Juliet Bashore’s “Kamikaze Hearts” is a quasi-documentary about the 80s San Francisco underground scene that gives you chills and cold sweats. Originally released in 1986, it’s now getting a national rollout thanks to a new 2K restoration.
A prism of ideas about performance, sex, identity, addiction, labor and more, the film also plays like a delirious, opioid-induced delirium. It’s not exactly enjoyable – and it’s full of disorienting longueurs – but it really sticks.
The ostensible drama revolves around the rambunctious relationship between unhinged porn star Sharon Mitchell and her hapless lover Tigr. We follow these women for a few days as they work on the set of a new adult film based on the opera ‘Carmen’.
That project is never finished, because there is no mature “Carmen” film. The entire work — the on-set tensions between the female performers and their dowdy male bosses, Mitchell and Tigr’s increasingly intense feuds — was scripted and storyboarded, with the performers, many of them real adult film professionals, improvising and playing versions of themselves.
Like porn, in which real sex acts are performed in fake contexts, this self-referential haze of a movie blurs the lines between truth and fiction. Perhaps today’s technology-infested audience, numb to the unstable realities and meta-universes that characterize the online experience (and franchise movies, for that matter) won’t be so impressed. Yet Tigr and Mitchell feel as alive as a new fever. And when we see the two women, who are real heroin addicts, shooting on camera, what could be more real?
Not judged. Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes. In theatres.