As a rent boy (Bobby Kendall) lies bored in his apartment he imagines a series of erotic fantasies, with himself as the central character.
Made in the USA just two years after the Stonewall riots, Pink Narcissus is an incredibly brave film. In the space of 71 minutes it seeks to single-handedly re-balance the heteronormativity of cinema until that point and does so in impressive style. Credits for director, writer and cinematographer are listed as anonymous, but in reality all are producer John Bidgood who removed his name after being refused a final edit of the film.
This is in spite of the fact it’s filmed almost entirely in Bidgood’s apartment, while successfully taking us on a psychedelic voyage from Arabia to Spain via Ancient Rome and the Garden of Eden. Stylised colour filters mask the limitations of the staging and make it feel like Fantastic Voyage with naked people. Entirely without dialogue, it’s helped by an excellent score by Martin Jay Sadoff who captures the eclectic settings, dreamlike atmosphere and heightened emotion superbly, while also somewhat remarkably doubling as the film’s editor.
Its best moments are when it’s suggestive rather than explicit, and it achieves a level of sensuality sorely missing from that other piece of historic erotica (historica?), Caligula, resulting in a small budgeted exploration of historical homosexuality to rival Caravaggio.