Paris Hilton Sex Tape
dir. Rick Salomon
Now playing on the internet
Rick Salomon's new film, Paris Hilton Sex Tape, opens awash in a gloomy green. We are in a Paris hotel room, though the film's first images--shot, as they are, with nightvision equipment and little more than tight close-ups--offer us very little to confirm this. Salomon, directing his first film, has chosen to begin his opus with nary a set-up, choosing instead to toss the audience directly into action without pausing for scenery. It is a bold move, to be sure, but it is also a brilliant one; shedding the standard cinematic shackles, Salomon immediately announces Paris Hilton Sex Tape as an exercise in artistic embellishment, refusing to be bothered with such normally necessary structures as setting and, as we come to find out, story arc. Why has he chosen to do this? Theories will surely abound, though my guess is that, for the particular tale Salomon has set out to tell, setting and story structure are entirely unnecessary. Paris Hilton Sex Tape is a tale of romance, after all, and what is more universal, more boundless and expressive, than romance?
And as we meet the 19-year-old Paris Hilton (the beautiful heiress to the Hilton hotel fortune), she is in the throes of passion. Or, if not passion, then a raging indifference to being porked; her face vacant, her eyes glowing eerily due to the nightvision equipment, Paris has an unattached, almost ghostly presence that is only enhanced by her apparent lack of pubic hair. "Who is this shaved vixen?," I found myself asking as I watched her being jostled about; for the first moments of Paris Hilton Sex Tape are mysterious and otherworldly, almost disturbing. Dropped, as we are, immediately into the act of coitus by Salomon, our bearings are quickly thrown asunder, and as we hurry to catch up, our senses are assaulted by the green, grainy images before our eyes, and the deep, throaty "Ooooh"s and "Aaaaaah"s that fill our ears.
It is through these "Ooooh"s and "Aaaaaah"s that we meet Paris' co-star in the film who is, shockingly, Rick Salomon himself. Need it be pointed out how decidedly brave such a maneuver is for a director? One would be hard-pressed to picture a Spielberg or a Soderbergh featuring himself, let alone his penis--let alone his penis thrusting in and out of a 19 year-old hotel heiress--in one of his own films, but that is precisely what Salomon has done. And not only has he cast himself, but he is playing himself, infusing Paris Hilton Sex Tape with the sort of personal exploration so woefully missing from American cinema these days; turning a critical lens on himself, Salomon refuses to coat his persona in polish, showing himself as is, without any puffery. When, in a startling moment, Paris reaches for her ringing cell phone just as Salomon is about to re-mount her, he responds with a curt "Fuck your phone." His delivery of this line--gruff, certainly, but also tinged with a sad wash of desperation and an echo of pleading--cuts deep with its honesty, exposing Salomon as a considerable talent not just behind the lens, but in front of it as well.
In any romance, a leading man is only good as his female counterpart, and with Paris Hilton we are blessed with a natural, heart-fluttering personality; from the delivery of her first line--a cheery "Hi!" given directly to camera (for the fourth wall is yet another one of film's boundaries to be shattered by Salomon)--her performance transcends that which we have come to expect from our leading ladies. Naked and cavorting on a bed, and quite often distracted as she does so, she is a sight to behold on screen, engaging you with both her casualness and beauty; her tanned skin turned a glowing gray by Salomon's choice of nightvision footage, she is much like a blazing, tumbling asteroid cutting her way across the screen.
Paris, as portrayed by herself, is a smart, yet bored, young woman, and during the scenes of disjointed, clumsy coitus--which are pretty much every scene--she appears to be both there and not there, revealing the shocking true message of Salomon's Paris Hilton Sex Tape: that the rich and vapid occasionally have empty, awkward, and ultimately fairly unenjoyable sex. It is a message amplified by the film's conclusion--for not only is there no climax, but there are no climaxes. Ending his film in the midst, rather than at the conclusion, of oral sex, Salomon has given Paris Hilton Sex Tape a heart-wrenching and frustrating finale. It is an ending that perfectly echoes the postmodern dilemma posed by the film entire: there is no happy ending even for characters on videotape, only the existential dilemma of the ongoing search for pleasure. Because of this, Paris Hilton Sex Tape can be summed up in a single word: tragedy.