Thursday, December 19, 2013

Leather Jacket Love Story (1997): Coming out of the closet

Leather Jacket Love Story (1997)
dir: David DeCoteau

"Sometimes a poem about fucking is just a poem about fucking." - Jack

Leather Jacket Love Story is the story of a first love, a cross-generational fetishistic movie, and also the meta-story of a director coming out of the closet.

David DeCoteau, whom we've explored with his more recent efforts of 1313: Bigfoot Island, and A Christmas Puppy, had been making very heterosexual exploitation movies up to this point, largely for Full Moon Features. His movies like Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000 were fun for both ogling men and women, but were geared towards a heterosexual audience. He had been making films for 12 years when this movie came out, and had only made a handful of gay hardcore pornographic films under the pseudonym David McCabe. 

By 1997, the New Queer Cinema of angst and anger had been run through the ringers. Many in the queer audience, as well as the rest of the world, had been tired of the anger and aggression that had pervaded the early 1990s culture. Looking at pop music, industrial would start retreating from the national view, metal would turn into rap-metal and die a last gasp, and pop music would start turning to acts like Goo Goo Dolls, The New Radicals, Dave Matthews Band to replace the void that had been filled with the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, and Rage Against the Machine.

As such, David DeCoteau wanted to use some of the techniques of the New Queer Cinema movement to create a happy celebration of queer culture. And, really, he wasn't the only one at that point. Jeffrey would come out in 1995, Beautiful Thing would be in 1996, and Get Real would come out in 1998. 1997 was also, as mentioned in my review of G.B.F., was also the year of Ellen's The Puppy Episode, where she came out of the closet.

Putting Leather Jacket Love Story into a cultural context is almost necessary, as, with the exception of Jeffrey, queer culture was reacting to the idea of being angry at the system, and coming to the idea of coming out of the closet as a joyous activity. Leather Jacket Love Story is the shallow Go Fish-esque first love movie of a young 18 year old boy falling for an older kinky promiscuous man, creating an a coming into happiness story for the gays. 

Kyle, our hapless hero, is an 18-year-old fledgling poet who grew up in WeHo (aka Gay LA), and needed to go West to get away from the gay shallow stereotypes which he has become bored with. He moves to another area where he encounters the more colorful underground gay stereotypes in Silver Lake. Kyle finds a coffee house which is populated by drag queens and arty crowd types, and meets Mike, a manly 35-year-old-saying-he's-29-years-old construction levi-and-leatherman who takes control of the 18-year-old and dominates Kyle into dating him.

Of course, Kyle has never really been in love. The first time that anybody falls in love, they fall hard. After their first overly long, rather heavily softcore, night together, Kyle buys a leather jacket to match Mike. By the end of the second night, he's at a party in a kinky leather party where he gets his nipple pierced at the insistence of Mike. And, Kyle is telling Mike to throw away phone numbers of other boys. When Mike refuses, Kyle, in a fit of despair, goes with his old WeHo friend to a bathhouse.

Meanwhile, Kyle is subject to a gay bashing, but requested by three drag queens from the cafe. And, when one of them is arrested for having a firearm, they hold a Rescue Amanda fundraiser for Kyle to read his poem. As Kyle is reading his ode to Mike's Leather Jacket, Mike finally appears, and tears up the business card of the earlier guy...hinting at the idea that monogamy is the idea of any relationship, gay or straight.

One might notice by now that this review is far far different than any of the other DeCoteau reviews on this site. And, that's because this is an actual movie. This isn't a "let's knock out some shit in a day or two" fly by night film. This is a 10-day shoot with pages and pages of dialogue, characters who are actual characters, and pretentious creativity. Unlike any of DeCoteau's post-Leather Jacket gay films, this movie has full nudity, gay sex, and was created for a gay audience. This is the anti-1313 film. 1313 is like a pseudo-Warhol artistic series, but Leather Jacket is more like a pseudo-Morrissey film with a fuckton of dialogue that, while shallow, is not actually terrible. The actors are actually acting. And, DeCoteau is actually directing a movie with camera setups, lighting, music, movement, acting, and a plot. 

Leather Jacket Love Story is a black-and-white happy-go-lucky film that deals in old-school cinematic tropes like the old spunky sprightly scored nudie films. It doesn't present a dour take on gay cinema, nor does it neuter the gay culture by refusing to take out the gay sexuality. It's not exactly deep. It's about the first three days of a first love between two shallow gays in LA. Sure, it occasionally acts really hilariously derpy, such as when Kyle starts berating Mike for putting their child up for adoption and Mike gets all hilarious defensive saying that he didn't get proper sex ed in his high school. But, its a cutesy hilarious piece of gay bait.

After this, DeCoteau wouldn't make many more directly gay films. Sure, he'd be making hilarious films about straight teenage beefcake in their briefs, occasionally getting tied up or being attacked by men or women. But, they wouldn't be directly gay themed, like Leather Jacket Love Story. And, they wouldn't be as actually cinematic as this movie is either. It's not an amazing piece of work, but Leather Jacket Love Story is a dirty minded wholesome film. 

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