Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2019 - Evan Purchell ""

Friday, February 14, 2020

Film Discoveries of 2019 - Evan Purchell

Evan lives in Austin and can be found on Twitter, Letterboxd, and Instagram. He’s currently in the middle of conducting research for an upcoming book on the early days of the gay adult film industry, and his feature-length mashup film, ASK ANY BUDDY, is now available for theatrical bookings from the American Genre Film Archive

BACCHANALE (1970, dir. John and Lem Amero)
Much like Phil Marshak’s THE SAVAGES (further down on my list), this early feature from the Amero brothers is a testament to just how much the raincoat crowd was willing to put up with just to get to see ‘the goods’ during the early days of theatrical hardcore. Though the Ameros are probably best remembered individually for John’s all-male melodramas and Lem’s outrageous hetero sex comedies, BACCHANALE is something else entirely — as arrestingly kitschy and homoerotic as it is inscrutably artsy and intentionally bullshitty. Better than a lot of the canonized NYC underground movies from the period.
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CATCHING UP (1975, dir. Tom DeSimone)
Genre fans probably only know Tom DeSimone from mainstream features like HELL NIGHT and REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS, but his career goes so much deeper than that, with dozens of credits in the all-male film industry stretching all the way back to its very beginnings. From early genre exercises like the hippie rock musical CONFESSIONS OF A MALE GROUPIE to his later slicker, glossier romantic dramas like THE IDOL and SKIN DEEP, DeSimone is and was one of the most prolific and talented gay filmmakers of his time. CATCHING UP is one of the very few of these films to bear his real name, and it’s also one of his best — a comedy about a younger man who finds himself struggling to, well, catch up, after his older, more experienced lover asks to open up their relationship. Not only is it timelessly relatable, but it’s also genuinely funny — especially the lengthy sequence shot inside L.A.’s long-since-cleaned-up Vista Theatre.

DRIFTER (1975, dir. Pat Rocco)
Pioneering gay filmmaker Pat Rocco’s best film was also his biggest failure: a self-financed bisexual hustler drama shot in 1969 to capitalize on the MIDNIGHT COWBOY craze that wound up sitting unfinished until 1975, when it played a single theater for about a week and promptly disappeared. It's a shame, because his starry-eyed romanticism lends itself well to the material, soaking the gritty character study with a sweeping, Disney-esque melodrama that sets it apart from the Schlesinger film or similar titles like FLESH or THE MEATRACK. Let’s hope it — and the rest of the Rocco catalog — becomes more readily available in the near future.

MADAME WANG’S (1981, dir. Paul Morrissey)
Much like his earlier Warhol films, Paul Morrissey is clearly trying to make fun of his cast of middle-aged new age Buddhist ex-drag-queens, septuagenarian punk club owners, and (literal) knob polishers here, but the personalities on display are so strong and so pure that it’s hard to not fall in love with each and every one of them. Features cameos and performances by both Phranc and the Mentors?

A NIGHT IN HEAVEN (1983, dir. John G. Avildsen)
NASHVILLE writer Joan Tewkesbury visited male strip clubs in four states to conduct research for this, which somehow manages to combine male strippers, recumbent bikes, NASA, and Bryan Adams to create a wonderful mess of a movie that might also be the most accurate depiction of Florida that I’ve ever seen on screen. Emphasis on wonderful. The club scene between Christopher Atkins, Lesley Ann Warren, and the original version of ‘Obsession’ was the single most transcendent moment I had in a movie theater all year.
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NO NO-NOOKY T.V. (1987, dir. Barbara Hammer)
I finally had the chance to work my way through much of Barbara Hammer’s filmography in the wake of her passing this past March, and this short might just be my personal favorite of her shorts — endlessly creative, super funny, gorgeously colorful, and also so prescient in regards to all of the recent headlines and conversations about censorship of queer content and bodies on social media.

NUDES: A SKETCHBOOK (1974, dir. Curt McDowell)
This is Curt McDowell's sweetest film and perhaps the cipher to his entire body of work: a series of portraits of friends, family members, and onetime lovers that never feel anything but innocent and loving, even as they occasionally veer into outright raunch. NUDES is something of a transitional work, the connecting thread between McDowell’s earlier comedies and musicals and the more sincere, personal work that was to follow with films like THUNDERCRACK!, SPARKLES TAVERN, and LOADS.

THE SAVAGES (1970, dir. Phillip Marshak)
This long-lost early feature from future DRACULA SUCKS director Marshak is easily one of the strangest things I watched all year — a ramshackle costume Western that feels closer in gleefully anarchic spirit to LONESOME COWBOYS than it does SONG OF THE LOON or any of the era’s other gay frontier epics (and there were a few). Totally bizarre and legitimately transgressive for the period, this would be a weirdo cult classic in a better world. 

SUDZALL DOES IT ALL! (1979, dir. John Dorr)
Shot in two days on a borrowed black-and-white bank security camera, the first video from EZTV founder John Dorr is also one of the first SOV narrative features — hastily performed with the sort of manic, arch energy of a stage revue, the kitschy hyperreality rendered real through the grainy, flat picture of the betamax tape. Acidically funny in a way that recalls EZTV's later production BLONDE DEATH, but with an experimental bent that's more in line with the much more well-known cycle of soap opera-inspired video works that Bruce and Norman Yonemoto began that same year with their BASED ON ROMANCE. Streaming for free thanks to the EZTV Museum here: https://vimeo.com/340065496.


Nine more picks:
THE BOYS NEXT DOOR (1985, dir. Penelope Spheeris)
DELIVERY BOYS (1985, dir. Ken Handler)
LIANNA (1983, dir. John Sayles)
MYSTIQUE (1980, dir. Roberta Findlay)
THE LEGEND OF THE STARDUST BROTHERS (1985, dir. Makoto Tezuka)
THE PASSING (1985, dir. John Huckert)
ROOMMATES (1982, dir. Chuck Vincent)
THE SHIP OF MONSTERS (1960, dir. Rogelio A. González)
SON OF SAM AND DELILAH (1991, dir. Charles Atlas)

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