Sunday, May 31, 2015

Hole (Tony Radevski, 2014) & Midnight (T. R. Wilkinson, 2015)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2015 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Seed Money was preceded by two other films that in a way were actually more interesting and took the other side of the question of whether sex becomes more or less compelling the more the people having sex with each other know about each other and particularly their lives outside the bedroom — or the restroom, since the first one, Hole, was a five-minute animated short taking place in a public restroom with a glory hole. We see the face of one man and the cock of another through the hole, only instead of going down on his unseen partner he starts talking to him, and the irony of writer-director Tony Radevski’s script is that the more the two men find out about each other — including the fact that the other guy is married (to a woman) and glory holes are the outlet he’s reduced to for his Gay desires — the less they want to have sex with each other, and they ultimately don’t. The film was made in Australia, and the accents do get a bit thick and hard to understand (though I suspect at least part of that is the mediocre sound system of the Observatory North Park Theatre, where the showing took place), but overall it’s a charmer. The other short preceding Seed Money was Midnight, a 2015 production by T. R. Wilkinson, in which a young Gay couple, Aiden (Anderson Goncalves) and Shane (Sean Paul Lockhart), are having an intimate evening together celebrating Shane’s birthday. Aiden presents him with a box that contains a certificate he’s printed out offering Shane “anything you want” for his birthday — and what Shane wants is a month during which they’ll invite other people to their home for multiple-partner sex. What starts out as a three-way blossoms (if you can call it that) into five-ways and ultimately a 12-man orgy that leaves cum stains all over their nice furniture; their living room looks like they had the Mother of All Frat Parties there and Shane, as part of the deal, insists that he will clean it up even though that propels him out of his and Aiden’s bed at a time Aiden just wants to cuddle and re-establish their relationship as just the two of them. Alas, Shane is so taken with the idea of other sex partners besides Aiden that even after the month is up he keeps cruising and hooking up with other guys, and Aiden starts to suspect. His boss, Nina (Elizabeth Dennehy), gives him some time off to find whether Shane is really cheating on him — she points out that he’s useless to her at work as long as he’s still eating his heart out about Shane and his fidelity, or lack thereof — and he traces Shane to the apartment of a heavy-set man who looked familiar when the film’s writer-director, T. R. Wilkinson, came out for the post-film Q&A. Though he wears a beard in the film and was clean-shaven for his personal appearance, the part was recognizably played by Wilkinson himself — and though we don’t get to see Wilkinson’s dick (obviously he was avoiding anything that would put this film in the porn pigeonhole), we get the idea that Shane is going down on him. Aiden, who previously told Shane that he accepted him as a partner even though “you hate sports, you smoke and you’re a Democrat” (and Aiden is depicted as so prissy you think of him, “You would be a Republican!”), gives him an ultimatum: either stop the tricking or move out. Midnight — the time of Aiden’s deadline — rolls around, and Wilkinson maintains the suspense (will he stay or will he go?) until the actual stroke of 12 a.m. on their digital clock, and we see Shane leaving Aiden’s place, pulling one of those suitcases with wheels on it, bound for heaven knows where.

Midnight is a fascinating film, basically a domestic tragedy with elements of farce (the laughs are primarily in the depiction of the principal couple’s group encounters with other men), and it’s an indication of how good it is that Wilkinson himself keeps you in suspense about where he stands on the question of monogamy and whether it’s an appropriate expectation in a relationship between two Gay men. At a time when the whole question of multiple-partner lifestyles has become a big bozo-no-no in the Queer community — the ruling assumption has been that, however horrific the AIDS crisis was, the silver lining in its dark cloud was it taught us a terrible lesson not to have more than one partner at our time and to manage our sexuality more like straight people do (or at least like straight people are expected to, whether or not they in fact do it), thereby moving us from the 1970’s when the demand was the freedom to have as much sex as possible, with as many partners and as few strings as possible; to today, when the big official demand of the Queer community is to be able to marry our partners and — at least it’s assumed in the social discourse — play by the same rules as the heterosexual world, including the expectation of monogamy. While the other people who asked questions during the Q&A focused on Seed Money, my question was about Midnight — thinking about my own experiences, I thanked Wilkinson for making a movie that expressed my own dilemma about commitment vs. variety in my sexuality and asked what had inspired him to make it. He said his own view of the issues involved in the film had changed while he was in production with it — about a year ago, with most of the film completed but some shooting and virtually all the editing still left to do (both he and Stabile mentioned that in independent filmmaking you work until you run out of money, then spend time scrounging some more so you can continue, and proceed in fits and starts until you either finish the project or you don’t), he entered into a relationship that is “open” and that that’s working out just fine (so far) for both him and his partner. Wilkinson said he believes any sort of relationship can work as long as the two principal partners are open with each other and honest about just what they want and in particular whether they want it “open” or “closed” — which is what I’ve also heard from Eric Marcus and other authors of books about Gay relationships I’ve interviewed — but his film is more complicated than that; Aiden is depicted as annoyingly prissy and a bit of a pill, but it’s still tragic when Shane leaves him at the end and the viewer (this viewer, anyway) is left with the impression that, despite their differences, neither of them is going to be as happy without each other as they were with each other.