Boys Briefs 4: Six Short Films About Guys Who Hustle (2006)

Todd R. Ramlow

Gigolo demonstrates how the queer hustler -- tragic, romantic, and heroic -- still has the power to shock and to demand social change.

Boys Briefs 4: Six Short Films About Guys Who Hustle

Director: Armen Kazazian
Cast: Bryan Marshall, Sam Barlow, Sebastian Lamour, Jesse Lee, Bryan Bevege, Tammy Warwick, Francie Gray, Salim Kechiouche, Amanda Lear, Stéphane Rolland, Nancy Beatty, Greg Atkins, D. Garnet Harding, John Militello, Timothy Lee DePriest, Aron Tager, P.J. Lazic
MPAA rating: N/A
Studio: Picture This!
Display Artist: Tony Krawitz, Welby Ings, Bastian Schweitzer, Greg Atkins, Mary Feuer, Armen Kazazian
First date: 2006
US Release Date: 2006-07-21 (Limited release)

The hustler is a common figure in gay arts and culture. While sex workers of all sorts appear in straight cultural productions, the queer hustler is different from his female other. Rarely, to the best of my knowledge, are female sex workers in heterosexual arts subject to the kind of sympathetic characterization and subcultural adulation as the queer hustler, gigolo, rent-boy, or street-corner cocksucker.

The hustler is simultaneously tragic, romantic, and heroic. Often his tragedies appear the result of dysfunctional if not outright abusive families, and are further tied to a general and pervasive societal homophobia. So, in Boys Briefs 4's Into the Night, Marcus' (Bryan Marshall) father has rejected him, presumably because of his son's homosexuality, and in Boy, Sam's (Jesse Lee) life is characterized not only by poverty, but also by seemingly casual homophobia and violence. The hustlers' stories represent all too common experience of anti-queer violence and self-determination in the face of intolerance.

The hustler is romantic as far as the audience's fantasy extends to "rescuing" him. This is a role commonly fulfilled by a caring john. In Rock Bottom, Billy (John Militello), a sweet, overweight, 30-something, picks up twinkie street hustler Jason (Timothy Lee DePriest) and takes him home. Typical hustler-john shenanigans take place; Billy makes awkward small talk, Jason cases the apartment, insists he doesn't kiss. Yet a real rapport develops between the two, and the film ends with Jason crossing his own hustler boundaries to kiss Billy, suggesting things might get better for both. In Gold, the aging, nearly blind artist Cal (Aron Tager) employs hustler Jay (P.J. Lazic) not for his body, but to assist him in painting new canvases; in teaching Jay about passion and beauty, he leads the young man to a kind of salvation.

In queer arts, the heroic hustler is depicted as willfully resistant to cultures of normativity. He rejects the costs and expectations of bourgeois "respectability," becoming romantic in his tragedy. This is the queer hustler of Jean Genet, John Rechy, and Dennis Cooper (among many others). This is also the hustler of Build and Gigolo, by far the two best shorts of BB4.

Gold's romance is too saccharine and Rock Bottom's rescue narrative too easy, Into the Night's understanding of personal tragedy is thin and Boy is arty-farty. But Build and Gigolo offer complex characters who gesture toward larger social problems and anxieties. Build, failed-out architecture student Crete (Greg Atkins) resorts to hustling to support his alcoholic mother Sherry (Nancy Beatty), while hiding the fact that he's no longer in school from her. They're a working class family of two, and all of Sherry's hopes for a better life are based in Crete's education. The obvious commentary here is the lack of opportunities available to the urban poor; we're not told exactly why Crete failed out of school, but he's obviously smart, so we wonder what wasn't available to him that might have allowed his educational success?

Working the street one night, Crete meets fellow hustler Garnet (J. Garnet Harding), and immediately develops a crush on him. So when Garnet asks to crash at his place, Crete agrees, then spends several nights dreaming of making love to Garnet. Crete is twice betrayed by Garnet, and the delicately constructed house of lies he has built to protect (or deceive?) his mother falls apart. But this isn't some apocalyptic tragedy for Crete or Sherry; it's merely one more disappointment in a lifetime of failed aspirations. Both face up to this disappointment and somehow, heroically, muster on.

Gigolo tells a story a different story about social and economic obstacles, one not of perseverance but of accusation and reparation. Karim, the son of Algerian immigrants, finds a way out of the banlieus by selling himself to the upper crust of Parisian society. La Femme (Amanda Lear), one of his two primary clients, feels that Karim is starting to be "too much" for her. She wanted romance, but what she got was an angry young man shaped by French racism. La Femme's desire for romance reflects Western fantasies of the Other, and specifically French erotic subjectifications of Northern African men and women. Both La Femme and L'Homme (Stephane Rolland), Karim's other client, are desperate to interrogate him, to find out who he is. La Femme has a private detective investigate his past, and L'Homme endlessly questions Karim about why he hustles. L'Homme offers Karim this estimation: "I don't think you choose to be a prostitute. I think you force it, in order to punish yourself."

Karim recognizes his self-punishment. His physical degradation is reflected in his psychological deterioration, recorded obsessively in his journals ("Must write, record everything"). But Karim also understands himself as engaged in punishing his oppressors. Karim asserts, "I want to make you pay for what I've been through," and he sees his fucking of rich Parisians as symbolically enacting his revenge on a racist and oppressive French culture: "I'll be your shame." Gigolo directly indicts France, and the West more generally, for violence against its Others.

In recording of his life and thoughts, Karim resembles the narrator (Genet "himself") of Jean Genet's The Thief's Journal, and Gigolo certainly reflects the existentialist welter out of which Genet wrote. Yet Karim and Gigolo's political engagement is more like Genet's own. In his real life, Genet was dedicated to the cause of Algerian independence; he found symmetries in the exploitation and oppression of Algerians under French colonial rule with his own queer outlaw existence. For Genet and for Karim, sexuality and politics are intimately, promiscuously, intertwined. Gigolo demonstrates how the queer hustler -- tragic, romantic, and heroic -- still has the power to shock and to demand social change.


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.