Film Review: “New Tricks” by Morgana Muses

Permission 4 Pleasure Box Set

Permission 4 Pleasure Box Set

New Tricks

Directed by Morgana Muses

Featuring Morgana, Serendipity, Sebastian Steele, Evie Crabapple, Mr. Crabapple, Magnolia, Calliope Jones, Artemesia, Liandra Dahl

In my adventures as a porn critic, I’ve spoken to many people who express similar frustrations with pornography. “It’s not that I have anything against porn,” they say. “It’s just that it all looks the same to me.” “It’s boring.” “I can’t find what I want to see.” Every time I hear one of these complaints, I try to offer alternatives in the hopes that I can help them find what they’re looking for. Porn isn’t all the same, I tell them, even though most of what you see on PornHub looks pretty similar. There are a lot of options out there that are really different. But “different” doesn’t always mean “better,” and sometimes I get the feeling that the people I’ve talked to walk away thinking I’m sending them into a tailspin of clown porn or foot fetishes (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those two proclivities, mind you–it’s just that the majority of people I’ve talked to aren’t looking for those things).

Enter Morgana Muses. At the age of fifty, Morgana decided to say goodbye to her life as a “good,” dutiful, socially acceptable (read: chaste and subordinate) wife and mother, and to embrace her erotic side. She began making films with a vignette called “Duty Bound” in which she filmed herself in a variety of extremely hot activities, while she narrated her fantasies about what she’d like to do with an escort. And BAM. A new feminist filmmaker and star was born. Morgana and her work have since been welcomed all over the world by film and porn and sex-positive and age-positive and body-positive and feminist communities, and… like… all the other communities, too. Her work has been nominated for, and won, numerous awards around the world at a variety of film festivals, and she was just named 2015’s Heartthrob of the Year by the Feminist Porn Awards.

Morgana Muses in "New Tricks"

Morgana Muses in “New Tricks”

I met Morgana at Cinekink here in New York in late February, where her gorgeous short (non-pornographic, btw) short film “It’s My Birthday and I’ll Fly If I Want To” was screening. (It won best documentary short at Cinekink, just FYI.) Instantly deciding we had to be best friends, we shared a hookah and some champagne cocktails, followed by a late-night, very intimate art-making session with friend and aspiring filmmaker Traci Traci, and I left with a copy of Morgana’s company Permission4Pleasure’s box set of her first four films.

And, last night, I popped in the DVD and decided to try “New Tricks,” the third film on the DVD (which is beautiful, by the way, featuring Morgana’s tattoo design of a phoenix). I was a bit nervous–one never knows going into a new erotic film whether it’ll do it for them or not.

And I’ll tell you the truth: this film wasn’t precisely my personal cup of tea, as far as turn-ons go. But–and this is a big “but”–it did ring all the bells in my “THANK GOD THIS EXISTS” belfry. I absolutely recommend it to those people I mentioned above who say all porn looks the same. Especially if the reason a lot of porn doesn’t do it for you is that it feels fake. Or inauthentic. Or male-gaze-y. Or repetitive. Or overproduced. Or over-performed.

Magnolia, Calliope Jones, Artemesia, and Liandra Dahl in "New Tricks"

Magnolia, Calliope Jones, Artemesia, and Liandra Dahl in “New Tricks”

“New Tricks” felt very un-porny, but very sexy, in a super-specific way. Featuring four vignettes introduced by female performers in their “socially acceptable” roles as wives, mothers, businesspeople, juxtaposed with sex scenes in which they let loose, the sex in the movie felt very REAL. That can be good or bad, depending on what you’re looking for, I suppose, but  there is something uniquely refreshing about the way that “New Tricks” portrayed real, honest-to-god sex that I’ve never witnessed before. It was honest, while still being beautiful. Raw, but in a pared-down, let-it-be kind of way that made me feel relaxed instead of on-edge. I appreciated the reality it was willing to show–namely that sex isn’t always the wild, keening, athletic, rowdy affair that so much porn makes it out to be. The sex here was remarkably subdued and yet satisfying. It featured a certain edifying slowness–a building of tension and ecstasy that takes its time and isn’t worried about showing off–that one rarely sees anywhere, much less in porn. Even during the (all-female, by the way) orgasms in this film, there was no over-the-top performance, just very real, face-contorting, leg-twitching intensity that, despite my earlier assertions, turned me on immensely.

Particularly in the four-woman orgy scene at the end of the film, two of the performers clearly form a sexual connection that is so intense that they both come simply by watching the other woman work herself to orgasm; the link between them is visibly electric, and yet they are not wildly gyrating or flailing around. They are intense to the point of volatility, and they come with screams of pleasure, but it feels completely un-hurried, un-performed. Similarly, when Morgana masturbates in her office, there is nothing showy about it–no closet full of toys, no spitting or ooh- or aah-ing or contorting, except when she comes and her legs both spasm along with her face, in a long, drawn-out, powerful, yet very quiet orgasm. It feels real, and not in that forced way that so much porn does. It’s not trying too hard. In a word: it’s authentic.

Evie Crabapple and Mr. Crabapple in "New Tricks"

Evie Crabapple and Mr. Crabapple in “New Tricks”

Of course, all this authenticity might not be what everyone is looking for. I wasn’t particularly a fan of Evie Crabapple’s perfect stillness as her partner pleasured her in the kitchen, for instance. But still I appreciated her quietness, her willingness to be pleased without putting on a big show of it, like I so often see in pornographic films. It might not have turned me on very much, but it was refreshing and even relaxing. No rush. No desperation. Just pleasure.

So, look. If you’re one of those people who supports the idea of porn–particularly feminist porn–but has trouble getting turned on by the usual “porn-y” imagery one finds on the internet, where people are screaming and writhing and gasping and doing that weird sucking-on-your-teeth-hissing thing a lot of performers do… Please, please give Morgana Muses’ “New Tricks”–or anything else from her website, Permission4Pleasure–a try.

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