“Kamikaze Hearts” Virtual Screening & Filmmaker Talk

Kamikaze Hearts screens on March 12th

Join us Friday, March 12th at 7:00pm (Pacific) for a special presentation of the landmark 1986 queer docudrama Kamikaze Hearts, broadcasting live to a global audience on its streaming platform PinkLabel.TV in a virtual screening and filmmaker talk with director Juliet Bashore on Friday, March 12th at 7:00pm Pacific.

Newly restored from its original negative, Bashore’s quasi-documentary plunge into the 1980s porn industry takes an unsparing look at issues of misogyny, drug abuse, and exploitation via the story of two women—the naive Tigr and the magnetic, imperious Sharon Mitchell—caught in a toxic romance. By turns mesmerizing and unsettling, Kamikaze Hearts is both a fascinating record of pre-gentrification San Francisco’s X-rated underground and an intense, searing love story.

“Vibrant… Gritty… Enthralling” – San Francisco Chronicle

“A startling potent and continuously riveting film with no taboos left to break” – The Village Voice

Kamikaze Hearts depicts the personal lives of Sharon Mitchell — a queen of her day in the adult film business — and her girlfriend, Tigr, as they negotiate the ups and downs of life and relationships in the business. Or does it?

Originally titled Fact or Fiction, the films realism kept audiences guessing. After its theatrical release, Kamikaze Hearts was hard to find, but acquired a cult status in the decades that followed.

Audiences will be in for a special treat, enjoying a safe and accessible front-row seat for a beautifully restored classic, and privy to an exclusive filmmaker talk with director Juliet Bashore lead by Pink and White Productions Director Shine Louise Houston. The moderated chat on PinkLabel.tv’s feed will welcome questions from a live, international audience. This unique event is a must-see for adult film enthusiasts, porn history buffs, and cinephiles with a taste for cross-genre story-telling.

UPDATE: The Interview

An excerpt of their interview appears below, edited for clarity.

Shine Louise Houston: Thanks everybody for coming to our screaming — uh, screening of Kamikaze Hearts (laughs) and hanging out with the Q&A with Juliet Bashore who is the director and mastermind behind this. So, without further ado… welcome! I am feeling very enamored with this movie. I’m super, super happy to screen it.

Juliet Bashore: Thank you.

Shine: It definitely has a kind of cult following. And before I ask my first question, I’m going to pop that bubble… Was all of this storyboarded? Pretty much scripted? Improv?

Juliet: No! Okay so…I think maybe I should tell the story. What really happened was we were set up to go on a particular set and at the last minute, the guy pulled the plug on us. The filmmaker, the director… We just created another set. So it wasn’t that it was scripted… But most people didn’t realize that it wasn’t a real movie. I mean, most of the people on camera didn’t realize that it was…You know. “Potemkin” film.

Shine: Potemkin!

Juliet: The only people who knew were Sharon Mitchell, and the other leads. Sharon Mitchell, Tigr…a couple of others… and the director, you know.

Shine: So you’re saying that most people were there thinking that they were filming a different movie? Like they were shooting a porno? Or? What did they think they were there for?

Juliet: Well it was like we created a… it was kind of you know of an early, you know, what-do-you-call-it “Reality TV”. We created this reality and we let people loose in it and we filmed it. So I don’t know what you want to categorize that as. Tigr and Mitch were really the masterminds of it. When the guy, Charles Webb, pulled the plug, Mitch said, “What, are you out of your mind? We’ve got all this money. We should just create our own movie and shoot a doc about that.” That’s, you know, basically what happened. So it’s a psycho drama.

Shine: It’s definitely a psycho drama. So, you were working in the porn industry. Yes?

Juliet: Yes.

Shine: And so, that’s how you met Tigr. I’m wondering… Because of the monologues, and certain things, people are just free flowing and ad-libbing. I’m interested to know if that was the intention? Because I know there’s a lot of like really, uh… let’s say you portray certain things about the industry in a very flattering light, and then you portray things about the industry which are basically people’s worst nightmares. Do you know what I mean? Everything that they hear is going to happen in the industry. (Laughs) So it’s interesting, like the tone kind of shifts from here and there. Was that a consequence of the documentary-style, or was that an intention?

