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  • The Life and Death of a Porno Gang (Special Edition) (Blu-ray)

    Posted in: Disc Reviews by M. W. Phillips on August 29th, 2012

    Overall
    Film
    Video
    Audio
    Extras
    (out of 5)

    “We decided to tour round Serbia. We’ll go to villages. It will be interesting to see farmers’ reactions to our sexual provocations. Sexual education for Serbs. Widening the horizons. This is our guerilla mission.”

    I like to think I am not a prude. My taste in film runs to the controversial, and I don’t shy away from extreme cinema. I think Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom and Caligula are masterpieces; A Serbian Film impressed and affected me, although I have no intention of watching it again. Even the brief inserts of hardcore porn in “mainstream” movies like Shortbus, Antichrist, Brown Bunny or the previously mentioned Caligula don’t offend me, but I must admit I found The Life and Death of a Porno Gang unpleasant and soulless.

    Marko (Mihajlo Jovanovic), a graduate of the Serbian Film Academy, longs to direct his first feature, but ends up dabbling in porn. This somehow inspires a cross country video tour of Serbia’s poorest farm regions with a troupe of “performers” staging a live sex show cabaret. Before you know it, the movie starts flashing hardcore footage of the most depraved sex imaginable accompanied by onstage soliloquies straight out of amateur poetry night readings.

    There is really nothing remotely stimulating about the sex, but boy do they mix it up… man on man, men on woman, man on farm animals, man on mud, all energetically performed in group or solo scenarios. Licentious and gross close-ups are liberally added to the mix as if to permanently sear the hardcore images straight onto your cerebral cortex. The depraved onstage intercourse inspires all kinds of reactions from the impoverished backwoods audience, ranging from leers and derisive laughter to attacks by rape-frenzied mobs (although I must admit the mass raping climaxing with the troupe’s hysterical laughter is the most inspired bit in the movie). But in spite of these savage “reviews” the gang decides the show must go on… and on… and on.

    When a creepily enthusiastic patron makes the lucrative offer of providing suicidal volunteers to add the missing snuff factor, Marko and the gang add suicide and ritualized murder to their depraved cabaret. At first they videotape the snuff porn, but soon they begin performing private live snuff shows. As if the local populace wasn’t shocked enough by the sexual degradations, the murders put them over the top, and soon the gang finds themselves on the run from both angry mobs and the law. Needless to say, the title of the movie, The Life and Death of a Porno Gang, is indeed a spoiler, and things don’t end well for the debauched dramatis personae.

    Instead of being thought-provoking or even titillating, I found the whole experience grueling and tedious. Yes, I may have thrown up in my mouth a bit, but not out of shock, but from pure disgust. I’m sorry, but farm animal fellation is not exactly my cup of… tea. I kind of get what writer/director Mladen Djordjevic was going for, the cheapness of human life in postwar Serbia, but the nihilistic warts-and-all approach left me more revolted than riveted.

    Video:

    Most of the MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is intentionally treated to look like handheld SD camcorder footage including a whole gamut of digital anomalies. When the film moves away from the video diary/found footage segments, the narrative footage is decent, but still marred by industrial and prosumer source cameras. All in all the colors are flat and the blacks crushed. Detail suffers from poor lighting and a deliberate amateur shooting style. This does lend to the authenticity of the footage, but doesn’t really take advantage of the hi-def format.

    Audio:

    The DTS-HD 2.0 audio track isn’t immersive in the surround department. The focus is all in the front speakers, even during atmospheric external shots. The dialog, Serbian with subtitles, is clearly captured and presented. There is little in the way of sound design, as the movie goes for a more natural effect as if captured by a camcorder’s microphone.

    Special Features:

    • Made in Serbia Documentary (101:23; SD) Mladen Djordjevic’s feature length documentary on the Serbian adult entertainment industry. Interesting, if disheartening.
    • Making of The Life and Death of a Porno Gang (14:22; SD) A basic EPK accounting of obstacles and triumphs of capturing debauchery.
    • Theatrical Trailer (1:56; SD) Does what it is supposed to do and makes the movie look better than it is.
    • Deleted and Extended Scenes (all of which deserve to have been deleted):
      • Weed of Oblivion from Srem (14:35; SD)
      • The Camera Operator (4:14; SD)
      • The Bully (7:52; SD)
      • Election (:52; SD)

    Final Thoughts:

    If you like shock cinema and want to see crude and disgusting porn with decent amateur actors coupled with gore and self mutilation, you may find this mildly entertaining. Otherwise, better to avoid this and not burden your psyche with these disgusting images. I must admit I suffered a great deal of trouble staying motivated to finish The Life and Death of a Porno Gang. Too bad I can’t get that time back.

     “When we started this film I didn’t have the slightest idea how far it would take me.”

    Posted In: 1.85:1 Widescreen, 1080p, AVC MPEG4, Blu-ray, Disc Reviews, DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English), Foreign, Synapse

    One Response to “The Life and Death of a Porno Gang (Special Edition) (Blu-ray)”

    1. Brent Says:

      I’m actually looking forward to checking this one out. Serbian Film would have been better if not for all the hype surrounding the film. Salo ranks up there with this other film Sweet Movie as beautiful repulsing films I’ll never watch again.
      I’m equally repulsed and intrigued by the concept of this film though.

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