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O Magazine
2015-2017

FALSE FRIENDS

6. ROCCO SIFFREDI
BY RUBÉN LARDÍN

A false friend means being betrayed by vocabulary. Writing open letters to unknown characters might be a reckless thing.

In this section, Rubén Lardín sends an unasked for weekly missive to the stormy electrodynamical sea.

I’m going to talk to you one on one, Rocco, man to man. I’m going to talk to you from equal to equal without thinking about your real name. Porn actors usually give yourselves funny names to preserve your secret identity, the civilian one, the everyday-life or street one. You give yourselves jocular names because eroticism crashes down in middle terms: it’s either philosophical or mocking. And then there’s the concept of the erectional, as Berlanga put it, but that’s not important right now. What matters about porn is that through its rhyming titles is happily connected to comedy, no other genre that would allow for such word games, think of it. You, however, took yourself very seriously from the start and decided to evoke in your artistic name a greater and more lasting kind of film. Alain Delon, Visconti, Jacques Deray. Since then, you’ve had a job based in the imperative of granting it your intimacy, and now that your time has passed, you have made a documentary about your persona in order to retrieve it, because I guess you feel like a character, even more so since you ended up in the elephant cemetery that is television. And Italian TV, no less!

I have no idea what to write to you. I find nothing I could confess here in exchange for your generosity all these years, all that lewdness, that gymnastics of dominion that you somehow -oh, my- taught us. Maybe I could tell you that I sometimes carry coffee beans in my pockets and when I walk about I lick them, like an old man’s eucalyptus or a humble psychoactive substance, and meanwhile I ruminate that the only sport I’ve ever been interested in at all is tennis, where there’s no physical contact, and from there I gather that your job seems a very exposed profession, with impracticable psychological peaks that I would in no way want for myself.

The other day I heard Santana (the musician, not the tennis player) say that people are three things: animal, human and divinity. Too many joints. I think we are a moving evolutionary error, but being sex an embarrassing matter we cannot get rid of, those of you who give yourselves to it have my uttermost sympathy. In the market of the flesh that is your profession (and I call it market because I consider pornography, since Ballard explained it to us, the most political form of fiction, in which it is clearly shown the way in which we use and exploit each other), in that market, I say, there are characters of a complete and natural perversion, individuals with no bonds that laugh at sex, celebrate it with no sign of torture and in their behaviour can, not only be fearless, but fearsome. Adventurers in a world of fantasy. Explorers of the infinite. Although I think you weren’t like that. I don’t know you, but your thing seems to me more like a violent animalism, a rendition to nature and to pure unbound instinct, practically drama. Ecstasy, after all, is ephimeral, unattainable, and it always ends up deceiving. Orgasms are but a little embargo of sense that us men cannot even programme in a loop. After that we deliberately forget the deception, of course, we better do so that desire can regenerate, because it’s not in consumption where we find ourselves, it’s in desire. Unless you end up using the Internet, or social networks, because then it will be other people’s desire where you decide to construct yourself.

Be it as it may, let’s say that your thing was meat, vegetables and broth. More than a job, an obstinacy between self-indulgence and people skills, and a professional sphere in which one is the same all the time. I’m not sure you can call it ‘work’. I looked for the etymology of ‘work’ one day I was very tired and it seems to come from ‘torture’, it’s quite clear to me and that’s why I dare writing it. Those of us who in no way want to work decide to write, it’s our way of getting ourselves forgiven. And then there’s your thing. Do you know Dillinger è morto, by your countryman Marco Ferreri? It’s not porn, but it’s almost like it, because in that film you have the portrait of a complete man. Seriously, I perfectly know what men think and how, because I’m one of them, so I’m at the same time all men, and I’m convinced that only working on the most intimate you can reach the most universal. Check that film out.

In opposition to those of us that look within ourselves, you have looked outside a lot. You’ve turned passion into will, and with vice and virtue you have woven an Arianne’s thread to know your way in this place which is at the same time a valley of tears and a temple of pleasure. You’ve given all your life to lust, to keeping the bed flourishing as when you’ve just fallen madly in love, truly, and inconveniently, like gypsies from enemy families do. All day at it, Rocco, do we really have to believe you’re a sentimental kind of guy? Let’s go back to what I was saying, to porn and poetry. You somehow have been our Cyrano of Bergerac. Your main feature, like his, should we agree on the displacement, has been at a first glimpse the disproportion of an appendix, and while he enamoured with words you have done so in absence of the verb. Cyrano lived installed in that consonance that is the only genuine magic available to man, the certainty of the couplet that is held in the air and in time and suddenly is able to annihilate all fears. The rhyme that makes us understand it all. Have you seen Paterson, Jim Jarmusch’s latest film? The character drives around in his bus, with his little words, and in his rides he sees twins with an improbable frequency, comes across one couple and then another, interchangeable people, but rhymes come his way! Those little ideas tend to be the greatest, Rocco, even if in your case we would be talking, more than rhyme, of repetition, even of routine and debauchery. Or penance, you might say. Tell us about it!