Juliet: I’m not sure I know what you mean by flattering. I mean, it was meant to be, you know, that sort of “Golden Age” of porn. That was a very kind of, Diane Arbus-y type world. You know what I mean? It was a very surreal world. So I guess there was an effort to capture the surreality of it. Mostly. It was a little bit unusual at the time not to be moralistic. In fact, the cinematographer was appalled. You know, he said, “Oh, you ought to cut you some Billboards that show women being exploited and then cut it, you know, so people understand that this is about exploitation.” And, you know, that was the time, right? This didactic, lefty filmmaking wouldn’t… It couldn’t comprehend this perspective. I don’t know if that answers your question. It wasn’t meant to be flattering, really. I mean it wasn’t. I really saw the porn industry as… Hollywood. You know?

Shine: I guess what I mean by flattering is that there’s a couple of points in there where… Oh gosh I forgot… the makeup artist was like, you know, “It doesn’t matter, I’m doing Hollywood makeup, or I’m doing porno makeup, it’s not really different.” Or you know, that’s what, that’s the thing. I’m not too sure how scripted it was when he’s like, “that’s not, you know pornos guys aren’t here to rape people and everything.” Like, “We’re actually pussycats.” THAT sort of thing.

Juliet: In terms of whether it was scripted, pretty much everybody kind of had a rap, you know? And so you would turn the camera, and say oh just do your rap. Do the rap about, “I’ve done Liza when she comes into town.” Do that rap. So he did the Liza rap, you know. So I wouldn’t, it wasn’t scripted — that’s him. That’s who he is. There was no character being played there. I mean he was that guy. But I think I wanted to reflect my experience as a production assistant. This guy who is straight documentary filmmaker called me one day and asked me if I wanted a job. He was my intern. I went to UC Santa Cruz. I was, you know, a lefty liberal. And anyway, this job turned out to be on a porn movie, but I wasn’t allowed on the set. I had to suss it out because there was a line I wasn’t allowed to cross because it was a hot set. It was Annette Haven. I remember her getting out of the sex scene and I was expecting to see this exploited woman, you know, feeling debased and shame-ridden and, you know, ‘right on sister.’ And you know, she bounced out of this set just like glowing and radiant. And, it was an anal scene, too, as I recall. And it just blew my mind. It totally blew my mind. It totally subverted all of my assumptions that I had going in, and I wanted to recreate that sense of surprise in the audience. So that’s a good question. That’s exactly what I wanted to do.

Shine: I totally have had a similar experience. There are so many things about the industry that are not what you think it is. And you’re like, “Oh.” (Laughs)

Juliet: Yes, I wanted to create that sense of “Oh…”

Shine: Yes! And you do, is great. Like really successful. So I know when you made Kamikaze Hearts, you were you were kind of in between college and grad school?

Juliet: Yeah!

Shine: Which is also amazing that you made this! You know? (Laughing) Like basically as an undergrad. It’s so amazing, it’s such a great film. Somebody writes… “What were you doing prior to Kamikaze?” and I guess that means you were in school. But like, what was your other work, your personal work?

Juliet: Personal work? I mean, I was really young. I got out of college. I worked with this filmmaker and let me think about… what was I doing?

Shine: Was that George?

Juliet: Yeah! George! Do you know George?

Shine: I don’t know him. But I know the name. Uh, documentary. My senior teacher was George Kuchar. The other George.

Juliet: So, yeah, I was doing video stuff. Music videos. Kind of punk scene, arty-farty, you know. I had friends at Optic Nerve in San Francisco and I worked with them and these guys, “Ant Farm” were sort of ambient. That was the scene. Yeah, that’s what I was doing: punk. I was doing punk stuff, mostly. (laughs) But I mean, really, there wasn’t much space between college and doing this movie. I was just desperate for money and I got this job on a porn set and I met Tigr and we said, “Let’s do a movie.” So that’s what happened.

Shine: I read an article where you were talking about Monaco. I was like, ah! That was my… my circuit, my college circuit was Adolf Gasser, Faft, and Monaco.

