Last spring, married multimedia artists Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin staged “A Marriage: 1 (Suburbia)” at HERE downtown, delving into the American Dream in the twenty-first century through language, video, sculpture, literature, cut maps, and live performance. “Even growing up in a hyperliberal place,” Jake told twi-ny last spring, “I had a sense of gay people as being abnormal – a deviance from the norm that are tolerated because Berkeleyites are tolerant and open-minded people, but still a group of people who are in some way going to have to live on the outside of mainstream society. As many things about gay culture have been accepted into the mainstream since we were kids, now that set of aspirations that were traditionally exclusively for heterosexuals, aspirations towards suburbia, the nuclear family, and all of that – are on the table.” The third part of Nick and Jake’s continuing series heads out west for “A Marriage: 2 (West-er),” running at the Invisible Dog in Brooklyn through April 12. In the show, they reference Scottish adventurer Sir William Drummond Stuart, Hollywood hunk John Wayne, and partners Robert Campbell and William Sublette as they investigate homosexuality and social mores across the vast frontier. Their preparation took them to such states as Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Colorado as they incorporated their own relationship into the narrative as well. The exhibit will be open Thursdays through Saturdays from 1:00 to 7:00 and Sundays till 5:00, with daily durational actions in addition to artist talks on March 25 and April 8 at 6:00. The opening reception takes place March 8 from 6:00 to 10:00, while closing day, April 12, will feature a live spray performance.
In his 2013 autobiography, The Friedkin Connection, writer-director William Friedkin delves into his controversial 1980 film, Cruising, explaining, “I cut at least half an hour from the club scenes and the murder scenes. I had purposely let these scenes of pornography and violence run long, knowing they’d be cut and I’d be left with the story I wanted to tell. Despite these cuts, the film pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable in an R-rated film, something the critics were quick to point out.” Cruising, which stars Al Pacino as an undercover cop hunting a serial killer in New York City’s underground gay community, was a critical and financial flop; the Variety reviewer wrote, “If this is an R, then the only X left is actual hardcore.”
Cut to Interior. Leather Bar. Last year, James Franco and San Francisco filmmaker Travis Mathews (In Their Room) decided to re-create what the never-screened forty minutes of missing footage might have been like. Franco hired Val Lauren, who played Sal Mineo in Franco’s Sal, to take on the Pacino role, surrounded by a cast of leather-clad actors who were told to pretty much go wild, no holds barred. And they do, as Franco and Mathews show graphic gay sex and S&M. After one particularly intense scene, Lauren expresses his doubts to Franco. “You think that this should be in movies, that people should be able to see this?” he asks. “Sex should be a storytelling tool, but we’re so f$%king scared of it,” Franco answers enthusiastically. “Everybody talks about sex, but then, ‘Don’t dare put it in a movie.’” But Lauren, and Variety, is right; this kind of graphic sex, whether gay or straight, does not belong in an R-rated movie. Most of the sixty minutes of Interior. Leather Bar are spent showing how happy Franco is as he pushes the envelope proudly, pontificating on society’s morals and hang-ups, and how Lauren is questioning his decision to star in the film, talking things over with his wife on his cell phone. What might have been an intriguing concept at the start ends up being Franco’s Brown Bunny (Vincent Gallo’s unwatchable 2003 film highlighted by real oral sex between him and former girlfriend Chloë Sevigny). The ubiquitous Franco can be sly, funny, and clever, especially with his own image — which includes a strong relationship with the gay community — but he’s truly annoying in Interior. Leather Bar, on a misguided, pointless mission that goes nowhere. The film is having its U.S. theatrical release March 5-13, being shown with Franco’s The Feast of Stephen and Mathews’s original I Want Your Love, as part of the IFC Center’s FrancoFest, consisting of features and shorts made by and/or starring Franco, in addition to a DCP projection of Cruising. Franco and Mathews will be on hand to discuss their collaboration following several screenings on March 5, 7, and 8.
