A postcard hangs over Florian’s bed and it reads: Fat kids are harder to kidnap. Florian is a fat kid. I use the word fat because, to quote Beth Ditto, “overweight” would imply that there is such a thing as normal weight. Both the funny postcard and Ditto’s quote are empowering messages that fat kids like Florian need since they are constantly reminded by others that what they are is not normal. The fact that Florian is about to come out as gay doesn’t make things easier and when his fat dad tells him that he wasn’t as fat as a kid, Ditto comes to mind again: “It’s a cruel, cruel world to face on your own.” Luckily, Florian has a best friend and ally who shares the soundtrack of his life…
Some hard facts first: porn is not what it used to be. Tonight, the Porn Film Festival Berlin opens its gates for the eighth time and things look a little different this year. A quick browse through the programme made me wonder where the porn went, and by porn I mean, quite conservatively, mainstream feature-length hardcore porn films. With very few exceptions, they have disappeared from the festival and that’s not even a bad or a sad thing since watching feature-length hardcore porn in a regular cinema in the company of strangers can be a… well… stressful thing.
In 1980, William Friedkin, probably best known for directing The Exorcist, made a thriller that is set in New York’s gay and fetish scene and deals with a psychopathic killer who chooses his victims in darkrooms. Al Pacino plays a straight undercover cop who immerses himself into the gay scene in search of the murderer. Though filmed with the support of local Manhattan gay bars, certain activists smelled homophobic undertones in the script and tried to interrupt and prevent the shooting of the film. When the film was eventually released, 40 sexually explicit minutes of Cruising were cut and are still kept under wraps by the production company today. More than 30 years later, filmmakers Travis Mathews and James Franco had the idea of reconstructing the missing material according to their imagination. The result can be seen at this year’s Berlin Porn Film Festival. Interior. Leather Bar. is a bold experiment and a film that defies many definitions and might disappoint conventional expectations – despite its explicit sex scenes.
At first, there is an image that has a strange beauty to it. The washed out blues and the strokes of white look like an abstract painting. But the further the camera pans to the side, the more we realize that we are facing a wall that hasn’t been painted for some time. Then an equally beautiful canvas with prints of birds that are heading to the sky appears. But it turns out to be a simple window curtain. Then, suddenly, the sound of an explosion that makes the water in a bowl tremble and ripple before a hand reaches into the water to soak a cloth. The hand belongs to a beautiful but nameless woman who washes her husband’s face and is trapped in a room that seems like her prison. This room becomes her shelter as the war outside comes closer and closer.
I have to be honest with you: before watching Behind the Candelabra, I didn’t have any idea who Liberace was. Call me ignorant, call me not gay enough, or call me too young. Calling myself too young at the age of 30, on the other hand, is so gay that I will have to go with ignorant after all. Yesterday a film came out in Berlin that might feel inappropriate for this column and you might ask yourself why I want to talk about it. It got tons of good press already, it has Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in it, and it so glamorous that it stands out from the selection of small films that I usually discuss. But apart from being a glamorous, fabulous and insightful travel into the times of “Walter” Liberace, Behind the Candelabra is an astonishing testament of a film that was made for television and its queer discourse.