Aug 15, 2014

Bijou




After the success of his debut crossover feature Boys in the Sand (1971)—a work that predated Gerard Damiano’s hardcore hit Deep Throat (1972) by almost a year—auteur-pornographer Wakefield Poole (Moving!, One, Two, Three) bravely decided to do the seemingly nonsensical by following up his homo hit with an experimental erotic flick of the exceedingly ethereal and quasi-psychedelic sort that would prove to dumbfound most audience members. Indeed, a film with a title that is generally associated with classic American cocksucker flicks from the 1970s and 1980s, Bijou (1972) is a sort of arthouse ‘head’ flick featuring a brigade of phantom homo hippies giving head to an ostensibly heterosexual construction worker who finds himself being worshiped as a virtual sexual god by a group of languidly lurking shadowy sodomites of the somewhat ghostly sort. As auteur Poole describes in his audio commentary for the recent 2014 Vinegar Syndrome DVD release of his second feature, he originally intended to direct a heterosexual porn flick after being annoyed by the fact that dago Damiano cashed in on what the gay auteur did with Boys in the Sand via his mafia-distributed ‘breeder hit’ Deep Throat, which ultimately became the most profitable pornographic film of all time. Luckily, innate sexual invert Poole decided to stay true to his poof persuasion and directed Bijou instead which, although a fag fuck flick with minor heterosexual elements, has more in common with the experimental works of Stan Brakhage (Dog Star Man, Scenes from Under Childhood) and a Kenneth Anger flick like Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) than the average queer hardcore flick, albeit minus the diva-like fag hags and Crowleyite/Thelemite imagery and symbolism.  Once lauded by Variety as follows, “Part Kubrick, part raunchy Disney […] it looks like a porno film starring Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, Steve Reeves, and Joe Dallesandro,” Bijou is pure body worship in celluloid form as set in a phantasmagoric poof pandemonium that blurs the line between homo heaven and hell. Although mostly shot in the filmmaker's apartment on 16mm film stock with a somewhat meager budget of about $22,000, the work looks like a lavish big budget 35mm production, which is largely a result of the Poole’s use of experimental lighting as a man with a background in theater. A decidedly drug-influenced work of the rather ambiguous and open-ended sort, auteur Poole described the film as follow in an introduction for the recent Vinegar Syndrome release: “I came up with the idea that I wanted to make an abstract full of enigmas and things that key off things in your mind…you had to make your own movie out of the images that you saw and whatever you brought to the film from your experiences would affect what you got from the movie.” Of course, as a work about a straight construction worker who is sexually serviced by half a dozen men or so, Bijou is certainly a fag fantasy gone awry, but one not without aesthetic merit as a sort of marvelously misbegotten celluloid marriage between the so-called ‘aesthetic fascism’ of Leni Riefenstahl and the cine-magic of Kenneth Anger, which is certainly an aesthetically audacious cinematic combo made in hell. 



Beginning with a thriller-like segment that director Poole himself described as being,“like a Hitchcockian tribute,” Bijou starts with a fateful happenstance meeting between three strangers that ultimately acts as the catalyst for the rest of the plot. Indeed, after a slutty streetwalker-like chick (Cassandra Hart) sporting an aesthetically repellant fur coat and a mini-skirt is hit by a car at an intercity crosswalk driven by a young man (played by producer Marvin Shulman, who produced most of Poole's films) with a shaved head and a flamingly gay mustache, a dubious young construction of the opportunistic sort with a leather-fag mustache (played by porn star/director Ronnie Shark, who died of AIDS in 1991 at the age of 43) slyly snags the dead hooker’s purse and takes it home with him after hiding it inside his coat jacket and making his way to the nearest subway. After getting back to his pathetically furnished dump of an apartment, the Construction Worker drinks a huge glass of milk that looks more like semen and empties the dead prostitute’s purse out on his bed, ultimately finding pink lipstick, keys, an old letter and photography and, most importantly, an invitation for a mysterious club called Bijou that has to be used by 7:00 p.m. that day. After jerking off to images of naked chicks to the 'honkey blues' sounds of  Led Zeppelin songs “Dazed and Confused” and “Babe I'm Gonna Leave You” while taking a shower, the Construction Worker heads to club Bijou (interestingly, the entrance of which was shot in Poole's apartment building hallway). When he gets there, the blue collar (anti)hero hands his magic red ticket to a rather old Jew-y bitch of a ticket taker (Lydia Black) and is directed towards a door which he enters, only to discover everything is pitch black inside of the seemingly unoccupied club. Needless to say, the ostensibly heterosexual proletarian laborer has no clue what kind of nightmare of phantasmagoric homo hedonism that he has gotten himself into. 



