Earlier this week, several online commenters thought my declaration, “All the Best Filmmakers Are Gay,” was insulting or exclusionary. They missed the joke and missed the truth that is easily observable in movies of the past few years. Now, here’s more proof in the newly released DVD and Blu-Ray of Paris 05:59: Hugo & Theo.
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It’s one thing to adopt the slogan “Love Wins.” Proving it is different. In Ducastel and Martineau’s great film Paris 05:59: Hugo & Theo (now also available on streaming), a hook-up in a gay sex club turns to love. There’s complication, too: Personalities, trust, baggage from the past, health, the pre-dawn society’s reality to which the two men must acclimate.
Gay Millennials don’t always promote this complexity, the best filmmakers do.
A four-minute short titled The Glory Hole by Bay Area filmmaker Daniel Maggio is included on the new DVD. It’s the opposite of porn. Maggio’s semi-documentary presents a real-life San Francisco couple Jeff Foote and Cosgrove Vincent Norstadt who shyly but proudly recount their meet-cute anniversary 22 years ago at a “dirty bookstore.” Not since Ira Sachs’ The Delta has such places been shown in mainstream American gay movies, as if to erase their existence from the new post-Obergefell propriety.
I like calling Ducastel-Martineau’s film Hugo & Theo but their proper dateline title cites the moment of awareness. It captures two young men (played with complementary charm and temper by Geoffrey Couet and Francois Nambot) realizing their spiritual commitment. Paris 05:59: goes deeper than most other modern movie romances. Hollywood rarely examines devotion that grows from lust and—sorry to bring the news—neither do most gay movies.
Yes, renegade gloryholes—places of rude congregation—have been outdated by hook-up websites, but the testimony to Foote and Norstadt’s humane connection (finding love and companionship) is timeless. Wolfe Distribution appends this short (not directed by Ducastel-Martineau) out of the need to put Paris 05:59 into context for those who take their ideas of movie gayness from Hollywood. The wit of the older men’s reminiscence (they’re played in flashback by Ali Cesur and Pavel Tabutov) ratifies the charm of Duscastel-Martineau’s erotic masterpiece.
Gay American film culture needs the candor in this short to break free from the conventionality that constrains mainstream gay directors, like Gus Van Sant and Todd Haynes, who have lost their early radicalism. (Ian-Patrik Polk’s beautiful wit has been marginalized. Good ol’ Gregg Araki, like Ira Sachs, keeps his freak flag flying, even at half-mast).
Brazenly titled, The Glory Hole includes some requisite penis-insertion shorts (actually, it’s rather chaste despite winning a “Best in Show” prize at the annual HUMP Film Festival). The titular subcultural reference frequently gets naughty mentions on TV’s Family Guy, here it tests gay culture decorum like no other film since Jacques Nolot’s 2002 Porn Theater (La chatte a deux tetes). Nolot’s film is another underappreciated masterpiece that connects gay lust to with the desire for community. It deserves greater recognition in order to free gay life to from the ghetto of mainstream condescension—the prison of Brokeback Mountain, Carol and Moonlight.
Few movies challenge the disrepute of gay cultural habits that were born of repressed libido or the thrill of the masculine hunt. But the beauty of Paris: 05:59 lies in its demonstration that love between gay men deserves recognition and acceptance for its provable reality.