(Frank Vitale, 1974)
Tasteful is the last word you would use to describe this movie, and yet for all the seamy, sensational perversity on display it's no freak show. It's humane, compassionate, insightful; the messy, improvisational narrative betrays no agenda except to get deep inside the heads of its characters. At the centre is a dangerously intimate friendship between a tortured photographer and a frankly beautiful 12-year-old boy. Questing and bewildered, Frank (like the other players, director Vitale uses his own name) clearly wants this relationship to provide an escape from the neurotic chaos of his social scene, centering on Allan Moyle's smartass sociopath. In fact these queers and hustlers and fuckups are damaged and self-absorbed top to bottom, held together by ostracism alone, and yet they are neither reduced to symbols of oppression nor delimited by their spectacular failings. And crucially, this world has something to offer the 12-year-old: independence, danger, escape from the 'burbs. Anything but an inert object of desire, he's questing too, and as the movie goes on it's his struggle that comes to dominate. Gazing longingly out of their fixed orbits toward unattainable goals, these two meet in the middle heading in opposite directions, and that's what dooms them. Funny and horrifying, deeply uncomfortable and deeply felt, vividly capturing time and place, this movie is so great it makes Stephen Lack look to all the world like a stunningly charismatic performer.