One of my problems with mainstream pornography is that it’s so, well, déclassé. Most men wouldn’t dream of leaving a porn book or DVD lying out in the open, especially if they were expecting female company. And yet even the most sophisticated of men reports feeling a deep sense of well-being from perusing nude or semi-nude images of attractive women.

So what to do?

Well, that’s often where Taschen comes in. The renowned publisher of high-end art books has never shied away from erotica, and the just released Rose, C’est Paris continues the proud and cheeky tradition that has brought us everything from The Big Book of Beasts to La Petite Mort.  

cestparis_inset.jpgRose C’est Paris is an impressive collection of lush photographs by French artist Bettina Rheims and artist/writer Serge Bramly. The book tries hard to present itself as, among other things, a combination of art monograph, metaphysical mystery and a social and cultural archeology of Paris.

There is a vaguely sketched narrative of two beautiful sisters, known only as B and Rose, and the suggestion of an abduction and a resulting mystery that needs to be solved – though, to be perfectly honest, you really don’t need to follow the plot: the images more than carry the day.

Along with anonymously stunning women in mysterious/artistic circumstances, we’re treated to images of more iconically beautiful women like Naomi Campbell, Charlotte Rampling and Monica Belucci – all in various stages of existentially striking undress. The chapter titles like “Behind The Facade of Ordinary Days” and “The Mourning of Illusions” are a bit much, but certainly not an encumbrance. One just skips past on the way to a succession of evocative black and white photos that are, by various turns, mysterious, tantalizing, erotic, and often interestingly absurd.    

paris_trade_cover.jpgThe accompany DVD, on the other hand, is absurdly bad – in the sense that it registers as not only spectacularly meaningless but also just flat-out lame, pretentious, ham-fisted and awkward. It’s an interesting exercise to go back and forth from the book to the DVD, and witness how a series of consistently arresting photographs can turn, by a kind of perverse alchemy, into an unbearably stilted film. Film is 24 frames per second, but that’s 23 too many for this project.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution. Remove the accompanying DVD from the inside back cover and simply drop it into the trash. Ta da! You’re left with a wonderfully erotic high-end photography book, one that will probably even earn you points in the eyes of the beautiful women no doubt are already on their way over.