Academic journal article Afterimage

Sex Tools: New Queer Narratives as Community Action Cinema

Academic journal article Afterimage

Sex Tools: New Queer Narratives as Community Action Cinema

Article excerpt

Last October, the Guardian published an article by Ben Walters addressing a recent and telling trend in gay cinema. Within the past year, a new crop of films has appeared, displaying extreme content like "explicit sex and copious drug use," while "[deploying] naturalism--often shooting handheld in found locations and using performances that smack of improvisation," signaling an "embrace of the real" in contemporary gay feature filmmaking. (1) While the primary texts addressed in Walters's article, such as Andrew Haigh's Weekend (2011) and Ira Sachs's Keep the Lights On (2012), do present frank depictions of simulated sex acts, filmmakers like A.K. Burns, Travis Mathews, and A.L. Steiner are taking this trend to task, exploring new naturalistic methods of rendering the contemporary queer body in graphic (re)presentations of erotic pleasure. Unlike the conventionally cinematic Weekend or Keep the Lights On, these titles push the boundaries of digital aesthetics and distribution, proposing enthralling internet-age objects that embrace, in order to dismantle, the dynamics of online pornography in starkly contrasting approaches.

This article will examine two feature-length videos, Mathews's 1 Want Your Love (2012), a gay male fictional narrative set in an artists' milieu in San Francisco, and Steiner and Burns's Communiy Action Center (2010), a "sociosexual" or "womyn-centric" art video that weaves together historical and contemporary referents and depictions of queer eroticism in a manner that speaks more to the aesthetics of performance art than any lesbian or queer filmic precedents. (2) Each title ushers the traditionally private arena of queer sex and online pornographic spectatorship into the public sector, in quite divergent capacities, thereby subverting many of the latent consumerist or censuring tendencies within contemporary pornography. Both works also exhibit a concurrent trend, in which the locus of production is situated explicitly as the community rendered therein. These features emerge from a conscious authorial intent to directly engage social networks (both online and "analog") in order to conspire and intimately construct a sensuous and authentic platform for (self) articulation.

This spirit of collaboration might not immediately appear so striking for a niche film genre. New Queer Cinema offered an early cinematic example or a politically charged movement that addressed health concerns and civil unrest within a community that felt marginalized by the Reagan administration, while also proving a watershed for independent film production and collaboration. In this climate, producer Christine Vachon could enlist her partner Marlene McCarty to design title sequences and promotional materials for a project in which the director's partner (James Lyons) would serve both as editor and appear as an actor. Such was the case with Safe (1995, directed by Todd Haynes), exemplary for--but not an exception within--that cinematic movement. (3)

Soon more industrial models of filmmaking came into play, causing this communal approach to shift radically by the 2000s when gay- and lesbian-themed film and video entered an established market phase of production, on the heels of successful television shows like Queer as Folk (2000-05) and The L Word (2004-09). And like those shows, narrative features drifted from the arthouses into the home--due, in part, to the home video boom of the mid-2000s, but also as content evolved into a lifestyle-oriented or genre-based cinema. These feel-good road movies or romantic comedies, which included franchises such as Eating Out (2004, directed by Q Allan Brocka, with sequels released in 2006, 2009, and 2011); and Another Gay Movie (2006, directed by Todd Stephens, with Another Gay Sequel: Gas Gone Wild released in 2008), were generated more for a casual consumer market than for the cinephiles who, sought Out the New Queer Cinema. DVD box covers for these newer titles frequently featured shirtless men, soliciting home video consumers with titillating appeals, promoting a homonormative ideal of physical attenuation, stemming (as most physical types within gay culture have historically tended to) from porn conventions. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.