GENRE: Fantasy Straight Compilation
DIRECTORS: Michael Ninn
STARS: Anna Karin, Monica Daniels, Erica Vachs, Laura Capri, Marrakesh, Daniel DeCarlo, Leslie, Luthar, Marco Rossi
DATES OF PRODUCTION: 2004
LENGTH: 150 mins with bonus material
Sometimes, porn can be too pretty. Used to be in the golden olden days before video, adult film stars looked, acted and fornicated like halfway normal people. Oh sure, you had the well-hung human oddities, guys with cocks the size of shelalieghes and gals with titanic, NATURAL tits – or at least state of the art silicon injected mammaries just ripe for a future class action suit. But for the most part, early XXX sold you on the notion that anyone could have really hot hardcore sex, as long as the circumstances were right (and the wa-wa pedal soundtrack was firmly in place). There was a Penthouse Forum flavor to these formative flesh feasts, a belief that you were just one trip to the convenience store, or a pizza delivery away from a helping of real life ribaldry. But nowadays in our post-millennial malaise, smut must be super-sized and hyper-realistic (or theater of the absurd matched with a similar smattering of the grotesque, but that's a whole other review). Unless it has the term "gonzo" grafted onto it, we want Barbie Dolls and Muscle Men as the carnal components in our late night amusements. We have gone from a basic to a Bruckheimer notion of nookie and are willing – nay, WANTING- to pay to see people completely unlike ourselves engage in the art of erotic entertainment.
All of this filigree and froufrou has long been blamed on the female of the species. Companies claim that they understand how gals, along with guys, like a little helping of hardcore now and again. And they know that the ladies hate to see spotty teens drilling community college drop-outs with all the style and grace of a couple of drunken sailors engaging in some homo-erotic wrestling. Nope, the women want to see something along the lines of Fragile, one of the latest releases by visionary porn director Michael Ninn. His arty approach to adult entertainment is stunning, daring and sometimes very audacious. But for some odd reason, Fragile feels like a slight letdown. It is still first-class (make that WORLD class) carnality, but instead of heady, the brew here is light, and almost too lavish to digest.
The DVD: Fragile is a film about reflections. Though he is not really known for his linear narratives in these scene compilations, adult auteur Michael Ninn does always try to tell some manner of story, albeit in a suggestive, impressionistic way. Mostly an excuse for lead actress Anna Karin to primp and preen around a large mirror in an ornate ballroom, Fragile may be trying to advocate that all people have facets to their personality, differing or divergent inner psyches just waiting to get out and fuck like agitated rabbits. It could also only be a massively visual hog and baloney pony show. Whatever you want to make of it, Ninn proposes five separate insights into the world of Karin's curvaceous copulations. This is indeed porn at its most pretty, again, perhaps too much so. Set against a backdrop of European old world opulence and decay, the individual scenes showcase what's grand, and what's merely memorable about this fashionable flesh feast. Let's start with:
Scene 1: Anna Karin, Monica Daniels, Leslie
Our first "reflection" has a very 'seeing double' doppelganger quality, as both Anna and Monica vamp in similar outfits. The gals look so similar you could honestly offer up a "separated at birth" proposition and no one would doubt you. The cabaret continues as the girls bump and grind in front of an old factory facade. After about 8 minutes of throbbing, atmospheric T&A techno, both babes bandy about their bushes for a while, letting their fingers do the fucking. Finally, Les shows up and provides the primed prima donnas some nice fat cock to crawl all over. The ladies engage in dueling dick sucking and Leslie returns the favor with some salad tossing. Positions plowed through include doggy (with V to A-M – vaginal to alternate mouth – parameters) and anal spooning (with complimentary cunnilingus on the party not plied with pole). After a bit of index infiltration and butt probing, there are shots of gaping assholes. It's not long before our one-named wonder let's loose with the love liquid. Both of our twin twats take the shot in slow motion, mouths open and waiting. Ninn even doubles our proposed pleasure by repeating the money maneuver from another angle.
If there is a downside to this scene, it is the excessive amount of softcore showing off that goes on before the hardcore hits. Anna and Monica are both fetching brunettes with gorgeous faces and enticing bodies, but after the 37th montage of them giving you the 'come hither' stare, you just want those alluring pusses – and pussies - stuffed full of cock. Ninn is notorious for his hyper-stylized music video technique, and it works well here. But with the balance of porn power moving more toward the tame and less near the nasty, some editing would have expanded the erotica. Score: 6 out of 10.
