Two pretty girls come of age and a painter has an unusual commission. In a repressive climate sexual exploration repression and liberation are and represented.
The rise of the ease of access to hardcore pornography has caused a lot of problems for Western society, but it’s had one advantage: soft porn nonsense posing as art has died away in recent years.
Clearly no one has told writer-director Maxim Ford, whose debut feature Picture of Beauty has pretensions to musing on the nature of repression. It isn’t. Instead, what we have here is a grubby and sleazy view of women from the male gaze, which manages to be about as erotic as tarmac.
Everything about Picture of Beauty feels cheap and dirty: from the televisual cinematography of the cold-open so-mo words run, to the sets when the action moves indoors. The brothel scene, which sets up as much of the “story” as we’re ever going to get—look so unconvincing, you can practically see the sets swaying in the lightest of breeze. Of course, soft porn has never really suffered from bountiful budgets; the best star that the Emmanuel films of the 90s was aging failed Bond George Lazenby, after all.
But this is only the start of the problems here. The performers, without exception, are terrible. Lead actress Taylor Sands is a porn actress by trade and it shows in every frame: sure she can pout prettily like the best of them, but when it comes to delivering lines she sounds like a toddler just learning to speak for the first time. Everyone else emotes in the most childish way possible, delivering a script that doesn’t even sound like it finished its first draft. This is probably because the story is pure afterthought: a flimsy excuse to move from slo-mo bum-shaking sequence to sex-scene to male-fantasy lesbian rutting. These scenes go on forever too. The sheer length of each shot in these sequences suggests that there wasn’t enough material for the runtime. That’s pretty impressive for a 70-minute film.
And that’s where we should call it a day. This film review hasn’t even had a chance to comment on the Big Fat Gypsy Wedding-style comedy European music that plays constantly and the baffling lurch towards feminism in the final scenes, but why kick a dead dog when it’s down? And this film is a dead dog and a half.
– Andrew Galvin
Subtitles:English, Czech, Polish, Russian, Spanish, French, German