Badpuppy Gay Today
Monday, 14 April, 1997
There's a cinematic tale, a good, funny, no budget pre-JOHNS film that's called "Hustler White." Its got lousy camera work, awkward acting, and a silly story, but it's full of life/movement and fun. Its politically incorrect (i.e. its blacks are rapists, but fun-fake rapists)--but a good film nevertheless.
This simple plot: a day in the life of a Hollywood street hustler who loses, then gets his shirt, has been re-made by Scott Silver and his friend-from-their-days-at-the-American-Film-Institute, Stefan Simchowitz. Scott and Stefan have managed to get some real bucks and have made a low budget film (as opposed to "Hustler White" as a no-budget film). The result is JOHNS.
If this reviewer were ever to be given his rightful place as Teacher at the American Film Institute, or the University of California's Los Angeles Film School, he'd give students a quiz, consisting of two questions:
QUESTION ONE: How many stolen plots, taken from previous films, can you identify after seeing Scott Silver and Stefan Simchowitz's JOHNS?
QUESTION TWO: Can you, being politically incorrect, draw a picture of the genesis of JOHNS? You may use the phrase, "Silver and his friend Simchowitz" and not lose points for anti-Semitism.
OK. Here's the correct answer to Question One:
JOHNS starts with a voice-over and a supine figure. The figure is not floating in a pool but is sleeping (father of death.) A Voice and the Supine Figure: "Sunset Boulevard." (1950; Director: Billy Wilder.)
Item stolen from previous films: Shoes which have the ID and all the money of the lead character. Source: "Sullivan's Travels," (1941; Director: Preston Sturges.)
Property of shoes: They are the luck of the character: "Johnny Suede" (1991; Director: Tom DiCiolo.)
Predicament of the main character: He must, by day's end, pay back huge sum owed Mafioso types or be killed. (Cassavantes film: title unremembered.)
By days end: Violence meets a man who can't admit his homosexuality: A beating. ("Midnight Cowboy" (1969; Director: John Schlesinger.)
Two buddies, one gay, one straight, but devoted to each other: "My Own Private Idaho" (1991; Director: Gus van Sant.)
A person in JOHNS, a male whore, shows how he fools clients by pretending orgasm by gasping a lot. (Sally Field, in "When Harry Met Sally": (1989; Director: Rob Reiner.) Of course, most men show sexual enthusiasm not by gasping but by having an orgasm and ejaculating. This copy-cat scene with a man, instead of a woman, therefore makes little sense.
Planned escape from Evil City to place of healing. One dies, the other goes on alone, on the bus. (Again: "Midnight Cowboy", see credits above.)
A teacher, such as this reviewer longs to be, would have to deduct from the grade of any student who doesn't remember (this is no open-book exam) the title of the Cassavantes film where the character in a single day must get the money or be killed.
Question Two: Can you give a picture of the genesis of JOHNS?
Yes. A nice Jewish (gay) young man, graduating from the American Film Institute decides--not like the author of "Sling Blade" that he will take a piece of his heart and put it on-film but will remake "Hustler White" (but this young filmmaker has connections which the maker of "Hustler White" did not and a bigger budget).
But the Nice Jewish Boy has seen the old classics and has also seen (at the Gay Film Festival, arty-stuff like "Bodies Without Souls") and the famous-famous superhit "Silence of the Lambs" where horror is underlined with sacred church music and angelic voices and harps.
He's done cinema verite research like Cassavantes and has paid street hustlers who have boasted (a) that they get $200 a throw from their johns for simple blowjobs, even though in Los Angeles one can get Prime Beef (see the ads in the gay personals) for much less from street whores, strung out on drugs and not Quality and (b) the reasons why, earning top dollar, they're still out in the street is they've had recent setbacks, been robbed. They can show bruises and cuts. Still, repeat stories of conquests, mansions they were in where they picked up--lying around the place--stuff like strings of pearls.
And this film--JOHNS--is the result.
End of quiz.
One must hate this film--JOHNS--as well as the film makers. But note: Siskel and Ebert give it two thumbs up; it has won the Euskal Media Prize at the 1996 San Sebastian Film Festival and the Special Audience Award at the 1996 Valencia Film Festival.
Stuck in this film are: Lukas Haas, who, only yesterday, was a cute prepubescent boy in "Witness", and David Arquette who, playing the street person in "Where the Day Takes You" does look as if he's been eating out of dumpsters.
Also stuck, and giving good value for their money: Elliot Gould, once married to Barbara S., playing a silly married Jewish dude who invites a male whore into his house where his wife's jewelry is up for grabs. Well, it's an acting gig and better than eating out of dumpsters, or is it?
And--having an odd/slight acting triumph: Richard Kind as a gay hotel clerk who follows protocol as Chief Desk Clerk in a ritzy hotel where the lead-whore, David Arquette, wants to have a Night in. Kind returns this john's deposit-money when this john wants to leave the Evil City.
This film is no credit to Los Angeles, the Art of Film, the American Film Institute, homosexuality or hustlers.
© 1997 BEI;
All Rights Reserved.