Gay men and relationships mix like oil and water. On the surface, this is one of the themes of Casper Andreas’ recent film A Four Letter Word coming out on DVD this month. Then again, much like his prior film Slutty Summer, the writer/director/producer shows us other aspects of the modern gay man’s life. The film follows Luke, a sex hungry flamboyant gay man who is derisively described as “a gay cliché” by a co-worker. This accusation only stings more when hunky, masculine Stephen (Charlie David) similarly dismisses Luke’s initial come-on.
While the film examines the issue of feminine, flamboyant men versus masculine “straight-acting” males, Andreas didn’t really have a clear cut opinion on that: “there are a lot of gay men who don’t want to be associated with the flamboyant”, he said, but it’s very natural for some men to behave that way. Character-wise, he was worried when he saw Luke’s wardrobe; he wondered whether the audience would relate to him. Fortunately, when they took this movie to film festivals, Andreas discovered a lot of flamboyant guys did connect with Luke - they love that he’s the central character. Jesse Archer, who portrays Luke, does think sometimes stereotypes are true and they don’t come from nowhere. However, he stressed “the important thing is to look for exceptions.” This is what the film shows – Luke is annoying at first, but you grow to like him, and he gains some depth – he’s not just the screaming comic relief you might see in most mainstream movies.
That the character has a three dimensional element is certainly what later overcomes Stephen’s initial impression. He becomes attracted to Luke, because Luke is honest about what he is. “That’s the whole point – the queen is 100% in your face true to who he is,” said Archer. Andreas agrees and adds “the most important moment to me in the film comes when Luke says ‘Well, if putting honesty first makes me a gay cliché, then that’s what I am.’” This contrasts to butch Stephen who lies so much it’s difficult to tell what the truth is.
It messes with the common expectation in the gay community that masculine equals good, feminine equals not so good. Archer stated this film “turned everything on its head.” Furthermore, during this interview, Archer said that he has seen it in real life as he has toured the country in the purple Playgirl magazine van. They’ve seen straight, macho (closeted, married) men cruising each other at rest stops; no doubt a shocking contrast to the Playgirl team when they roll out of the van, out loud and proud.
Much on that same vein, A Four Letter Word also touches on being yourself and not accepting the damning judgment of others. It’s not just your standard boy-meets-boy-they-face-adversary-they-live-happily-ever-after scenario. There are other story lines. Other characters have to deal with being in a relationship and compromising to find a way to live together. Andreas and archer both said, when it comes to love and relationships, the lead character (Luke) finally realizes he’s capable of it, and that it’s even a viable possibility for him. However, “we didn’t want him to have a major turnaround, because people aren’t like that…it’s not black and white.”
This brings up the issue of hookups versus relationships. For Archer, in his experience he’s “shared something really beautiful with someone I’ve known for 20 minutes or two hours…I don’t understand the demonization of hooking up, as long as you’re kind and affirming with each other…I think people do in general, (claim) they want a relationship but then hook up and then wonder why they don’t have a relationship.”
If there were any weak points to the film, it was that there were almost too many ideas to give full exploration to all; but that’s a minor quibble, really. It’s a smart film with great dialogue, characters, sexy (and naked!!) men and one which has some depth – upon reflection. From the reception they got while touring with this film, audiences seem to agree. “It’s been fantastic how well this film was received at festivals” said Andreas. Even for those who did get to see it on the screen, they should still check out the DVD because it has a lot of great extras, similar to some of the funny stuff on the Slutty Summer DVD.
Finally, since it is a sequel of sorts to that film, there has been some talk between Archer and Andreas about further adventures. Archer has been working on some ideas and directions, but he’s not sure if it will deal with these characters or not. Andreas could see himself revisiting these characters as long as the story is original, so we may see further adventures of Luke and crew.
A Four Letter Word
DVD available August 19th, 2008