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Advice: Highly Recommended
Andrew Blake has been delivering classy erotic for twenty years now with varying degrees of success. While it's true that he's definitely one of the most recognizable 'name directors' still working in the industry, his style is not for everyone. Like Michael Ninn, probably his closest contemporary in terms of style, Blake creates erotic worlds rather than standard gonzo fuck scene compilations. This probably alienates those who care less about composition, mood and atmosphere and more about close up penetration shots. With this feature, Close-Ups, Blake finds that highly anticipated happy medium and creates a feature that should appeal to the art-porn crowd as well as those hungry for stroke fodder.
For this feature, Blake has assembled a roster of truly beautiful talent. Lorraine/Tall Goddess, Ginger Jolie, Paola Ray, Jacqueline, Charlie Lane, Nicole Loren, Jean Val Jean - all attractive performers who have made a name for themselves in the adult film industry. Blake lets them play with one another and show off the goods with a couple of girl on girl scenes as well (the only exception being Val Jean's early appearance where he more or less fucks her mouth and her armpit), cutting from one to the other and back again in ways that don't always make narrative sense but which certainly fit the tone and the flow that he's obviously going for here.
A quick run down of who appears where in the feature:
Scene 1: Jean Valjean, Nikki Loren
Scene 2: Tall Goddess
Scene 3: Charlie Laine, Tall Goddess
Scene 4: Ginger Jolie
Scene 5: Betty Sue, Charlie Laine, Tall Goddess
Scene 6: Charlie Laine, Paola Rey, Tall Goddess
Scene 7:Charlie Laine, Ginger Jolie, Girl, Tall Goddess
Scene 8: Charlie Laine, Paola Rey
Scene 9: Girl, Nikki Loren
Scene 10: Paola Rey, Tall Goddess
Scene 11: Charlie Laine, Uncredited Girl, Paola Rey, Tall Goddess
As the title implies, the focus here is on close-ups. Fingers, toys or sometimes nothing at all are all shown in very extreme close up working orifices and creating heat on screen. This isn't your typical foreplay-fuck-cum formula at all, in fact it's almost surreal in how it's laid out. Performers appear and disappear, sets change, optical effects were slapped on during post production and the music swells up and down to fit the scene as it transitions from one cue to the next. There's no real live sound here, instead Blake opts to fit everything to the score (courtesy of Raoul Valve) and while that's not going to please everyone, here it works and the strength of the production lies with the visuals as is the norm with Blake's work.
In short, if lesbian and masturbation scenes are your thing and you like your smut coupled with fantastic art direction, ultra slick visuals and an impressive and atmospheric score then give Close-Ups a chance. It's more than pornography, it's art and while one man's art is always another mean's trash, Blake's skills as a cinematographer and photographer are second to none making for an intense and erotic experience that somewhat successfully transcends the boundaries of normal pornograpy.
The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer afforded to this production is one of the best transfers this reviewer has seen on an adult feature in some time. Aside from a bit of mpeg compression noticeable in a few darker spots, clarity is excellent and the image is very detailed and very clean. While Blake piles on the digital effects in post production, whoever authored this disc made sure that everything looked right regardless and the end result is a top notch transfer of a top notch adult feature.
There's very little dialogue or actual live audio here, most of what we hear is music but that doesn't mean that the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix that Studio A has come up with for this presentation isn't effective. The music swells up around us as the various sex scenes build in intensity and while there isn't as much activity in the rear channels as there could have been, things sound very, very good here and it's obvious that quite a bit of care and attention was put into the mix.
All of the supplements are on the flip side of this double sided DVD, starting off with a thirty-six minute chunk of extra footage featuring the lovely female starlets from the main attraction. Paola Rey starts things off, beginning with a solo scene that segues into some nice girl on girl action with Charlie Laine. Jacqueline shows up once those two are finished and she teases us before Tall Goddess takes the spotlight and treats us to a hot finger bang session.
Aside from the bonus footage, which is as hot as the feature, we get some classy animated menus and chapter selection. Inside the keepcase is an insert booklet featuring some nice glam-slut photography and a chapter listing for both sides of the disc.
OK, fine, it's all either solo or girl on girl action and that's not going to appeal to everyone's taste but those who enjoy pornography done with slick production values and with an obvious artistic slant, it doesn't get a whole lot better than Close-Ups. It would have been nice to hear from Blake himself on the production by way of a commentary or featurette but aside from that this is a top-notch release. The sex is hot and very well shot, the cast is gorgeous and the production values are tops. Highly recommended.