A triumvirate of sexually charged films will be projected on the silver screen this weekend in San Francisco.
The first is Don Jon (originally titled Don Jon’s Addiction back at Sundance this year), a seriocomic look at a porn addict unable to sustain a stable romantic relationship. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a triple threat here, writing, starring, and directing a film that sheds light on the proclivities of a man obsessed with pseudo-sex.
While we’ve recently received multiple films about sex addicts (Thanks for Sharing, Shame and Lovelace), Don Jon — a clever allusion to literature’s legendary womanizer Don Juan — is one of the first films to tackle pornography consumption. Rich in style and substance, the budding filmmaker has a very clear point he wishes to make.
With Don, our protagonist and narrator, Gordon-Levitt equates a man’s disposition to dehumanize women through morally murky porn with a woman’s tendency to create grand expectations of “Mr. Right” based on romantic comedies. Essentially, The Notebook is equivalent to the filthiest of filmed faux-sex — at least in how they influence the opposite sex to think of each other.
Gordon-Levitt’s bold and impressive directorial debut is unquestionably influenced by Paul Thomas Anderson’s superior film Boogie Nights. Anderson’s 1997 masterpiece casts Mark Wahlberg as a particularly well-endowed teenager who gets hired by a porn producer (played by a wonderfully slimy Burt Reynolds) to star in his films.
In his second film, Anderson was able to capture a time and place with intimacy and pathos, transforming “porn stars” into genuine human beings we empathize with.
The connective tissue holding Boogie Nights and Don Jon together is their ability to avoid getting mired in voyeurism. Instead Gordon-Levitt and Anderson opt for careful examinations of the primal sexual desires that lie inside all of us.
Thankfully for all San Franciscans, Boogie Nights is playing at the Castro Theatre today, along with Donna Summer’s 1978 disco memento Thanks God It’s Friday. Don Jon can be found at San Francisco’s Sundance Kabuki Cinema, Century San Francisco Centre 9, Marina Theatre, AMC Van Ness 14 and 4-Star Theatre.