Jan 17, 2013
A certain special lady I know used to work for a certain Sicilian-American biomedical researcher who is quite rich and famous for the major contributions he has made to HIV/AIDS research, thereupon making him the target of various unhinged conspiracy theorists and whatnot. When not having his Negro chauffer drive him around town and creeping out his female assistants with his less than savory stares, the now-elderly little doctor continues to conduct search on the devastating disease that made him famous. His pronounced megalomania and peculiar pomposity aside, I doubt spurring Canadian homo auteur John Greyson (Pissoir aka Urinal, The Law of Enclosures) would have a nice things to say about this man and his research, at least judging by the fairy filmmaker’s tragicomedic postmodern fantasy-musical Zero Patience (1993); a superlatively splashy and sardonic cinematic work of the pseudo-historical sort that calls into question virtually everything everyone thinks they know about HIV/AIDS. Centering around the ghost of French-Canadian flight attendant Gaëtan Dugas – a homosexual sadist with AIDS who claimed to have had sex with no less than 2,500 sexual partners, thereupon, in many cases, intentionally spreading it all around the world (but most specifically in North America) in the process – Zero Patience debunks the outmoded thesis (proposed in Randy Shilts' 1987 best-seller And the Band Played On) that “Patient Zero” (Dugas) was the first one with the disease in North America. In the film, famed British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton – who is still alive and well at the antiquated age of 170 due to an "unfortunate encounter" with the “Fountain of Youth” in 1892 – now lives in Vancouver, Canada and works as taxidermist at the Museum of Natural History and decides an extravagant exhibit about Patient Zero/AIDS will make for a most splendid centerpiece. A snobbish closest queen from a proper, pompous Victorian background, Sir Burton has no idea that he is about to fall in love with his STD-ridden ghost of an exhibit, thereupon leading io the most haphazard of homoerotic HIV-themed consequences. Featuring literal singing assholes, loony lesbian green monkeys, colorful and flamboyant walk-and-talking STDs, unfriendly gay ghosts, and a lurid love affair between the historically deceased, Zero Patience is one rare gay musical where the descriptive word “gay” is used literally and not necessarily as a negating adjective.
Despite being one of the greatest, if not the greatest, explorer who ever lived as a man that purportedly knew 29 different languages (European, Asian and African), wrote a number of invaluable books on eclectic subjects, unearthed an amazing collection of cultural treasures (including an unexpurgated translation of One Thousand and One Nights aka The Arabian Nights), worked as a captain in the army of the East India Company, and was awarded knighthood for his amazing activities, Sir Richard Francis Burton, also known as “Dick Burton” (at least in Greyson's film), is no more prestigious than a glorified 'cock-size collector' and “19th Century Sexual Radical” in Zero Patience where he tirelessly works as the Chief Taxidermist at the Toronto Museum of Natural History. Sir Richard Francis Burton (played by John Robinson, who has a strikingly resemblance to director John Greyson) considers ‘Patient Zero’ (Normand Fauteux) aka Gaëtan Dugas (his real name is never used once in the film) a serial killer of sorts, so he has no problem presenting photoshopped photos to the press of the AIDS victim with Kaposi's sarcoma in preparation for his upcoming AIDS-addled Patient Zero exhibition due to the fact that only a couple “lackluster footnotes” exist on his subject. Part of his Hall of Contagion project – a collection of exhibits that also include “Typhoid Mary” and “Tuskegee syphilis” – Burton hopes that the Patient Zero exhibit will act as the shining piece in a proposed taxidermist masterpiece that may possibly, “restore his reputation as a world-class intellectual.” Burton must have really pissed off Zero’s pansy phantasm, as the postmortem homo – who is “suspended somewhere between existential limbo and the primordial void” – magically materializes at a homosexual bath house as a gay ghost more under the spell of cock than he ever was during his brief orgy-obsessed lifetime, but unfortunately for him, no one can see him except his new nemesis Richard Francis Burton. Despite his initial repellence towards the famed explorer, Zero agrees to be in Burton’s Patient Zero exhibit if the bodacious Brit agrees to do the inexplicable by making the wholly hysterical and horny homo haunt visible to the rest of the world.
