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Thread: INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR. (James Franco, Travis Matthews 2013)

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    INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR. (James Franco, Travis Matthews 2013)


    JAMES FRANCO AND VAL LAUREN IN INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR.


    Franco looks at gay sex, sort of

    James Franco's latest vanity project continues his focus on gay issues (The Broken Tower, Sal, his narration of Howl; perhaps his My Own Private River). It begins with quietly thrumping music and intimate shots of seminude men disco dancing in a smoky bar. One does not actually hear disco music and they are in stripped down gay leather mode. In the center is the main actor, Val Lauren, who resembles a young Al Pacino (he also played Sal Mineo in Sal and is a friend of Franco's). The bar shots are interrupted with introductory interitles solemly presented in white on an all black background. They read as follows:

    1."The controversial 1980 film CRUISING starred Al Pacino as a cop going undercover in the New York gay leather bar scene to investigate a series of murders." 2. "The production was plagued with protests from the gay community claiming that the film was homophobic. Director William Friedkin also received death threats during the making of the film." 3. "Friedkin also battled with the MPAA, the ratings board, whose members made him cut 40 minutes from the film in order to avoid an X rating." 4. "This footage has never been screened publicly. " 5. "In 2012, filmmakers James Franco and Travis Matthews collaborated to imagine their own lost footage."

    All indications are that Franco (obviously in charge here, not Matthews) was interested in the process, not the result. The result is sketchy, though not as uninteresting as the French seem to have thought. There is some sex. An erect penis being stroked. Perhaps a blow job. There is making out on a couch. Matthews having imagined (not much of a stretch) that some of the men adjourn from the bar to somebody's house, there is the couch scene, or the coverage of shooting it, with Val Lauren, as the Al Pacino surrogate ("Pacino-esque," Franco says in an introductory ideas session) sitting nearby watching.

    This is a preview. My full review will appear when the film opens in LA 2 January 2014.

    Interior. Leather Bar., 60 mins., debuted at Sundance in January 2013, showed at other festivals, and went into limited release in France 30 Oct., receiving generally poor reviews (Allociné press rating 2.1). The film, with Val Lauren, Christian Patrick and Brenden Gregory, is being brought out in the US by Strand Releasing. It opens 2 January 2014 in Los Angeles at The Cinefamily, where James Franco will be on hand for the Q&A, and Strand will bring out a home video version.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-12-2013 at 02:30 PM.

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    Here's the FULL REVIEW

    (This review was also published on Cinescene.)

    James Franco: INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR. (2013)


    JAMES FRANCO AND VAL LAUREN IN INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR.

    Franco looks at gay sex, sort of

    James Franco's latest vanity project continues his focus on gay issues (The Broken Tower, Sal, his narration of Howl; perhaps his My Own Private River). It begins with quietly thrumping music and intimate shots of seminude men disco dancing in a smoky bar. One does not actually hear disco music and they are in stripped down gay leather mode. In the center is the main actor, Val Lauren, who resembles a young Al Pacino (he also played Sal Mineo in Sal and is a friend of Franco's). The bar shots are interrupted with introductory inter-titles solemnly presented in white on an all black background. They read as follows:

    1."The controversial 1980 film CRUISING starred Al Pacino as a cop going undercover in the New York gay leather bar scene to investigate a series of murders." 2. "The production was plagued with protests from the gay community claiming that the film was homophobic. Director William Friedkin also received death threats during the making of the film." 3. "Friedkin also battled with the MPAA, the ratings board, whose members made him cut 40 minutes from the film in order to avoid an X rating." 4. "This footage has never been screened publicly. " 5. "In 2012, filmmakers James Franco and Travis Matthews collaborated to imagine their own lost footage."

    There is drama in this introduction, and ambiguity in its final words. "Their own lost footage" is doubtless shorthand for "their own imagined version of what the lost footage might have been like." But it might even suggest, if only accidentally, fragments from their own lost secret lives. Not as much drama in the actual film, though. Travis Matthews is a young gay man known for a few short films which make a point of using explicit gay sex. They have not been well reviewed. He does, however, seem pleasant and goes about his business of setting up scenes and wrangling actors quietly and methodically. This is an efficient process. And as the French reviews (generally dismissive) have said, Interior. Leather Bar. is generally a "Making Of," except that there is no evidence anything was made. But Franco got whatever this is made, co-directed it, talks up a storm about it, and even appears very discreetly in its leather bar scenes.

