Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Review: Confessions of a Sinful Nun, Vol. 2 -- The Rise of Sister Mona

Title:  Confessions Of A Sinful Nun Volume 2 - The Rise Of Sister Mona
Studio:  Sweetheart Video
Released:  May 2, 2019
Director:  Ricky Greenwood
Performers:  Cassidy Banks,  Charlotte Stokely,  Kenna James,  Lena Paul,  Magdalene St. Michaels,  Mona Wales,  Nina Hartley,  Serene Siren

"Choosing love is strong." -- Mother Superior

The history of the Catholic Church has always been about good vs evil.  The distinction, of course, is contextual and subject to the bias of the observer. But that is the essential conflict at the root of Confessions Of A Sinful Nun Volume 2 - The Rise Of Sister Mona.  But, again, what is good? And what is evil?  You may decide for yourself after watching.

It's hard to imagine Ricky Greenwood topping this epic as a director.  He gets peak performances from everyone.  This movie doesn't feel anything like its actual length because the story moves along and carries us.  And the sex, when we see it, appears organic and intrinsic to the story.  The script, co-written by Greenwood and Maddy Barton, hits all the right notes.  Good actors can take ordinary lines and make them meaningful.  Well written lines allow everyone to give their best performance.

James Avalon's visuals are stunning, both in their simplicity and subtlety.  He uses light and darkness the way painters use a brush and palette. He pushes the technology of modern videography to its limits and the result is one stunningly beautiful visual after another.

Let me be clear -- this is not the average cookie cutter wankfest we've all come to expect from porn valley.  This is 234 minutes of emotional depth, artful eroticism, and powerful imagery.  And the plot twist at the end is just delicious (no spoilers here).  If this movie doesn't win the best feature of 2019 there is something seriously wrong with the voters.

Let's talk about the players. 

Nina Hartley came into the adult biz when movies were still being shot on film.  Her incredibly successful career has spanned more than three decades. In an industry that worships youth, Hartley gives us a vision of mature beauty, wrinkles and all, in the most vulnerable performance I have ever seen in an adult video.  Nina Hartley has nothing to prove to any of us.  She's been there and done that.  She is all in with this courageous performance.

Hartley plays Mother Superior, the terminally ill head of a convent who believes that love is more important than religious dogma (a view that, if more widely held, would result in a lot fewer wars).  When she tells Sister Joan ( Magdalene St. Michaels) that "choosing love is strong," she means it.  Brave in the face of death she welcomes human touch. She has made peace with who she has been and what she has done in the name of love. The outside world is dangerous, she says, but within the walls of the convent, women can be free to love one another without fear. Those views are not shared by the Church hierarchy.

The crux of this story seems to rest on how we respond to love.  Nina Hartley's character responds one way, and Magdalene St. Michaels' character responds in the opposite way.  Nina embraces love as the greatest of all virtues, Magdalene fears it and runs away.  Nina remains true to her ideals to the end.  Magdalene, having finally given in to the temptation she has feared for years, reverts to self-loathing and guilt.

Magdalene St. Michaels, as Mother Superior of her own convent, tears into her role with gusto. This isn't the first time she's played the head of a religious order.  She told me she considers this portrayal her best work ever and I agree with her.  She gives a bravura performance in her role as the strict and demanding leader of a different convent. She is a Mother Superior whose response to love is fear.  Now, she wants to make sure that no one else is placed in the way of temptation and goes to great lengths to remove any trace of it from those in her charge.  But she is still wracked by thoughts of the love that might have been--love that she ran away from.  Her character is by turns frightening and poignantly vulnerable. When she scourges Sister Mona her facial expressions are terrifying.  In another scene, her grief at the loss of a lover (no spoilers here) rings completely true.  Her scene with Nina Hartley is one for the ages and pure Magdalene all the way.  The chemistry between Nina and Magdalene is palpable and sweet.  It is a magnificent demonstration of the dramatic arts.

Mona Wales absolutely nails a very challenging role.  The breathtaking metamorphosis of Sister Mona stretches back to volume one of this series. We saw her then as a young innocent, new to the ways of love among women, following her Mother Superior's guidance that insisted that love can't be wrong.  Now we see her paying a price for that kind of love under the lash of a different Mother Superior (St. Michaels).  Her facial expressions, her voice, her body language -- all demonstrate her commitment to the character.  She chews the scenery in a way that forces us to pay attention to her whenever she's in the frame.  Her transformation from the beginning of the first installment of this series to the end of part two shows off her dramatic range to good effect. What will she become in part 3?  We will see.

Charlotte Stokely, as a devout human being coming to terms with the ideals of love, self-denial, and passion, provides just the right balance of innocence and lust. And the care she shows Mother Superior (Hartley) demonstrates her devotion to someone whose guidance she has come to value deeply. When she lovingly bathes her Mother Superior and gives her the gift of human touch the tenderness she shows is real and genuine.  Brava!

Serene Siren's response to watching a fellow sister mercilessly flogged is priceless. It makes her doubt (a good thing) and makes her think (an even better thing). She acts on her doubts and her thoughts in a scene with Mona Wales that strikes equal notes of tenderness and passion.

Cassidy Banks and Lena Paul's delightful outdoor romp stands in contrast to much of the dark tone of the rest of this tale.  It's well done as these things go and seeing people have sex on screen is why we buy porn in the first place, so bravo. I never get tired of seeing either of these two talented women on my screen.

Kenna James, who plays a very confused young woman who comes to Sister Charlotte with a confession of love, is also very effective.  Stokely tells her that what she feels isn't love, but desire.  It's an important distinction in this story.

I think it was British satirist Terry Pratchett who said that the difference between art and pornography is that art can sit on a plinth or inside a gilded frame. COASN2 blurs this distinction and gives us plinth-worthy art along with the kind of eroticism that draws us to adult video in the first place.

I've watched my share of what I'll call "gyno-porn" with its multiple gaping, squirting sex organs and an overabundance of nitty-gritty closeups -- not that I have anything against close-ups.  COASN2 gives us a really good heat-to-plot ratio without the circus stunts.

The focus of my initial interest in this project is because it brought Nina Hartley and Magdalene St. Michaels together in a scene.  That got me to put my money down.  In the end, I got FAR more than my money's worth from everyone who appeared in, shot, wrote, directed, or had anything else to do with this wonderful production.

Bravo to all involved.  Bravo to Sweetheart Video for supporting this type of storytelling.

This video receives my strongest "buy" recommendation. 

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