The anticipation that the James Franco, Travis Mathews film Interior. Leather Bar. creates is both its greatest asset and biggest weakness, depending on your expectations.
The very idea of recreating the 40 minutes of missing hardcore footage from the 1980 William Friedkin film Cruising will have homos flocking to the theatres in the hopes of seeing what Friedkin himself called “the most graphic homosexuality with [Cruising star Al] Pacino watching”. But rather than a promised re-creation of those missing sex scenes, Franco and Mathews have concocted a meta film about filmmaking with a great deal less than 40 minutes of onscreen sex.
Sure there is some sex, but a couple of blow jobs and a few erect penises sure as hell don’t come anywhere near being what Friedkin called “graphic sexuality”. Hell, we’ve all seen more at The Pumpjack on a wild night.
Is it a letdown? Absolutely, as I’d be lying if I wasn’t hoping to see a little man-on-man action, but its lack of delivery on that anticipated explicit sex doesn’t make it a bad movie. What Franco and Mathews do well is setting up the anticipation of something more and manage along the way to turn the documentary film genre slightly on its edge.
One of the more interesting sub-plots in the film has to do with the hiring of Val Lauren, straight actor and friend of Franco, to play the role of Pacino’s character in Cruising. At times you can even catch glimpses of Pacino in Lauren as he nervously watches the action going on around him. Lauren does gradually warm up to what Franco maddeningly refers to as on numerous occasions as “gay sex” (even someone as enlightened as Franco must realize that sex is just sex, after all we don’t refer to it as “straight sex”), but Lauren is also central to a moment late in the film when you start to question everything before it, ultimately diminishing what appears to be his genuine reactions.
The biggest letdown though is Franco and Mathews’ decision to completely ignore the controversy and outrage that Cruising generated within the gay community when it was first released in the 80s. Seen as homophobic and painting the gay community as criminally insane and sexually deviant, the film galvanized a large segment of New York’s gay men at the time in protests against the movie. Here it gets little more than a passing mention.
Given the buzz that the film has created there is little doubt audiences will go in expecting one thing; what they get though does not live up to those expectations.
Interior. Leather Bar.
Part of the DOXA Documentary Film Festival
Rio Theatre – Friday, May 10 at 9pm
You must be 19+ to attend this screening. Some graphic sexual content.