    All indications are that Franco (obviously in charge here, not Matthews) was interested in the process, not the result. The result is sketchy, though not as uninteresting as the French seem to have thought. There is some sex. An erect penis being stroked. Perhaps a blow job. There is making out on a couch. Matthews having imagined (not much of a stretch) that some of the men adjourn from the bar to somebody's house, there is the couch scene, or the coverage of shooting it, with Val Lauren, as the Al Pacino surrogate ("Pacino-esque," Franco says in an introductory ideas session) sitting nearby watching.

    This is embarrassing to watch whether you're gay or straight. A more interesting time is when Franco and Lauren in private have a hot one-on-one debate (heavily laced with manly "fuckings") about what the hell they are doing here. Both are straight men. Lauren is married. Lauren is a bit uneasy about the project, but trusts his famous friend. Will his admirers follow James to the end of the earth -- or to a leather bar? Probably. Someone, putatively his agent, warns Lauren in one of several phone conversations he has during breaks, each of which we hear (is this a setup?), that he's not as famous as Franco -- and being in a sex movie, porno maybe, isn't going to be great for his career. (Maybe this is fake. Maybe I'm naive even not to have seen that.) Anyway Franco argues urgently with Val that sex, particularly gay sex ("fuck yeah, man!"), needs to be a part of movies, regular movies, because "we all like it," and it's part of all our lives. Franco makes the important point that in Cruising, gayness is approached only as part of a dark, evil world, the world of a serial killer. (This is the taint that affects Demme's Silence of the Lambs and perhaps led him to make the exculpatory ultra-PC gay-friendly Philadelphia, as penance.) Here Lauren says he's a different person in the course of this shoot, and despite earlier discomfort, watches two gay actors who're a real life couple sexually making out on a sofa and says afterward that they looked "sweet." So that's the real aim of the project, not reimagining lost footage (which would relate to Franco's My Own Private River) but anti-homophobic therapy for straight guys. There are no observed conversations shown between gay men in this film, though a few gay participants get to say a few words to the camera.

    Surely Al Pacino may have had some concerns, perhaps about the sex as well as the controversy, during the making of Cruising. On the other hand, William Friedkin was probably not assisted in shooting his leather bar scenes by a young aspiring gay director fond of injecting real live sex into his footage. What was the "lost footage" of Cruising? Is this known? Is there intelligent speculation about it? The claim that 40 minutes were cut itself seems dubious. That's a lot of footage. isn't it unlikely that Friedkin ever had anything like 40 minutes of sexually explicit footage planned?

    Toward the end comes the only brief dance sequence where Val Lauren, despite his earlier misgivings to another straight guy who's getting made up and fitted with a blond wig and high heels, gets wild on the dance floor and almost-kisses a tall handsome leather guy who presses up close against him. Straight men imagining they're gay reaches its unorgasmic but sweaty climax.

    I'd not dismiss this film out of hand. It might, like Franco's Child of God and As I Lay Dying, work in some introductory college course. But the title may be the best thing about it. It's another one of those ideas that someone with less charisma, manic energy, and ability to get an indie film made would have let lie, with no harm to anyone.

    Interior. Leather Bar., 60 mins., debuted at Sundance in January 2013, showed at other festivals, and went into limited release in France 30 Oct., receiving generally poor reviews (Allociné press rating 2.1). The film, with Val Lauren, Christian Patrick and Brenden Gregory, is being brought out in the US by Strand Releasing. It opens 2 January 2014 in Los Angeles at The Cinefamily, where James Franco will be on hand for the Q&A, and Strand will bring out a home video version.

    Armond White dismisses Interior. Leather Bar. in a review in Out which praises Franco's performance in Carter's Maladies as his best yet. We'll have to watch Maladies to appreciate White's not uncritical review of it, which praises its perception of pre-Stonewall gay repression and its warmth and use of Motown hits. Makes one curious about Maladies but its Metacritic rating is 28.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-15-2014 at 02:18 PM.

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