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Pinochet Porn premieres at the Institute of Contemporary Arts

by Louisa Buck  |  02.06.2017
Pinochet Porn premieres at the Institute of Contemporary Arts
One of the orgiastic scenes in Pinochet Porn featuring Cerith Wyn Evans as Osha the Sex Guru
There was keen anticipation amongst the friends and admirers of the late Ellen Cantor who gathered at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) last night (1 June) for the UK premiere of Pinochet Porn, the experimental feature-length film on which Cantor was working on during the final five years of her life, right up to her death from cancer in 2013. And we weren’t disappointed 

The work was painstakingly completed after Cantor’s death by her director of photography, the artist and film-maker John Brattin, and her art director Jay Kinney. Cantor herself described the two-hour long film as a soap opera about the intertwined lives of five Chilean children growing up under the Pinochet regime. But, like Cantor herself, this richly multifaceted splicing of animation, archive footage and scripted scenes shot on super-8, defies any easy description. 

At times horrific, at times hilarious and often ricocheting between tender, sardonic, vulnerable and brutal, the work marked the culmination of Cantor’s creative life and touched on all of her core interests: love, violence, obsession, popular culture, dark humour and the intertwining of personal narrative with fantastical fiction. A labour of love made on a non-existent budget, Pinochet Porn also celebrates the close-knit creative community that gathered around Cantor both in London and New York. 

Ellen Cantor as the orgasmic maid in Pinochet Porn
Lia Gangitano, the director of Participant Inc (who now handle Cantor’s estate) plays Pinochet’s—fictional—twin daughters, while the dictator himself is played by the Wooster Group actor Jim Fletcher. Early in the film a lushly orgiastic episode features the cult London night-lifers Princess Julia and James Jeanette; the (genuinely pregnant) artist Margarita Gluzberg as The Pregnant Virgin; and a naked Cerith Wyn Evans jovially embraces the role of Osha the Sex Guru.  

The curator Pablo León de la Barra is also a suitably Dionysic presence, as well as providing much of the film’s voice-over narrative. Then there is Cantor herself, who appears throughout the movie but most memorably as the subjugated maid who comprehensively services the dictator in an uncompromisingly protracted and brilliantly enacted sex scene, which the artist apparently took on when no one else could be found to step into the role. Pinochet Porn is screening at the ICA over this weekend and might be extended into next week—catch it if you can. 

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