maia Thomas, Matthew Holmes
PRODUCER: John Winter, Melissa Beauford
DIRECTOR: John Winter
SCRIPT: John Winter
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Nicola Daley
EDITOR: Adrian Rostirolla
MUSIC: Caitlin Yeo
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Titan View
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne: Classic Cinema, March 22; Sydney, Hoyts EQ: March 23; other venues & dates & tx, see www.blackandwhiteandsex.com