Cast: Dana DeArmond, Jelena Jensen, Rebeca Linares, Faith Leon, Melisande, Yana Ke-M, Jade Starr, Aria Giovanni, Cytherea, Claudia Cavassa, Paola Rey, Michelle Maylene, Maria Menendez, Katarina Kat, Aaron
Non-sex cameo by Andrew Blake in Speedway
Length: 153:28 minutes
Date of Production: 11/22/2006
Extra's: Sadly, the only extra was the fold out DVD case the movie came in. The collection of vignettes was a lot longer than usual though so while I missed the usual offerings, I recognize that the movie's length largely made up for their disappearance.
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Audio/Video Quality: Andrew Blake X was presented in letterboxed widescreen in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 as shot by director Andrew Blake for Studio A last year. Mr. Blake records his erotic movies on film, generally 16 mm from what I understand, using the grain as texture much like he uses lighting, camera angles, and editing in ways that I don't even begin to understand all that well to weave a tapestry that you simply don't find by most of his peers. He is a one man crew that seems to focus his efforts on a single project at a time, typically averaging a single movie a year that are highly polished and artistic rather than churn them out weekly in gonzo style as the vast majority of the industry prefers. The most common criticism he faces is that his movies all look alike followed by the complaint that they have precious little sexual conduct but the best way to answer these misconceptions (which I myself have held in the past) is to tell folks to take a step back and expand their outlook a little. The majority of sex in a Blake movie is lesbian oriented or even solo work meant to tantalize rather than look at sex via the gyno-cam process that is much easier to make. The use of slow motion and all the visual elements is almost cathartic from what I've gathered, allowing Blake to warm you up for some at home pleasure, often with a loved one, rather than focus on the explicit. It doesn't always work but his titles sell well over time instead of for a month and disappear as other's works seem to do most of the time; spawning scores of directors trying to copy his dynamic; largely failing though a few (like Digital Playground's Celeste via Robby D. providing a similar experience often enough to warrant inspection). The picture was composed in each case somewhat differently and the bitrate hovered around the upper 6 Mbps range in the MPEG-2 format of SD DVD; the hope of fans that he'll start offering high definition versions in the upcoming year to enhance his works even more, though most of the scenes this time looked decidedly darker and grainier. The audio was presented in a 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround with the vocals stripped (due to the motion effects like slow motion) and a bit rate of 192 Kbps. The music was largely sparse this time, offering machine driven noise instead of the usual jazzy riffs that punctuate Blake's work so effectively. I still prefer vocals over music in most cases, especially when the music or sound effects are less appealing as they were here.
Body of Review: Andrew Blake is something of an enigma to the porn industry these days with his works released by Studio A. He is not fond of the generic gonzo porn scenes that so many of his industry peers (and I use the term lightly) provide, so he sets out on a lonely path to provide erotic entertainment that can be very much hit or miss; depending on your mood, level of tolerance for experimental film, and appreciation for the ladies Blake tends to use (often glamorous, curvy ladies with a seductive quality). His latest release is the limited distribution title Andrew Blake X, a series of 20 vignettes that were exclusively premiered on his website in HD since late last year. The general idea was the same as always; display a number of gals in fetish outfits and/or working a fetish angle to play to fans rather than expand into more familiar territory. There was only one scene of male on female penetration (between beautiful Faith Leon and Aaron in Hollywood Download that was shown on his website back on March 10th of this year) and some of the scenes were only a few minutes long. I'm not going to describe each one in detail for you since it would be like going to an art museum and doing so for paintings, but I will give some comments before closing things out.
Unlike my recently reviewed Dollhouse: Collector's Edition, Andrew Blake's X had less of a glamour angle to it, serving up an almost Alt-Porn feast of vignettes that used a variety of ladies one would not typically associate with the director's works. The back cover said it best by pointing out that "X is visually X-centric" and the same holds true for his casting this time. The wealth of bondage (particularly rope bondage by the way) scenarios was expected, as were the tributes to smoking and foot play, with solo action another highlight for many scenes though the lesbianism dominating even more. The scenes were shot in Venice Beach and Hollywood California, with lighting of all sorts employed to de-glamorize some and elevate the status of others in a way that Blake does better than anyone in the industry.
I was surprise to see in the clip Wet Socket Dana DeArmond looking back at the camera given her usual hardcore scenes but she was long established as a fetish model before her mainstream porn career so perhaps it wasn't as big a stretch after all; simply a return to her roots, albeit in a much more stylish manner here. Aria Giovanni looked as hot as ever and some of the lesser known names struck me as particularly appealing compared to some of their other works of late, Paola Rey coming to mind. The gymnastics of Katarina Kat showed her off nicely and even the rest of the ladies provided some stroke value, albeit not as consistent as Blake's previous works I've encountered.
In all, if you've watched one of his movies before, you will have a decent idea of what to expect on the grander scale of things, though you will also realize that his stuff is not overly predictable so if you want the largely cock-free eroticism of Blake, X will be worth picking up. I was disappointed that the DVD was not in anamorphic widescreen and that many of the vignettes looked dumbed down for internet distribution, but I also realize that if Blake gets too predictable or glossy looking, his work will simply become another type of generic offering; something all too prevalent in the industry these days already. With such a diverse cast including Dana DeArmond, Jelena Jensen, Rebeca Linares, Faith Leon, Melisande, Yana Ke-M, Jade Starr, Aria Giovanni, Cytherea, Claudia Cavassa, Paola Rey, Michelle Maylene, Maria Menendez, and Katarina Kat (not to mention the cameo by Andrew Blake himself), you can expect the unexpected in what is not quite the pretty porn the man tends to offer. Here's a quick look at the vignettes from the DVD:
4) Hollywood Downloads
5) Sur Un Balcon
6) Leg Lust
7) Lip Service
8) Water Play
9) Lithium Dolls
10) Fashion Slave
11) $100 Slot
12) Room Service
14) Mirror Dom
15) Legs & Twilight
16) Beach Hotel
17) Dildo Play
18) Wet Socket
Summary: Andrew Blake X by director Andrew Blake for Studio A looked a lot like he was trying to branch out into uncharted territory to me, earning a rating of Recommended for all the clips that worked so well. I won't say that some of them were as appealing but in an artistic sense, at least he's pushing his limits to offer something new rather than rest on his laurels like so many others do in the industry. In that sense, the twenty vignettes of Andrew Blake X might have actually worked better when offered up on his website but technical limitations aside, the sometimes stunning visual appeal of the scenes shows that Blake still has a largely untapped reservoir of imaginative offerings for future works; making him the man to look to for this type of erotic presentation.
---- You can email me with questions at Houstondon @ hotmail.com if you have any constructive criticism of the review too. :) Also you can follow me on twitter @HoustonDon