NY Mirror

It's going to be the gayest fall season at the movies since ancient Greece, honey. We've got Volver, the woman-bonding flick infused with PEDRO ALMODÓVAR's Technicolor sensibility; Infamous, the funny/sad/everything Capote pic that's gayer than Liberace; and Shortbus, JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL's gay/straight/whatever look at the search for the perfect orgasm.

That last movie is excitingly personal, a work of auteur dazzle, and though the sexual antics have gotten all the attention— from the guy dexterously servicing himself to another gent commingling with a trick's anus while singing "The Star-Spangled Banner"—the result is the sweetest project ever to deal with rimming and felching.

The plot has a gay male couple trying to survive with the help of a relationship counselor who actually needs her own emergency advice, all of them ending up at Shortbus, a salon/orgy where host JUSTIN BOND spreads lots of wisdom and flower petals. Sweet, right? "Once you've seen the movie, the last thing on your mind is sex," Mitchell—best known for Hedwig and the Angry Inch—told me last week. "It's like the end of a long relationship. You might go in looking for titillation and come out with a tear in your eye, and in the process realize sex is part of the mosaic of life."

Bed, bath, and beyond: John Cameron Mitchell (right) gets the Shortbus end of the stick
photo: Courtesy of Think Films
Bed, bath, and beyond: John Cameron Mitchell (right) gets the Shortbus end of the stick

Of course some right-wing screamers might want less of these 'mos, "but I welcome any controversy," insisted Mitchell. "I relish the opportunity to debate free speech and the fact that this is different from porn. It's an emotional and heartfelt film that's traditional and sentimental." And that's easily the most shocking thing about it.

Fortunately, potential naysayers will probably be too busy beating off in the back row to be all that upset. And Mitchell is finding it's already becoming a badge of courage to admit you saw a multitasker singing into another actor's asshole. (By the way, he swears he used the national anthem not only to make a First Amendment point, but "because the clearances were cheap." "America the Beautiful" might have been even better: "For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain . . . ")

The brave cast brims with fresh faces and anuses. Mitchell did audition one name—the ever game JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT— but he never found a perfect screen match for him in the mosaic. (I guess Shadowboxer had already paired Gordon-Levitt with his ideal co-star, MO'NIQUE.) So the roles are mainly played by unknowns, who helped create them with all the irrepressible pesk of youth. Mitchell himself even pops up in a cunnilingus-y cameo—a long story—and though he didn't get hard, he ended up admitting, "I've been narrow-minded. I want to eat out at different restaurants." And even tip!

But once the cameras stopped, Mitchell refused to indulge in on-set romances with either gender. "You don't shit where you eat," he told me, plainly (though his characters clearly disagree). "Europe is littered with great directors who threw it away for someone they wanted to have sex with. It's like a personal assistant you find attractive. You end up getting them coffee." Please! Mitchell should have a parade of people serving him champagne—and maybe some napkins.


HAPPINESS IS JUST A THING CALLED JOE

We got a little closer to porn when the classic cult sleazical Showgirls was screened at the IFC Center and I got to interview its maverick screenwriter, JOE ESZTERHAS, onstage afterward for a bizarre crowd of soft-spoken film nerds. I expected finger-snapping sparkle queens—and from Eszterhas I anticipated some kind of creepy Godzilla with a broken typewriter. What I found was a cowboy-hatted cuddly bear who only belched once! Joe has developed a great attitude about the flick, admitting that though it's "deeply flawed," he embraces it for all the joy it's brought people, for whatever-the-fuck reason. We also chatted about his more successful classic Basic Instinct and of course his infamous shtup with SHARON STONE. ("It wasn't the bang of the century," he said, when prodded. How about of the week? "Yes," he conceded. Sharon will be so pleased!)

Recently, Eszterhas actually paid to see Sharon's career get shtupped in Basic Instinct 2, but he feels that was covered by his amazing deal for part one. (He was allotted money for the sequel, even if he didn't write it.) Meanwhile, he's whipped up a script about late r&b singer Otis Redding, which CUBA GOODING Jr. was briefly interested in but griped, "Where's the sex?" (I guess Cuba found it with HELEN MIRREN in that same movie that put Joseph Gordon-Levitt on top of Mo'Nique. Alas, audiences lost it.) Eszterhas concluded by revealing that his wife feels like he has a twisted 12-year-old inside him, prompting me to say, "You're starting to sound like MICHAEL JACKSON." When the audience hissed, I chided, "Please! You find that in bad taste and you just paid to see Showgirls?" That shut them up.


SCUMBAGS USING SCUMBAGS

The schmuckof the century, JIM MCGREEVEY, swore to the View gals that he used condoms whenever he had sex at the truck stop. I can see it now: "Hello, Mr. Closeted Trucker. Would you kindly wrap this protective piece of latex around your swollen penis before I engorge it in my oral cavity for a few marvelous moments?" Uh huh.

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