WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
In order to avoid an X-rating, 40 minutes of footage was rumoured to have been cut and destroyed from William Friedkin’s 1980 thriller, Cruising, a controversial film which saw Al Pacino playing a New York cop who goes undercover in the city’s S&M scene to unmask a killer targeting gay men.
Inspired by the mythology of these lost 40 minutes, Hollywood star James Franco and I Want Your Love film-maker Travis Mathews set out to re-image the footage with Sal actor Val Lauren playing the lead. The resulting footage follows Lauren as he is forced to negotiate his boundaries both on and off camera as gay sex happens around him.
Franco and Mathews’ docu-drama experiment is made up of scripted scenes in which Lauren’s Pacino-esque actor questions his taking part in the project, shots of Franco polemicising over the portrayal gay sex on screen, and two brief, but graphic, scenes involving a group of gay male extras getting it on.
Running at just 60-minutes, the film plays like one of Andy Warhol’s improvised Factory films and seems to be channelling the late Derek Jarman‘s gay activist arthouse ouevre. And like Jarman’s poetic political fims The Garden or Edward II, Interior. Leather Bar is fascinating, provocative and challenging, but equally, its also hard to decipher unless you know what you are looking for.
The film, however, does give you an insight into Franco’s artistic mindset. The Hollywood actor, who has done more gay characters and gay projects than most straight actors, isn’t on any committed New Queer Cinema crusade or ‘quenching his sexual curiosty’ (which Val Lauren suspects in the course of the film), he’s merely following in the footsteps of the visionary artists he admires (like Jarman, Warhol and Kenneth Anger – who gets a dedication in the queer bashing short that accompanies the release) and who just happen to be gay. In the end, isn’t this what lies at the dark interior of this leather bar?
Interior. Leather Bar is available on DVD and VOD in the UK through Peccadillo Pictures