TNC Archive Review
Trouser Bar

Kristen Bjorn

    BFI Flare 2016

kristenbjorn.com

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There are few things I thought I would never do - watching a soft core gay pornographic film at the BFI is one of them - but this year BFI Flare is certainly giving their audiences the opportunity to ingulge in some long held “fantasies". 

Before the screening of Trouser Bar BFI Flare programmer Brian Robinson offered a length introduction to ‘the grandfather of gay pornography’ Peter de Rome. This intriguing introduction was followed by his stunning short film Encounters (1971).

Trouser Bar producer David McGillivray suggested that this was a movie made with no real intention to screen it. This would have been very much in keeping with de Rome but after watching Trouser Bar one can only call McGillivray's comments downright selfish. Trouser Bar isn’t just a wonderful introduction to a respected gay erotic filmmaker but it is also a important re-introduction to the art form of gay pornography.

Set in 1970s London at a gentleman’s outfitters Trouser Bar is one of those fantasy erotic film that allows the imagination to run wild. Three sales assistants get ready to open their little boutique while a man waits eagerly outside desperate to come in and browse. Once in it becomes all about the quick look, some shared glances and a polite head nudge then he makes his way to the changing room. Inside they wait patiently for ‘that’ first move which then becomes a second and third. There is a moment where the tension is palpable, nothing is rushed, time seems to become frozen and the assistants are able to take their time. 

Since the lifting of hardcore porn the 'subtly' of porn has been lost and yet director Kristen Bjorn has connected brilliantly to the script and created a fantasy that is both beautiful and deeply erotic. Bjorn might be more akin to directing hardcore porn but the subtleness that he has allowed to come through Trouser Bar is insightful and incredibly sexual. The actors are mixed with some being professional porn actors and some not yet they each engage with the text and each other that gives the film a momentum that it never loses.

Throughout the film Bjorn likes to return to the main shop window and we see men looking in, perhaps deciding if they want to go in, which adds a comedic element that works really well. This might, on first glance, slow the pace of the film but on reflection it adds to the excitement. And Stephen Thrower music, from start to finish, is a vital part of this film and uniquely adds authenticity, depth and joy. Most importantly it keeps the pace building wildly.

Trouser Bar is something a unique short film that reconnects audiences to the art of erotic pornographic filmmaking. Contemporary audiences are rather used to seeing everything, literally, and that same audience usually impatiently just skips to the ‘key bits’ they want to watch. Porn in this sense isn't really about getting you in the mood but more giving you a quick release.

Though you want to see more, and you do hope to see more, you are resigned to accept that all you’ll get is the licking of lips, the gentleness of touching and mild groping, which leads to the eventual kissing. This becomes romantic porn that may still hold some of the superficialities of porn in general yet raises the stakes and allows for its audience to deeply feel these moments. 

You appreciate pornography for what it was, and to some extent still might be, a very delicate art form and one that allows you to see how powerful and effective eye contact. Throughout Trouser Bar the audience never really feels that director Kristen Bjorn has been inhabited or restricted, instead you feel that he’s seen a challenge and mastered it.

The fantasy of Trouser Bar is a delightful time capsule of a film and an important one that has a tightness to it that forces you to use your imagination, to be titillated by the unknown and the unexpected. The actors are beautiful and engage with the intensity of the script marvellously that also makes their scenes intoxicating. You’re able to feel both the liberation and oppressiveness of the period which is why fantasies like this where so important.

"There is a generation that views porno and pornography differently and Bjorn manages to blur these lines whilst honouring Peter de Rome’s style."

The fantasy of Trouser Bar is a delightful time capsule of a film and an important one that has a tightness to it that forces you to use your imagination, to be titillated by the unknown and the unexpected. The actors are beautiful and engage with the intensity of the script marvellously that also makes their scenes intoxicating. You’re able to feel both the liberation and oppressiveness of the period which is why fantasies like this where so important.

There is a reason I have written pornography when referring to Trouser Bar rather than porn or porno though I feel that this might just be for my own sake of mind. There is a generation that views porno and pornography differently and Bjorn manages to blur these lines whilst honouring Peter de Rome’s style.

Pornography is artful, it is classy and moreover it is about allowing the audience to use their minds (and their desires) to follow the narrative that is incredibly hot, steamy and sexual but always manages to pull back before showing to much. Think of pornography like burlesque, see it as suggestive which tends to be a little more erotic and really does put you in the mood.

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