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The price is too high
Throughout the history of Western art and literature, the concept of the “fallen woman” has played a central part, from misperceptions about Eve in the Garden of Eden to Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus.
Fallen women are lured into a life of prostitution, of sin, and whether or not they can be redeemed, they are forever judged for their fall from grace.
By the 1960s, with sexual liberation stomping across the country like Godzilla over a cardboard Tokyo, the concept of the fallen woman became archaic and outdated. Women were allowed to have sex for fun instead of just for procreation within the bounds of marriage; Xaviera Hollander even claimed prostitution as a site of female empowerment.
Now, 42 years after Hollander’s The Happy Hooker: My Own Story, model, actor, writer and director Pau Masó gives us Aleksandr’s Price, the tale of a Russian émigré (Masó) who is forced to work as a prostitute in New York City after losing his family members is assorted ways.
The film, released domestically by Breaking Glass Pictures, hits video on demand on September 1, and DVD on September 24.
Masó originally envisioned the film as science fiction, but once he started writing it, it instead became a more grounded film, set in the modern day, told in flashback to Aleksandr’s therapist (Anatoli Grek). How she avoids throwing herself out the window after hearing his tale of woe is anybody’s guess.
Aleksandr’s father runs off on them, his family moves to the United States, then his sister leaves without saying a word. His mother loses her job, becomes an alcoholic, has a bad reaction with her anti-depressants and slits her wrists.
Left without a dime, Aleksandr’s friend Emma (Samantha Glovin) gives him a reference to a friend of hers who manages a strip club. Al starts dancing there, and meets a handsome stranger named Keith (Josh Berresford) who takes him home and, as the British say, gives him a right good rogering. And then tells him he’s straight, is not interested in a relationship, and gives him $500. And so, a prostitute is born.
A decent portion of the film is taken up with him wanting love and only getting money for sex, and then things start going distinctly pear-shaped, as it were. He gets drugged as someone’s apartment and basically gang-raped, although he does not describe it that way. He starts doing drugs regularly, and seems to develop a certain Jekyll and Hyde mentality. Oh, and he starts masturbating as a way to deal with his angst--at the breakfast table, in public restrooms, in his therapist’s office.
Then he gets a client through Craigslist who wants him to dress up as a woman, and will pay him $5,000. Only, of course, it goes horribly wrong, he gets drugged again and raped again and dumped on the street, still in women’s clothes. He can’t report it to the police since he’s an undocumented immigrant, so that just festers inside him.
Close to the end, he meets up with his father. It does not go well. Just look at everything that happened to him in the last few paragraphs and let your imagination run with it.
Which brings us to the most difficult part of the review: The actual decision of whether the film is good or not.
Masó shows promise. His direction is solid for someone who has very little directorial experience, and his writing is decent. He could tone it down a bit, of course. There’s no need for Aleksandr to be drugged and raped more than once in a single film; I think we got it the first time.
As an actor, he shines. He seems innocent and vulnerable, and pulls off a far better Russian accent than Sean Connery did in The Hunt for Red October. But then, Connery spoke his Russian lines with a Scottish accent in that film. In this one, Masó, who was born in Spain, speaks English with a Russian accent, and is believable. And pretty. Don’t forget pretty, or his modeling representatives might get angry.
It’s rather odd, though, that so many films include five, ten sex scenes, yet have almost no nudity. For a while, it was novel and new. Now, it would be gratifying to see a parade of firm buttocks strolling across the screen. It seems the gay liberation movement has gone past naked people, and that’s kind of sad. There was nudity in Shortbus, and that was after John Cameron Mitchell did Hedwig and the Angry Inch.