Juliet: Oh yeah! (laughs)

Shine: Oh yeah! Carol, and um… We were possibly 10 years apart but in the same worlds. It’s very strange.

Juliet: Yeah!
Shine: So, I wanted to know… Obviously you had a relationship to porn then, because you were working in porn a little bit but like, have you continued to have ties in the industry? I mean, do you watch porn anymore? Do you have a relationship with the industry?

Juliet: Not really. I mean… Tigr and I kind of had a brief flirtation with the idea of doing some stuff….I don’t really – I don’t feel like I understand what’s going on with porn right now, actually. Maybe you can help me understand.

Shine: It’s a funny landscape right now. Which is actually a good segue into the next question. Your other explanation maybe clarifies this… but, why use docu-style to do something that’s more like a narrative? Not really scripted, but, you know, you had a path. It wasn’t totally “let me just sit back and be the passive camera and, you know, see what happens.” A lot of things, like you said, were set up. You had intentions. And I’d have to say, you know, with the way video is now especially with the internet, the more amateur or lower quality, it is the more it engenders a sense of authenticity or realness, to use those words. So, I’m wondering if using the docu-style was also kind of like a vehicle for driving home as sense of real rawness and intensity? I don’t know. Why docu-style?

Juliet: Wow! What an interesting question. I was just thinking today about this, I saw, you know, one of these PornHub things, and this woman felt very exploited to me. It felt like she was very exploited. It felt like one of these amateur things where the guy had lured her into the da-da-da. And then, and then I was thinking, no, wait a minute, maybe that wasn’t… that was staged! And, you know, I was just thinking about that whole dynamic. It opened with this guy flushing a toilet, like taking a piss or something, and then going to answer the door and not letting us know… Why am I, why am I going into that? Because I get that and I think you’re absolutely right. I don’t think that was a conscious intention, but I think it was there.

Shine: Yeah, because I know like even myself, I did any research on the movie, a while ago and then I watched it with my partner. People are gonna get uncomfortable because they’re seeing things that, you know, that are situations that would make you uncomfortable. And it’s that same thing, and you start to question. What is this really uncomfortable? Is this really real? And then you’re like, oh God this definitely is real. The way that people are acting themselves. And you get MORE uncomfortable.

Juliet: It’s sexier when it’s real, why is that?

Shine: Well, I mean that’s a whole marketing scheme right there, the real.

Juliet: I think that’s very interesting. And we didn’t tell most of the people there that it wasn’t real

Shine: Right. Which is another thing because like you got some really great performances.

Juliet: The people having sex all knew that it was real, by the way.

Shine: But a lot of the performances are so not-acting-acting, you know what I mean? You can’t get an actor to like, non-act

Juliet: Oh right! Yes, there’s that other problem with non-actors can’t act. That was actually the biggest reason, right there, actually. Right. It’s just laziness.

Shine: One more of my questions or comments before I go on to one more of the audience questions, and I hope this isn’t like… I love the movie Repo Man, and a lot of the monologue

Juliet: Oh My God!

Shine: A lot of the monologues that happen in Kamikaze Hearts are on the same caliber to me as Repo Man. You know it’s that same weird, gritty, who know’s “blahh!” These off the wall monologues that just kind of happen in Repo Man and there are like some really choice moments especially you know when Mitch is in the back of the car and she’s like “Yeah and I’m being filmed by this big black piece of machinery.” I’m like, I’m just dying! (laughs) When I see that!

Juliet: Wait a minute. So where are you going with this question?

Shine: It’s, it’s more of a comment. What were you influenced? Like how did these monologues happen? Do you know, how did you get these monologues? Like, where did they come from?

Juliet: So I have to tell you this other thing. I thought you were going somewhere else with that question.

Shine: Oh, okay.

Juliet: I was editing this film, and the guy that rented me the flatbed who was always gunning me for money, he was the Producer of Repo Man and he came down to get money from me at my studio and they ended up shooting Repo Man basically at my loft in Downtown LA. Yeah, that was the set. Yeah, totally. I totally know those guys. They totally, they totally know knew this film. I mean if there was an influence, it was the other direction. (laughs)

Shine: That’s pretty cool. That’s pretty cool.

