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directed by James Bidgood
USA 1971

 

Pink Narcissus is reminiscent of Genet’s Un Chant d’amour in its obsession with flowers, rough sexuality, and extraordinary male beauty, but it is more like a drag queen’s opium-soaked dream version or a Disney adaptation of Genet’s work than it is a direct descendant. (The film is aptly described by J. Hoberman as “a gay Fantasia…one part underground extravaganza, one part romantic porn.”) Although dialogue is non-existent and plot is very thin, the story concerns a young male hustler or kept boy who whiles away the hours waiting for his john captivated by his own beauty and imagining himself a Roman slave or a Turkish prince. The room in which the boy seems imprisoned and his fantasy worlds are lavishly imagined: every surface is bedecked with rhinestones and paste jewels, draped in pink chiffon and lace, and lit with purple and magenta gels. Whole landscapes are built out of potted plants, plastic flowers, papier-mâché and chicken wire constructions, and diaphanous backdrops made from old dresses. The idle fantasies of the protagonist triggered by a piece of music or a random thought take tangible shape and form an artificial paradise, a Garden of Eden where butterflies float by on thin wires and the stars are pinpricks in a black paper sky.

Excerpt of review from Matt Bailey's review at Not Coming to a Theater Near You located HERE

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Theatrical Release: May 24th, 1971 (New York)

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DVD Review: BFI - Region 2 - PAL

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Distribution

BFI

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:04:42
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.55 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Exclusive, specially commissioned filmed 34-minute interview with James Bidgood by Brian Robinson, Programmer, London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival (33:32)
• Fully illustrated 17-page colour booklet including essays by filmmaker Richard Kwietniowski (Flames

DVD Release Date: March 26th, 2007
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Chapters 8

 

Comments

Shot between 1964 and 1970, James Bidgood's "Pink Narcissus" tells the ethereal tale of a young man waiting for his lover and the erotic fantasies that he passes the time with. Although the film has no dialogue, the story unfolds like a dream, with the unnamed protagonist experiencing some sensation (maybe a voice on his radio, a scent, or noise from the outside), which triggers in him a trip into his own subconscious. Here we see him as a matador taming a leather clad biker whom he had previously had encountered in a restroom, as a member of a Sheik's harem, as a nude spirit figure in the wilderness, and as a lost soul wandering the streets of a highly homoeroticized New York. What's truly remarkable about the work aside from its groundbreaking depiction of gay erotica, is the loving attention that Bidgood (who chose to be credited as "anonymous" in the final cut over an editing dispute) puts into each shot. Perhaps belied by his choice of 8mm stock, the film, for the most part shot in Bidgood's apartment, showcases a first rate production designer with a talent for transforming interiors into other worlds.

As previously mentioned, the film was shot using a Super 8 camera and the highly exaggerated grain structure and considerable loss of detail is evidence of this. However, from what I gather, the print used by the BFI is far and away the best in existence. Struck from the original print negative, the edition is billed as being the "most complete and highest quality" edition available, and it does display a vibrancy of color and slightly greater amount of detail than other editions that I've seen screen captures from. That being said, there is a bit of information missing from the left side of the frame (most obviously during the opening credits), but this is likely lost for the ages and not the result of the DVD production. While it would be simply wonderful to have this film with the same clarity exhibited in Bidgood's own photographs of the set, sadly that will never happen and this is the best that it will ever look.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track does a decent job with the film's soundtrack. Although I had previously said that there is no dialogue in this film, there is the occasional person talking over a radio in the protagonist's apartment. Here the voices are fairly clear and sound pretty much like they're supposed to sound. The music in here is quite good and is always clear. What's more I didn't notice any hissing or other unwanted background noise. The subtitles for the radio chatter were easily read and didn't obscure the picture.

There are only two extras here to speak of, but they're both highly informative. First, we get an accompanying booklet with an essay by Richard Kwietniowski on the film, a biography of Bidgood, a essay on his work in the beefcake magazine genre, and an original review of the film from 1971. Second, there's an interview with Bidgood conducted by Brian Robinson. Here Bidgood comes off as a rather affable fellow, whose passion for film started at an early age and continues through the rest of his life. The interview touches on a good many subjects from Bidgood's childhood, to the production of the film. For anyone who enjoyed the feature, it would certainly be required viewing.

"Pink Narcissus" is a landmark of independent film making and gay cinema. Those who have wanted to check it out will never have a better opportunity than they do with this release. Recommended.

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

BFI

Region 2 - PAL

 

 




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