Film Review – Interior. Leather Bar.
Interior. Leather Bar.
James Franco starts off his trite “documentary,” Interior. Leather Bar. waxing philosophical about the implications of the impending legalization of gay marriage. Within the first few seconds he’s already humble-bragged about his studies at Yale (cough, cough) and said that one of his professors there, Michael Warner, has posited that gay marriage is actually a precarious path whereby homosexuals assimilate themselves into heterosexual culture and marginalize the less normative aspects of the gay lifestyle. What this has to do with recreating 40 minutes of lost footage from William Friedkin’s 1980 movie Cruising is beyond many of the people involved, sometimes apparently, even Franco himself. His lead actor, Val Lauren, is skeptical of the project and says he’s only doing it because he agrees with the whole Franco Thing. That’s right. Even if he doesn’t understand, he’s on board with the whole Franco “mission.” Everyone else in this movie is similarly sycophantic.
When the actors – really glorified extras – audition before a camera and are asked why they want to participate in this project, many admit they don’t even really know what the project is. But as for why: you got it, James Franco. One actor sits in a chair while his makeup is applied and he excitedly asks another actor if Franco is on set. Is he going to be in the project, another asks. Will we get to see him naked, or in leather? The project is titillating because they’ve all been told they’re shooting 40 minutes of kinky gay porn and they hope to see Franco trussed up. Their understanding of the project beyond this is practically nil.
But there is a main character to this “film.” His name is Val Lauren, previously mentioned, and he’s one of Franco’s good friends. He’ll be playing the part of Al Pacino. He’s straight, married and uncomfortable playing a sexualized gay male character. He’s played gay before, but nothing that includes nudity, making out or sex. What script he’s offered doesn’t tell him what exactly he’ll be doing and he asks Franco for direction. Franco, unable to tear himself away from his phone, flippantly says, “I dunno, just be one of the boys, you know? Go in there and be a part of the club.” James isn’t much help as a director in this film and Lauren gets frustrated, finally asking the question on everybody’s mind: “What is this all for?”
In the film’s only moment of refreshing candor, Franco discusses the heteronormative state of things. He says he hates that gay sex and gay kink and men kissing other men makes him feel uncomfortable while he also understands that it is the larger world that has trained him to feel this way. Movies, commercials, television shows all display romance as a woman and a man meeting cute and dating and falling in love: roses and candles and soft touching. Where is the story about man meeting man, pressing him firmly against the wall and deep throating him? Where’s the story of the man trussed up and spanked? Why can’t gay sex, especially gay kinky sex, be a storytelling tool?
This is an admirable mission, but if these are the film’s stated goals, it definitely shies away from them. We see full frontal male nudity yes, but hardly anything you would call kinky. There are men clad in leather and you see a hooded face for a brief second, but that’s about it. There is an extended sequence of two men on a couch making love that shows sucking and penetration, but like the straight romance that Franco complains about it’s sensuous touching and light kisses.
I feel the film is a wasted exploration. There is an actual kinky “Master” involved in the film. His name is Christian Patrick, or Master Avery as he’s known in the world of gay kink. He does kink films for sites such as Kink.com and Bound Gods. If Franco wanted to explore the world of kink and open it up to the masses to show that it’s nothing to be afraid of, that it’s a normal expression of two people’s consensual sexual desires, he should have enlisted more help from Patrick as an expert on the subject. Why waste an hour attempting to recreate footage from a forgotten film, when you can explore the topic much more in depth with real life accounts of real life homosexual kinksters? It doesn’t make sense to me.
This is a movie that frustrates. It doesn’t know what it wants to be, it rides on the coattails of Franco’s popularity, and it’s a slapdash effort with little to no thought put into it by anybody involved. It’s a complete waste of time, talent and celluloid.