1971-1980EroticaExperimentalFred HalstedQueer Cinema(s)USA

Fred Halsted – LA Plays Itself [+Commentary] (1972)

Fred Halsted plays himself in his notorious autobiographical portrait of Los Angeles. Two men have a fleetingly idyllic meeting outside of town while Halsted shows a young pick-up the ropes within city limits.

Sally Jane Black wrote:
The first thing that needs to be said about this is that it’s funny. That’s not something that gets said enough about either experimental films or pornographic ones, as far as I can tell. Some of that sense of humor is crude sex humor, but deployed without mocking or humiliation. It’s just a silly pickup line from one man to another while sitting by a waterfall. Other humorous moments have undercurrent to them, especially the interruption of the queer love in the forest by bulldozers, what I hope is a snarky rejection of the idea of homosexuality as unnatural by contrast. That symbols of capitalist expansion are used as part of this metaphor associates one form of oppression with another, too.

Raucous noise soundtracks this as much as music or voiceover (and all the dialogue seems to be in voiceover), screaming through ejaculations, rattling over conversations, shattering the stillness. The camera focuses on the bodies, mostly, obviously, but oscillating between a violent surveillance and an intense, close up observation, between defiant and erotic. In contrast to the Internet era’s wide range of amateur pornography (so vast an ocean it’s unfair to classify it, but) with mostly amateur and uninspired cinematography, Halsted’s experimental piece has an understanding of attractiveness not in terms of bodies (though there’s that, too) but in terms of the screen. Nature, picnics, cityscapes, and bodyscapes are filmed with an eye toward focus and perspective, with color and light, not (just) with an interest in the smack of flesh upon flesh and the unending undulation of coitus. The sex is part of something more.

This film is known, apparently, for having inspired the film essay Los Angeles Plays Itself, which I’ve not seen. I’ve no idea if Thom Andersen or his essay are queer, but I have a feeling from descriptions that the film itself is not focused on queer-content. It would be unfair, though, (for me in my ignorance) to insist this is a form of queer erasure, if only because bias against pornography and experimental film also work against this, too. But it does irritate me a little bit that this isn’t more popular.

+Commentary with Elizabeth Purchell, K.J. Shepherd, and Tyler Thomas

1.60GB | 55m 17s | 770×576 | mkv


Subtitles:English SDH, Spanish, French

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