Canadian Rapper’s Mid-Life Crisis Leads Him to Making a Porno

Josh “Socalled” Dolgin discovers the joys of making an arthouse adult film, “The Housesitter,” which will have its premiere at the Pop Montreal cultural festival.

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Sep 10 2018, 4:20pm

Photo supplied. 

"I don't really like porn," says Josh "Socalled" Dolgin, as he sits down to talk about his latest venture in his Outremont flat.

It's an odd assertion, given that his new project is an hour-long porn movie, titled The Housesitter. He elaborates on his not-really-liking-porn statement: "I don't need porn the way some people seem to. Some people really seem to need it. I don't jerk off to porn. A lot of porn is boring and repetitive. I do like to have porn playing at parties."

Dolgin is notorious for making newfangled art by fusing unlikely genres and ideas, in particular his mashup of Klezmer and hip hop, earning him monikers like the “Gandhi of hip hop” and the “Yiddish James Brown.” His apartment is what you'd expect from an artist as inspired and original as Dolgin—it's a shrine to kitsch from the '50s and '60s, with stacks of books, vinyl LPs and VHS cassettes sitting amid the paraphernalia.

His interest in pornography came about a decade ago, due in large part to his interest in cultural nostalgia. He discovered the work of Toby Ross, considered by many the godfather of porn. He reached out to Ross and the two became friends, with Dolgin paying tribute to Ross with a night of screenings of some of his porn work, including Cruisin' 57 (1975), accompanied by a live band, at Montreal's Pop Festival in 2008. "Toby always used natural lighting. The films felt real, and the men in them looked like they were actually having fun. They're beautiful films."

Last year, Dolgin met porn actor River Wilson on the queer hook-up app Grindr. "We went out to a movie together and we really connected," Dolgin recalls. "And we both felt like it'd be a great idea to make a porn movie together. Not just any porn movie, but one that looks beautiful, in which the images have some integrity. I think people who make pornography have a responsibility."

Dolgin, who describes himself as a "film snob," also began to discover that new technology meant that video cameras could create images every bit as beautiful and lush as those captured in celluloid. Dolgin realized his parents would be out of town for at least a month last winter, and wrote a script that involved the house, with Wilson committing to co-producing and co-starring in the film. They recruited German porn star Valentin Braun to appear as Wilson's romantic/erotic interest.

The result is a low-budget but highly inventive porn film about two men who hook up while one his house sitting. "They both have beautiful bodies, but they are natural," says Dolgin. "Yes, porn is fantasy, but I wanted the film to reflect reality and to be sexy."

Some scenes are natural. Brownies are brought over as a tasty gift, and then the two engage in a game of chess. Soon after, they have invigorating sex in front of the fireplace. But there are also forays into the fantastical: The Housesitter features a dream sequence, in which Wilson and Braun meet up in the snow wearing outrageous masks. The dream sequence, notably, features snow shoes, so is true Canadiana—a cross between an NFB documentary and a David Lynch movie. Dolgin also chose to shoot certain sequences in black and white, lending it a Robert Mapplethorpe-y feel. The trailer gives a good indication of the look and feel of the film—the beauty of the bodies is matched by the beauty of the house and of the surrounding nature.

"I wanted this to be different," insists Dolgin. "I mean, there's lots of hot images on Twitter that you can find very easily. But there's no montage, no music, no artistry. It's just some guys in the act. I wanted to make an indie porn, in the spirit of Toby Ross."

Did Dolgin tell his parents he was going to shoot a porn film in their house when they were out of town? "No, but they're super cool about everything. I mean, I think it's still sinking in with my dad, but he'll deal with it and I'm sure it'll be fine."

Dolgin says The Housesitter is in part a reaction to turning 40. "I don't think of this as a mid-life crisis movie, I see it as a mid-life celebration. I love sex and I love great photography and film, so this is a combination of the two. I'm blessed as an artist, because I have enough of a name that I can try new things, but I'm not so famous that I have limits. I mean, if I do something crazy I'm not going to end up on TMZ.

"I just want to pursue my passions. This is part of that."

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