Sex, it’s true, is more present when it doesn’t show up at all. I read a while ago in your memoir that you discovered masturbation at ten, and that when your mother caught you at it she told you to better finish soon because the pasta was getting cold. In those convulsed weeks you said you got seven or eight dioptres in each eye, and in that detail there’s a clear notion of the Latin, Mediterraneans always getting to grips with the concept of sin. Do you know which was the first movie made in the history of Italian film? I’ll tell you: Inferno, a Dante adaptation made in 1911 that was quite a blockbuster at the time. That’s the way you people are, man, no matter what linen suits you decide to wear. I’m not Italian but I feel quite satisfied with my bloody Catholic education since thanks to it I have a mythology, I have the devil inside. I think I’ve never believed in God, but I really like having him in my mouth, talking about him and the virgin and all the saints, something very colloquial to honour their martyrdom and tribulations, they fascinate me. Nothing to do with masturbation, but in the end it’s all down to epiphanies.

I know that you experienced, for the first time, a greater range of emotions associated to your sexuality thanks to a girlfriend you had and with whom you slapped each other at work, angrily, partners even in the circumspection of wrath. The idea, in those cases, is making the getting together a very grave thing, elevating it to something much more serious, it’s comprehensible. That jealous girl made you leave porn when you weren’t still recognised in the street, and as an alternative, not many will remember this, you tried to be a model. You soon realised that shirts were far too small for your chest, but before giving up you were even featured in a spring catalogue for El Corte Inglés. This happened in Madrid. I write the detail as an anecdote because us from Barcelona are always in Madrid with our vocabulary. I often think one day I will end up leaving Barcelona because it’s away from it where I feel myself more from Barcelona. In this city I feel a very subtle tint of constant shame, because I see my idiosyncrasy, probably the ugliest word in Spanish, too much, but I can be nothing else, Rocco, sóc de Barcelona i em moro de calor. I wouldn’t like to have been Italian, although I’ve sometimes imagined myself French, I think it’s due to this provincial vision we have cultivated very much in Spain, a jealousy of their licentiousness, but whatever!

You have very much contrasted the American school of X films with the French one, where you started your career. European porn, you said, was mechanical with no sensuality at all, while American porn is characterised by a passionate professionalism. And you also said that US theatricality almost made you lose your erection more than once. Here this never happened because you started with great women, Moana Pozzi or Karin Schubert, and then went on with another enormous French woman, Catherine Breillat, who took you hand in hand to conventional films, although hers tended to be of an extraordinary kind. At sixteen, before making movies, Catherine Breillat wrote a novel that was banned for under-eighteens, so she couldn’t read it herself. I adore that woman.

In the US, anyway, there was always a tradition of pornographers of Italian descent, and I’m thinking now about John Leslie or John Stagliano. Agreed pornography, chic porn, as it was called, settled in Hollywood in the seventies as a deadpan substitution for the ideals of the free love utopia and the sexual revolution. Today they’re trying to legislate that failure, making it fit into the needs of neoliberal capitalism, and some have even started calling it polyamory, which is a very old chimera, and this responds only to the pleasure of licking a new word, because anyone with a brain will know that in no time the stick of the lollipop will be revealed. Polyamory is impossible, only Nina Hartley can do polyamory!

Ah, love, Rocco, making love, notice what a beautiful and clear expression, manufacturing love, and that’s the way it is: love is paid with love. Meanwhile, we see porn in another’s eye, are distracted by the swinging of the piston, we entertain ourselves with the (live or pre-recorded) pollination of the planet, and forget that what educates each generation is the erotic ambience and gastronomic feel, two questions that sum us up and which get together in the low belly. Eroticism should be well taken care of. Nowadays, get used to it, we live in bio-cooking and gastro-bar times, and that is indeed pornography of the worst kind, almost German. But well, that’s it, I don’t want to disturb you anymore, I understand you must be very tired by now, so I’ll start closing shop.

I’m going to say that Spain is a country full of jealous people, but people who love to applaud. Or at least, to clap. That’s why I’ve written this letter to you publically, to measure myself with someone who has lived the life of a hundred men and because we will never be as young as we are today ever again. If only they could see us now, Rocco, fucking hell!