Focus

Fuori Orario’s sexually themed weekend was a bit strange. Not because of the subject, but because of its execution. On Friday night the transmission started with such a delay the programme was different from what had been promised in the tv guide. Still the two movies they’d planned to show (the homosexual drama Sex in Chains and Koji Wakamatsu’s Sex Jack) were shown, which cannot be said of day two. Completely unscheduled but perennially welcome, we got to see Hedy Lamarr again. If you need me to tell you the movie was Ekstase, you should be ashamed of yourself. And go and rent it now.

dvd coverAfter Sex is Comedy by Breillat (which I skipped, as it was dubbed) it was time for another unscheduled event: Focus, the making of a porn movie. This documentary was filmed by Francis Leroi, also director of the porn movie Regarde-moi. Focus opens with Leroi admitting he’s financially forced to make the porn movie and really not looking forward to it. Leroi wrote, directed and produced saucy movies and porn movies from the 60s to the 80s. He is the producer of the cult porn Le Sexe Qui Parle (Pussy Talk – I’ll leave it to you to gather what the synopsis is) and some of his saucy movies have titles that make you expect the worse (Charlotte gets her panties wet, anyone?). If you want to look at his filmography, be my guest. In 1983 Leroi tried something different (just after the movie Ma Mère Se Prostitue – I wish I was making these up) and helmed the horror movie Le Démon dans l’Île. It’s still unwatched on my shelves, but apparently it’s quite a good horror movie. Sadly, Leroi couldn’t continue with his new found love and went back to directing movies about Emanuelle (chapters 4, 7 and the tv series) and Rêves de cuir. Finally the man cracked in 1995 and turned his back on cinema.

Francis LeroiFast forward to 2000 and his financial problems. Hardly motivated to direct another Film X (as porn movies are called in France), he decided to have a digital camera follow him and his actors. The result, Focus, was shown on Leroi’s website.

Hindsight is a nice thing. Now we know that Leroi died of cancer in 2002. This sheds an extra light on Focus and the unwillingness of the man to film another hardcore movie.

One of the key scenes is the fight Leroi has with his lead actress Ovidie. Ovidie acted in pornographic movies before directing porn movies herself and writing her Porno Manifesto. Right after Ovidie and Leroi are having words on a scene, the camera follows Ovidie. She tells the other people in the room she won’t allow being treated like this. By now she’s worked with Truffaut star Jean-Pierre Leaud (in the movie Le Pornographie, co-starring her and Jérémie Renier) and Diva director Jean-Jacques Beineix (in the movie Mortel Transfert) and claims she can tell when someone wants to abuse her. Leroi claims she’s an arrogant starlet. It’s hard to pick sides here, even though you tend to feel more sympathy for a dying man (but we don’t know if anyone at the time knew the man was in his final years). Basically, Leroi wanted to do another take of a sex scene. Ovidie claimed she’d already done all that was in her contract and that the director wanted to get her to do a sex scene for free. In the end a producer had to step in and tell both parties to leave each other alone.

Focus tells you what happens on the set of a glamourous pornographic movie. Material being stolen, sexual scenes being rehearsed (“So if he does this, you’ll do that…”) and egos clashing. I’m assuming there was also hardcore footage, but this being a national tv channel those scenes were not included (instead, they showed clips of Dreyer‘s Gertrud, the movie they were going to show the following week). Allow me to speak for everyone when I remark: Ermm??!? (Quite odd to see a documentary about a porn movie mixed with arthouse cinema.) Focus also included interviews with people close to Leroi, most of them having worked with him on several movies.

One scene is completely different though: we see two people on a bench, sitting near the water. One is Leroi, the other is his mother. He asks her question, some of which she answers reluctantly. One is a vital question: how is it for a mother to realize her son is making his money by directing pornographic movies? The mother admits that wasn’t easy. Two people on a bench, saying true things as the water floats by.

The full title of the documentary is “Focus – Les Coulisses du Porno”. It’s no longer available on a website, you may find the film on DVD (but even that one seems to be out of stock).

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