The first thing that came to my brain when I finished watching Matthew Pollack’s Run Run It’s Him was a realization that Toronto’s become this hotbed for awkward and honest documentaries. Where else could you find a film about a young man who’s trying to analyze his way through his addiction to porn?
When we first meet Pollack, he explains the first time he encounters porn: by spying on his brother watching it. Of course, this is an event that is seared in his brain and eventually he presents it to us. In fact, he presents everything to us in fine detail. Through the grainy filter of a low budget 1970s porn film grain, the audience travels through Pollack’s visual and sensory memories of the porn moments that meant the most to him. He keeps a numbered ledger of them and even recalls scenes with the intensity of a comic book fanatic or a movie fan.
What struck me the most about this film were the extremely personal confessional moments. They made me cringe, but I was compelled to watch out of my own fascination. I mean, I’m the type of person that finds herself laughing inappropriately or perhaps giving too much information all in one sitting. Pollack manages to unabashedly elucidate the audience with masturbatory rituals without batting an eyelash for the entire film. I now know he used Lubriderm and made sure to slip his used paper towel under the other garbage so it wasn’t on top. You don’t want your parents finding evidence in the mess. This scene quickly cuts over to Pollack’s dad using the Lubriderm on his psoriasis.
My favourite part of Run Run It’s Him, is Pollack accepting a tape from a neighbour (a misplaced porn from his dad’s collection), and realizing he has the whole house to himself for the night. It’s an honest moment of anticipation, like suddenly winning a small lottery.
In a time rife with billions of hours of free internet porn, Pollack has towering stacks of VHS tapes and has memberships at several adult video stores. These shopping sessions also involve set procedures of selection. The obsessive habits he displays may remind people of their own quirks and eccentricities. The problem with Pollack’s habits are that in creating a documentary about them, he’s revealed that there is a problem with him having this compulsion. There’s a discernible isolation noted in his one on one sessions with the camera. It’s a disconcerting disclosure and soon the compelling details of Pollack’s proclivities are revealed as a crutch to his social development.
“Just because you’re a person doesn’t mean you’re going to fuck someone.” – Pollack, in Run Run It’s Him
It’s that kind of self-deprecating honesty that is the charm of this picture. Pollack is an awkward young man, a nerd perhaps, who’s on camera reflections of his past are not unlike those embarrassing revelations one makes after a few hours of inebriation. Pollack, though, was completely sober when he asks his female friends to watch some of his most cherished porn scenes with him on camera. Some of them agree and he proceeds to ask them how they feel about them. It’s moments like these that I found myself wincing and thinking I’d never do that myself, but hell, this guy did.
I found the interviews with his ex-girlfriend’s more painful to watch (more than the ones of him talking to his parents about his addiction), because he essentially asks them what he did wrong. Most of the time, he is aware of his own ineptitude and lack of connection. He even ties his failures into his use of scenes as a guide in his intimate encounters. His first time performing cunnilingus (weird hand motions and all), was a step by step of what he’d seen in porn.
There are small hints to a bigger story and there seems to be a more in depth analysis of his behaviours, but it’s passed over quickly or dismissed. Pollack has had a few girlfriends and it seems that he’s fulfilled sexually by his addiction. Yet by the time of the film’s denouement the viewer is left wondering if there was a general thesis to Pollack’s work. Is porn addiction unhealthy? Are we just being given a wider view to a still taboo subject (it’s shocking to me how people are still squeamish about admitting to masturbation)? Either way I found that in the grander scale of things addiction of any kind, the importance of it on its subject, and the journey to deal with it, is subjective. One person’s addiction may be another person’s hobby. If it interferes with you being the person you want to be, then may be a change is needed. Perhaps that’s what Pollack was trying to get at here.
If anything, Run Run It’s Him is a brave film with a subject trying to break out of a schema that isn’t working out for him. It’s interesting to note that although the film concentrates on Pollack’s obsession with porn and how it might be holding him back, it makes for a unique example of a universal constraint that drives everybody to seek some control in their lives.
Run Run It’s Him is Out On VOD, Tuesday April 1, 2014 (you can download the movie for $10 at http://www.runrunitshim.com.)
* Alan Zweig’s I Curmudgeon http://hotdocslibrary.ca/en/detail.cfm?filmId=25075 (Matthew Pollack is in it as well)