‘Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life’ Is a Documentary-Meets-Intervention for the Israeli Gay Porn Star
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Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life – a cinéma vérité, warts-and-all snapshot of the former Israeli porn star’s descent into drug addiction – is a cautionary tale wrapped in a documentary film acting as an intervention.
“This film definitely saved me,” Agassi has said. “When I saw it for the first time, I said, ‘I will never go back to this state of mind again.’”
A look at gay porn through the lens of Agassi’s brief ascent in the industry on the back of Lucas Entertainment’s Men of Israel, the documentary, directed by Tomer Heymann, shows us the excitement and banality of Agassi’s filming and special appearances – the attention to genderfluid and/or fetish fashion, the rock-hard appendage that never seems to falter, the loving and tender bond between the performer and his mother.
Yes, you read that correctly. Agassi – born Yonatan Langer – has a symbiotic relationship with his mother. (His siblings – it seems from the brief amount of time they are onscreen – are much cooler towards him.) He is estranged from his father, whom we meet while Agassi is living and working in Berlin. And the backstory of systematic abuses – homophobia, bullying – may be familiar, but are no less galvanizing.
Agassi’s drug use isn’t immediately apparent; and once it becomes so, Heymann refuses to let it define Agassi, or to judge him. It simply is. And we become aware of it in much the same way the subject does. The film doesn’t preach; it shows.
The eroticism isn’t underplayed. Agassi became famous not so much for the big dick he wields as for his inventive enthusiasm, but the grind of live performances, jet-setting and escorting is exposed for the drudgery it can become.
And while we come to feel protective of Agassi when he’s trying to hide his meth pipe from his mother on a Skype call or the way he crouches in a corner of a backstage dressing room to take a last hit before he performs, the only moment that truly made me wince involved a roomful of porn stars, half-erect cocks and the syringes injected into said penises for maximum tumescence. It’s a real fly-on-the-wall – or fly-on-the-balls – moment.
Ultimately, though, the power of Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life lies in his relationship with his mother, her steadfast support of her bullied child, and the conflict between reconciling her concerns of her son’s encroaching addictions while helping him achieve his dreams of stardom. She’s well aware of what he does – he seeks her approval on the clothes he wears to perform – and you can see the equal amounts of pride and worry on her face. While the film moves closer to Yonatan’s own realization of his unchecked addictions, we feel a sense of relief for the complicated human being in the midst of his darkest moments, and for the mother who comforted him every step of the way.