CINÉSALON: TWO MEN IN MANHATTAN (DEUX HOMMES DANS MANHATTAN) (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1959)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, March 4, $13, 4:00 & 7:30
Series continues Tuesdays through March 18
When French U.N. delegate Fèvre-Berthier goes missing in director Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1959 noir, Two Men in Manhattan, reporter Moreau (Melville) of the French Press Agency and freelance photographer Pierre Delmas (Pierre Grasset) go out on the town, trying to find out what happened. While Moreau is seeking the truth, Delmas is after a sensationalist photograph he can sell to the highest bidder. They meet up with several women who knew the married diplomat — some much better than others — including his secretary, Françoise Bonnot (Colette Fleury), actress Judith Nelson (Ginger Hall), stripper Bessie Reid (Michèle Bailly), and jazz singer Virginia Graham (Glenda Leigh). As the men make their way through Rockefeller Plaza, Times Square, Greenwich Village, Broadway, the subway, and the United Nations, Marial Solal’s and Christian Chevallier’s jazzy score dominates the outdoor scenes, soaking the viewer in the New York at night atmosphere. And all the while, the reporter and photographer are trailed by someone in a mysterious car. As they get closer to their destination, they are faced with some serious ethical choices, not just about journalism, but about life itself. Nearly fifty-five years after its release, Two Men in Manhattan feels as stiff and dated as Melville’s (Bob le Flambeur, Le Doulos, Le Samouraï) lead performance, his only starring role and his sole appearance in one of his own films. It’s difficult to tell if Two Men in Manhattan is a serious procedural, an homage to classic noirs, a tribute to New York City, or a sly genre parody — perhaps it’s all of them, but far too many of the twists and turns are hard to swallow, especially when it comes to Delmas’s selfish decisions and Moreau’s often absurd brainstorms that seem to exist just to quicken the plot despite their incredulity. Still, it’s beautifully shot in shadowy darkness by Nicholas Hayer, and it was proclaimed by Jean-Luc Godard to be the second best film of the year. A digitally remastered version of Two Men in Manhattan is screening March 4 at 4:00 & 7:30 as part of the FIAF CinéSalon series “Remastered & Restored: Treasures of French Cinema”; the later screening will be presented by Phillip Lopate, and both shows will be followed by a wine reception. The three-month festival continues March 11 with Claire Denis’s Chocolat, introduced by African Film Festival founder Mahen Bonetti, before concluding March 18 with Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Truth.
EXPOSED (Beth B, 2013)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 2
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Monday, March 3, 7:00
Tickets: $12, in person only, may be applied to museum admission within thirty days, same-day screenings free with museum admission, available at Film and Media Desk beginning at 9:30 am
Theatrical release March 13-20, IFC Center
In Exposed, visual artist Beth B, who got her start in the 1970s underground scene in New York City, invites viewers into the inner world of burlesque, going behind the scenes with eight current performers who share intimate details about their lives and their shows. Beth B (Two Small Bodies, An Unlikely Terrorist), who wrote, directed, produced, edited (with Keith Reamer), and photographed (with Dan Karlok) the seventy-six-minute documentary, goes backstage at such New York venues as the Slipper Room, Le Poisson Rouge, the Cutting Room, Dixon Place, P.S. 122, Galapagos Art Space, and Coney Island’s Sideshows by the Seashore as burlesque performers discuss issues of gender, control, freedom, disabilities, power, nudity, femininity, personal and professional identity, and more. “What the world projects as normal, it’s just such an illusion, it’s such a fantasy,” Bunny Love says, “and I love that fantasy.” UK comedian and cabaret performer Mat Fraser, who was born with “flippers” for hands, explains, “If you can make them laugh and make a political point that fuels your outrage, all the better.” And Rose Wood adds, “I’ve tried to present my audience with an indelible picture of the body seen in another way, seen in a way that’s different than they see themselves. They have ideas of what’s normal — what a man does, what a woman does, what a heterosexual does, what a gay person does — and I try to present them with another way of seeing the body.” Among the other performers who share their stories are Tigger!, who uses burlesque as a kind of sexual political theater; Dirty Martini, who pays tribute to such early stars of the wordless art form as Dixie Evans and Vickie Lynn; Bambi the Mermaid, who produces Coney Island’s popular Burlesque at the Beach series; Julie Atlas Muz, who honors Pina Bausch in her performance art; and World Famous *BOB*, who points out, “I never lie to people. People would say, ‘Are you a man or a woman?’ And I would say yes. That quick wit was something that I learned from my drag family, that quick wit, that ability to turn anything that hurts you inside into something that’s funny.”
But whereas previous documentaries about burlesque, like Leslie Zemeckis’s Behind the Burly Q, examine its history, Exposed delves into the very personal, individual stories that drive these performers’ desire to take the stage and reveal themselves. While some are clearly proud of who they are and what they do, others appear to still be working out deeply felt, raw and painful emotions and memories. The eight subjects hold nothing back in the film as they bare body and soul; many of the performances are extremely graphic, but it is often as freeing to watch the acts onstage as it appears to be for the performers to perform them. Exposed is screening at MoMA on March 3 at 7:00 as part of the Modern Mondays series, with live performances by Muz, Fraser, and Dirty Martini, followed by a Q&A with Beth B, composer Jim Coleman (who wrote several songs with Beth B), coproducer Sandra Schulberg, and the full cast. The film will then move to the IFC Center for its official U.S. theatrical release March 14-20, with each 9:30 nightly showing featuring a live performance by one or more of the subjects, in addition to a March 13 sneak peek with the complete cast and filmmakers and an after-party at Dixon Place.