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KAMIKAZE HEARTS Balances Between Performance Art and Cinema

Juliet Bashore’s 1986 film, Kamikaze Hearts, makes it plainly clear to the viewer that everything is real: The story, the situations, the characters. It is even shot as a behind-the-scenes style documentary to really send home this key facet. Yet time and time again, the lines between reality and fiction somehow find themselves a bit blurred. To Tigr, one of the two leads this quasi-documentary film follows, this concept of who Sharon Mitchell is when the cameras are rolling versus when a scene cuts is essential. Upon shooting her first scene with Mitchell, a veteran in the world of pornographic film, Tigr stated, “It wasn’t pornography anymore… something happened”. As Bashore lets the camera naturally capture the oftentimes tumultuous relationship, she is somehow also able to paint a vivid portrait of the San Francisco porn industry in the 1980’s. Thus, a juxtaposition between the power Mitchell exudes and the rampant toxic behavior of others on set goes head-to-head in what feels like a battle for understanding. Along the quest for fulfilling fantasies, we witness the women behind the camera come to a singular, heartbreaking question: Is it worth it?

With Kamikaze Hearts, Bashore is able to depict both a searing revelation of the porn industry, while also pulling back the curtain to promote healthy sex positivity and an artist dedicated to giving her all (no matter the cost). There’s “a fascination with sleaze” that is undeniable among audiences throughout history, and it seems that every person asked about it in this film has a different reason as to why that may be. To tackle such a lofty question should be applauded on its own, yet Bashore shining a light on Mitchell and Tigr while also doing so elevates the conundrum with unmatched gravitas. Witnessing how this inability to separate oneself from the art and industry as a whole could jeopardize ones very existence forces viewers to confront their fascination on their own. Mitchell swears she has not lost herself to her work, but if all she does is perform, is it indeed solely an acting experience?

Tigr admits to falling in love with Mitchell “because she had this power”. While Bashore’s naturalistic capturing of this power is never a belittling one, there are deeply tragic tones to the breakdown these two lovers go through. In an industry where women are often belittled, demeaned by producers and directors, and exposed for the world to see in situations that are more often than not exploitative, Kamikaze Hearts serves as a warning for how much can be taken from a person. What escape can we find to fill a void in our hearts that isn’t a harmful substance or act? Hopefully, it can be found in the arms of someone else.

Kamikaze Hearts will be screening at Nitehawk Williamsburg on July 19th with Juliet Bashore + actress Jennifer Blowdryer in attendance. Full information and tickets are available right here.

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