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Cast: Midori (aka Fetish Diva Midori) and Mayan.
Director and editor: Maria Beatty
Production date: ©2006
Length: 49 min.
Extras: Eight trailers totaling twenty minutes (The Black Glove, The Elegant Spanking, Ladies of the Night, Let the Punishment Fit the Child, 7 Deadly Sins, Lust, Ecstasy in Berlin 1926, and The Boiler Room), an eleven-minute bondage tutorial, a two-minute slide show of Midori's photos (34 images), and a one-minute biography of Maria Beatty.
Audiovisual quality: The camerawork somewhat favors the submissive's experience. Facial close-ups are more common for Mayan; in the first scene, Midori's head often isn't even in the frame. That imbalance aside, the visual quality is very good. The lighting is subdued, with a red filter for autumn, blue for winter, and yellow for spring. The minimalist set evokes a Japanese garden, consisting of rough plaster walls, a sand floor, a simple rock "river," a pair of empty bird cages, and a small stand of trees (the foliage changes according to season). Attractive nature footage plays briefly between the scenes. The score is one of my favorite parts of this movie—the music has a strong classical Asian flavor, but with slow, dark undertones that occasionally creep in. "Live" sounds are not always synched with the action. That appears to be intentional, but the result is a little odd.
Screenshots: Please see bleuproductionshop.com for seven photos which accurately portray the look of this movie.
Scene 1 Autumn Midori approaches Mayan, who's kneeling quietly in meditation, and commences to bind her asymmetrically with hemp rope and a bamboo pole. This process requires about eight and a half minutes, after which Midori rolls Mayan through a couple different positions to better expose her. Midori also gags and blindfolds Mayan with rope, lightly dominates her with a bare foot, and briefly whips her with a cane and a coil. Okay, I appreciate that kink play isn't equivalent to (and shouldn't automatically imply) rough sex. But I don't "get" this. It's very stylized and theatrical—it's all about ritual, not reality. Mayan's resistance is deliberately impotent and seems to consist mainly of pouty grimaces. Although wordless vignettes are normally my favorite style of porn, I wonder if dialog would've been helpful for establishing some context and chemistry here. (Later in the movie, we can actually see the performers' lips moving, but we can't hear what they say.) The wardrobe is nice, though. Both ladies are lovely in kimonos—crimson for Midori and tangerine for Mayan. Time: 17:04. Rating: 2.5 stars.
Scene 2 Winter Midori, now wearing a sheer white lace ensemble and a pearl choker, suspends Mayan in a sideways position. Mayan is fully nude except for the rope harness and a rope net around her head. Midori cocoons her in plastic wrap, leaving only the mouth, breasts, and genitals exposed. She ladles hot wax over the plastic, covering even the eyes and chin with white dribbles. The effect is rather stunning, like bukkake icicles. Midori throws chunks of snow at Mayan's recoiling body, cuts away part of the leg wrap with a pocket knife, and for the last two minutes of the scene, penetrates Mayan with an ice dildo and another toy made of sparkly blue acrylic. Time: 9:53. Rating: 4.5 stars.
Scene 3 Spring Midori brings out her knife again, spilling no blood except a symbolic layer of red wax. She slowly slices away the cocoon with great, focused precision. Mayan then rests in Midori's lap and rides her tool—a flat metal object that's a cross between a dagger and an industrial implement. Midori wears a teal brocade corset and ankle-length skirt; Mayan still wears her ropes. Time: 9:07. Rating: 4 stars.
Scene 4 Summer A more lighthearted mood arrives with summer. Mayan sits in a rope harness cheerfully fashioned like a child's swing. She smiles when Midori playfully beats her with a flogger and a handful of flowers. They laugh and kiss. The sense of human connection becomes much more obvious in this scene (as opposed to a pretty model merely serving as an enticing prop to a brilliant technician—not that there's anything wrong with that). Mayan receives the metal knob of the flogger handle, which she seems to genuinely enjoy, to the point that she squirts. I'm enticed by Midori's nude latex halter gown, an amazing confection of pink and black circle graphics, complete with a train. Mayan's shoulders and arms are artfully draped with a pastel silk robe. Time: 9:54. Rating: 4 stars.
Extras Midori is a budding photographer, and the slide show contains images from her personal portfolio (as opposed to the more standard and less interesting approach of including stills from the movie). The trailers are quite helpful for viewers considering future purchases. Unfortunately, the "Basic Bondage" segment is a disappointment. It bothers me a lot, because that extra was one of the reasons I bought this DVD. It's advertised as 15 minutes, but lasts only ten and a half. It contains no audio whatsoever, not even music. Midori is a widely respected educator (who's literally written the book on the subject), but I worry about the knots placed directly on the spine and the emphasis on the wrists, which can be a rather delicate and vulnerable area. It would've been so easy to add a text screen or two explaining the safety precautions that all the pros know, but for whatever reason, it wasn't done. Beginners would be well advised to get an instructional book or DVD (such as Fetish FAQ 1, which details rope bondage in the third scene) before trying any of this at home.
Thumbs up: Silken Sleeves is definitely different than anything else I've seen. Much of the imagery is inventive and striking, especially in the winter scene. Even when I'm not aroused, I almost always like the overall aesthetic. It's a fine showcase for Midori's shibari skills.
Thumbs down: In addition to the issues already noted, there are a couple of minor technical problems. Maria Beatty's bio consists of four screens, for example, but the last one flashes by so quickly that I'm unable to pause it to read it. There is no chapter menu, and there are only two chapter stops, at the beginning of the second and third scenes. So it's not possible to skip ahead to summer, if you're in the mood for kissing and relatively vanilla penetration.
Themes: BDSM, bondage (rope, plastic wrap), temperature play (hot wax, snowballs, ice dildo), knife play, caning, flogging, kissing, squirting.
Condom use: None needed.
Juice-o-meter: Low, although I did perk up during the final scene. I also wanted to see more of the ice dildo. I think I'm just more drawn to sensation play than to domination play per se. There's a well defined D/s dynamic in this movie, but relatively little of the types of stimulation that I most enjoy.
Final analysis: It's obvious that much care and effort went into the production of this movie. I wanted to love it, but I ended up just liking it, in an abstract rather than a visceral sort of way. Silken Sleeves does have a great sense of dramatic presence, a refined aesthetic, and a reflective pace which might appeal to viewers who appreciate ritualized, kinky eroticism.