Sex: The Annabel Chong Story
2000, NR, 86 min. Directed by Gough Lewis.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., June 2, 2000
Some say, “Ouch”; some say, “Wow.” Your response to the following proposition will most probably color the reaction you have to the documentary Sex: The Annabel Chong Story. In 1995, porn star Annabel Chong (who, in another part of her life, was known by her birth name, Grace Quek, and was a 22-year-old undergraduate in gender studies) had sex with 251 men over the course of 10 hours and filmed it in a successful effort to break the record for the world's largest gangbang. Well, mission accomplished (until, inevitably, another porn star later toppled Chong's record). Undeniably, there's a certain daredevilish quality to the feat that fascinates us the same way Evel Knievel compels us with the pointless daring of his stunts. However, there's more than mere hucksterism at issue in this documentary. Annabel Chong is also a shameless self-promoter, exhibitionist, shock artist, and self-styled feminist, although she positions herself as a girl who just like to have sex -- a lot. Sex: The Annabel Chong Story provides us with a fleshed-out view of that porn character, but also offers us glimpses of the Grace Quek who is a provocative student who pushes the envelope in regard to gender studies and sexual stereotyping, a proud but dutiful daughter who hides from her Singaporean parents the nature of her true occupation, and a troubled adult haunted by a traumatic incident in the past. Annabel/Grace is many things, although she, like this documentary, focuses on the most outrageous (i.e., most commercial) aspects. And it's what she, and it, do best. Introspective analysis is not what Annabel/Grace or this movie are about. Sensation-seeking is the name of the game here (although if you're hot to see the gangbang, go find the video; only selective snippets are shown in the documentary -- which is not to say that the movie is devoid of pornographically raw material). This documentary, however, reeks of a filmmaker who latched on to sure-fire subject matter, but then became lost once his character morphed into a person. There's a lot of material in the film to provide endless hours of debate and conversation, but there is little sense of Chong or director Lewis shaping that material or intentionally bringing it into any sharper focus. By the end of the film we may appreciate that Annabel Chong/Grace Quek is a more complicated person than we might have at first imagined, but in the end the only thing we have really learned is this: Sex sells.