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Friday, August 24, 2012

LIFE AND DEATH OF A PORNO GANG: Not Your Average Serbian Film



As of today, August 24th, 2012 what is the difference between A Serbian Film and Life and Death of a Porno Gang? I’m sure your brain is reeling trying to come up with which obscure little factoid I might have attached myself to for the this review. Both movies focus on the out of control decadence of post-War Serbia and the sexual exploits of a people who are trying to find identity for their country through the visual arts. While each film accomplishes this in a different fashion, A Serbian Film deals with the a struggling family man’s journey back into a career as a porn star and straight into Hell; Life and Death of a Porno Gang being the story of an aspiring filmmaker who takes the “low road” and begins making adult films as a way to express himself artistically and bank some coin despite his best intentions to make “higher art”.  Both display acts of sexual perversion so shocking that I feel no need to share them with you here and ultimately spoil what might be some of the powerful moments in cinematic history all be they perverse moments still powerful.  All actors are virtually unknown to me and while that doesn’t mean they’re unknown to you… well… I’ll bet you have no fucking clue who they are either. For all the similarities there are a few differences (to be discussed after I get to the fucking point already). The main difference I’ve noticed is that A Serbian Film has a Wikipedia page and Life and Death of a Porno Gang is in desperate need of one. How else are we supposed to compare the ensuing controversies to follow or the impact on the less versed in the debauched and depraved? Wikipedia doesn’t have a page dealing with a highly controversial film at this point in the game? Well it’s user created so get on that right away.

Synopsis from Synapse:

During the final days of Slobodan Milošević’s Serbian rule, a young film student named Marko (Mihajlo Jovanovic) becomes desperate to make a feature film. Finally getting a job as an adult film director, he quickly runs afoul of the mob and needs to get out of town fast! Assembling a traveling “porno cabaret” with a group of misfits, Marko and his new friends ride though the quiet countryside in a beat up van performing live sex acts for peasants and farmers. But, life is hard on the road and they are barely making enough money to survive. Marko meets a shady snuff film producer who says they can make a lot more money shooting actual murders, theatrically “performed” on willing participants. This is one offer the struggling porno gang cannot refuse!

Synapse Films is proud to present Mladen Djordjevic’s controversial film, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A PORNO GANG. Not for the faint of heart or weak-minded, this critically acclaimed shocker is “bursting with outrageous characters and shocking situations… a candy-colored suicide bus to hell” (Mitch Davis, Fantasia Film Festival). This is funny, gruesome, sexy and jaw-dropping adults-only entertainment.



By now you realize that Serbia seems to be a place charged with sexual tension, filled to overflowing with civil unrest and most importantly populated by a people who want for a better world. It’s got a fairly vibrant porn manufacturing contingent or at least that’s what the only two movies I’ve seen to come out of there seem to suggest. I think the larger issue at hand would be to discuss why we seem to be force-fed an image of Eastern Europe that is completely devoid of moral culpability and favors Capitalism to the point of sacrificing all other value, family or other rather than a system of dreams and opportunity? Think about the movies you’ve been watching from this part of the world. Name one that doesn’t have this icky feeling associated with it. I keep thinking of Hostel and we can definitely name a pile of others.  While my own viewing behavior can be admittedly myopic and focus solely on the horror genre I’m fairly certain I haven’t missed the next “feel good movie” from Eastern Europe. Milo and Otis Escape from the Former Yugoslavia? It might… just… work. And that brings us to Life and Death of a Porno Gang. A film that has the best intentions of displaying a struggling artist attempting to break the chains of poverty and oppression to find personal freedom in his art followed by a gaggle or gang of individuals looking for their freedom from their own individual imprisonments, self and societal.


