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FINISHED 

NAKED OBSESSION

What do you say about a porn star who died? A good deal, if you're filmmaker William E. Jones and the lubricated luminary is Alan Lambert. In 1992, the French-Canadian Lambert walked into a Montreal park and shot himself in the head. He was 25. But Jones didn't know of Lambert's death until sometime later -- well after he had already cultivated an obsession with the boyish, dark-haired model upon seeing him in a magazine phone-sex ad.

Jones investigates that obsession in his feature film Finished, which highlights "The Straight and Homo," an evening of film April 11 at The Andy Warhol Museum. Jones' philosophical inquiry explores not only the mysterious relationship between photographed object and viewer, but also the strange and contradictory life of the man who in the late '80s and early '90s starred in films including Hard to Be Good, Locker Room Sex and Summer Buddies.

Except for the voice of the disembodied narrator (Jones) and pictures of Lambert, Finished (1997) is strangely depopulated. Its first section, about Lambert's movie career, unfolds against the stark, sunburned banality of the San Fernando Valley, epicenter of American adult video. A second section studies Lambert's death, with Jones reading excerpts from Lambert's "completely baffling" suicide letter against tranquil images of the ocean; other narrations are coupled with ruminative views of the sky. Jones leaves you feeling that obsessor and obsessee are the only people in the world. "I felt as though I owned him," Jones self-analyzes. "I was seduced by an image."

But even the memory of Lambert is not so easily claimed. As Jones learns, the Quebecker saw himself as a political radical and sexual adventurer; in Montreal he led a double life as a student and a sex worker, all the while imagining the spontaneous people's revolution that would coalesce around someone who, if not him, would be someone very like him. Lambert becomes something like the naked women in Naomi Uman's bitingly funny doctored-footage short Removed (1999), which screens with Finished and Scott Stark's short Angel Beach (2001): Just as Unman's women are chemically obliterated -- turned into pulsating white blobs under the hands and eyes of their male admirers -- Lambert keeps changing shape for Jones, refusing even in death to be pinned down.

Jones thoughtfully exploits the Gary Cooper film Meet John Doe, finding in it parallels to his own themes. But his most poetic touch might be his sparing use of video footage of Lambert in action, in which the performer's recumbent rapture suggests the sleep of the grave, and love spasms might also be death throes. * * *
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