David Aaron Clark’s “PURE,” starring Asa Akira as the stab-happy Japanese folk hero Sada Abe, pictures a pornified Los Angeles in which no Caucasians reside. The calming presence of the so-called White Man might have made the ending of “PURE” far less climactic.
“PURE is based on a real-life incident that has fascinated me for many years,” Clark said. “Sada Abe, an ex-hooker and failed geisha, takes a maid’s position at a tea house owned by a husband and wife. She starts an affair with Kichi, the husband, known to be something of a rogue. They run away together and carry on a mad affair, drinking and fucking and experimenting with progressively more kinky sex. The affair starts to go sour as they run out of money.”
“This is about my life,” I said, speed-dialing my lawyer.
“One night, Sada takes the strangling game she has initiated with Kichi too far,” Clark said. “A large kitchen knife becomes involved, post-mortem.
“This occured in Tokyo in 1936, just as the society was gearing up for war and was in bad economic times. The crime was a fabulous tabloid scandal in its day, forcing the repressed society to confront sex and death in very explicit terms. They didn’t even want to describe the details of what she did in open court. Sada became a sympathetic anti-hero to the public, which believed her when she said she “did it for love.”
“The Japanese have made at least four movies about Sada Abe. The most famous film version is “In the Realm of the Senses,” a unique 1976 Japanese-French co-production written & directed by the great new wave filmmaker Nagisi Oshima. To this day, it’s the only legitimate piece of world-class cinema in which the lead actors constantly and explicitly engage in sexual behavior; from straight fucking to some interesting kink. Criterion just released a new edition of the film this past winter.”
“But what about the porn?” I said. “This is a porn site.”
“I’ve wanted to tell the story in my own way for a few years. When I was at Video Team, I started a script but abandoned it, and instead took a sideways run at invoking the character of Sada in Shadow of a Geisha, a very low-budget experimental feature we largely improvised in Las Vegas. When John [Stagliano, of Evil Angel] invited me this year to make a feature for Evil Angel, and said that he wanted something that was uniquely my style and not like anything else they’re putting out, I immediately wondered if perhaps Sada’s time had come.”
“Did Sada get expensive?” I said.
“The budget is about the same as my most expensive Asia Noir installments,” said Clark. “The biggest difference is that John gave me free reign to structure the shoot however I saw appropriate, as long as I made budget. That has made all the difference. Taking his advice, we’ve worked close to the bone with a modest but very dedicated crew and shot at some great, evocative locations that aren’t over-exposed in everyone else’s porn. My production manager, Brah Bones, toiled inordinately with the occasionally amorphous nature of our schedule.
“I set the story in modern-day Los Angeles fetish dungeons– instead of pre-WWII Tokyo teahouses — because that’s my turf, and I’ve always had quite a bit to say about the social and spiritual metaphors it serves up. But what really kicked PURE into high gear was casting the leads. Asa Akira as Sada — she’s very smart, thinks on her feet, and served some time working in a colleague of mine’s fetish dungeon in NYC before I ever heard of her.
“She’s very sardonic, well-read, straightforwardly sexual but still feminine, not a grizzled Sex Warrior — ah, Worker, Sex Worker. Keni Styles — raised in London, he’s Thai, and a very handsome, dynamic, sensitive actor who just slays the girls.
- Watch a “PURE” slide show here.
“I didn’t think Asian male porn performers existed,” I said. But Clark said the women on the set loved them some Styles.
“They’ve all got to get a taste, I’ve seen it in action,” he said. “The two of them together [Akira and Styles] was just amazing. They lived the roles. The principal photography took place over three consecutive weekends and I shot their scenes together in roughly chronological order, to build up the sexual tension. It worked better than I ever could have hoped.”
“I was able to use my favorite behind-the-camera collaborators to capture it all. After dragging her to a screening of “In the Realm of the Senses” at the American Cinematheque, I asked Aiden Starr to do wardrobe and production design on my reinterpretation of the story, and soon pushed the additional burden of being assistant director on her. Luckily, she kicked ass on all fronts. Glenn Baren, whom I’ve been working with for ten years — he was nominated for his videography on the last Asia Noir, EVIL SEX TRAP — outdid himself with some beautifully moody, dynamic camera work. Ernie Roebuck, the best gaffer porn has ever seen, worked with us on the final, crucial weekend. And of course Gray Creasey, the insane practical SFX guy that worked on EVIL SEX TRAP and PIRATES II: STAGNETI’S REVENGE came by to help with the, ah, gruesome denouement.
“Between John deciding to give me this opportunity in the first place, and the support from him and the general manager, Christian Mann, the guy under whom I’d done my best work up to now for at Video Team, it’s been golden. Of course, I’m practically a wreck with the responsibility of living up to their trust. Thanks entirely to the efforts of the cast and crew mentioned above, I am currently in Little Engine That Could mode.”
“That sounds like a campaign speech,” I said.
“I know this sounds horribly like a campaign speech or something, but I really do mean it,” Clark said. “Everybody’s been great, and it’s been incredibly inspirational watching them get into telling this very visceral, primal, blunt tale.”
“How is it “DACian”?
“I guess because it’s obsessive, casually kinky, giddily dark. Oh, and full of the kind of sex and the kind of women that turn me on, that I happen to think make life worth living. If you’re twisted like that, too, I’m confident you’ll find it fulfilling on multiple levels.”
“PURE” was released last week, along with Wicked’s sex robot movie “2040,” for which Clark supplied the concept and the first draft of the script.