While there was a beautiful, almost glorified world of adult entertainment in A Serbian Film, Life and Death focuses on a more organic, less polished version of porn. It’s raw. Amateur. It ain’t always pretty and it certainly isn’t waxed. I think I would equate it better to the free love of the hippie movement and free sex generation during the 1960’s in America. They do, after all, travel around in a bus painted with bright colors glamorizing graphical sexual depictions. They fuck whenever they want… for the amusement of others both in front of the camera and in live performance. When the locals get feisty to stop the whole thing due to their own moral conviction or in some cases lack there of, director Mladen Djordjevic’s intention truly shows themselves. What you’ve got here is an attempt to show a group of people embodying the stereotypes of the underdog and downtrodden trying to find an end and peace in acceptance; not necessarily always by society at large. Sometimes this acceptance is just among themselves or acceptance about themselves for themselves by themselves. Does it work? That’s why you the watch the movie. That’s why Synapse brought us the OTHER Serbian Film.



You’ll enjoy the actors even if you don’t know them. I hope that you’ll become familiar with them and that with time they might weasel their way into films that you might have a better chance of seeing or perhaps this whole focus on the Serbian decay will have a greater effect. Maybe we’ll actually start seeing more movies, non-shock flicks, from Serbia. A guy can dream. Until then we’ll be happy to enjoy their offerings no matter how they force us to hide our Blu Ray collection. After all, like A Serbian Film, this film isn’t appropriate for polite conversation and probably circumvents major award from the Academy (who the fuck needs ‘em). You’d hope that an actor’s career might go above and beyond roles in films of this type in the long run. Not because the movie is bad… it’s brilliant, but because the actor took a chance to be a part of controversy and the strange face of post-Communism/Fascism in Europe. I wish them well.

From A Serbian Film... 
Life and Death of a Porno Gang has some beautiful moments of graphic violence. It is as good as or better than most horror films. You might find yourself laughing at some of it or even hiding your eyes (pussy). It’s graphic in all the right ways and yes, you’ll see plenty of cock and balls. This isn’t a Hollywood movie in Playboy clothing… or even Hustler.. or even Swank. Like a said… we’re dealing with raw, naked, hairy, not always beautiful on the outside folks some of which who end up being very attractive people beyond the superficial porno subheading.



The Synapse release is gorgeous. I’m a sucker for their products which is why I choose to review them: affordable Blu Rays with nice extras and good transfers. You’ll want to make sure the kiddies aren’t watching this one. You’ll probably want to make sure that you’re mom isn’t in the house either. Hell, don’t tell your boss about it either and if you’re attend any kind of religious institution, you may want to ask your diety for forgiveness in advance. You might consider doing a double feature with A Serbian Film if you want to truly fuck yourself up good and proper and span the emotional gamut that comes from watching a place and a people degenerate and give up hope. And while I say that in a rather cavalier fashion and have written this entire review based on the premise that there simply isn’t a large enough following of folks tracking this picture down, I think that it will gain popularity. I think people are going to need to better understand why A Serbian Film is controversial and not just because one or two nations think they see child porn on the screen when that’s not it at all. They’ll need to understand that movie and then how it relates to Life and Death of  a Porno Gang. They movies are inextricably link now.  Hopefully because in all its hopelessness… for however bleak Life and Death of  Porno Gang is, the battle for the preservation of the self that you see in Life and Death is hopeful unlike A Serbian Film, that has no choice but to force you to look away and face the degeneration of humanity in general beyond Serbia. Ultimately the censorship and legal turmoil that has embroiled A Serbian Film seems to have made it a monster. People want to see it. People see it. Get disgusted by it for exactly one reason and forget to watch the rest of the movie. I know I did. Then I remembered that I enjoyed the Ilsa movies, Traces of Death and Men Behind the Sun as well as the Guinea Pig series and got my nuts out of the vice that was clearly preventing blood flow to my brain. I watched it again and found an entire movie behind hiding behind the controversy (and an awesome soundtrack).

Get past the shock. Get to the message or find the message you think you see in the movie(s). Then enjoy the shock and maybe try to take something a lil’ bigger away from both of these movies in tandem.



Life and Death of a Porno Gang is available now on stunning Blu Ray.

Pick it up NOW!!!

-Dr. TERROR


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