Friday, March 30, 2012

LLGFF: Glam and Swagger

Still from Stud LifeLast night was glam night, with the European premiere of Jobriath A.D., followed by a party, which I missed, because I opted for the Alice Walker premiere.

Anyway, glam has never been of particular interest to me. Too many ridiculous guitar solos, tight trousers, and boys playing at being transgressive. So there's the disclaimer. To my mind, Jobriath's story is far more interesting than his music, which is liberally sprinkled throughout the doc. Starting out as a cast member of Hair, he moves to New York, meets manager Jerry Brandt and gets signed to Elektra. So far, so good, but Brandt hyped his client to the skies, made all kinds of promises of epic greatness Jobriath could not meet and used the singer's sexuality as a selling point. Calling himself "the true fairy of rock", Jobriath was openly gay at a time when many of his contemporaries were hinting at bisexuality to seem daring. But it backfired spectacularly on him. One of the questions the doc doesn't address is why the gay community was so indifferent to him.

But, things didn't go well for the singer, and after being dropped by Elektra and Brandt, he never regained his standing as the next big thing. Interestingly, he reinvented himself as a piano bar singer called Cole Berlin, and there is a piece of intriguing footage showing him in this guise, winking at the camera, nattily dressed in suit and tie with a 'tache. It seemed he had found his calling before he fell ill and died of AIDS in 1983. Jobriath barely speaks in the doc, so dominated was he by Brandt's plotting and scheming. A shame, as he did appear to have a talent for performance, strutting about on The Midnight Special in a Bowie-cum-Pierrot get-up. Director Kieran Turner asked after the screening for a show of hands as to who thought Brandt was good or bad and the vote was pretty evenly divided.

There is a fair amount of strutting in Stud Life, Campbell X's fiction debut and, apparently, the only British feature on show. A love triangle of sorts, the conflict pits butch JJ's best friend Seb against her new lover Elle in what the director-writer calls "mates before muff". I immediately had a problem with this: 1) I don't like the term "muff" to refer to a human being and 2) why can't one be friends with one's lover? Ah, maybe it's a butch-femme thing. Anyway, Seb and Elle don't get along, and JJ is not the most tactful of souls, all swagger and bragging until the shit hits the fan and she needs to reach out to Seb and Elle to reach some kind of compromise. There is a good supporting cast of familiar faces on the queer scene and some funny moments, but it feels a bit self-consciously hipster.

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