(Note: This review contains slightly salty language. I tried to avoid it, but the movie at hand made it pretty much impossible. Comedies about pornography are funny that way.)
I know tons of film geeks who were big fans of James Westby's Film Geek -- but unfortunately I wasn't really one of them. That's not to say it's a rotten little indie, but I felt the flick had some real tonal inconsistencies, plus the lead character was an insufferable, unrealistic idiot. But I thought there was certainly enough there to remember Westby's name for when his next movie rolled around, and I'm glad I did. Westby's latest, a mockumentary farce about a legenday porno director, is called The Auteur. It's based on a short film the director shot a few years back, it features the same leading man (Melik Malkasian) found in Film Geek, and (while it definitely sags just a bit in the middle section), it's really, really funny.
Arturo Domingo considers himself the Stanley Kubrick of pornography (or as he pronounces it with a cartoonishly Italian accent: porno-graff-ee) and he's got the filmography to prove it: After hitting the big-time (and getting tossed out of USC) with a film called Five Easy Nieces, Domingo's career is rocking. Along with his regular leading man Frank E. Normo, Arturo bangs out money-makers like My Left Nut and Requiem for a Wet Dream -- but things start to fall apart on the set of the epic war porno Full Metal Jackoff. Turns out that in addition to being a visionary artist, a sex genius, and an on-set tyrant, Arturo is also an insanely jealous man: His career crumbles when he alienates his lovely wife one time too many.
Shot in an effective faux-doc style that covers the events around Portland's Arturo Domingo retrospective, The Auteur starts out in five-star fashion: Malkasian is consistently very funny, the concept is just novel enough to work, and it's clear that Westby has more material to work with than just a bunch of funny porno flick titles. There's a real colorful absurdity to The Auteur that works best in the film's early sections, but it also manages to buoy the film through its more arid sections. For example, a subplot involving a hippie commune is distressingly light on laughs, plus the movie spends maybe a scene or two too many focusing on Arturo's attempts at reconciliation with his ex-wife. And while the movie does get a little sweet near the end, this tonal shift feels a bit strange after watching so much schtick about disgusting bodily functions and funny-looking genitalia.
Packed with more nudity than most porno films and a whole lot of really funny "raunch" humor, The Auteur is in every way a grown-up comedy. The Domingo character is a broad and amusing character in the Borat vein, but Westby's (somewhat redundant) attempts at humanizing the guy just sort of deflate the farce a little bit. It's worth mentioning a second time that Malkasian does some really hilarious work here, and he's given some excellent support from John Breen as porn star Normo (Breen looks exactly like the great character actor JK Simmons, and he might be just as funny), Katherine Flynn as the willowy Fiona, and Cara Seymour as a very amusing voice on the telephone. This one is most definitely not for all tastes, but if you don't mind a lot of smutty gags mixed with a strange concoction of wit, warmth, and (yes) melodrama, I'm betting you'll become a fan of The Auteur.