TLA Releasing presents for one week (and in three cities only) “a mini-fest of the six hottest gay films of the summer!” Most are sad reminders of the sorry state of gay cinema today, both here and abroad, with none appealing to the ladies and only one, Dog Tags, refusing to make a fetish out of its subject matter. The only documentary in the lineup, Jeffrey Schwarz’s puff piece Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon “traces Jack Wrangler’s rise from a no-name thesp in rat-infested Manhattan to one of the first superstars of gay porn, ending with Wrangler phewing that he dodged AIDS” (taken from my Village Voice Newfest coverage). “As single-minded as an excited phallus,” the film at least allows older queens to see Wrangler’s schlong for the first time since the days of eight tracks—which may be its own reward.
More dick happily swishes about in Rob Williams’s 3-Day Weekend, which openly and obnoxiously pretends to be the kin of Boys in the Band and Love, Valor, and Compassion when it’s really just Another Gay Movie, grappling with the joys and misfortunes of modern gay life (and gay vacationing) with a sledgehammer in one hand and a Logo production manual in the other. If Williams is a white and gay—err, gayer—Tyler Perry, then Juan Flahn’s Boystown, a caper about gentrification in Madrid’s Chueca gayborhood, suggests something sprung from the imagination of a less savvy Álex de la Iglesia—which is to say, with sitcom hijinks painfully trying to pass for camp flourishes and without the genre deconstruction.
Still abroad, I Dreamt Under the Water is pure sensory overload, with director Hormoz watching Antonin (Hubert Benhamdine) go through all sorts of faux-bratty motions as the dude embraces northern Paris’s “vibrant energy” (read: gets gang banged), and doing so from preposterously precious angles. (Hormoz claims Brian De Palma as an influence though I would have guessed Anne Rice and Julian Schnabel.) From Thailand, Bangkok Love Story is more sensitively attuned to its locale’s natural griminess, even if director Poj Arnon’s compositions are straight out of a fashion magazine. The story’s sexing is more convincing than its crime-thriller posturing, but the soapy love affair between a hired assassin and the man he was supposed to off is cruel in its sappiness.
Back in the States, Dog Tags threatens to play like a military-themed gay porn but dodges that bullet early on. When Paul Preiss (Nate Merrit) goes to boot camp and returns to a cheating wife, he hitches a ride with a goth-y gay dude, Andy (Bart Fletcher), he almost made a jack-off video with for destinations unknown. This is hardly The Living End (or Loggerheads for that matter), but the desires of Damion Dietz’s characters are vividly dramatized and rooted in the decrepitude of land and memory. Even after Paul and Andy get it on, Dietz refuses to let Paul go through cheesy coming-out motions; like his mother, he’s a work in progress, which is why Dietz lets the whole thing end on a plaintively open-ended high note. Choose this one or don’t choose at all.
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.