Love’s labors lost

“Inside Deep Throat” shows all the ins and outs of 1970s porn chic

Pornography, by its very nature, promises the viewer something it can’t deliver.

As entertaining as “Inside Deep Throat” might be, the same sad fact is true of this semipornographic documentary.

Hard-core pornography, a category that includes the 1972 cultural bombshell “Deep Throat,” promises viewers sex and an insight into the sexual act, from arousal, to intercourse, to climax. But projected on a screen, it becomes an objectified experience that titillates, without actually informing the spectator.

The promise of the 2005 Sundance sensation “Inside Deep Throat” is to reveal why “Deep Throat” became a landmark. The earlier film attracted the intrigue of audiences across the nation and the ire of moralists who launched a crusade against movie theaters that screened it, further fueling public interest.

But this NC-17 documentary, which earned its rating by including a scene from “Deep Throat” itself, fails to provide the context necessary to discuss the movie in depth.

What’s offered here is more effect without the cause, penetration without foreplay.

Directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (both helmed 2003’s “Party Monster”) break down the “Deep Throat” phenomenon into five segments: “Deep Throat’s” preproduction, filming, public response, government crackdown and aftermath.

What is most amazing about “Deep Throat” is that it became the first socially acceptable, popular porn film. Couples went to see it together in broad daylight at movie theaters. It appeared in Johnny Carson’s monologue and in Bob Hope’s jokes. And its popularity forced the government to first strengthen the nation’s obscenity laws and then tie the mob to the distribution and exhibition of the film.

There’s much to take in here, which becomes problematic. The film seems overstuffed. For the first third of the documentary, the action is manageable and light-hearted. “Deep Throat” director Gerard Damiano discusses his entry into porn, the discovery of leading lady Linda Lovelace and the film’s production.

The remainder of the film, however, gets lost in the directors’ chaotic editing, shifting and superficial focus. Most compelling are the moments about the commercialization and industrialization of the porn industry. Likewise, the political battles around the film seem to foreshadow future free-speech fights, as the federal courts are packed with reactionary voices.

Things get muddled as “Inside Deep Throat” plows into the film’s lawsuits, mob connections, feminist reactions and political dramas. These issues are woefully shortchanged when compared with the documentary’s earlier focus on the specifics of the film’s production.

Like its inspiration, the documentary is an entertaining but empty diversion, promising exposure and revelation but arriving at something only skin deep.