Performance diary: Queer/Art/Film screening of FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL KILL

July 28, 2010

July 26 – I’ve gotten hooked on the Queer/Art/Film Series that Ira Sachs (below right) and Adam Baran (below left) co-curate at the IFC Center every month. Russ Meyer’s 1965 Faster Pussycat Kill Kill is a classic B-movie – I realize that’s a dated term for a genre flick, an apologetically trashy, low-budget, black-and-white exploitation film. This would ordinarily not be my cup of tea – “so bad it’s good” isn’t high praise for me. I’m a kind of intellectual snob and would rather see something arty than something trashy almost any day of the week. And Russ Meyer got famous pandering to horny straight guys with soft-core titty movies, again not an audience that would include me. But for Queer/Art/Film, this movie was selected and introduced by Joe Gage (below center), who was the first guy who succeeded in making gay porn movies that were both aesthetically compelling and sexually hot. His famous trilogy of Kansas City Trucking Company, El Paso Wrecking Company, and L.A. Tool and Die made a huge impact on my budding gay sensibility, from the moment I heard about them and saw stills to the times I went to the Adonis Theater (and other old-fashioned dirty-movie palaces) and watched them for myself. (More recently, his films for Titan Media have rocked my world, such as Cop Shack.) Plus, it was fun to go with my friend Allen, who’s been in a bunch of Joe Gage movies himself (he plays the title character in Dad Takes a Fishing Trip), which meant the chances were good I’d get to meet one of my culture heroes in person. I didn’t have to wait long. While we were standing in line and buzzing because John Cameron Mitchell and Justin Bond were right behind us, Joe Gage walked up behind Allen and gave him a bear hug, and introductions ensued.

The movie turned out to be crazier and artier than I’d imagined. How to describe this movie? Bad girls in racing cars kidnap a teenybopper, kill her handsome boyfriend, and terrorize a compound out in the middle of the California desert where a misogynistic tightwad in a wheelchair and his two semi-retarded sons live off the settlement from his accident. I had to get past the screechy line readings, the hokey melodrama, and the leering use Meyer makes of gals with big jugs (all three of the female leads were professional strippers, apparently) to appreciate the director’s freewheeling application of cinematic methods, his sly references to other films (The Misfits, Rebel Without a Cause), and his influence on John Waters, David Lynch, and other cheeky indie filmmakers ever since. And I appreciated Gage’s commentary on the context in which the movie appeared on the scene and how shocking it was to see “the war between the sexes” presented in such a down-and-dirty, egalitarian way. One guy in the audience offered a stream of arcane trivia about the “stars” of the movie – he turned out to be Shade Rupe, who’s just published a collection of his interviews with cult artists.

Afterwards, we repaired to Julius’s, the unofficial BUTT Magazine hangout, where I had the pleasure of introducing Adam Baran (New York editor of BUTT) to Allen. Adam was so cute and clearly agog at meeting our handsome porn star friend in person. (See below.)I felt the same way chatting briefly with John Cameron Mitchell, whom I interviewed once for the Advocate, and who hosts a monthly Thursday night party at Julius’s called Mattachine. I think Shortbus is one of the bravest, most meaningful films made in the last 20 years, but I was too shy to babble on about it to John, who also seemed very shy and modest and sweet. A lesbian jazz combo played smoky music by the bar.

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