GLR September-October 2022


From Around the World, Four Films

T HIS MARKS the return, after a two-year hiatus, of my annual roundup of films featured at the Provincetown International Film Festival, which I attend each June with my partner Stephen. While not an expressly LGBT festival, there are always plenty of entries that match this magazine’s mission. Here are four. F RANÇOIS O ZON ’ S new film was billed as a “Secret Screening” at the festival, as all in formation about it had been embargoed. We knew only that John Waters described it as “a lu-lu,” and that description seems fair enough. To be sure, Ozon’s style in Peter von Kant is nothing like the “low camp” of Waters himself, but the outfits and emo

prise. The idea that gender matters in sex ual attraction is treated as a quaint notion in these (satirically observed) postmodern times. I F YOU ’ RE A GAY MAN over forty, chances are you received International Male in the mail at some point in your life. You may have tossed it aside as just a clothing cata log, or you may have dived right in to check out the latest bevy of models. The “magazine/catalog” started publishing in the mid-1970s at a time when Sears and Macy’s were still airbrushing men’s bulges out of underwear ads. Not so International Male , which began to present men in a whole new way—not as clean-cut, generi cally handsome men but as scruffy guys


PETER VON KANT Directed by François Ozon ALL MAN The International Male Story Directed by Bryan Darling and Jesse Finley Reed LONESOME Directed by Craig Boreham CHRISSY JUDY Directed by Todd Flaherty

with muscles and body hair and bulges in all the right places. Even those who devoured the IM catalog may question the need for a feature-length documentary about it (as I did). But as All Man: The International Male Story shows, IM has a fasci nating story to tell, and it may even have played a role not only in expanding the range of fashion options for men but also in shaping ideas about masculinity itself. Sure, some of the clothes it featured were outlandish or even trashy, but they were eye catching for those who wanted to make a splash, say, at the dance club or on the beach. IM was the vision of Gene Burkard, who was gay himself and recognized the potential for the gay market. Nevertheless, Burkard decided early on never to use the “g” word or to imply that the models depicted, or the audience targeted, were prima rily gay men. The models were manly dudes without a hint of effeminacy or narcissism. Fashionista Carson Kressley points out in the film that here was a spectacle of ultra-butch models wearing some pretty feminine outfits. (Apparently it was often hard for the models, most of whom were not gay, to keep a straight face, as it were, during photo shoots.) The strategy of avoiding any direct appeal to gay men seems to have paid off. At times up to 75 percent of IM buyers were women buying clothes for their husbands or boyfriends. The upshot is that many straight men started wearing colorful sports shirts and undies that were not tighty whities—and the metro sexual was born. The impact on the gay community was un doubtedly greater still. The IM catalog created a mainstream outlet that presented an image of masculine men who were as sumed (or imagined) to be gay—and the clone was born. T HE PROTAGONIST of Lonesome is one of those gay men that you would never pick out of a crowd, a taciturn cowboy from Aus tralia’s cattle country who just happens to fancy the dudes. We meet him hitchhiking on a lonesome highway en route to Syd ney, having been cast out of his hometown (we later learn), not

tions are so over-the-top that “campy” seems an accurate de scriptor. Peter’s personal assistant, for example, is a silent butler who dresses like Charlie Chaplin and robotically carries out his abusive master’s every whim. The title character is a successful filmmaker who lives in el egant decadence in Paris, where he seems to be having a midlife crisis, bored with his career and mostly drinking and snorting cocaine. In walks Amir on the arm of Peter’s best friend Is abelle, an actress who once starred in his films, and he’s in stantly smitten with the adorable, however lost, young man. Amir has no visible skills or experience, which doesn’t prevent Peter from casting him in his next film in a bid to win Amir’s amour. When we rejoin the happy couple nine months later, Amir has become an insufferable brat who appears on maga zine covers and barely tolerates Peter, finding him (far from a slender man) physically repulsive. The film’s structure brings to mind A Star is Born (any ver sion) in which a jaded superstar who’s drinking himself to death discovers an ingénue and launches her career, even as his own prospects are declining. WhenAmir leaves for good, Peter does n’t chalk it up to experience (of course) but plunges deeper into drugs and alcohol, culminating in a scene in which his mother, his daughter, and Isabelle converge to witness a meltdown to rival anything that happens in A Star Is Born . Ozon’s film is based on Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1972 film The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (based on his play), which had an all-female cast. Just as Petra has been married to a number of men, Peter has apparently been married to at least two women—the daughter who comes home from boarding school is from his “first marriage.” Virtually the entire film is set in Peter’s flat, where a small number of friends and relatives come and go to reveal Peter’s back story and current state of angst. It turns out that Amir, too, is married to a woman, with whom he is still in touch and possibly even in love. The fact that both men have now “gone gay” is not met with any sur

September–October 2022


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