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posted on 05.23.09

Steven Soderbergh's new film THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE just opened in select theaters across the country (that's not an ad, but a lede ...).

It stars Sasha Grey, the award-winning porn actress who is getting a lot of media buzz about her transition into a mainstram indie role. In a new interview just published in the SF Chronicle, she is asked

Q: I understand you're a real film head, Turner Classic Movies and all that. What are some of your favorite films?

and answers

A: Oh, geez ... let's say filmmakers, that's a little easier. I think everybody knows Godard by now. Cassavetes. Catherine Breillat. Paul Schrader. Truffaut. David Lynch, John Carpenter. I'm all across the board when it comes to films.

She claims JLG and David Bowie are her biggest influences and that her rough and at times degrading sex porno performances are her own version of "performance art" (Karen Finley eat your heart out).

She identifies with feminism and is her own agent and is now directing her own films too (she's still only 21).

Soderbergh was off shooting Che when he suggested she watch Godard's "Vivre sa vie" -- one of my favorite JLG films (the cafe scenes experiment with sound in a way that was to influence many future art-films) and one that has influenced the development of My Autoerotic Muse.

Given that her performance art practice involves a lot of writing (Soderbergh first found her not by watching her films but via an article she wrote for LA magazine), she "created and wrote and wrote and wrote this character's back story. Once I was happy with that, I condensed it and gave it to Steven. And I think he said 'yes' to everything."

The character she plays is Chelsea, an escort "guided by personology books who writes in her journal after every date, things Grey picked up from the escorts she met and thought would flesh out her character nicely." As one rag put it: "Hire Chelsea for the night and, yes, she will have sex with you, but she'll also pretend to enjoy it, as if she were your girlfriend. She'll even sit and listen to you drone on about your job or, you know, your wife. For this, you'll pay her $2,000 an hour."

What else is this otherwise undergraduate art student up to?

"I'm shooting my directorial debut in two weeks - it's called "The F@%k Junkie." I'm working on a sex philosophy book, which will be kind of like a coffee table book. I have an adult novelty line coming out in July. I'm working on a novel; I have an independent film coming up in August, which is amazing because it's a lead role again, and I'm playing against type, and it's a very challenging character; and I have two other offers right now for films that are in pre-production. My other movie, Smash Cut, is coming out later this year."

Gertrude Stein once wrote, "No one is ahead of his time, it is only that the particular variety of creating his time is the one that his contemporaries who also are creating their own time refuse to accept." Is Sasha Grey just another young adult film actress who has somehow convinced herself that what she is doing is an expanded form of interdisciplinary art practice, and will one day soon live to regret it all; or is she that rare, precocious spirit that is forever waiting for time to catch up with her?

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Jean Luc Godard


Performance Art