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Porn-Heavy ‘Supersex’ Is Netflix’s Most NSFW Show Ever

Lucia Iuorio / Netflix
Lucia Iuorio / Netflix

Never Say Never to Rocco commanded notorious porn legend Rocco Siffredi’s 1996 film, and Netflix is clearly hoping that many will heed that decree by binging Supersex, a fictionalized biographical drama about the X-rated actor’s life and career that likely stands as the streaming service’s most explicit offering to date.

Nonetheless, those expecting merely an orgy of boundary-pushing carnality will be surprised to find that creator/writer Francesca Manieri’s seven-part series (available now) frequently cares less about raw, unbridled titillation than about plumbing the intricate relationships between love and desire, need and satisfaction, mothers and sons, and the sacred and the profane. It’s a more ambitious venture than its subject might initially suggest—even if it does deliver the NSFW goods on enough occasions to avoid feeling like a bait-and-switch.

While invoking Federico Fellini’s name would be going too far, Supersex does have a faint whiff of Amarcord about it, at least in its early going in the coastal village of Ortona, where young Rocco (Marco Fiore) grows up in 1974 at the side of doting mother Carmela (Tania Garribba), stern father Gennaro (Pietro Faiella), and a collection of brothers, most notably older Tommaso (Francesco Pellegrino), whose girlfriend Lucia (Eva Cela) is the object of every area boy’s lustful attention, Rocco included. Tommaso’s biological mother isn’t Carmela but, instead, a prostitute who abandoned him at birth, and Lucia is known about town as a “slut” whose affections Tommaso violently protects. As such, he embodies the material’s tangled up ideas about sex, brutality, yearning, and commitment, most of which he passes down to Rocco, who idolizes Tommaso and accepts him as a mentor and role model when it comes to women and men—epitomized by their rallying-cry belief that “someday we’re going to fuck the world!”

Thanks to porn magazine Supersex (named after its lead character), Rocco first gets in touch with his erotic urges and, more literally, his dick, which in an amusing superhero origin-story scene is viciously pulled on by bullies, thus elongating it into its eventual and oft-seen mammoth size (a fact he humorously disputes in narration). Upon relocating to Paris, Rocco loses his virginity to aspiring pianist Sylvie (Jade Pedri). However, he’s so consumed with screwing everything in sight that he quickly becomes a fixture at an underground sex club where he’s able to indulge in everything and anything imaginable.

This is the beginning of his introduction to a universe of endless sensual delights, be they tender, rough, or deliberately degrading. Played as an adult by the charismatic Alessandro Borghi, Rocco discovers that his own feelings about his path are intricately related to his bond with Tommaso (Adriano Giannini) and Lucia (Jasmine Trinca), with whom he lives, and who boast their own twisted and exploitative dynamic, with Tommaso pimping out Lucia in Pigalle at the same time that he frequents the area’s working girls.

Its tale framed by Rocco’s 1994 visit to Cannes to accept an award, and embellished by copious slow-motion and period-specific pop and club songs, Supersex is full of Madonna-whore hang-ups, as well as Rocco’s inner-monologue musings about sex, desire, and determination, which together form “the energy that drives the world.”

In one particularly florid instance, he says that “my power took me into the beating heart of organic life. Into the delirium of what it experiences and desires. It was like a bull that can't find peace,” and per the proceedings’ cheeky obviousness, Manieri complements that statement with images of young Rocco watching one bull mount another. Rocco also opines that “the dick is a thought” and “my cock is international,” and an early employer presses him to search for “the revolutionary strength of Eros…the primary power of sex that we call love.” Still, as he later learns—by masturbating on cue at a gala dinner table in front of his idol and porn-movie castmates— “every power is an enigma. It can shine light on you or throw you into the shadows. But only when you know your limits and have the courage to overcome them can you dominate it.”

A photo including Saul Nanni as Rocco in the series Supersex on Netflix

A still from Supersex

Lucia Iuorio / Netflix

There’s plenty more where that came from in Supersex. Rocco is repeatedly likened to a “beast and an “animal,” and while he’s a “good person,” Lucia—the one coveted woman he cannot have—states that “all you know how to do is destroy everyone you love with your penis.” With the aid of his trusty cousin Gabriele (Enrico Borello), Rocco rises to smut superstardom by being as cruelly uninhibited as he likes, and in a late exchange with Lucia about his infamous head-in-the-toilet scene with a co-star, the series strives to hold him accountable for his grossness and let him expound on the inherent power dynamics of sex.

As the X-rated trailblazer, Borghi exudes both magnetic charm and sweaty, voracious hunger, if not a requisite measure of outright deviance. The same can be said about the show itself, with Manieri staging heated bacchanalia involving Rocco and anonymous, adoring women and men, and yet falling back on platitudes like Rocco’s future wife Rozsa (Nutsa Khubulava) telling the historic horndog, “You know how to fuck but not how to make love.”

A photo including Tania Garribba as Carmela in the series Supersex on Netflix

A still from Supersex

Lucia Iuorio / Netflix

At its best, Supersex recalls the intimate and thorny work of Luca Guadagnino, whom Manieri partnered with on HBO’s We Are Who We Are, but it makes a considerable misstep by expending excessive energy on Tommaso and Lucia. The couple’s messy tensions are meant to both reflect and exacerbate the wars being waged inside Rocco’s soul (and loins), as well as to humanize the porn phenom and ground his odyssey in more serious terrain. Manieri, however, goes too far in this regard, sacrificing plentiful time that would have been better spent providing additional insider glimpses into Rocco’s professional life and the ways in which it defined him. Regularly distracted from its primary focus, the series winds up resorting to rather mundane nuggets of wisdom about the terrible costs of being (sexually) free via porn, all of which are less captivating than funny and telling bits like Rocco getting an impromptu circumcision after his mom’s death so he can add some pain to his phallic pleasure.

Surprisingly, Supersex is steamiest during Rocco’s extended island vacation with would-be paramour Tina (Linda Caridi), if perhaps not its most authentic. By downplaying its protagonist’s scandalous taste for the extreme and the dehumanizing, the series comes across as an awkward attempt at wringing artful prestige drama from the life of a wantonly sordid figure—one that starts strong but, unlike Rocco, doesn’t quite know how to finish.

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