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Acting Out
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by The Ultimate Dancing Machine

"Everything you never wanted to know about sex"
4 stars

A few years back I worked for a porno website. I don't particularly feel like explaining how and why I got there--us ex-literature students tend not to be forthcoming about our porn pasts--but the upshot is I spent eight hours a day looking through XXX websites. Straight, gay, fetish--the works. By the time I left the place, I'd arrived at a simple truth about human nature, especially the male subset: Absolutely everything under the sun is capable of turning someone on. No matter how weird, unerotic, downright repulsive it may seem to the rest of us, some sick motherfucker is out there jacking off with it this very moment.

I mention this because ACTING OUT (1978), a wonderfully odd piece of '70s arcana recently released on DVD by Troma, confirms my theory about twenty times over. This is a documentary that at first sight resembles the "white coaters" we saw a lot back in the early '70s--ostensible "sex ed" films that were really an excuse to show actors fucking and sucking. That subgenre reached its apotheosis in the maniacally bizarre LET ME DIE A WOMAN (also 1978), which showed us all far more than we ever needed to know about how transsexuals masturbate with dildos, among many other things. ACTING OUT manages to be both more playful and more serious--and altogether more watchable--than those films.

The movie takes a bunch of normal, everyday folks (and just possibly a few wannabe actors misguidedly looking for the Big Break), and gives them a once-in-a-lifetime chance to act out their favorite erotic fantasies on camera, with help from a company of thespians from the porn industry.

So we are treated to eighty-some minutes of things like (1) a college student who gets to fulfill her seducing-the-teacher fantasy; (2) a narcissist who whacks off in a room full of mirrors; (3) a man who acts out what he calls "The Feather Fantasy," which as you probably guessed involves taking a bunch of guys dressed up in Pilgrim outfits and tickling their dicks with a feather until they ejaculate; (4) a guy who tries to carry out his dream of fist-fucking a woman with the aid of Crisco Oil ("I'm going for width," he explains while miming with his fist).

Afterwards the participants reflect on their experiences. A few are thrilled by it all, but most seem to be let down. One woman, whose mild S&M scenario didn't come off as planned, confesses that real life just isn't the same as fantasy life. And then there's Mr. Feather, who comes off like a simmering cauldron of self-delusion. Bitching about the lack of arousal from the male actors in his Pilgrim fantasy, he takes pains to assure us he's really heterosexual--but really, why couldn't they have provided him with gay guys?

There are a few interesting names lurking in the credits: Troma head Lloyd Kaufman (production consultant); infamous '70s pornmeister Roberta Findlay (cinematographer); and most interestingly, co-director Ralph Rosenblum, the same guy who won an Oscar for editing ANNIE HALL. Certainly, ACTING OUT seems to have been made by people who knew how to assemble movies in an economical fashion; the individual segments are kept agreeably brief, and the film skillfully avoids lapsing into monotony. It seems to have been made in a cheerful spirit--the voiceover narration, full of good-humored irony, is at times uproarious--which keeps it from becoming either sheerly exploitative or dryly academic.

Admittedly, none of this is especially profound, but it's a fairly pleasant way to pass an hour and a half. And you'll learn a few tricks that can be performed with Crisco Oil.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=14805&reviewer=223
originally posted: 07/09/06 10:13:15
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USA
  02-Feb-1978
  DVD: 04-Apr-2006

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Carl Gurevich
  Ralph Rosenblum

Written by
  N/A

Cast
  Valerie Adami
  Michael Gaunt
  Ellen Faison
  Robert Kerman
  Roger Caine
  Cia Lozell



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