Lust Films: Modern and Urban Porn

Swedish-born Erika Lust (1977) who lives and works in Barcelona, Spain represents a new and exciting direction in adult sex films by women today. I first became familiar with Erika’s work when in 2006 she made her erotic short film The Good Girl available as a free download on her blog. I was on sabbatical in Norway at the time, researching feminist pornography, and immediately sent the link to the sex-positive retailer CUPIDO, which then became Erika’s first vendor.

It didn’t take long before Erika’s artistic talents received wider support and acclaim. In 2007, she released Five Hot Stories for Her, which includes “The Good Girl.” Firstly, Erika shows definite skills in film techniques. She has a good eye for picture composition and editing, with a style and rhythm that can appeal to modern urban people today. I immediately connected with her work, not least because I could identify with the main character in “The Good Girl,” but also because I was grabbed by Erika’s use of music and the cinematic quality.

Erika’s films are shot in the style of modern music videos, with hip editing and catchy soundtracks. As she herself puts it, her porn speaks to a generation that grew up with MTV and shows like “Sex and the City.” In “The Good Girl” we get to know a young woman, Alexandra, who despite a rich erotic fantasy life (of which the audience gets a few comical glimpses), struggles to give in to her sexual fantasies. Her friend Julie, on the other hand, seems to have no problems in that department at all. Alexandra’s frustration and exasperation over her friend’s lack of understanding is captured with a good dose of humor and self-irony.

“The Good Girl” is about how Alexandra finally overcomes her own shyness, so she, then liberated, can celebrate and enjoy her own body and sexuality, with, ironically, the pizza deliverer. And of course the two are beautiful to look at. He dark, almost Italian-like, but in a charming, unthreatening, and kind sort of way; she sweet in a natural manner, with long soft blond hair and smooth skin over her supple body. The rhythm in the editing and music works all throughout, and you can feel it in your body. We follow and feel with Alexandra from the first fumbling and uncertain touches, to the burning fever that takes over the brain when reason must let go. She does let go, receiving and giving; their sex a passionate life-affirming dance that lifts her up and carries her away. “ “Fire! ¦ I feel fire! exclaims the male vocalist as she lifts up, full of desire, into a tense arching bow of pleasure. The film reaches its climax as she comes, before everything settles down and she whispers to him with a little smile, “Now come in my face like they do in porn! When he does, it only looks creamy and delicate.

In Five Hot Stories for Her we also get to see how the dark beautiful tattooed and long-haired Nadia, who works in a sex toy shop, fascinates various women, lesbian as well as hetero (“Something about Nadia”); how the hip young wife Sonja catches her professional soccer player husband Carlos having sex in their bed with another woman, and gets even by having sex with two of her husband’s teamates, recording it on video and uploading it to the internet (“Jodetecarlos.com”); how a married couple with children maintains the spark in their relationship by having a weekly BDSM-date in another apartment, while a babysitter watches the kids at their home (“Married with children”); and, instead of the typical girl-sex episode in mainstream porno, Erika concludes this collection with a break-up sex scene between two men in the stylish apartment they’ve shared until now, shot in artsy black-and-white (“Breakup sex”).

All the short films are characterized by Erika’s meticulous filmic techniques. The photography is professional and slick with an attention-grabbing use of angles; the editing energetic, even electrifying, creating a sexy teasing rhythm, which the hip music further underscores. Erika tantalizes the viewer with images floating by: short glimpses of skin, form, pussy, nipple. It is modern, with  women and men in an urban setting: Barcelona with its well-known Gaudi architecture, plazas and avenues, shopping streets, café corners, ultramodern apartments, the long beach. Originally shot in Spanish, the dubbing on the English version gives a bit of a corny feel at times. Still, for Five Hot Stories for Her, Erika won the awards for Best Manuscript at Barcelona’s Erotic Film Festival (FICEB) (2007), Best Film for Women at the Erotic E-Line Awards in Berlin (2007), Best Film of the Year at The Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto (2008), and Honorable Best Mention at the CineKink festival in New York City (2008).

Since releasing Five Hot Stories for Her, Erika has fine-tuned her erotic filmmaking skills. With Life, Love, Lust (2010), a collection of three short films capturing captivating scenarios between attractive characters, she delivers polished quality with high production value. The rhythm captures and matches the story well, while photography and editing are stylistically striking and seamless at the same time. None of these films are dubbed. What we do hear of dialog in the background adds depth to the picture, but is not essential to understand the story.

The first film (“Life”) captures the workday of a waitress and her boyfriend, a chef at the same restaurant, through quick crosscuts. The two close up the restaurant at the end of the shift, and sit down for a drink in the bar to celebrate his birthday before having sex there too. Then they have cake and she gives him a gift: a telling pregnancy test. Whereas “Life” has a warm sexy stylish feel to it,  “Love is filled both with the nostalgia of falling in love and the melancholy of a broken heart, as it portrays the affair between a married businesswoman and a sensitive guitar-playing younger man in dreamy shots. And in “Lust we follow the hesitant journey of a torn dark young woman who in the end seeks out a shorthaired tattooed masseuse for tantric massage.

Life, Love, Lust also comes with the erotic film noir vignette “Handcuffs” where a woman in an art deco nightclub observes another woman in handcuffs serving her male partner. The vignette is written and directed by Erika with photography by Gustavo Lópes Mañas. It premiered at the Erotic Night at the short film festival Circuito Off in Venice, Italy (2009), later winning Best Experimental Short Film at CineKink in New York (2010) and Sexiest Short Film of the Year (2010) at The Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto. The playful short film “Love Me Like You Hate Me” about domination and submission between two English-speaking ladies also comes as an extra.

In 2010, Erika\’together with five other directors\’was invited by the innovate production house boolab to shoot a short film using the ultra-hip international shoe company Camper‘s boutique hotel in Barcelona, Casa Camper, as its setting. In February, the Hotel Casa Camper movie premiered for free view here. Erika’s “Room 33” is the third of six shorts and reprises the roles of the couple from “Handcuffs” as they check into a hotel charged with erotic atmosphere, which is tantalizingly captured in quick spinning flashbacks to their previous erotic stays at the same hotel. The film received Honorable Best Mention at CineKink NYC (2011).

Last Friday, Erika announced the longer director’s cut of “Room 33.” I actually prefer this shorter version, which showcases Erika’s excellent sense for swiftness:

But the Director’s Cut is worth checking out, especially for the added second part:

Currently, Erika is casting for Six Female Voices, her next film. She has announced on Facebook that she’s looking for American actresses in particular.

(This post is an excerpt from my book After Pornified: How Women Are Transforming Pornography & Why It Really Matters, forthcoming fall 2012.)

Quizzical Mama

Quizzical mama, aka Anne G. Sabo, PhD, is a former academic turned public educator, author, speaker, freelance writer, and mama- and sex blogger. Her book After Pornified: How Women Are Transforming Pornography & Why It Really Matters (Zer0 Books, October 2012) has been called “a goldmine for all sex-positive women and men,” and a “candid, well-informed personal story of how a good girl became involved in porn." She writes mores about progressive porn and sex-positivity in her New porn by women blog and at her resource site Love, Sex, and Family, and she muses about life and parenting in her Quizzical mama blog. She lives in Northfield, Minnesota, a small college town just south of the Twin Cities, with her spouse and their preschooler daughter. You can follow her on Facebook or on Twitter @quizzicalmama.

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