Scene 2: Erica Vachs, Daniel DeCarlo
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Our first one-on-one session sees Anna imagine herself as the blond bimbette Erica. After a similar stint of flesh floorshow for the camera (and her potential paramour – the pony-tailed Daniel), Erica seems ready to explore her own erogenous zones. Some clit manipulation later, and she's ripe for rod. Daniel offers up his tool and Ms. Vachs tastes it with wanton glee. There is then some pussy eating with Dan doing a bowling ball number on Erica's area (or, for those needing a more memorable manner or description, he fucks her with his fingers, one in the pink and one in the stink). Our horny heroine enjoys tasting the tang of his efforts. When the couple finally copulates, they start off in bow-wow boundaries, and quickly move to a more luxuriant spell of anal spooning. After a little implied A to M (we never see the complete shot of dick moving from dumper to throat) Mr. DeCarlo is ready to release. He squirts his shaft slime all over Erica's face...ALL OVER her face, and to make the facade flooding that much more memorable, we see the whole penis puddling again, from a differing perspective. Here is an instance where Ninn's overindulgence in odd camera angles, extreme close-ups and bizarre framing choices finally does him in. We have a very difficult time figuring out what in the fuck is going on with the fucking and never really know the personal dynamic between the performers. Daniel and Erica hump like hard hats, but the weird visualization of their horizontal hi-jinx subdues the sex. Score: 5.5 out of 10.
Scene 3: Anna Karin, Laura Capri, Marrakesh
It's time to visit the poetess Sappho as Anna's mind moves over into same sex territory. In perhaps one of the most visually striking scenes in the whole film (Ninn uses a super-saturation of light to make the entire sequence glow like a heavenly whore house), Anna watches as Laura and Marra get to know each other a HELLAVA lot better. Naturally, they first have to strut and fret their several minutes on the staircase stage before shuffling off to pussy paradise - and they put on quite the tantalizing show. Anna finally joins them for a little group grope, followed by mutual mons manipulation. Once the surreal shaped glass dildos arrive, fingers and faux phallus find purchase in one pussy after another. With a combination of tongue and toys, the ladies lunch and satisfy their shark sensibilities with fits of rough stimulation. And just like you would a swizzle stick in a Rob Roy, the gals always remove their sensual stirrers for a taste testing. We end on some aggressive cunt and ass eating, as the gals are left to their own debauched devices. Though we are still locked down in close-up town (you haven't lived until you've seen a vagina take a candy-striped stump in extreme digital clarity) this scene actually benefits from Ninn's artistic ambitions. Lesbianism on screen is either boring (the vast majority) or boffo (some of the Janine/Jenna workouts). Ninn finds a way to make it visually as well as sexually arresting and the results are hot and steamy. Score: 6 out of 10.
Scene 4: Monica Daniels, Mario Rossi
In what is the best scene in the set, a new actress sets up to the porn plate and cock knocks one out of the park. The reasons why Anna would envision herself in such a similar guise (remember, Monica could be her DNA double) are suspect, but the sequence is a sizzler. Monica does the dong and dance routine, vamping for the camera as she works the ancient Roman ruins backdrop. Mario finally arrives and gets his dick sucked in a very sensual, sexy style. Ms. Daniels loves to lather attention on his naughty nutsack, and all the ball action really amplifies the carnality. Rossi rolls his lover over and visits Connie the Linguist from her less often explored backdoor dimension. And just to make sure the anus is not jealous, he tosses Monica's salad. After some more fingering fun, we get into cowgirl mode as Ms. D saddles up to ride the skin stallion. Once they're done with one possible set of animal antics, the hound is helmed with anal doggy pile driving next on the sex schematic. Monica delights in a little A to M (with more of the fabulously fun gonad and girth gleaning) and Mario is ready to rock. He propels his prick pesto all over Ms. Daniel's chest and she just sits back loving every liquid minute of it. Monica and Mario indeed prove that Ninn's mannered method doesn't hamper all shaft and snatch sequences in Fragile. They put on quite the corporeal carnival and the results are erotic and evocative. Score: 7.5 out of 10.
Scene 5: Anna Karin, Daniel DeCarlo, Lothar
In something of an unusual twist on the typical threesome scene, the free-for-all mentality is scuttled for a more measured, calm approach. Sure, Anna gets a hard humping DP drilling here, but the rest of the routine is straightforward, not scattered and confusing. Anna does her typical tease and please before letting Lothar lunch on her loins. He does so with ribald relish, using some finger facets to check on Ms. Karin's inner creaminess. She spins the service and blows Lo's log until he's ready for ram rodding. Anna climbs on top and shows the rest of the range riders how to bust a bronco (as well as a nut), reverse cowgirl style. Unable to stay out of the situation any longer, Daniel dives in with some butt balling. He spoons with Anna like sensual silverware. We quick cut to Ann in cowgirl mode as the DP begins. Lothar and Danny delve deep into Ms. Karin's open orifices and provide some serious slit/shitter pounding. With the complimentary gaping and extreme close-ups, both men deliver ball brine directly onto their date. She takes both loads lovingly and offers V/A to M to clean up the cum. Since this titillating triptych has less of the hyperactive humping we've come to expect from guy/guy/gal scenes, it's a nice, naughty change of pace. It provides a passionate, personal connection between the performers and we genuinely feel the heat they generate. Overall, the sequence seems short, and it could be because of the formula forced on it (see below). Still, as the featured face on this set, Anna Karin more than lives up to her star billing. Score: 7 out of 10.
