Inside Out LGBT Film Festival 2013: Interior. Leather Bar.
Interior. Leather Bar. is a strange film with an equally strange premise and even stranger essence. Written and directed by Travis Matthews, Interior. Leather Bar. is a semi-fictional documentary that bases itself around the making of a missing part of a feature length film. Confusing enough yet? Don’t worry the actors of this project were too. Produced and co-directed by James Franco, Interior. Leather Bar. owes its conception to the 1980 William Friedkin film Cruising, staring Al Pacino. Cruising follows Steve Burns, an undercover cop who poses as a gay man in order to “cruise” underground gay bars in an attempt to unearth a serial killer who is making his rounds in the seedy underbelly of S&M clubs.
At the time of its release, Cruising was controversial among audiences and panned by critics. The MPAA made Friedkin cut 40 minutes of the film to avoid an X rating– 40 minutes worth of material that to this day audiences and Friedkin have yet to see. Matthews and Franco decided to create a film that would reimage what those 40 minutes of Cruising would have been like. The duo garnered a collective of crew members, a slew of willing, trustworthy amateur actors, and a personal friend of Franco, Val Lauren, to play an incarnation of the Steve character. Confused and mostly uncomfortable with the idea of their tasks, the actors repeatedly discuss how they trust Franco’s vision to be tasteful and artistic, even during moments of being captured having sex on film.
What makes Interior. Leather Bar. the conumdrum it is isn’t just its audacious premise to be a film that’s a reenvisioning of a scene never before seen by the masses, instead it is its own creation itself. While Interior. Leather Bar. is a documentary on the making of the scene, it is also an avant garde vehicle within itself that uses its lead, Val, as it’s driver. A straight married man with an affection for Al Pacino, Val only agrees to play the semi-role of Pacino’s character because Franco is his friend of years whose artistic expression he respects and appreciates. However, as shooting begins and the script bears no true motivation or focus, Val becomes weary and confused to what Franco is actually trying to create. Outside of this, viewers are shown scenes of Val having normal realistic conversation with fellow actors on set only to have the jarring sounds of Matthews directing their conversation or saying “ok good,” cutting a scene that is thought to be genuine. During one shot, Val pensively goes over his script alone in a parking lot. He then starts narrating his actions as they are written directly on the page he is reading. This use of reality mixed with theatrics makes Interior. Leather Bar. walk the line between ridiculous insanity and groundbreaking brilliance.
Depsite its convoluted ways of artistic experession, Interior. Leather Bar. leaves a lasting impression, if on nothing else, it’s co-director, Franco. At the time of creating this film, Franco was in the midst of filming Oz, a multi-million dollar Disney production. As Interior. Leather Bar. continues, viewers are shown scenes from the 40 minute film being made in which men are having uncensored, unsimulated oral sex with another and engaging in kinky erotica to the shock of Val and some of the witnesses on set. In one deeply personal scene, Val earnestly asks Franco what his intentions are for wanting to shoot near pornographic scenes, to which Franco admits that he’s disgusted by his own brain for being engrained to find the act of gay sex unappealing. Franco goes on to question why its ok to show violence in all its unsavory glory on film, but not show in a tasteful, artistic fashion, an act that nearly all people engage in and think about.
The desire Franco has to show the world images most have never seen before to make the act acceptable and “normal” among the masses is an empowering sentiment that changes the mood of the film. Shot in murky, dark, blue-tinged cinematography, Interior. Leather Bar. is enchanting on its looks alone. Complete with fast paced editing, Interior. Leather Bar. will shock and confuse, but also enlighten and impress.
Interior. Leather Bar is screening on Friday, May 31, 2013 at 10:00 pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://insideout.ca/.
Gallery of Images from Interior. Leather Bar