 After a couple seconds of standing in the pitch black club of carnality, the Construction Worker notices a neon sign reading “remove shoes”, which he immediately does. When he spots a second neon sign reading “remove clothes,” he also does not think twice about doing that and soon enters a mystifying netherworld of distorted mirrors and white smoke. While walking through the club like a proudly well endowed panther on the prowl, the Construction Worker notices a variety of bizarre gigantic sensual statues, including a pink face with a giant penis hanging out of its mouth, as well as yellow sea urchins and a giant bouquet of pink hands. Eventually, the rather intrigued protagonist happens upon a sexually ambiguous longhaired individual laying face down on the floor in a somewhat crucified-like position. Of course, the sexually androgynous individual is a dude, but that does not stop the supposedly straight protagonist from promptly penetrating the tightly bound fellow’s heinie highway.  Since the bound bitch boy does not move, it seems as if the protagonist is penetrating a fresh corpse.  Like most men after having a good fuck, the Construction Worker falls asleep after his initiation into bum-buggery, but he is soon awakened by a mysterious collage film that is being projected by a seemingly pernicious unclad cameraman (as fittingly played by director Wakefield Poole). Eventually, four different projected screens appear with four different men provocatively undressing and eventually masturbating (this footage is actually the screen-tests Poole shot while auditioning performers during pre-production). While the four screens are being a projected, a fifth screen appears in the middle featuring the same seemingly wanton woman who was hit by the car at the beginning of the film. Just as the supposedly dead hooker strips off all her clothes, all four men reach sexual climax, as if she is responsible for initiating them into a life underworld sod lechery. After the projected masturbation scenes conclude, the Construction Worker passively allows a mysterious tattooed man (played director Poole’s boyfriend Peter Schneckenburger aka Peter Fisk, who also starred in Boys in the Sand) to lick and suck him up and down. Eventually, the two men's rather languid sex session erupts into a somnambulistic seven man orgy, with a new man appearing every couple minutes or so to join in the ritualistic man-wich. By the end of the oneiric orgy, the protagonist takes on a more aggressive role and the men leave one-by-one by disappearing into the darkness just as they once ‘came.’ After blowing his load and achieving an otherworldly orgasm, the Construction Worker falls asleep in the same place he did previously after buggering the first boy and after waking up, he puts on his clothes and leaves the club a new proud member of the occult gay underworld.  Indeed, the protagonist is in such a ecstatic state after his extra-erotic esoteric experiences that he does not even notice the bitchy ticket taker's attempt to give him another free pass to Bijou.  In the final shot of the film, the Construction Worker smiles for the first time in the entire film, as if a gay orgy has solved all of his problems in life.  Needless to say, it is doubtful that the protagonist well tell his co-worker about his experiences at NYC's premiere phantom poof club.




 When it comes to old school bro-on-bro blue movies, Bijou is certainly the Citizen Kane (or more like Metropolis) of gay porn flicks, as an aesthetically, thematically, and technically revolutionary work that is more than just a mere masturbation aid for dudes that dig big dongs. While the film certainly has its hedonistic elements (after all, the director has admitted that he was heavily influenced by recreational drug use at the time of making the work, with some critics have even jokingly calling the film ‘Boys on the Grass’), aesthetically speaking, Poole’s film is certainly a piece of Apollonian art, especially when compared to the decidedly dark and deranged Dionysian works of Fred Halsted (LA Plays Itself, Sextool) and French artsploitation auteur/pornographer Jacques Scandelari (Beyond Love and Evil, New York City Inferno).  American porn producer/auteur Jack Deveau would later direct a film in a similar aesthetic vein entitled Strictly Forbidden (1976) aka Le musée about a young American tourist that finds himself trapped in a museum exhibit during after-hours where the statues and sculptures come alive at night and cum on the young yank lad's face.  Additionally, the heterosexual hardcore flick Visions (1977) would also borrow from Poole's film by being partly set in a phantasmagorical netherworld featuring giant genitals and phantasm fuckers.  Indeed, if National Socialist sculptor Arno Breker had been a gay pornographer, his films would probably resemble Poole’s, as Bijou glorifies the male physical in a classical fashion just as much (if not more so) as it focuses of pre-AIDS bareback buggery. Of course, as a southern-bred boy with a background in theater, dancing, and choreography, Poole had a more ‘traditional’ view of aesthetics, which is quite apparent in a film like his second feature where he attempted to make cocksucking into a highly poetic and lyrical art. Notably, one of the ‘performers’ in the film, Bill Cable—a good friend of Marlon Brando’s murderous son who later appeared in small roles in films like Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985) and Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988) as cops—was heterosexual (he died in a motorcycle in 1998 at age 51) and the director merely utilized him as a human statue of sorts (indeed, he does not actually engage in the gay orgy, but instead wraps a rope around the protagonist's head and stares menacingly). Interestingly but not surprisingly, the director attempted to go mainstream with his next effort Wakefield Poole's Bible (1973), which is neither gay nor pornographic and features three chapters based on Old Testament stories about female Biblical figures, with ‘popular’ female porn star Georgina Spelvin (The Devil in Miss Jones, Police Academy) playing one of the lead roles.  Shot mostly in the director's apartment with all of the special effects done through the camera, Poole's transcendental masterpiece of atmospheric androphilia and erotic masculinity is indisputable proof that you do need that many resources to create an entire cinematic universe.  If you ever thought about wondered what a psychedelic musical as imagined by the Village People might be like, but think the band's banal music is banal (Poole's film features a great ambient and ethereal score), Bijou features that and much more as a rather rare example of a crossover avant-garde colon-choker fuck flick.



-Ty E

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