March 15, 2014

Film star’s guide to creaturely sex

Adelaide Festival

Film star’s guide to creaturely sex

Green Porno
Isabella Rossellini
Text by Isabella Rossellini and Jean-Claude Carriere
Translated by Julia Groopman
Her Majesty’s Theatre, 58 Grote Street.
Duration 1 hour 15 minutes
March 12.
Touring other Australian cities in March.

“I am a method actress,” declares Isabella Rossellini, star of catwalk and screen, “and I like to slide into the skin of animals.” Green Porno, a closing attraction in the final weekend of the Adelaide Festival, opens up new vistas as Rossellini stands at her lectern delivering a show about the weird and even weirder world of animal sexuality.

Looking over her bookish spectacles, our narrator reassures us that her subject is not pornography but it is obscene, and depending on our proclivities, perhaps erotic. I don’t think the delighted audience thought it was either, rather, it is an energetic, shrewdly-framed panegyric to biodiversity.

Originating as a series of short films produced for Robert Redford’s Sundance TV Channel, Green Porno features the impish Rossellini in colourful animated vignettes, mingling in oceans, swamps and on land, zanily dressed as earthworms, mother ducks, mantises and hamsters, all involved in a bewildering variety of evolutionary behaviours from asexual cloning to eating their surplus young.

Rossellini’s genial presence is crucial to the success of the presentation which could easily have coasted on a series of amusing video skits. The lecture is serious in its intentions, just as Rossellini, who went back to university to learn more about her subject, brings the enthusiasm of a researcher to the enterprise. It is like watching David Attenborough, uncannily resembling Ingrid Bergman dressed as a hamster, explaining parturition and courtship rituals.
Charles Darwin presides importantly over the occasion. Citing his theories of natural selection and sexual selection, Rossillini reminds us that male peacocks may not be dressed for their everyday habitat but they make a fetching sight on the dance floor. There are plenty of fascinating factoids; how “sneaky” males, those weedy specimens among the elephant seals, hide among the female harem for an opportunistic leg-over, about the headbanging erotomania of toads, and – illustrated by tape measure- the penile dimensions of the animal world. Spoiler alert: barnacles are impressive, gorillas surprisingly modest.

In all this natural history the notion of something being “against nature” is given new scrutiny. From polymorphously perverse dolphins to the gender changing crepidula fornicata, Isabella Rossellini has a life-affirming exhibit for every occasion.

Murray Bramwell

Published as “Film star’s guide to creaturely sex” The Australian, March 17, 2014, p.14.

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