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Phantom of the Orgasm (2006)

     directed by Danni Ashe

          starring Eva Angelina and Lanny Barby

Yes, it's an F, but it's the sort of F that everyone was expecting and consequently nobody is really surprised or upset by. This movie is terrible. It's only vaguely good at sex, only sort of committed to its setting, and has actually managed to be the least connected to the Phantom story of anything I've reviewed so far, which is an impressive feat when you remember that I've read things like the Absinthe story.

As is his rallying cry whenever I review an adult film, John, after accidentally viewing that last six minutes of it when he got home from rehearsal early, would like to reiterate his stance that watching porn is a tragic waste of academic time and that I will never learn anything relevant from it, and also, what the hell does no one in the adult film industry know what women sound like when they are having sex?

The introductory sequence, featuring a Christine (I think? Nobody gets names in this thing, but based on the Phantom arriving to boink her shortly, I will assume she's Christine) waving to her fans in faded black-and-white footage over a soothing Chopin-esque piano number. It's actually quite charming, and Barby's acting cred extends far enough for her to pull off looking gracious and interested as long as she doesn't have any lines.

The time period is, of course, indeterminate and conflicted, featuring clothing, jewelry, furniture, and music all determined to fight one another to the death. But then, that's not at all unexpected in an adult film; I've never seen one that was actually accurate, but bless them for trying.

Christine is apparently settling into a balcony box to watch an opera, and along the way gets distracted by her own boobs (kind of? a little?). Ah, the sexiness of ladies randomly and half-heartedly grabbing one of their boobs before forgetting about it again! I don't know about you, boys, but I'm definitely all hot and bothered now.

Sadly, while the black-and-white filter lent things a sort of aged grace, the conversion here to full color highlights exactly how shitty this set is. It's... well, it's a porn set. It isn't trying very hard. It's all rayon and standard-issue chairs.

Apparently exhausted by her momentary titty-grab, Christine falls asleep so the Phantom can creep in and admire her while she naps. The first thing to notice about this Phantom is a wicked case of needs-a-shower hair, combined with a white half-mask that owes its existence stylistically to Lloyd Webber, but is clearly a cheap knockoff with an exaggerated nose that doesn't really resemble its forebear too much. The second thing to notice is that she is a woman. We haven't seen any honest-to-god female Phantoms other than the odd characters from the Ransom and Kanari/Sato short stories (well, and the lead from the Takarazuka production of the Yeston/Kopit musical, I guess, but that's representational so I'm not sure if it counts), so I was prepared to be interested, but unfortunately there's no reason to be. There is only one reason for this choice, and that is that this is a lesbian adult film to which any dudely bros in the vicinityare not invited. Don't waste your energy wondering what kind of historical, psychological or behavioral differences a female Phantom might have from the usual male one. This movie is way not going to tell you about any of them.

Incidentally, there is an operatic tenor wailing away in the off-screen opera they're attending, prompting me to spend ten minutes rewinding and rewatching in an attempt to figure out what the hell he was singing. His poor enunciation made the soup of Italian mostly indecipherable and the tune was unfamiliar, but just as I was giving up I realized that suddenly many of the lyrics had converted to English, including such memorable lines as "I want to touch ya". Oh, well, okay, then! Hysterical! Whatever else you say about this movie, someone in there was dedicated if they wrote an operatic porn song for it and then paid some poor music student to sing it. I'd normally like to make some kind of connection here - is this a directorial choice, giving the Phantom an external "voice", so to speak? - but since she's a woman I'm pretty sure I'd be stretching it. It is interesting to wonder, however, why this all-female event features music written for a male voice instead of a female.

The Phantom appears to be able to teleport around the room now and then through the magic of terrible special effects. It's possible that she might be a legitimately supernatural Phantom, something we seldom see, though I think it's equally probably that she's actually a dream, since Christine is the kind of boob who goes to an opera and then falls asleep before the overture is even finished. She also apparently sleeps like a rock, judging by how the tenor's most strident efforts and the Phantom's most intrigued breast-gropings are totally failing to rouse her.

This film is interesting because it's almost a pantomime in style; there is almost no dialogue at all throughout and much of the action seems to be more exaggerated gestures to represent action than anything attempting realism - much like many old opera stagings, in fact. Or else these women are perfectly terrible at pretending to strangle one another and look worried about it, which I will admit is a more likely possibility but everyone stop puncturing my dreams.

Particularly once the Phantom flips Christine's skirt up, removes her underwear and starts determinedly attempting to finger her, things are kind of beyond the pale of bad acting. Christine's attempts to stop her are laughably pathetic and consist mostly of occasionally putting a hand on hers and looking vaguely puzzled/concerned; if it is a pantomime, I could see this being meant to show the great strength possessed by the Phantom. But it's more likely that nobody is trying very hard, and, indeed, Christine keeps randomly forgetting that she's supposed to be upset about this stranger molesting her at a public performance and spends a few seconds being all blissful about it before she remembers that the director told her to try to escape.

Really, it's just like a very sad ongoing slapfight over Christine's vulva. Which is a sentence I don't think anyone has ever contemplated writing before.

Eventually, the Phantom (no name, because, remember, no dialogue) gets tired of her ineffectual flailings and hypnotizes her into cooperating with the glass dildo she has just produced - or at least, I think that's what happens, if my interpretation of stock sound effect and tragically bad aftereffects flash of light is supposed to mean. And speaking of public performances, ladies! You do realize you're in an open balcony box in front of an entire audience and performers onstage, right? Keep it down!

