Posts Tagged ‘adam baran’

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.

Performance diary: THE HIDDEN SKY and the Charles Ludlam films

February 23, 2010

February 20 – Some friends of Andy’s, writer-director Kate Chisholm and composer-lyricist Peter Foley, have spent the last few years developing a musical called The Hidden Sky, based on Ursula LeGuin’s short story, “The Masters.” It’s currently having a production at the Prospect Theater Company, so we went to have a look. It’s truly Off-Off-Broadway: performed in a disused church, minimal production values, amateur actors, minimal orchestration (two live musicians, everything else on tape), terrible sound, etc. And wouldn’t you know, the woman playing the lead was out sick, so another member of the cast was stepping in, with book in hand. But the musical values were respectable – the choral arrangements (by Foley) were especially lovely, and most of the cast had pretty good voices.

The main draw is the story, set in “a time other than now” but very much about now nevertheless. (It could be taking place in Afghanistan, or Iran, or Iraq, or Albany — any place where religious fanatics are trying to bring back the Stone Age.) The world is dominated by a highly religious culture that worships the sun as God…only the environment has been destroyed so God has not shone through the clouds in many years. Knowledge and thought has been banned, but an underground tribe of “seekers” continue to pursue scientific experimentation and mathematical calculation. A young woman named Ganil, who’s achieved mastery in the crude industrial culture and is engaged to be married to the son of a mucky-muck, possesses unusual aptitude for math. Despite being cautioned against this pursuit and the prospect of bodily mutilation and ostracism, egged on by a renegade from another region named Lee, Ganil focuses on numerical patterns that exist in nature, studying them to the point of neglecting other concerns. (Can you say Sunday in the Cave with Ganil?) In one of the weirder yet fascinating musical numbers I’ve encountered in the theater, she basically discovers or re-invents the Fibonacci sequence. The climactic moment of the show is when she realizes that there is a predictable, elaborate, elegant pattern that shows up in nature, and she proclaims this awesome phenomenon to be “the face of God.” Are we meant to take that seriously and agree with her? Is she truly seeking a scientific alternative to the superstition of the mainstream culture, or is she exchanging one fundamentalist faith-based system with another? Does she have no other language for something mysterious and powerful than to call it “God” and is that the show’s point? (I haven’t read LeGuin’s story, so I don’t know how much of this is original to her or shaped by the adaptors.) Is the show making a case for intelligent-design theory? I had a good juicy discussion of all this over drinks and dessert at French Roast with Andy and Allen, who are both science-fiction/fantasy geeks and enjoyed the show more than I did.

February 22 – Steven Watson had an extra ticket at the last minute to see the showing of “The Lost Films of  Charles Ludlam” (two black-and-white silent shorts left unfinished when he died in 1987)  in the “Queer/Art/Film” series at the IFC Center, hosted by filmmaker Ira Sachs and BUTT magazine editor Adam Baran. I was delighted to go, and I’m glad I went. Not that the movies are great. They’re decidedly not. It was a little like watching the dailies from an extremely low-budget student film – zero editing, bad lighting, mugging rather than acting, every shot going on 20 times longer than necessary (every shot!). But still…there was the late great Charles Ludlam, playing a bisexual convict on the lam in Museum of Wax – it’s thrilling to see his incredibly expressive face on film. And you get a glimpse of him naked on a train in The Sorrows of Dolores, a madcap takeoff on The Perils of Pauline starring Everett Quinton (above) with Ridiculous Theater stalwarts Black-Eyed Susan, Lola Pashalinski, John D. Brockmeyer, and Minette in smaller roles. (Both films would probably be better off being shown as slideshows — brief slideshows! But with some of the terrific music Peter Golub apparently whipped up at short notice for these screenings.) Everett introduced the films alongside Anthony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons fame), who selected the films for showing in the festival and gave a rambling but personal and touching talk about his introduction to the lineage of gay drag theater. The audience for this event pretty much WAS the event. Lots of familiar faces, art fags of every age and gender. It was one of those nights where New York felt like a little tiny cozy village.

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