Retro Porn Review – Madame Zenobia

March 22, 2015
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Retro Porn Review - Madame Zenobia

Straight from Eduardo Cemano’s unique version of porn, Madame Zenobia was the director’s final piece of his cult Sexual Healing Trilogy; and just like his previous efforts, it has enough weirdness to fit more comfortably with the works of experimental filmmakers of the time than with his pornographic peers.

The movie starts with a very lengthy montage of a couple during a romantic stroll in the woods. It has its artistic value, but it’s a bit slow. The idea is clear, though: showing an idealized love/sex relationship; a flashback from happier times.

Tina Russell plays Marcia, the woman whose sex dream gets interrupted and who feels the need to run away from her fiancé Eric (Levi Richards). The man feels clearly threatened and frustrated by John, her ex, whom she openly says is the only one who could get her to orgasm. Marcia informs Eric she needs to go see John, and visibly neurotic and tormented, he still drives her to see her former lover.

When they reach John’s, Eric waits by the car as she goes to see him by herself. But as we watch Marcia go to her knees, John is not there waiting for a blowjob; he is a few feet underground. John is her ex-husband, whom she loved and who had died a year earlier. And just as we get ready for a sad cemetery moment, Marcia wastes no time on sappy greetings and gets down to business with the piece of land where ol’ John now rests. She kneels in front of his tomb, talking dirty, touching herself and rubbing her clit all over the flowers on the tombstone, while reminiscing on their fulfilling sexual relationship. It’s an odd and dark scene, but quite hot.

Eric grows tired of John’s ghost and after another failed sexual attempt, storms out and leaves his fiancé. Marcia can only cry her depression away, until her friend Lucy and her over-sexed bisexual male lovers call her up for an impromptu orgy. An awkward sex scene ensues, followed by Marcia’s explanation of her sexual frustrations. All of a sudden, one of them mentions the solution: Going to Madame Zenobia’s (Elizabeth Donavan in her only role ever), a powerful black woman who could communicate with the dead through her own sexual pleasure.

Cemano was a talented artist and photographer whose sex scenes looked unlike any other porn director of the time. There are several distinct scenes with very different motives. Some of the shots look aesthetically awesome, but the actual sex is less graphic and more artistic than anything. Psychedelic dreams, superimposed close-ups of all kinds of skin and a very spiritual approach to necrophilia all put their mark on a type of erotic narrative that make Cemano’s vision pretty damn singular.

There are very dynamic changes on the film’s pace, and it’s incredibly absurd and silly at times. The music is mostly made of analogue synth-based stuff and spacey sounds that tend to increase the tension — except for the Benny Hill-esque fast-forwarded montages used for comic relief.

Look, this film is very cartoonish. You can tell there were lots of drugs involved in the making of it, and they would certainly not hurt your chances of enjoying the movie more if you took some yourself. It also has one of the weirdest fucking endings of any movie — adult or otherwise — ever made; no hyperbole there.

If you’re looking for traditional porn, this is definitely not it. If you want a weird movie to watch with a nice indica haze that also happens to have some nicely photographed experimental sex scenes and more absurdity than you’d normally associate with those scenes, you will likely enjoy it very much.

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