But no, they do not keep it down. In fact, the music recedes into a background whisper here in favor of the ongoing chorus of Christine and the Phantom repeating "Mm", "Ooh" and "Ah" over and over again ad nauseum, leading me to sigh a little in regret that the dreamlike atmosphere that had been gamely trying to elevate the proceedings was now completely lost. I suppose we can only be grateful that the classical music (now in string quartet and from a different time period than the opera earlier) was not replaced by standard porn badonkadonk music.

Of course, the Phantom doesn't put up so much as a tiny peep of protest when Christine unmasks her, and of course there's no deformity whatsoever, because hot chicks can't also have facial uglies going on without damaging the delicate ethos so far established by this film. You may be wondering by now what any of this movie has to do with the Phantom story if the Phantom is a physically pristine person and the only plot so far has been sexytimes in Box 5... and I do not have an answer for you. That's it. That's all there is. The rest of this film is just going to be more of the same. At least other adult films, sad and pitiful though their attempts to emulate the story's plot might have been, did at least make attempts. But not this time. This is a plotless wonder of a movie (and you thought even adult films pretended to have plots!).

Sigh. Porn producers of the world: do you understand that nobody kisses with their open mouths two inches apart, darting their tongues at each other from a distance like they were having a saber duel? It's like they're struggling even to get to each other, as if an invisible force were keeping them from moving their heads closer. They look like they're going to pull a muscle. Guys, that's not actually any fun. Kissing is supposed to be fun. You try tongue-swashbuckling with your significant other from across the bedroom and see where that gets you.

I'm glad that there's no terrible dialogue, really I am, but the constant "Mm"s and "Ooh"s are starting to give me a repetitive twitch on one side. Seriously, they have not stopped doing that for the past fifteen minutes of film. Even when nothing is happening, like they're taking off clothing or the other actress is not touching her pal, they're doing it. It has no relation whatsoever to what's going on. It's like the director told them they had a per-minute quota of noises to make and they're chugging away, oblivious to whether or not this actually makes any sense when it comes to the sex they are having.

Oh, and by the way, folks, do not watch this movie unless you want to see very graphic cunnilingus. This is serious business. It makes the lesbian scene from the Thomas/Gillis film look G-rated. (Which makes sense, I guess - that movie had dudes in it, and we all know that cunnilingus is just a perfunctory five-second foreplay event when males are involved in the movie.)

Oh, no. NO. Seriously, ladies, this no-dialogue thing is really working for you. Don't ruin it now. Please put your "Atta girl!"s and "You're fucking hot!"s back in their box.

I kind of love the hilarious historical incongruity of Christine's clearly-visible bicep tattoo, though. And how effervescently charming it is when the Phantom bawls "FUCK!" at the moment of orgasm. This movie is a barrel of charms.

There's really not much going on here to prevent me from passing out from boredom, but I did think it was worth noting that the Phantom is very definitely in control of the entire encounter, something that in most porn, designed to appeal specifically to men, would be given to a man. Since this Phantom is female, however, it's a bit more difficult to figure out what's going on, especially since neither of these poor women have any personality to speak of - is it just an unconscious carryover of traditional gender roles? A default assumption based on the Phantom's first action as the aggressor who enters the scene? Personal preference on the part of the actresses? I have no idea.

Once the Phantom's gotten her rocks off and switches her attention to Christine, there's a hilarious fade-out time jump to avoid having to watch Barby's ramp-up like we just watched Angelina's. Because no one wants to see that boring part of sex. It's called Phantom of the Orgasm, not Phantom of the Foreplay, am I right, boys and girls?

During some double-bonus camerawork that is both shaky and blurry, Christine gets her happy as well (though not as spectacularly as the Phantom, disappointingly) and then the Phantom vanishes in a sudden terribly-CGI'd cloud of colored light. Which really made me think that this had been either a dream or a ghost, but since there's no plot here, nobody's going to tell me.

...but wait! Surprise! This film made you think it was over by having the Phantom disappear, but it was a fake-out, because now there will be another we're-not-trying-very-hard color fade into a new sex scene! Where are they? How did they get here? When did they get here? What's happening? Did Christine really pass out naked in her box at the end of the previous scene as it appeared? There are no answers to these questions. I want to theorize that they might be backstage, since there are what look like velvet curtains in the background, but that really just brings up more questions than it answers.

Is it worth noting that the Phantom always gets her jollies via oral or finger stimulation, but they always break out the glass dildo for Christine? Am I searching for meaning in this movie too hard? Do I need to go drink or something until I remember how to watch films through untraumatized eyes?


Something that's kind of awesome does happen here, though, and that's that I had to stop and rewind because I couldn't understand what Barby was mumbling in the throes of passion.  A second check revealed that she was freaking out in French - awesome!  Research revealed that Barby is Québécois, which makes this make sense, but it's also a nice moment where you can kind of pretend that this is tied to the original story in some way.

OH, GOD. Apparently the SOLE PURPOSE of this extra scene was to give the ladies a chance to do something I hate: don their EXTREMELY LONG, EXTREMELY SQUARE, EXTREMELY SHARP fake fingernails and then finger one another with them. Adult filmmakers. Seriously, you need to stop. As a possessor of vaginal equipment, I can tell you with absolute certainty that sharp things happening among the inner gears is never sexy outside the realm of specific fetishes. Ever. Never ever.

I'm looking at you, too, de Longprez film. Everyone stop doing this. I promise, your viewers will not sit around thinking, "Gee, that scene was pretty hot, but why didn't they have a wicked manicure in it?" Just stop. Stop forever.

Thank you.

This film is actually very short, not even twenty-four minutes long, but it feels like eternity. In the end, it's much more entertaining if you imagine that this isn't Christine, and instead is some random woman that the Phantom is accosting, possibly in a long string of such behavior before meeting Christine (fan and footstool take on a whole new meaning!).

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