Porn Theater

We are all of us in the gutter, and some of us are looking at the gutter
★★★
☆
Released: 
2002
Director: 
Jacques Nolot
Starring: 
Jacques Nolot, Vittoria Scognamiglio, Sebastian Viala, Olivier Torres
The Setup: 
One day at a porn theater where men come to have sex.
Discussion: 

Jacques Nolot had a recent movie I wanted to see, Before I Forget, which was supposedly about an aging gay hustler. I never made it to see that, but reviews for that one often mentioned this one, so onto my list it went. This is an ensemble piece that just covers an afternoon and evening at a porn theater, showing the different men that come there and the way they interact with each other, and the one woman present.

We begin with the title, Porn Theater, directly below the French title: La Chatte à Deux Têtes, which obviously does NOT translate into "Porn Theater." No matter, we soon find out that the French title means "The Pussy With Two Heads," the name of a film playing at the theater, and obviously a much more desirable title, but not one they could go forward with. We open with a shot of pigeons gathered in front of the theater, trying to mate. I think it's not a stretch to surmise that these are supposed to represent the men who come to the theater: bottom-dwellers who meet to mate.

A drag queen comes out for air, then goes back in. We see various guys inside, and anyone new who comes in lights a flame over their seat to check for stains or unwelcome fluids before sitting. People gaze at each other and watch each other in the bathroom. The drag queens stalk around the theater. One of them blows a guy [she's got SOMETHING in her mouth], and other guys gather around to watch. Upstairs the female ticket-taker chats with a young guy we soon learn is the projectionist, who obviously has a bit of a crush on her. To the side is a poster for a movie [I know I'm butchering the spelling on this]: Bourgeoises Sodomeuses, which cracked me up. It reminded me of one of my favorite real porn film names: Sodomy, Sodo-You.

So writer-director Jacques Nolot shows up, and even though I'd never seen him before, he stood out as having star quality. He chats with the ticket-taker, then goes in. We have a nice sequence of him dividing his money and hiding it in various places on his person. At one point the film jumps the reel and the lights come on. We see a drag queen give one guy a blow job, and other guys gather round. One guy fucks her, and another tries to slip in unnoticed. At a certain point Nolot talks to someone, saying that the problem with marriage is that you get bored of each other, you need some level of perversion, then discusses how he barely ever has sex at the theater anymore, but comes because it is the only place he feels comfortable. We see an overweight guy come in, change into drag, then go about rather aggressively trying to find guys to fool around with. At one point he sits down next to Nolot and says "I am a woman," and keeps up about how beautiful and desirable he is, to which Nolot responds: "Drop it." Of course, the queen goes on as though he hadn't said anything.

Eventually Nolot goes upstairs and talks to the ticket taker, and reads her something he's written. They discuss marriage, sex, bisexuality, how to get guys into bed, stuff like that. It kind of seems that the ticket taker likes Nolot, who likes the projectionist, who likes the ticket-taker. But all of this is just hinted at, there really is no major plot, and no main characters. It just continues. At closing time, the lights come on, and everyone goes home.

It was good and I'm glad I watched, well, half of it, but after a certain point you feel like this is a "movie by the yard" and you could turn it off at any point and still have gotten the majority of its value. It seemed very true to life about cruising places, and although I was never a devotee of theaters, I watched the second half with a friend of mine who for some time was a regular at this one theater, and he said yeah, that's exactly what it's like. He said the theater in the film was MUCH cleaner than his, however, and most of the seats seemed to basically function, which is unlike what he experienced in real life. So yeah, if you want to see a good representation of a day in a porn theater, here it is.

I was amused by a comment on IMDb for this film called Zero Stars! Vile, Repugnant, Depraved and Disgusting that says he wanted to see what went on in a porn theater, but all he saw was a bunch of fellatio! He seems to find it unbelievable that the theater shows straight porn, but is frequented by guys having sex with guys. He [or she, who knows] says that this film has changed his ability to view gays with any respect, and certainly feels they should not be allowed to raise children. He concludes that 'Queer Cinema' has run its course, and theorizes that if this stuff was in theaters in the 60s, we would never have been introduced to Antonioni, Truffaut, Bergman, Godard or Kurosawa. It's kind of worth reading just for its ignorance. As for the movie, one could give or take on it.

Should you watch it: 

If you want to see what a day spent in a porn theater is like.