Kamikaze Hearts (1986) – Film Review
Director: Juliet Bashore
Cast: Tigr, Sharon Mitchell, Jon Martin
By Sarah Morgan
Almost 40 years since it was made, Juliet Bashore’s quasi-documentary film, now regarded as a landmark in queer cinema, has been dusted down for its Blu-ray debut.
Kamikaze Hearts is not always easy viewing. At the centre of it is Sharon Mitchell who, at the time, was a porn star; she appeared in around 1,000 films before her retirement in the mid-1990s. The main thrust of the project is her relationship with her partner, Tigr Mennett, who had also been an adult actress before moving behind the camera.
Their lives and work are followed as they film a pornographic parody of Bizet’s opera Carmen in San Francisco, with both women openly discussing their hopes, desires and ambitions, as well as their feelings for each other. If you thought that Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights offered a true view of the adult scene, then you ain’t seen nothing yet…
Although Kamikaze Hearts depicts real people, the situations they are in are largely fictional – no Carmen parody was made. Instead, Mitchell and Mennett assembled some of their friends from the porn scene to stage segments. Nevertheless, they manage to convey the true atmosphere of life on an adult set, as well as the problems and issues facing those both behind and in front of the camera.
Mitchell was a fearless performer. But the scenes of her and Mennett shooting up at the end of the movie shocked many of her peers who, until that point, were completely unaware of her addiction to drugs. Even now, all these decades later, it’s a disturbing moment, particularly if you’re aware of how her life panned out.
If you’re not, don’t worry. The special features section of the disc contains several incredible interviews with those either involved with the film, or who were around the porn scene at the time. Mitchell herself appears (alongside her parrot who, it turns out, is something of a hero), discussing how a violent attack in her own home carried out by a crazed fan inspired her to get clean and become a certified addiction counsellor before founding the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation.
Bashore is also among the interviewees. But it’s Mitchell’s tale that proves the most compelling – whether you’re a fan of her acting career or not, she’s truly a star in more ways than one.
‘Kamikaze Hearts’ is released on Blu-ray by the BFI