Having seen several of Ninn's films now, it is safe to say that the man has a pattern. Though evocative and very satisfying, he forces all the fucking in Fragile into a single, strange prototype. The pattern is best described as cabaret-oral-vaginal-anal-pop. We only get one position per orifice and the mechanical manner in which the porking proceeds tends to lower the libidinousness of the sex. Indeed, this is one completely choreographed-feeling scene compilation. Maybe it was the international location (the film was shot in Budapest and looks all the better for it) or the foreign porn stars, but the nookie drops down a few fiery notches because of the artifice involved. Granted, Ninn can't make BAD XXX – he is too creative and his camera is too crafty to circumvent his vision. But Fragile feels less like an innovation and more like some terrific water treading. This is not a question of style over substance. It's more of a situation where aesthetics battles animal passion to a near static state of inertia. Both concepts cancel each other out, leaving behind a very good looking, but almost passive pole and pussy party. The cast is more than capable (Anna and her mirror mate Monica really deliver the desirability factor) and the outlandish locations look great. But Fragile is not quintessential Michael Ninn. It's more like an experiment gone gorgeous, not gratuitous. Pretty or not, there are much better Ninn Worx out there to satisfy your desire for handsome hardcore.
In a word: stunning. It is easy to see why Ninn is constantly held in such high regard. He has a real artist's flair, allowing the lighting, the sets and the compositions to create atmosphere and tone. While this is a full frame – 1.33:1 – feature, the lack of letterboxing does not distract from Ninn's novel filmmaking approach. Though there may be a tendency to let the camera explore, to show extreme or convoluted angles to emphasize the action, his cinematic canvas is still wildly entertaining. For all its minor flaws, Fragile still looks fantastic.
Again, the aural issues here are a treat. The music is moody and absolutely appropriate for the movie. The use of silence (except for the sounds of sex) in the scenes is perfect. It helps take us out of the fantasy and places us squarely in the realm of the flesh. The Dolby Digital Stereo serves all this up with a balanced and earthy presentation. There is never a lo-tech feel or lack of warmth to the soundscape. Combined with the exceptional video, Fragile is typical Ninn, i.e., some of the best looking and sounding porn around.
Sadly, this section of the DVD is a real letdown. We are treated to a photo gallery and two featurettes ("Meet Anna Karin" and "Behind the Scenes") and that may seem like a lot, until you realize that the documentaries are nothing more than music videos. That's right, the Making-Of material is just a montage of off-the-cuff footage cobbled together and cut to soundtrack highlights. Same goes for the Anna Karin special. While most men (and women, for that matter) will find the animated photo shoot approach to the feature fascinating, others may be screaming "where's the beef", meaning where is the ACTUAL information on the actress. While this may be a matter of crossed continental wires (Ms. Karin is from Europe), it is distressing. We want data and the chance to see our favorite fuck buddies sans all the skin spelunking. It's one of the best aspects of the DVD-ing of adult material. Unfortunately, everything here is superficial and stilted. The extras overall feel rather uneventful.
Perhaps calling this compendium of carnality "pretty" isn't the insult it appears to be. Just because Michael Ninn moves away from the 'warts and all' wisdom of most low-end hardcore doesn't make his films less effective or arousing. The sex in Fragile is incredibly exciting and very well done. But it also smacks of a softer, less aggressive sentiment that some XXX fans find less than satisfying. Indeed, if you like your sharking on the feeding frenzy end of fucking, Fragile may not be for you. On the Disco Dirge Peter Meter, this title gets a 6.5 out of 10 and is recommended for individuals who enjoy the lighter side of smut, the throng of Ninn devotees and martial aid seeking couples. This means that a Cohabitation Certification is also presented, since there is nothing here but passionate, palpable sex. Indeed, Fragile is so inoffensive and glamorous that it seems to defy the definition of pornography. Certainly there are cocks cleaving cunts and asses stuffed with shaft, but there is another entire aesthetic principle going on. No one can deny that Michael Ninn sets a benchmark for beautiful balling with his verdant, sumptuous sex sequences. And he does feature some of the most fetching females in film. But Fragile does give one pause. Fantasy and vision are one thing. But people come to adult entertainment to see something they can relate to. Like the supermodel or the chiseled male stripper, Ninn's works are starting to push the limits of authenticity into artifice. And that's not anywhere a hardcore fan really wants to be.