Interior. Leather Bar.
Let me first say a couple of things about the ever-ubiquitous James Franco: I think this multi-faceted person is a mad genius. And Spolier Alert: He does not take his clothes off or engage in any gay sex in his highly anticipated new feature "Interior.Leather Bar."
Along with co-director Thomas Mathews ("I Want Your Love"), Franco takes the controversial 1980 film "Cruising" and pays homage to it by re-imagining 40-minutes of lost film footage that supposedly featured explicit gay sex left on the cutting room floor. But "Interior.Leather Bar." is more about the process of bringing that recreation together and the actors/extras involved. Barely 10 minutes of the reimagined scenes are shown.
"Interior.Leather Bar." defies categorization. On the one hand, Franco, Mathews and actors sit around talking about their feelings on whether explicit gay sex should be shown in mainstream films. At the polar opposite extreme, Franco and Mathews film actual hardcore sex while actors (especially Val Lauren) watch voyeuristically. It’s definitely hot, but ultimately pointless.
Lauren, channeling original "Cruising" star Al Pacino, looks visibly uncomfortable filming the leather bar scenes. Rumor has it Pacino was leery of his role in "Cruising," too.
In the end, the viewer comes out of viewing "Interior.Leather Bar." having even more questions about "Cruising" than ever before. The 40 minutes of lost footage are an urban legend to begin with. Franco continues to push the envelope, but this 60-minute documentary/remake hybrid never comes to fruition. Like Franco himself sometimes, it’s a frustrating tease.
Special features are intriguing, yet the odd mix of them doesn’t add much to "Interior’s" already confusing motives. Both Franco and Mathews have short films as a bonus feature, neither one better than the other. "Feast of Stephen" is Franco’s bizarre look at bullying, shot in black and white, and features fleeting glimpses of male full frontal nudity. "In Their Room" offers more explicit nudity, but Mathew’s short film appears more authentic and genuine without seeming pornographic. It shows various young men talking about their sexual desires in various forms of undress.
In their respective interviews, Franco and Mathews both briefly talk about the influence "Cruising" had on the making of this film. One gets the feeling that filming gay sex unfazed Franco. But like "Interior.Leather Bar." itself, the whole thing might just be a scripted act.