Three's Company

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Three's Company
"There is a lot more going on here than just the sexual, and that activity, in itself, is transmuted in its meaning."

The traditional concept of a sex show is very basic. One goes into a room and watches two people fuck, often in quite a basic and uninspiring way. There’s usually a bit of eye contact from the one on top, and sometimes some exaggerated objectification of the other one, but beyond that, there is little acknowledgement of the act of performance. In this short film, which screened as part of Outfest 2022, Steve Balderson takes that concept and reinvents it as a modern piece of performance art.

It’s an exploration of the concept of voyeurism but the effect is, initially, distancing. In the tradition of a certain type of New York theatre, stars Jonah Wheeler and Romeo Jace describe each action they are engaging in, and how it is making them feel, as they undertake a variety of intimate activities in a brightly lit spa room. It feels somewhat like a therapy exercise, heavy with the philosophy of mindfulness. Whilst some viewers will doubtless admire their bodies, their movements and expressions make this feel less like erotica than dance.

This is not to undermine it, or to suggest that it won’t provide a sexual thrill for some (though for those of us of a certain generation, barebacking will always create a certain level of discomfort, contributing to the distancing effect). It’s simply that there is a lot more going on here than just the sexual, and that activity, in itself, is transmuted in its meaning.

Towards the end, Wheeler talks about sex as communication. The exchange of ideas between the two performers is clear, but who else are they communicating with? Erotica of this type traditionally aims to excite voyeurs by giving the impression that they are observing something in secret. How does the relationship between performers and observer change when they appear to be breaking the fourth wall, addressing the viewer directly? There’s a twist in this interpretation which i won’t spoil, but the effect overall is to make viewers much more aware of their own engagement with the activities onscreen, and thus with cinema itself.

Simple though it is – and amusing, sometimes, with a little bit of sheet clutching which resembles the code used in Eighties soap operas – this is a smart little film with a lot going on upstairs.

Reviewed on: 23 Jul 2022
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An experimental film which follows its participants as they take voyeurism to the next level, inviting the audience to become an active participant.

Director: Steve Balderson

Writer: Brad Amberheart

Starring: Romeo Jace, Jonah Wheeler

Year: 2022

Runtime: 30 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

OutfestLA 2022

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