Review: 'Ask Any Buddy' is a Love Letter to Gay Porn

by Sam Cohen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday November 23, 2020

'Ask Any Buddy'
'Ask Any Buddy'  

Sexual expression has long been something seen as taboo in popular media, but that's doubly true for gay people that found themselves (spiritually and physically) in the porno films of the '60s, '70s and '80s. Queer culture was and still is pushed to the fringes in mainstream media, albeit in different ways now, but the work of vintage porn filmmakers like Joe Gage, Wakefield Poole and Arch Brown offered a reflection of the realities and fantasies that many queer people had. Their stories provided long-overdue solace to people in the queer community, but they also were inextricably linked to politics of that era.

"Ask Any Buddy" is the love letter...well, booty call, to that bygone era where gay sex was a celebration of queer desires and the realities which they faced. Pulling from 126 theatrical feature films produced between 1968 to 1986, filmmaker Evan Purchell has spliced together something that is much more than just a compilation of vintage gay porn; it's a stunning glimpse into queer culture at really turbulent times in America to be gay. It's also a vital document of films that required and still require restoration, and Purchell himself deserves praise for his archival work to keep them alive.

Even if "Ask Any Buddy" is your primer to vintage gay porn of this era, don't expect it to play like a greatest hits album. It's a patient work that revels in the narratives while also inviting the audience to revel in something that's pure, even though it's often coated in sweat and grease. Purchell is cognizant that some of these films present pretty close realities to queer culture decades ago, while some are more fantastical. But even the fantasies are tinged with melancholy, as if everyone who worked on these films understood that the comfort they feel when the camera rolls won't last forever.

More often than not, the films used here offer genuine wit, humor and lived-in characterizations. This could stem from the fact that many of the men here are conscious of the limitations of their own desires, but many other more talented critics have surmised that it's also because many of the filmmakers were activists themselves. The lack of budget doesn't diminish the feeling of watching wishes being fulfilled and taboos being treated normally.

Most impressively, "Ask Any Buddy" is masterfully edited by Purchell, who very clearly understands that his cuts could upset the delicate balance between reveling in the sex, respecting the stories and honoring the filmmaking on display. This isn't the kind of straight erotic entertainment that's meant to be consumed quickly before moving to another title on a playlist; these are moments full of life, pleasure and a gaze that's in love with the male body.

If you were to scroll through Evan Purchell's Instagram, you'd see plenty of posts about how gay adult films were advertised in print. He seems committed to showing how liberating gay sex was in the 1970s, and "Ask Any Buddy" is his distillation of the era that doesn't seek to dilute the work that's already there, but to empower it even further. It's a terrific, entrancing thing to watch and deserves your attention.

"Ask Any Buddy" plays at the OUTShine Film Festival Dec 3-6, 2020