My 2013 Sundance profiles reach their conclusion with the second of two projects from the boundary-pushing New Frontier section: Travis Mathews and James Franco’s INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR., a re-imagining of, and confrontation with, the “lost” explicit scenes from CRUISING.
Sundance Program Description:
The 1980 film CRUISING, starring Al Pacino as an undercover cop investigating a murder in the New York City gay, leather, bar scene, was plagued with controversy, and its director was forced by the Motion Picture Association of America to cut 40 minutes of sexually explicit material. Those 40 minutes have never been screened publicly. Filmmakers James Franco and Travis Mathews set out to reimagine what might have transpired in those lost scenes in this intriguing film about the making of a film.
The cameras roll as Franco assembles a mix of gay and straight men, including the likeable Val Lauren in the lead role. What emerges is a portrait of the fascinating dynamics that drive the filmmakers’ need to challenge normalcy, the interplay of celebrity and experimentation, and the dilemma faced by actors struggling to reconcile who they are with the idea of performing in a sexually explicit, gay, S&M film. The result is a provocative exploration of the importance of the radical and transgressive in society and the value of engaging with things that scare us.
Mathews has gained a following with his series of intimate observations about gay men and their bedrooms, IN THEIR ROOM, which have played extensively at LGBT and porn fests around the world; and with his fiction debut, I WANT YOUR LOVE, an expansion of the wildly popular sexually explicit short of the same name. In addition to directing, producing, and starring here, Franco’s other 2013 Sundance titles include KINK, which he produced, and LOVELACE, in which he plays Hugh Hefner. He has previously brought to Sundance his projects THREE’S COMPANY: A DRAMA (2011) and HERBERT WHITE (2010), and acted in HOWL (2010). Seeking Mathews out after the attention generated by I WANT YOUR LOVE, Franco enlisted the San Francisco-based director to collaborate on this project. A shorter version, entitled JAMES FRANCO’S 40 MINUTES, screened exclusively as part of Costume National’s “New No Dark Wave” group art show in the store’s dressing rooms this past October in NYC.
Why You Should Watch:
Mathews has demonstrated his ability to capture a rawness and honesty around sexuality in his previous work. It’s a natural fit for him to partner with Franco, who has shown a refreshing openness to exploring button-pushing topics in both his filmmaking and acting, to tackle the legacy of William Friedkin’s controversial film. The provocative result, deliberately conflating fictional and non-fictional elements, confronts its subjects/actors, and the audience simultaneously, with the taboo subject of explicit gay sexual activity, and their own implication as observers or as active participants.
View the film’s NSFW trailer. For more information on the project, check out its Facebook page and Mathews’ website. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.