Age Of Consent
I'm a pretty vanilla sort of guy. Leather, fisting and watersports just don't do it for me. So Age Of Consent, a film about The Hoist - London's legendary leather venue - ought to have been a turn-off.
Instead, Charles Lum and Todd Verow's cum-spattered love letter to The Hoist fired me up. It's a call-to-arms of sorts, against the creeping influence of the heteronormative, aka the "new gay cure": keep the sodomy, but live like a breeder!
Back to The Hoist. You might not like what goes on there, but it's fantastic that it does. I mean, being gay means making your own rules, right? Wrong. In 2014, being gay means conforming, being a "good" gay. Getting married. Having kids.
Tied up (as it were) with the narrative of The Hoist's history, is the history of gay equality in the UK, with a particular focus on the inequality of Thatcher's Section 28, and the battles over the age of consent. We hear from soldiers like Peter Tatchell. The film addresses trans issues (trans people want to visit this men only venue, but it's not easy for them), drugs (they're not what they used to be), and gentrification (Vauxhall is the last "Zone 1" area to have its heart and soul ripped out, and the poor moved out). The future of The Hoist is threatened by all of that, and by technology. Gay bars - what's left of them - are now full of straight women, and the straight men they attract, and that's the fault of gay men who encourage them. Consequently, these venues are less attractive to a large number of gay men (this one included), who chose Grindr instead. (Are lesbian bars packed out with straight men? No, I didn't think so.)
Age Of Consent also addresses the issue of inclusion on the gay scene, which is rarely very inclusive. BFI Flare itself is indicative of that; its audience seems to be comprised of well-off, sneery white (and to a lesser extent non-white) queens dressed by The Gap. I never feel welcomed or embraced by this horrible crowd; thank God for the festival's lesbians, who eschew the attitude of their male counterparts. But that's another story.
Age Of Consent gifts many wonderful surprises: who would have thought that, amidst this Sodom and Gomorrah hell of fisting, we'd get a detailed plot description of the 1976 Doctor Who story The Pyramids of Mars. We did. My heart leapt.
The Q&A session afterwards left me despairing. The lesbians (lesbians at a film about gay men and their quest for casual sex - that's how awesome these women are) asked intelligent questions of the filmmakers. The gay men in the audience acted like braindead harpies. One moron asked why the issue of drugs on the gay scene hadn't been addressed by the film. It had been, decisively. Another, a heavy-set Asian man, decided to have a dig at Peter Tatchell ("for someone slagging off respectable gays, he looks very respectable himself". Several people in the audience laughed. I wanted to die). After the screening, I saw him and another guy nursing a couple of toddlers. They had brought their respectability with them.
For now at least, kids aren't allowed in The Hoist, although one wonders how long it will be before the good gays start demanding a crèche - or the venues' closure.
More from kaos at BFI Flare.