★★★ | Interior Leather Bar

Director William Friedkin claims that he had to take his notorious movie Cruising about the gay S&M subculture to the US Ratings Board on 50 occasions before they would give him a ‘R’ certificate that permitted it to be shown in cinemas. Whether that is totally true or not is part of the myth around the over-rated but little seen psychological thriller released in 1980 to great controversy. The gay community was its fiercest detractors, but the critics slammed it too.

To appease the censors Friedkin was forced to cut 44 minutes of what one assumes from his inference were graphic sexual acts. We will never be sure how accurate that is and gay filmmaker Travis Mathews and actor James Franco never bothered to check with Friedkin when they set about trying to reimagine what the footage may or may not have contained to make this curious new documentary.

Heterosexual Franco has a growing reputation for his limitless fixation with gay culture and he used his celebrity to pull this very spurious event together. On a day and a half, he and Travis gathered together a bunch of actors – some gay and some straight – stuck them in a warehouse with a script treatment and told them very vaguely to simply get on with it. Franco himself copped out of recreating the main role played by Al Pacino in the original movie and instead persuaded Val Lauren (who has just starred in Franco’s directorial debut ‘Sal’, about yet another gay figure Sal Mineo). Lauren was either alarmingly nervous about playing gay, even for pay, or just following a script, we never really know. But he was uncomfortable to watch, and like others annoyingly kept repeating that he had only agreed to the project because of James!

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The gay members of the cast had joked that they had only agreed to take part in the hope of seeing Franco naked, but that wasn’t going to happen. He pontificated excessively before the shoot intellectualising about sex, but on the day itself, he part filmed a scene where a couple of guys are going full at it, before totally disappearing. Incidentally, most of the hour long running time is taken up with all the behind the scenes angst than the actual ‘missing footage’.

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This is not the first vanity project by Franco, He made an experimental film from scraps that Gus Van Sant cut from My Private Idaho, and the main question I can only raise about his intentions with all of this, and the making of this film is, WHY?

Available to buy / view on: Amazon