The film follows Eva’s many careers, from her time as a showgirl in Paris to becoming Mexico’s Marilyn Monroe in the 1960s to establishing herself as New York’s most famous dominatrix in the 1980s.
Using clips from Norvind’s Mexican films, stills from various periods, and interviews with friends, partners and family, Treut’s documentary traces Eva’s search for the wellspring of her obsessive and dark sexuality.
eyelights: Eva Norvind’s strong personality.
eyesores: the film’s lackadaisical approach to its subject matter.
Before watching this 80-minute documentary by Monika Treut, I had no idea who Eva Norvind (née Eva Johanne Chegodaieva Sakonskaya) was. She is apparently recognized for two periods of her life: as a Mexican ’60s icon, and for her work as as a New York City dominatrix and Madam during the ’80s.
Composed largely of interview footage with Norvind herself (culled from different interviews), as well as her family, friends and former peers, it’s a reasonably informative portrait of her life – although it seems to skip large chunks of her personal history, such as what she did pre- and post-notoriety.
I loved how well her personality was captured, however, with her brother and mother stating that she was always interested in people and sexuality, and was already bossy even as a kid. The rest of the documentary supports the image of a strong-willed, confident woman with designs on breaking down barriers.
She had, for instance, gotten herself nearly deported from Mexico for stirring up trouble, advocating on national television the use of the contraceptive pill and making public shows of herself. Even though her career and fame were at risk, she pushed the envelope – and retired in 1966 when she’d had enough.
Some of the interviewees claimed that she was super honest, in an almost childlike way, and her statements seem to confirm this – she has no qualms telling it like she sees it. She’s certainly not shy: we watch her casually kiss a friend’s nipples or spank another, claiming Mexico made of her a macho woman.
We also get to see her at work, consulting with a potential client, discussing her various girls’ specialties and strengths with him. There’s also lengthy b&w footage of her at work with a sub girl whose hands are tied to the ceiling. It was actually kind of sexy, given the girl’s groans and moans of pleasure.
She was pretty hardcore, which you wouldn’t ever imagine by looking at her (in her later years, her over-eating gave her a matronly look), saying that she didn’t want to be in a BDSM relationship where there are safewords because it didn’t turn her on – though she continued to teach people to use them.
Ultimately, though, she said she wanted to learn to connect with people in non-sexual ways, and discussed the emotional distance that existed between herself and her father, as well as her daughter. One gets the impression that somehow sex became the only vehicle by which she related with people.
…hence why it became such a huge part of her life: she wanted connection and knew no other way.
With ‘Didn’t Do It for Love’, one gets the impression not just of a strong-willed, assertive woman, but of a slightly tragic figure, a wounded bird who found a way to barrel through life, but not exactly finding that which could soothe her soul. And that makes her a fascinating subject.
Unfortunately, the film is a little bit too uneven for my taste; irrespective of Norvind’s candour, one doesn’t end up feeling satisfied with Treut’s portrait – there seem to be too many pieces missing to get a proper picture. Still, it’s a good introduction to this intriguing feminist pioneer.
I’d love to know more.
Date of viewing: May 29, 2016