Review: Kamikaze Hearts

Written and directed by Juliet Bashore, co-written by John Knoop and star Tigr. Lesbian porn star Sharon Mitchell and her girlfriend, Tigr, navigate the ups and downs of being in love while working in the sex industry. Also starring: Jon Martin, Sparky Vasc, Jerry Abrams, Robert McKenna, Jorge, Mantra, Jennifer Blowdryer and George Paul Csicsery.

The idea of diving into a film about working in the porn industry, the image that likely comes to mind is one drenched in sleaze and that’s where Kamikaze Hearts is a delightful surprise. There is no sleaze, it’s sexual liberation, freedom and open-mindedness, plus a fair amount of drugs. What’s fascinating about it is that it holds that atmosphere of fluidity until certain men arrive. Seeing it through the perspective of women gives a feel of respect and empathy, it also deeply intensifies those who don’t embody those qualities. Bringing into question safety and security on film sets, as well as predators who use their power to take advantage.

As soon as Greystone (Jerry Abrams) arrives on the scene, as the man with the money who’ll use that as an excuse to do whatever he wants, the atmosphere completely changes. It shows a good example of how women have been seeking better conditions on sets for a long time, but in the past those who spoke out, were simply replaced. On top of that, it’s delving into the idea of having a mingled working and personal relationship, often a recipe for disaster. Tigr and Mitch (Sharon Mitchell) have a great connection, there’s a sincere mutual admiration there, you can see how they feed each other’s creativity. However, it feels familiar in its balance of Tigr being the responsible, work focused one while Mitch takes that freedom and pushes it as far as she can. Giving it a constant back and forth between love and frustration. It feels like such a naturally gay story, it doesn’t need to make itself about them being lesbians, they just are, which was very uncommon for its time.

The way that Juliet Bashore captures all of that is incredibly real, it’s as close as you can get to a documentary without actually being one. It’s perfectly candid yet there is a structure to it, the way that it moves between interviewing its subjects and observing them at work. Its colours are almost reminiscent of the vibrancy of Pedro Almodóvar’s work, with a passion for pinks and reds. A factor which is only improved by the restoration work, which really helps to boost the film’s hugely charismatic and captivating atmosphere.

Kamikaze Hearts is a freewheeling exploration of relationships in the sex industry, it’s candid but thoughtful, carefree but with a surprisingly genuine story to tell. It’s not often you find a film like this which is so fluid with sex, nudity, drugs and yet moves so smoothly, it’s full of a remarkable self-confidence. It’s only uncomfortable moments are when it takes the time to highlight the sleazy side of the industry, the men who used their position of power to prey on women. Considering there is still so much talk about making film sets safe and comfortable for actors, it’s interesting to see it mentioned here, highlighting just how long women have been fighting for it. There’s a lot of qualities to it that feel ahead of its time and yet it encapsulates the era so well, it’s enthralling to watch.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

BFI Blu-ray release on 27 March 2023

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