The pull quote: It’s a staple of the critical repertoire. It’s one perfect sentence that describes the movie and makes the publicity department salivate as they insert it into television and print ads. While watching “Bag Boy Lover Boy,” I thought about the perfect sentence that would encapsulate this extremely uncomfortable tale of terror and tragedy.
It’s a movie that feels like both the best and worst of John Waters, though it lacks the effortlessness of his wonderful brand of grotesque. It’s a ride through the gutter of the New York art scene without a single likable character. The film takes a crude, sexually awkward and ultimately homicidal walk through the mind of a protagonist that I can only describe as a deranged Eastern European Napoleon Dynamite-type. “Bag Boy Lover Boy” simply doesn’t defy conventions, it molests them with a sick sense of satisfaction.
Albert (Jon Wachter) is a socially awkward hot-dog vendor in the least hygienic food cart in the five boroughs. One night, while struggling to deal with some Upper East side douchebags, a photographer (Theodore Bouloukos) stumbles across Albert and becomes entranced by his gaping maw. Soon he’s paying Albert to appear in his strange fetishized photos. Albert is smart enough to know that he’s being exploited, but he wants to learn about art to impress an attractive young bohemian that frequents his stand—an innocent crush on a flighty girl who is as directionless as Albert.
After a few successful shoots, he starts taking his own photos and mimics the behaviors of his mentor. Soon, he’s bringing back girls to the studio and indulging in some of the dark, masochistic conduct. His lack of social graces and a lifetime of loneliness has made Albert a little agitated toward the opposite sex, and this leads to some deviant behavior that would make Jason Voorhees blush. The violence is portrayed with a blunt simplicity that is sure to make more than a few ticket buyers stew in their seats.
“Bag Boy Lover Boy” commits to its disturbing and gritty premise. The movie is full of scenes designed to make you squirm, and I’m guessing even the most hardened movie fan will find a few moments of the film a little unpleasant. The film made me think back to one of the original disturbing art-house hits of the 1980s: “Eating Raul,” a movie that starred the great Sally Kellerman as a woman who would lure sex crazed hipsters into her apartment, kill them, and then have them ground into meat and served at their cash-strapped burger shack. “Bag Boy Lover Boy” has the same unrelenting sense of ugliness. I’m not sure what word you use to describe the point past fearlessness, but director Andres Torres has dared to go there.
The deadpan performance from Wachter is so sullen. He evokes pity, like a caged animal who stares at you with its weary eyes. A prisoner of his personality, he’s trapped in a dungeon of loneliness. One of the themes that seems to play through most of the screeners I was fortunate enough to see was a sense of escapism and the indulgence of personal fantasy. Albert finds his voice through art. Unfortunately, once he learns how to express himself, we learn of the darkness that lies within. His repression and inner anger has turned him rotten. He’s another lost soul desperate for validation.
I feel obliged to inform that this is not a movie for the squeamish. Even calling it “mature” feels like not enough of a label. This movie revels in putridity and wears it on it’s stained sleeves. The world portrayed here is as filthy as the hot dogs Albert serves. “Bag Boy Lover Boy” managed to turn my stomach at the thought of pretentious artists and hot-dog vendors. Well played.
Bag Boy Lover Boy
Starring Theodore Bouloukos and Jon Wachter
Directed by Andres Torres
Discretion strongly advised
Sunday, November 16, 7:15 p.m.
City Stage, 21 N Front St. #501