Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life
Cantering around the self-destructive world of successful international gay porn star Johnathan Agassi, Israeli filmmaker Tomer Heymann’s latest project Johnathan Agassi Saved My Life provides an intimate and unflinching look into the life of its subject, showcasing his struggle with self-image and addiction; the close relationship he shares with his mother; and the dysfunctional history with his estranged and emotionally-distant father. A well-rounded and fully three-dimensional character study, this documentary never falls short of being just as fascinating as Agassi himself.
Heymann’s film is set within the landscape of the gay porn and escort industry, and the director could have easily fallen into the trap of focusing too heavily on the excessive nature and decadence of the environment, which would have severely detracted from the human connections that serve as the feature’s foundation. However, while these moments are still present in the piece, the filmmaker employs them brilliantly as a visual representation of Agassi’s destructive hedonism, creating a counterpoint to the subject’s personal issues and fractured familial bonds, which are conveyed through honest conversations. All this is presented alongside a clever soundtrack that echoes meaning from one scene to the next, ensuring a consistent narrative drive.
The fly-on-the-wall approach to the direction is especially effective. Acting as more of a silent observer than documentarian – but intervening and ask questions when necessary – Heymann makes no attempt to cover-up the artifice with fancy tricks; everything we need to know about Agassi is laid bare in front of the lens. At times, what we see is even shocking – one sequence depicting the aftermath of heavy drug use is especially hard to swallow, and Heymann wants us to see every second of it. Curiously, however, there’s a notable absence of time scale. Whether this is an intentional choice to emphasise linearity or a simple oversight, some tangible reference to time wouldn’t have gone amiss. Likewise, discussions of broader issues of sexuality and queerness that are mentioned but never pursued come across as dead weight, slowing down the feature’s otherwise air-tight pacing.
Away from the drug use, porn and eccentricity of Agassi himself, this film isn’t intended as a warning of fame’s corruption or a tale of redemption, but as a chronicling of one man’s downfall from the pedestal which he has placed himself upon. To this end, Heymann has achieved a brazen and infatuating character study that will leave you wanting to know what happened next.
Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life is released digitally on demand on 18th November 2019.
Watch the trailer for Jonathan Agassi Saved my Life here: