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TV Review: Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno

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The worst sin of any critic is condescension, and I'll do my best to avoid it here (but it's gonna require an effort). Isabella Rossellini may simply have too much time on her hands these days. It turns out her latest project — whimsy, actually — is a series of short films titled Green Porno, available on the Sundance Channel.

The title is misleading. It vaguely evokes the 1972 porn classic Behind the Green Door, a film both entertaining and (mildly) instructive. You wouldn't consider Green Porno pornographic unless perhaps you were a bee or an earthworm, but then if you were either of these, you'd likely wonder, "What's all the fuss?"

Green Porno is utterly silly and pointless. It's silly in a way Ms. Rossellini did not intend. Green Porno is a series of video vignettes on the mating practices of insects. It's acted — actually re-enacted — by Ms. Rossellini, in costume no less, meaning we get to watch the actress dressed as an earthworm or a bee or (honest to god) a praying mantis. In all, other than these creatures, she takes us through the mating rituals of the fly, spider, snail, firefly, and dragonfly. Each vignette is, blessedly, only a few minutes long. 

The series is not meant to be serious. Ms. Rossellini clearly intends to create a humorous and an informative look at the various sex habits of bees and such. She calls it her "green intervention [Me: I wonder what that means?]. It was to make people aware of animal life." It is monumentally silly, though, and its third grade mentality distracts you from actually learning anything about how, for example, a dragonfly mates. You've got to work at it, and that surely wasn't what the actress wanted.

If you really focus, and have a reason to care, here's what happens vis-à-vis the dragonfly. Before mating, a dragonfly will, having spotted his desired mate, grab her by the neck from behind in a sort of choking hold and then, yoga-like, torque his body so that with an appendage he can clean — that's right, clean — her vagina (seriously) to make certain she will bear only his offspring (sort of a dragonfly douche, I suppose). Then he mates. I truly didn't know that. Now I do, and life goes on, I suppose.

It doesn't help that the insect costumes are meant to appear as though created by talented folk on a flight of whimsy. Actually, the average sixth grader would likely take the project more seriously and do a better job in the costume department. None of the costumes flatter, in the least, the enormously talented Rossellini, whose naturally round face looks even fatter and rounder when she's in, say, bee mode.

Isabella Rossellini is a fine actress and an intelligent woman who has sincerely created a series of mini "plays" she believes will make us laugh and teach us a thing or two. She conceived and wrote most of the sequences, and she "acts" in all of them.

Great credit to her for her intentions and her effort, but really?

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About Stephen Foster

  • http://tvandfilmguy.blogspot.com Josh Lasser

    Congratulations! This article has been selected for syndication to the Advance family of websites and to Boston.com, which will allow even more readers to enjoy it.

  • http://www.cinemaviewfinder.com Tony Dayoub

    Never have I felt like someone has so completely missed the point of a piece of art as I feel you have. The Green Porno segments were meant to be trifles designed as short mobisode segments for Helio cell phone customers.

    The fact that she turned them into pop-art performance pieces that not only stand to scrutiny when blown up to full screen on a computer, but that they are educational as well, demonstrates Ms. Rossellini’s ingenuity and artistry.

    It is evident that consciously or not, there is also a touch of, her former lover, David Lynch’s surreal influence in the execution of the segments (Eraserhead, anyone?).

    Condescension in criticism is fine with me. But a bit of context so one can form a valid opinion, and not just blindly accept an uninformed critique, is also necessary.

  • MrOcho

    I would say the worst critical “sin” is not condescension, but rather making shallow reactionary statements such as, “…but really?” and “What’s all the fuss?” Though many are blunted today and thus require a spoonfed “moral to the story” or action packed montage explosions, when considering short film (generally suggestive, imaginative endeavors), I think something more is required of the critic, like deep contextual analysis. All your critique manages to indicate is a hasty and vapid conclusion about her intentions (which I must wonder how you would know that) with a clear unwillingness to consider and conjure the possible meaningful contexts. (Even with the dismal provision of context, somehow, despite your negative reaction, I feel certain the film would be worthwhile, feel certain that it would have something to “say.”)

    The worst sin in criticism, Id say, might be making judgments without actually making a critique–like the many bad “freshman comp” essays I’ve graded. You might want to stick to critiques of the most superficial of contexts, like fashion of the famous or inclement weather, and stay clear of art. You certainly don’t have the stomach or stamina for such imaginative work of interpretation.

  • http://canadiancinephile.com/ Jordan Richardson

    The two comments here imply an objective standard to art which, in my view, is the antithesis of art.

  • MrOcho

    Please provide a basis for finding an implication of favoring objective standards in my remarks.

    The point I want to make, actually, is that the critique of Green Porno precludes the finding of any meaningful value in the film, by rhetorically asking “whats the fuss?” Its like the stereotypical adolescent girls who say, “…and I was like, OK…” or the ever fashionable “it is what it is.” There is no fuss because the critic makes no fuss about the film. The critque is tautological, in that it says the film is bad because its bad. Hence, the colloquial “I mean, really?” stands in for some kind of real analysis and interpretation.
    Like, I mean, come on…

  • http://www.slaytvideo.com porno

    but that they are educational as well, demonstrates Ms. Rossellini’s ingenuity and artistry.

  • Jimsin

    In a world of vapid rubbish, I actually found Green Porno to be one of the most interesting and entertaining things I’ve seen in years.

    This ‘review’ on the other hand just depresses me.