Digital Playground seems hell bent in finding the sweet spot in the adult film market where the 'regular' adult consumer and the 'mainstream' (non-adult) consumer collide. To that end they've introduced what they see as a new category of adult films - 'Art House Porn'.
'Art House Porn' is basically it's an adult film where as much attention is paid towards the non-sexual content and style of the film as the sex within it. While Digital Playground is harolding Sweet 101 as the first release in this category, but in reality it follows 2 other of their films: Rush and Devon Stripped, both of which could fit into this category.
As with both Rush and Devon Stripped, Sweet 101 is shot on Digital Video using 35mm film lenses. The results are pretty spectacular with a very clear picture that shows better color, depth and shadows than most other digital video I've seen. Sweet 101 visually is a definite step above most of the other adult films on the market.
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One very clear unique aspect of Sweet 101 is the fact that the sex is much more tame than in most adult films and shot in a way that makes it less graphic. Sweet 101 is definitely NOT softcore porn and while it is shot in a much softer style with more long shots than extreme closeups, the action is plentiful enough to fulfil even the regular adult DVD consumer. Many of the positions used in Sweet 101 are 'face to face' positions, ones that are much more akin to the way many people actually have sex than positions that look good on film (but are generally impracticable or painful in the real bedroom). Another thing different about the sex in Sweet 101 is there's actually foreplay in many of the scenes. This is a very nice addition, is something often left out of adult films, and actually results in making the sex scenes even steamier.
Another nice aspect of Sweet 101 is that the performers (both male and females) aren't the usual fair of porn actors. Rather than a volley of women who have been nicked, tucked, and implanted, the women of Sweet 101 all look natural and have body types that aren't crafted by a plastic surgeon. The men of Sweet 101 aren't your typical 'Ron Jeremy' like fair, and many of them aren't packing monster size equipment (again more towards normality here).
Unfortunately as with many adult films, the acting in Sweet 101 is just plain awful. Digital Playground may have succeeded in making a great looking DVD, but the story and dialogue don't really live up to the 'art house' part of the 'art house porn' category. Robbie D does a great job with the camera, but there some needed improvement in directing the actors as well as the dialogue.
In addition to the main feature, there is a short behind the scenes featurette which takes a look at what it was like on the set while producing Sweet 101. The featurette is very light harted but a little on the short side. It would have been nice to have heard more about this new 'Art House Porn' category from people at Digital Playground and more about what's different in producing this kind of film verses a 'regular' adult film.
As with many major Digital Playground DVD releases, there's a commentary track on the Sweet 101 DVD with Director Robbie D as well as notable Digital Playground Director Nic Andrews (Devon Stripped, Rush). Robbie D seems extremely uncomfortable talking about the film, but Nic Andrews does a pretty good job of ushering him through it. The commentary track is very informative and Robbie D talks at length about how he shot certain scenes, what he was going for in each scene and some of the shots which he sees as important to the story.
Listening to the commentary, I got a real sense that Robbie D is a budding film maker who is strongly influenced by mainstream films and directors. One thing I strongly disliked about the commentary was that towards the end, the audio of the commentary track is dropped out. It felt like these drop outs were done to edit out what Robbie D and Nic Andrews were saying rather than technical problems.
While not perfect Sweet 101 is definitely a step in a good direction. With the softer style, higher quality shooting and more realistic sex scenes Sweet 101 is definitely the kind of film that curious 'non-adult' consumers might want to check out. I also recommend Sweet 101 for couples looking for an adult movie which they'll both enjoy. If Digital Playground hadn't heralded this as a bold new category of adult DVD (i.e. Art House Porn) I think the bad dialogue and crappy acting could easily have been overlooked as the way it shot more than makes up for it. But since they did, I have to say they've got 1/3 of the pie covered, the next time around they need a better script with stronger dialogue and pick performers who have some level of ability to act.