Juliet: No, I definitely know Alex Cox. I *very* know him.

Shine: Okay. Wow.

Juliet: VERY know him. That is… You just are honing in! That’s incredible. Wow! That’s crazy! That was uncanny! No, that is a connection that is real!

Shine: Yeah! I was saying I could really feel the…There was like a very, very uncanny parallel. Anyways so wow! Thank you for answering that. Someone asked and you know, we’ll make this the last question and maybe just wrap it up. I don’t want to keep you too long. So when shooting Kamikaze Hearts, did you have an idea how you wanted it to end up edited in the final film? I know that there was a long, long process in post.

Juliet: Ha! That’s an understatement!

Shine: Yeah. So maybe want to talk about like – Actually! There’s something really interesting that I want to ask you about that, but you go and do your thing first. And then I would love to ask you one last question.

Juliet: No, we could never figure out how it ended. I knew we shot that much later, that, that ending was the ending. I mean, we should all of that. The ending was the ending. I’ve been told many times that it should have ended on an upbeat note, but what are you going to do? No, that was the ending. That was it. That was probably the last thing we shot. Not really. Mitch had a thing about holes that she would say, you know, actually so I don’t know.

Shine: Yeah, that hole section. “This is my dick.”

Juliet: Oh! That’s totally Mitch! That was not scripted!

Shine: No! That was amazing!

Juliet: It was like out of her mouth. No!


Shine: So, it says that, you know, when when Knoop wanted to help edit and kind of rescue the film after he did, his first pass through, it matched a lot of your original ideas, early storyboarding? Now that seems incredible! Like really incredible to make almost identical edit decisions. And I’m wondering if it, because that was just the nature of the material, or was it a situation where we only have one take kind of situation?

Juliet: When did you learn about? Where did you get this information?

Shine: I found it on an article online. John Knoop? I didn’t know if it was K-noop or Knoop…

Juliet: Kuh-noop. Knoop. No, I mean, I don’t know about “rescue.” I guided him the way I thought it should be edited and he, then later claimed, “oh, I saved this movie and I should get a co-director credit” and I said you didn’t save this movie. He goes, “oh yes, I did. You didn’t know what you were going to do. I had to come in here and…” And I’ve got it all in a notebook and he shit his pants. I’m sorry.

Shine: Shine: No, that’s all good!

Juliet: He was claiming that he had come up with that! He didn’t know that I had it all worked out.

Shine: You already had it.

Juliet: Anyway. Typical male bullshit. Sorry you probably know John, or knew John.

Shine: Shine: No.

Juliet: That was a big point of contention. He claimed that he had masterminded this thing and I was like, uhuh!

Shine: You might need to set the record straight in your memoir, yeah? I’m buying it when you print it, yes? (laughs)

Juliet: Well I was told by my friend, who’s kind of my friend/editor that it’s mainly just about sex. I just need to concentrate on that. And, you know, don’t worry.

Shine: Oh my goodness. Awesome. That was like a really, really awesome conversation. Unless you have anything else you’d like to say?

Juliet: Yeah, you are really dialed in, man. That is freaky with the Alex Cox thing. Whoa!

Shine: Whoa, I know man. (laughs)

Juliet: Come on, you knew that… Didn’t you know that?
Shine: No. No I really didn’t! It was just more like a feeling. Those monologues! It was the monologues that really got me. And I think maybe is also the time period and the fact that he was obviously very punk and you know, it had a lot of the same influences.

Juliet: And we were friends! We knew each other.

Shine: Yeah, yeah, okay. Same aesthetic. That makes sense! It was great talking to you!

Juliet: Excellent to talk to you.

Shine: Oh my god, this is amazing. So, everybody who stuck around, thank you very much and stick around for announcements for other screenings.

On March 12th, 2021, PinkLabel.TV creator and curator Shine Louise Houston interviewed Juliet Bashore, director of Kamikaze Hearts, a 1986 American quasi-documentary film. Due to the film’s new re-release and distribution deal, Kamikaze Hearts is no longer available on PinkLabel.TV, but you may find it through Kinolorber. Browse other titles from the 1980’s in our classics collection.

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