Interior: Leather Bar
In 1980, United Artists released William Friedkin’s "Cruising." The controversial movie starred Al Pacino as a New York City cop that must go undercover in Manhattan’s gay S&M scene in order to catch a killer known to frequent the city’s seedy downtown leather bars. Prior to the movie’s release, Friedkin was forced to cut roughly 40 minutes of particularly graphic footage from the film in order to secure an R rating. These cut 40 minutes are presumably lost forever.
Enter multi-hyphenate James Franco and filmmaker Travis Mathews, whose "Interior: Leather Bar" purportedly attempts to recreate this lost footage. Despite this intriguing construct, they don’t entirely succeed. Rather, the film chronicles the shooting of a movie scene more so than reimagining the lost 40 minutes of "Cruising." We watch actors, many of them straight, being interviewed about the project and hear their thoughts about the material’s explicit nature. On shooting day, we move to the location (somewhere in the Valley), where actors get into costume, shots are set up, Mathews preps his actors, etc. Much of the film focuses on actor Val Lauren, who has been cast in the Pacino role. Lauren, bless his heart, is clearly uncomfortable with the gay porn atmosphere of the shoot and, despite his friendship with Franco, is in over his head here. We hear him talking on the phone with a friend (agent?) and others at the shoot about the project, almost seeking reassurance that it’s OK for him to be involved. Franco, whose name will get this film distribution, is in there with a camera, filming much of the footage and trying to talk Lauren off the ledge.
The film only recreates about 15 minutes or so (the entire film is about an hour long) of the earlier film’s leather bar scenes. Some of the footage Franco (props to him given his movie star status and the fact that he was about to go into production on a Disney movie!) and Mathews shoot is pornographic, and, theoretically, could have been cut from "Cruising," but there is never a clear sense of what the two guys want to accomplish. There is some talk about the prohibitive nature of sex in contemporary movies, but no revolutionary argument is made. In the end, I felt that this film was the product of two filmmaker buddies who got together one day and decided to shoot something titillating.