a film by John Palmer
2004 | 78 mins | Canada
›› Sugar
coming-of-age, in-your-face style
Sugar by John Palmer Given this film is based upon a set of short stories by the BadBoy of gay cinema, one Bruce LaBruce, you kind of know that this is not going to be a sugar-coated outing of the coming-of-age scenario. Rather this is an in-your-face rendering of the perennial favourite, one that sees Cliff on the 'go get sex' advice of his wise-beyond-her-years sister Cookie, head off downtown. Only whereas most eighteen-year-olds eager for their first taste of manflesh would have probably set foot in the nearest gay bar, Cliff heads instead to the drug-fuelled, street-hustling back alleys of Toronto - naturally!

Teaming up with handsome hustler Butch, you know things can only go from bad to worse when he proclaims "I'm bad news, you know that - right." Still that doesn't prevent the two from becoming an item, with Cliff introducing Butch to his single mother and weird sister - think the Bride of Chucky on Ritalin, before heading off to Butchs' side of town, one where drugs fuel the next act of hustling and hustling pays for the next crack induced high. By now, you kind of get the feeling that things aren't going to turn out well and true to LaBruce form, self-destruction lies just around the corner.

Sugar by John Palmer In short, this is a story of addiction and obsession, with Cliffs' grip on reality blinded by his obsessive longing for intimacy with the drug addicted Butch, only for such to be shattered by way of the most brutal act of sexual violation. Yet between such are scenes that show Butch in an entirely different light and inparticular one that goes as far as to depict prostitution, as an act of compassion. Yet the end product is rough around its edges and whilst Brendan Fehr as Butch and Andre Noble as Cliff handle their roles with considerable skill, the problem lies not with them, but with the narrative itself. That Cliff emerges from the experience at all is nothing short of a miracle, only by the time the end credits roll, the question comes to mind - do you really care?

Screened in 2005 as part of the 19th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival and surprisingly released on DVD in the UK when the feature was still playing as part of the touring programme, the result is clearly not a work that is going to be to everyone's cinematic taste. But then, this is gay cinema with a difference, namely a love story woven around male prostitution and the crack addicted lives of those whose sole means of survival is to sell their bodies and as a consequence, makes for uncompromising viewing. Appropriately the DVD outing contains a tribute to Andre Noble, who tragically died in an accident shortly after the premiere of the film.
screened as part of the 19th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival 2005
available on DVD as part of the Peccadillo Pictures catalogue
starring: Brendan Fehr, Andre Noble, Haylee Wanstall, Maury Chaykin, Michael Riley, Marnie McPhail, Sarah Polley
dedicated to the memory of Andre Noble | 1979 - 2004
Copyright 2005 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #107
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