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Where The Boys Are

Paul America in Andy Warhol’s 1965 “My Hustler.” | ANDY WARHOL FILMS

BY GARY M. KRAMER | Can’t get to Fire Island this summer? On August 11-13, the Metrograph is presenting a weekend of films set in that haven for gay men.

One of the highlights is a screening of Andy Warhol’s “My Hustler” (Aug. 11, 5:30 p.m.; Aug. 12, 7:45 p.m.). The hour-long film from 1965 is a two-part improvised drama about the title character, Paul (Paul America), who is hired by the rich and bitchy Ed (Ed Hood) via the service “Dial-A-Hustler.” As the sexy Adonis Paul lies on the beach whittling, Ed and his neighbor Genevieve (Genevieve Charbon) confess their desires for him. When Joe (Joseph Campbell) turns up on the beach, the pair call him over, and their discussion soon turns into a bet to see who will win Paul’s affections. The camera pans back and forth between Ed and his guests talking trash on his deck while watching Paul, who is objectified on the beach through some camera zooms. “My Hustler” contrasts the naughty fantasies Ed, Genevieve, and Joe project onto Paul with images that eroticize the hustler on the beach.

The second half of the film has a similar voyeuristic approach. It consists of a fixed shot through a bathroom door as Joe and Paul shower, shave, and brush their teeth. Joe, who is a hustler himself, talks with Paul about money and hustling, in part to teach Paul the ropes, but also to seduce him. Joe rubs Paul’s back and chest quite erotically in the intimate space. The frisson between the two hunky guys is palpable. “My Hustler” creates a delicious tension about what might happen before ending abruptly, and letting those audience members stimulated — not bored — by the talky exchanges imagine the rest.

Metrograph’s August tribute to New York’s gay summer playground

“Last Summer” (Aug. 11, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 12, 3 p.m.), from 1969, was directed by Frank Perry (who later made the camp classic “Mommie Dearest”) and written by his wife, Eleanor, who adapted from Evan Hunter’s novel. It is a dated but still compelling drama about four teenagers on Fire Island. The mercurial Susan (Barbara Hershey) befriends Dan (Bruce Davison, in his film debut) and Peter (Richard Thomas) when they help her save an injured seagull. They soon become fast friends. Over the course of a summer, they drink beer, smoke weed, and mess around, even washing each other’s hair in a rather goofy/ sexy scene. Susan is a free spirit, who takes her top off from time to time, and she lets the guys fondle her breasts in a movie theater one night. She also enjoys spying on two guys (not Dan and Peter) making out in the sand.

The trio’s cozy dynamic is disrupted by the arrival of Rhoda (Catherine Burns). Lonely and rather unadventurous, Rhoda does not swim or drink beer and is often a buzzkill. In one particularly memorable scene, she recounts the story of her mother’s death. While Peter develops sympathy for Rhoda — she falls in love with him — Susan and Dan are cruel toward her. It would spoil the film to reveal what happens, but it is no surprise that by the end of the scorching hot summer the teenagers’ lives are changed forever. “Last Summer” rarely makes it to theaters, which is all the more reason to catch it on the big screen now. The performances by all four players are first-rate, but Burns, who was Oscar-nominated for her role, is the standout.

“Sticks and Stones” (Aug. 11, 3:30 p.m.; Aug. 12, 7 p.m.), from 1970, is the weakest film in the series, a poorly made and acted drama. Peter (Craig Dudley) and his boyfriend Buddy (J. Will Deane) are having relationship issues, but they are still hosting a party at their Fire Island home. Peter calls the gathering a “screwball extravaganza,” and it’s as silly as the film. The first half of “Sticks and Stones” introduces various characters, from George (Gene Edwards), a leather queen, to Jimmy (Jimmy Foster), a flamboyant queen, a Guru (Robert Case), and a virgin named Bobby (Robert Nero). There is an excruciating sequence in which Jimmy tries to fix a flat tire, another irritating scene featuring long-winded ramblings from the Guru, and a mildly amusing bitchy exchange between George and Jimmy. Bobby complains about how bored he is. Amen.

But the fun really ends when the party begins. Buddy flirts and performs a striptease, much to Peter’s chagrin. Another man proudly displays his Prince Albert before performing a naked dance with a female guest. The Guru prattles on. Peter and Buddy eventually have it out after the party, but by then it’s hard to care.

Writer/ director Wakefield Poole’s 1971 feature “Boys in the Sand” (Aug. 11, 9:45 p.m.; Aug. 13, 9:15 p.m.) was the first crossover gay adult porno. A triptych of erotic fantasies, this wordless classic stars Casey Donovan in a star-making performance. Donovan first appears as a nude Adonis who walks out of the Atlantic Ocean to have sex on the beach with a man (Peter Fisk). As the guys touch and suck each other, Poole imbues the film with a tender sensuality.

The second segment has Donovan in the buff and poolside, initially alone, but later with a guy (Danny Di Cioccio), who magically appears thanks to a mail order tablet. Their erotic couplings are artfully filmed in light and shadow, indicating this was classy queer porn. This episode is best once Di Cioccio enters the story; the first half of the vignette, with the naked Donovan writing a letter is a bit slow. The last episode features Donovan, naked again, this time inside having fantasies about telephone repairman (Tommy Moore), whom he spies outside. “Boys in the Sand” has a dreamlike quality that may seem a bit dated today, but the beauty of Donovan and the film itself is undeniable.

Todd Verow in Patrick McGuinn and Verow’s “Fire Island, ’79.” | METROGRAPH

Screening with “Boys in the Sand” is Todd Verow and Patrick McGuinn’s fabulous 2014 eight-minute short “Fire Island, ’79.” The film consists of Super-8 footage of porn star Chase Hook (Verow) skinny dipping and having sex on Fire Island, while the soundtrack plays answering machine messages voiced by Michael Musto and Alexis Arquette, among others. The short is at once naughty, liberating, and poignant, as Hook’s life is revealed through vivid words and erotic images.

The late Bill Sherwood’s only feature may be over 30 years old but “Parting Glances” (Aug. 12, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 13, 4:45 p.m.) still feels fresh and winning. The film chronicles a day in the life of lovers Robert (John Bolger) and Michael (Richard Ganoung) and their coterie of New York friends. As Robert is about to take a job overseas, the guys attend first a dinner party and then a party party, both in Robert’s honor.

“Parting Glances” was significant for being one of the first American films to deal with AIDS, featuring a subplot about Nick (Steve Buscemi in his screen debut) as a gay man who is dying. This low-budget charmer sensitively depicts the impact of the epidemic on the community. The film’s Fire Island connection is an amusing music video Nick made at a beach house. For anyone who has not seen the film — or has not seen it in a while — be sure to give “Parting Glances” a look.


ON FIRE ISLAND | Metrograph, 7 Ludlow St., btwn. Hester & Canal Sts. | Aug. 11-13 | metrograph.com

One Response to Where The Boys Are

  1. David Ehrenstein August 24, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    Joe Campbell was the boytoy of a deeply closeted investment banker back in the day. The name of that banker? Harvey Milk. Joe was dubbed "The Sugar Plum Fairy" by the late great Dorothy Dean and he figures in Lou Reed's immortal "Walk On the Wild Side"

    Reply

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