Dismayed by the fact he cannot get laid since no one can see him, nor his wretchedly wild willy, Zero eventually finds himself an unlikely vintage sex partner in the form of sexually-repressed Victorian explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton; a man who once theorized that, "England was too cold for sodomy to occur" so as to appease his anally-retentive countrymen. Canada is not much warmer, but that does not stop Burton from buggering his gay display Zero. Due to his extra-eccentric erotic excursions with the poofter poltergeist, as well as his own scientifically astute research, Burton soon realizes that the whole Patient Zero theory – that a single individual, Gaëtan Dugas aka Patient Zero, introduced HIV/AIDS to North American – is nothing but an urban legend of the totally scientifically dubious sort propelled by journalistic sensationalism as opposed to hard science. After chatting and singing with the awfully angry African green monkey (the animal that supposedly transferred HIV to humans) display at his museum, which magically morphs from an inanimate taxidermied monkey into a dyke Jewess of sorts with a biting sense of sarcasm, Burton also concludes that she, like Zero, is also a carefully selected scapegoat. After all, being a lily-licking lesbian, the monkey could not have possibly spread the disease, especially among bum-bandits into bestiality. Naturally, Burton decides to revamp his Patient Zero exhibit, but he is too late as the media has already started a pernicious propaganda campaign with the gay ghost as its plainly perverse posterboy/playboy. Luckily, ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), which includes Patient Zero’s own mother, ex-gay lover, and former airline colleague named Mary (Dianne Heatherington), crashes the museum like a group of softcore terrorists and proceed to obliterate the Hall of Contagion exhibit. Zero Patience also features a somewhat fractured subplot about a Negro French teacher named George (Richardo Keens-Douglas) – an ex-lover of Zero with AIDS who is going blind and is taking a dubious drug promoted by a big pharmaceutical company to treat his illness – that is also a member of ACT UP. Needless to say, Zero Patience, despite its pro-multicultural and homophile message, is far from politically correct in persuasion.
Despite what one things of director John Greyson’s sociopolitical message(s) in regard to Zero Patience, one must admit that his central point – that "Patient Zero" was a sleazy sidehow scapegoat of sorts – is ultimately correct, not least of all due to the undeniable fact that Robert Rayford, a black American teenager from Missouri who died in 1969 (but starting experiencing symptoms in 1966) is now considered the earliest confirmed carrier of HIV/AIDS in North America. Although Gaëtan Dugas as “Patient Zero” is portrayed as somewhat of an annoying prick who has a hell of time keeping his sexual potency and perversity in check, the real-life French-Canadian was much more of a subversive sexual sadist/sociopath who in a manner not unlike French philosopher Michel Foucault (whose writings had a major influence on Greyson’s first feature Pissoir aka Urinal) – a HIV-positive sadomasochistic sodomite knowingly and intentionally spread around fatal affliction – once stated, "I've got gay cancer. I'm going to die and so are you" (thus expressing his desire to 'take people with him') so Zero Patience does go as far as presenting an abhorrent overzealous libertine lunatic as some sort of posthumous victim, even if he was not solely responsible for spreading the disease around North America. As John Greyson stated in an interview for the book The View From Here (2007), his main objective with Zero Patience was, “paying tribute in a larger form to what so many video artists, activists, performance artist, and filmmakers were already doing – taking the feistiness of ACT UP and throwing it in the face of the Reagan administration, the pharmaceutical companies, and the homophobic public. Zero Patience was inspired by my involvement in AIDS Action Now in Toronto in the late ‘80s, and was really about taking those activist techniques of humor and irreverence and applying them to the scapegoating that was going on. The film was meant to play very much like the anti-And the Band Played On…author Randy Shilts constructed the narrative around a very sexy subplot – the demonization of Air Canada flight attendant Gaëtan Dugas as a queer vampire – in the interests of making it as bestseller.” Indeed, while it is quite easy to deduce that Dugas was a “queer vampire” of sorts due to his own wicked words and aberrant actions, Zero Patience does offer some provocative food for thought of the frenziedly farcical sort that proves audacious auteur John Greyson is not only a masterful cinematic propagandist of the heretical homo persuasion, thereupon making him the "Rosa von Praunheim of Canada," but also a studied student of homophile history as he has proven time and time again, with his avant-garde AIDS musical being arguably his greatest artistic accomplishment. Of course, I guess one should not expect anything less from a flaming fairy of a filmmaker with zero patience for those that probe and penalize his pansies pals.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 10:15 PM
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