i ll M THE FLUFFER
Selected release, out now
Newcastle born Wash Westmmoreland and Richard Glatzer are on a mission to change the perception of gay men on screen. Sick of gay films being immediately pigeon-holed for film festivals and niche cinemas, they were concerned that the only way to break from this never ending circle was to write screenplays that pamper to Hollywood cliches of gay men. Think Rupert Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding.
The result is The Fluffer, a comedy about a straight actor in gay porn films and the infatuated young man whose job it is to keep him, ahem, up to the job. ‘We wanted to cross boundaries and not deliver to the conventional formula,’ says Westmoreland, co-director and writer. ‘And we wanted to examine other more serious aspects without alienating an audience. This movie is for everyone, not just the small specific audience gay films usually cater for.’
West and Glatzer met a few years ago after they had both had underground success with their debut films at gay festivals. They pooled their experiences of the porn industry and were struck by how the industry was full of straight men using porn to make a fast buck and this included the actors. ‘Nearly all the major porn actors say that they
are straight,’ says Westmoreland. ‘I think it becomes very destructive when you see that after all this time there is still a premium for “straight acting”. If you go on a gay porn shoot you can see a gay porn star watching a straight video and fucking a guy at the same time. It is an amazing thing that people can suspend their sexuality
Since the subject matter of the film involved the fine line between gay and straight, the directors did not want to alienate an audience and so made a comedy. ‘We both liked humour but we really thought that the heart of the
Iris, selected release from Fri 15 Feb; see review, Film section
I" "#1:, V "w: Kate Winslet: novel inspiration
66 THE LIST ‘-1 (“'1 l er. I?
A gay porn film for everyone
movie was in the darker stuff. Yet when you are making a film about pornos how can you not make a comedy?’ They had the task of getting mainstream acceptance and this was helped when Debbie Harry asked to appear in the film. They also had to water down the sex and, Westmoreland says, ‘we had to think of the idea of
fluffing as more of a metaphor than anything literal.’
In Richard Eyre's very English film. Iris. about the novelist Iris Murdoch. one of the most tender moments comes when the mature writer (Judi Dench) and her best friend (Penelope Wilton) walt/ on a beach at night to a romantic French chanson. The scene hints at Murdoch's lesbian affairs which are largely left out of the movie.
The movie's release is a good time to reassess Murdoch’s legacy. a writer responsil.)le for creating two of the great homo-erotic love scenes in 20th century literature.
It's a fascinating phenomenon that some of the best writing about gay men's experiences were penned by women ‘.'./l‘ll(}r8. Mary Renault (lid it with the conscientroris-deserter novel. The Char'roteer as did Patricia Neil Warren with The Front Runner. which charted the love affair between an athlete and his ccach.
| defy anyone to pick up Murdoch's The Bell and not be bowled over by the rnale-to—male kiss at night in the glare of car headlights. —\ kiss between the leader of a religious sect and his young
Already they have got over a substantial hurdle in finding this wider audience by convincing a number of distributors to show The Fluffer in mainstream cinemas.
disciple. it shocked a nation when it was televised with Ian Holm in the 808.
Even more remarkable is A Fair/y Honourable Defeat which is like a more intellectual version of A Bquuet Of Barbed Wire ab0ut the struggle of good in a world where y0u can so easily fall into self-absorption. It contains a truly amazing seduction scene. In an art gallery in summer. a yOung man Simon becomes obsessed by the statue of a nude youth. Every day Simon returns to stare at the statue. then he feels compelled to caress it. First with his hands. then sensationally he licks it with his tongue.
At this point Axel. an older bearded academic appears and discovers Simon in suppliant mode. and so their love affair begins. The novels will ring bells for anyone who has gone to Kelvingrove Art Gallery or the Mound in the search for the transformative power of art. and found sex there instead. Check out the film Iris. but especially read her novels.
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh Sat 16 Feb-Sat 16 Mar
I discovered Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire as a gay boy growing up in a small west of Scotland town. An older sister. instead of telling me traditional fairytales as I fell asleep. had told me the life stories of Judy Garland. Elizabeth Taylor and Vivren Leigh.
Age fourteen. | SOught Out Leigh's biography, where l read about a shocking play she had starred in. which was censored because of its homosexual content. I later found a volume of Williams' plays. which kept me reading. as compulsive and inevitable as the streetcar that takes Blanche to her final deshnauon.
Streetcars story isn't about a gay character but about Blanche. who is destroyed by a condemning world. where she searches for intimacy through anonym0us sex. A fragile heroine battling against the knocks of life. and a lonely gay boy: not a lot in common. or so you would imagine. But subliminal bells went off in my head and the way the play hooked me convinced me otherwise.
The only gay character in the play. Blanche's first husband. kills himself because of the shame of being discovered kissing another man. but this was cut from the original 1948 production after being deemed immoral. You don't go to A Streetcar Named Desire looking for gay role-models. rather an articulation of the gay experience. It is the conflicts between the sensual and the sordid. the normal and the abnormal and the feminine and the mascmine that lie at the heart of a gay sensibility.
Tennessee Williams was a practising homosexual which in 1948 meant he was criminal and insane. His courage and determination in discussing sex. along with his fear. is at the heart of the play. It is the great gay play. but Williams also created a work that is universal.
It's hard to look at the play now without being aware of its myth: Brando in a sweat-stained T- shirt; Vivren L0igh suffering real life manic depression on celluloid. Many great actresses have all tried to interprate the role. including Claire Bloom. Sheila Gish and Jessica Lange and last year Frances McDormand. playing Blanche in Dublin. said it was ‘the female equivalent of Hamlet'.
It'll be fascinating to see what Jennifer Black wrll bring to Blanche under Muriel Romanes‘ direction at the Lyceum.