For those of us who can't remember Richard Nixon, there are certain cultural phenomena that remain obscure to us, like wife-swapping key parties and waterbeds (both memorably dramatized in Ang Lee's The Ice Storm, based on Rick Moody's coming of age novel set in the 1970s).
And then there's the brief middle-class vogue for hard-core pornography, which began in the Nixon administration and beat a hasty retreat to the living room with the advent of the video cassette recorder. The one film that symbolizes this era is, of course, Deep Throat, a film so fashionable in the early 1970s that Nixon-hunters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein named a key source after it.
A new documentary takes us back to those innocent, pre-Jenna Jameson days, when porn filmmakers thought of themselves as artists and the actors still looked like ordinary young adults. Directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, Inside Deep Throat introduces us to Gerard Damiano, onetime Queens hairdresser and full-time swinger who chucked it all to make dirty movies. Smitten with Linda Lovelace (née Boreman), Damiano raised production funds from dubious business partners and shot the film on location in Florida.
Although the film certainly tells us everything we need to know about the most famous porn film of all time (save for viewing the film), the subject nonetheless seems exhausted in our present sex-saturated culture. The narrative arc of exuberant sexual radicalism devolving into video degeneracy is a story we've already seen in Boogie Nights.
Most of the witnesses have survived; despite being cut out of the estimated $600 million in profits, Damiano now is a gracefully aging retiree who wears a white toupee and his trousers hiked up around his rib cage. Lovelace lived a hard life after the film and died in a car accident a few years ago. Of Deep Throat itself, the film doles out discreet glimpses, although it fulfills its obligation to demonstrate Lovelace's particular talent that inspired the film's plot and title.
Opens Friday, April 1 at Varsity theater.