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Thread: JONATHAN AGASSI SAVED MY LIFE (Tomer Heymann 2018)

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    Jul 2002
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    JONATHAN AGASSI SAVED MY LIFE (Tomer Heymann 2018)




    Gay Israeli porn star with daddy issues

    There have been some notable gay Israeli films, particularly those of Eytan Fox, such as Yossi, and outliers like Haim Tabakman's extraordinary 2009 Eyes Wide Open, about two Orthodox butchers who fall passionately, fatally in love. Yet a documentary about a handsome, fresh-faced young leather man gay porn star from Israel seems rather an uncommon thing. This world of gay Israeli cinema exists amid Israel's contrasts: highly macho and with the grim repression of its apartheid-style Palestinian occupied lands, it also is or has been, for the right Jews, away from the burgeoning world of the Orthodox, a liberal and permissive place.

    His birth name is Elkana Yonatan Langer, Jonathan Agassi the moniker he adopted for porn "acting." His birth name is Elkana Yonatan Langer, Jonathan Agassi the moniker he adopted for porn "acting." Obviously porn "stars" aren't stars or actors any more than the ingenues gathered at Andy Warhols's Factory in movies were actors or "superstars." This is why in the industry porn performers are generally called "models." He says at one point "Jonathan Agassi saved my life." Toward the end we may figure out what that might mean. Being "Jonathan Agassi" was an escape from a real life that had things in it he had trouble coping with, first and foremost the absence of his father and a childhood of being mocked and bullied at school. He did excel in the "porn star" role. He won awards, and he has 27 film credits on IMDb. But all along, he admits at the end, he was on drugs. And then he does so many of them - we see him smoking crack - the combination got out of balance - the "chronic, progressive, and fatal" pattern creeps up on him, though happily he escapes the "fatal" stage. He loses all interest in sex, or in anything else. The filmmaker at one point appears to be rescuing him and keeping him from OD-ing, and we see him writhing, groaning in a drug agony on the floor. Apparently the making of Jonathan Agassi Saved My LIfe the film helped save Jonathan's life when he looked at footage of himself from it and saw the downward path he was on.

    Smiling, handsome, muscular, tattooed, Jonathan tells a potential "date" - he's an "escort" as well as a "model" - that his penis is bigger than XL size, and he is - well, was, or we're told he was - one of the world's most successful international gay porn stars. He exudes enthusiasm for sex in the film's early scenes. More than the sex or the fame, though, he says he enjoys watching himself perform on film. He has gotten a top annual award for his multiple screen performances one year at least in Berlin; the time we follow him to those awards resplendently nearly-nude, he doesn't get it.

    This is not a porn movie: we don't get to see what Agassi does in the 27 porn films Lucas Entertainment made him famous). He explains that he loves sex but only with men he likes in acts he enjoys (though that can be stretched for a john if the fee is high). He says he has refused to perform with hairy men who've shaved their bodies (too scratchy), and claims he'd never do that, though it's obvious his hairy chest and little beard are very carefully trimmed. He uses eye liner and eyebrow pencils.

    Early on in this film, which spans a number of years, Jonathan is having a lovey-dovey visit with his mother in Israel. They're both smoking and flourishing cigarettes whenever they're talking together, whether in Israel or Skyping apart between Tel Aviv and Berlin, where he is living. So does his long-absent father, a burly ex-hippy with earrings who abandoned Jonathan's mother and her two sons and had nothing to do with their rearing. The father haunts this film. Their seemingly warm and smiling and intimately filmed Berlin meeting shakes Jonathan and sets him into a downward drug spiral that, thanks to Skype, sends his beloved mother in Israel into another depression.

    At the filmed meeting, his father tells Jonathan he left because of the deep depression his wife fell into after the boy was born because she had so much wanted a girl. Jonathan buys into this. But his mother, via Skype, tells him it's all a lie: that her depression was the result of the father's departure, not the cause of it.

    The live action ends with Jonathan's bottom. As a finale we're told several years have passed and Jonathan has gotten clean of drugs, has given up porn films, and has been the manager of a a Tel Aviv supermarket for four years. Details however are missing about that surprising development: this is a long-term, revealing documentary (it seems to span eight years) that leaves itself unfinished.

    Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life reads like a hasty production, even at times like reality TV. It never explains anything about his brother and sister, or reveals that his mother is a painter and his father a Berlin DJ. Its intimate, revealing side is undercut by its exploitative side. But the colorful, in-your-face screen action of what the French blurb calls a "documentaire choc" still works in two ways, both as a fringe showbiz portrait and as a vivid study of deep oedipal issues. The surprising Jonathan-and-mom relationship is warm, open - and out of whack into the area of inappropriateness. The film has sexually explicit moments of glimpsed sex clubs and liaisons beyond the scenes where Jonathan is nearly naked and showing off his most outrageous outfits, including leather jock strap overlaying lace bikini, leather helmet-mask, white lace stockings and garters, and high heels. He appears thus unclad to both his mom and his disapproving brother: she always admires him and calls him her "beautiful boy." (Is she finally his savior or his enabler?)

    Jonathan himself glistens with his muscles, his drug-bright eyes, his daringly poly-sexual outfits of leather and lace. This is a theatrical, sometimes glitzy and arty world of makeup, eyeliner, and glowing red- and blue-lit gay leather bars. Jonathan's ambiance is one of makeup, drugs, and mirrors and constant muscular semi-nakedness. It's like "Taxi zum Klo" with the taxi headed instead to an annual gay porn movie awards show, or to a job as an "escort." What stays is the face: that bright mixture of the boyish, the masculine, and the soft; the stoned, bright doe-eyes linger in the mind.

    Jonathan Agassi Saved My Live, 100 mins., debuted July 31, 2018 at Jerusalem, winning Best Documentary, and showing in 13 other festivals including Thessaloniki, IDFA (Amsterdam), and CPH:DOX (Copenhagen). It opens at Village East in New York May 13, 2022 and in a Los Angeles venue May 20.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-12-2022 at 12:10 PM.


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