After “revolutionizing” straight porn with “Puzzy Power” pics CONSTANCE and PINK PRISON, Lars Von Trier’s Zentropa (operating for the occasion through a subdivision labeled Innocent Pictures) attempted to do the same for the gay end of the industry, with mixed results. Sort of a post-modern overview of homosexual iconography throughout the 20th century, it presents viewers with six vignettes of varying intensity, tied together by American writer-poet Ron Athey (an impressive one man collection of body art) who also supplies a brief solo scene while voicing his longing for a distant lover straight out of Jean Genet.
Influences include Greek mythology as represented in PINK NARCISSUS, Kristen Bjorn’s ecological rain forest romps, S&M-tinged beat poetry, Tom of Finland’s swaggering machos, David Hockney’s swimming pools and Greek orgies. All of these scenes are shown against semi-abstract, video-generated backgrounds appropriate to the theme. This means that the film ends up having both a unifying style and a lack of visual variety. Save for Athey and bodybuilder Billy Herrington (a former Colt model and therefore already an icon in his own right), models are Scandinavian, unfamiliar to fans and, sadly, somewhat interchangeable as none of them are given voices. They simply strut their stuff to a thumping techno beat.
Director Knud Vesterskov, a Danish underground filmmaker (with titles like A MOTHERLY PEEPSHOW and URBAN DISSONANCE on his record) who previously helmed Zentropa’s maiden porn effort CONSTANCE, keeps a cool distance throughout, scrutinizing his cast as bizarre anthropological artifacts rather than living and breathing human beings, making this perhaps more of a performance art installation for the jaded hipster crowd rather than a really hot gay porno flick. The initial fascination generated by this approach wears decidedly thin over a 95 minute running time. Predictably, only the American performers manage to break through these barriers that separate the audience from the spectacle. Herrington’s exaggerated, pumped-up physique makes him the picture-perfect Master in an elaborate and relatively extreme domination sequence with two slender slaves (the movie’s undisputed erotic highlight) and I’m sure we could all have done with a lot more of the amazing Athey whose deep, droning voice adds further authority to his already imposing appearance.
As it currently stands, HOTMEN COOLBOYZ is a movie best taken one segment at a time to avoid sensory overload or viewed with the bemused, pretentious posing of an art critic at an exhibition’s opening night. Disregarding publicity hype to the contrary, this film is not on a par with truly groundbreaking gay pornographic films of the ’70s when directors like Jack Deveau (LEFT-HANDED), Peter De Rome (DESTROYING ANGEL) and Fred Halsted (L.A. PLAYS ITSELF) explored and exposed a community they were part of. Vesterskov remains determinedly outside, looking in on a scene he gives little evidence of understanding.