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Awakening, The (Vivid)
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Awakening, The (Vivid)

Studio: Vivid
Category:  Feature film
Directed by:
Starring: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Released on: 
Where to buy:DVD NewDVD RentStreaming/Download
classix comments's ratings for Awakening, The (Vivid):
Overall Rating 4.5 stars
Awakening, The (Vivid) overall rating 4.5 stars
Female Looks Awakening, The (Vivid) Female looks rating 3.5 stars
Male Looks Awakening, The (Vivid) Male looks rating 2.5 stars
Sex Awakening, The (Vivid) Sex rating 3 stars
 
Plot/Acting Awakening, The (Vivid) Plot/Acting rating 4.5 stars
Extras Awakening, The (Vivid) DVD Extras rating 2 stars
Audio/Video Quality Awakening, The (Vivid) A/V Quality rating 4 stars
Worth$20.00
Rating Scale
Reviewed by classix comments  on  4/10/2008

Initial Thoughts
I got this film in with a bunch of other "new porn" features. I was hoping to find some film comparable to the hardcore masterworks of the 70s. All have been disappointments but my quest continues with this little number.

The Film
Paul Thomas was one of the finest actors working in 1970s and 80s hardcore. Classically trained, he was more capable of playing meaty dramatic leads than many of his acting peers which landed him some of the nastier roles in some films. Thomas however, like most true thespians, was a gentleman and a romantic at heart and, in the late 70s, began dating his frequent co-star Kristine Heller. When the two broke up in the early 80s, Kristine went on a downward spiral of drugs, religious obsessions, and prostitution, leading to her unfortunate death in c. 1989. Thomas never forgave himself for what he considered his role in her demise and, after eventually learning of her death, made this film in her memory.
Although not directly related to the Kate Chopin novel of the same name, both Chopin's book and Thomas' film cover some similar narrative ground with an oppressed woman exercising her new-found freedom and sense of self, only to lead to her own downfall. Here late 90s porn star Irene Vachs takes on the Heller inspired character, the common law wife of Bobby Vitale, a sleazy pornographer. Vachs helps around the studio, indulges with her husband and their equally low friends in drinking binges and group sex until one night, during a bout of drunk driving, when the car she and her husband are in gets into a head on collision with another vehicle, killing the driver and seemingly paralyzing Vachs from the waste down.
Wheelchair bound and embittered, Vachs laments her condition and her life until one day on a whim she goes into a health food/herbal medicine shop and is given a massage by the store's owner. Felling better just from that, Vachs' increased sense of optimism is further met when she suddenly begins to have feeling in her legs again. Soon she is involved in physical therapy and finally regains all normal functions in her legs.
Crediting her sudden healing to the greatness of natural medicine, she soon immerses herself in reading about as much soul healing as she can, causing her to become more and more distant from her husband, friends, and ultimately disregarding her former work in porn as a form of degradation she wants nothing to do with. Unfortunately, her new found obsession with herbal remedies starts doing her more harm than good.
While the above synopsis might sound less than thrilling (who wants to watch a movie about someone obsessed with those "heal yourself with spices" books?), Thomas expertly transforms the potentially dull story into one of the finest and most original X Rated films to emerge in the last 20 years. While hampered by the often less than satisfying performances from a cast who had probably never delivered a line more complex than "fuck me," The Awakening offers much better than expected performances from a bunch of modern porn girls. The script itself is one of the most interesting things I've heard in quite some time from a film of any nature. Screenwriter David Stanley has a strong sense of conversational writing and provides us with some of the most intelligent dialogue and clever plot twists to emerge in an X Rated film since the 70s.
Jack Remy's slick cinematography and tight framing makes this film not only a mental but a visual delight. Although the shoddy transfer bleaches out some of his shots, this film is clearly shot by the master photographer Remy is. It's almost a shame this film wasn't shot in widescreen as Remy is a master of creating a tight and beautiful letterboxed image.
Paul Thomas' skilled direction makes up for what the actors lack in their performances. Based solely on viewing this one film, I can see that Thomas has the making of a fine auteur. His sense of character development and the almost lyrical way in which the film is constructed prove Thomas to be a worthy talent. His surprisingly negative attitude towards the alternative herbalized health food lifestyle this film is so much about provide a searing eye opener. The film's ending, which parallels (although not as morbidly) the last years of Heller's life, serves as resounding a message as the film's portrayals of the abusive nature of porn and health fads.
The Awakening is anything but a happy film, but it isn't a completely depressing or angry one either. It's characters, while always miserable or just plain vile, are shown to create their own fates. They are the victims of their own deceptions and as a result, while they can still receive pity on account of their frequent misfortunes, Thomas always sounds the bell, reminding that they have only themselves to blame. At the end of the day, as Irene Vachs' character resoundingly says, "It's just a living."

A/V Quality
Although this was shot quite recently (1999) on presumably 16mm film, Vivid has done an unfortunate job presenting the film on DVD. Although the picture is relatively sharp, colors are a bit faded, as if there might have been some light leakage in the telecine during the transfer. That said, the film still looks very good compared to most of what's out there.
The sound is a different story. I don't know whether or not this is the fault of the mixer or the tapes Vivid used for this DVD, but the sound levels are completely off, sometimes almost muting out important dialogue. For sound quality, this DVD fares horribly!

The Extras
Sadly no relevant extras are present. At least a commentary track from Thomas. Sadly, not even a trailer for this film is presented. That said, some pretty cool trailers to some other films are provided including two more Thomas films which both look awesome (I can only remember one title, and it's Masseuse 3).

Cuts Warning
None that I know of. I've heard that Vivid chopped up some of Thomas' other films but I haven't heard anything like that about this movie. That said, I haven't seen the original tape to compare. It seems uncut as there are no major plot holes.

Who Should Watch This?
This is not your typical modern porn flick. I wouldn’t even call this a porn flick as much of the sex seems to be here for any purpose but to arouse. I would strongly recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys the quality feature films made in the 70s thru early 80s as this film is quite similar both narratively and stylistically. Regardless, this is a strong and fiercely original and complex work, a film in need of much greater exposure.



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