Justin Kelly’s King Cobra bravely re-tells the true story of gay porn icon Brent Corrigan (real name Sean Lockhart) and is by no means one for the faint-hearted. The mere mention of the word ‘pornography’ incites, more often than not, a knee-jerk reaction of sneering judgement and condescension but to dismiss this brash, ballsy, brazen film at face value as tawdry smut would be a mistake. Beneath the veneer of fake tan, rippling muscles and feigned ecstasy lies a striking amount of heart, soul and sincerity of emotion.
Moments throughout do provoke uncomfortable shudders. From sunny San Diego, Brent (Garrett Clayton) arrives to Texas and no sooner has producer Stephen (Christian Slater) brought him home to upper-middle class suburbia than he is undressing, then masturbating on camera as an audition for his big break at Cobra Video. Stephen’s instructions are delivered with lascivious yearning and Slater’s piercing stare cries of a possessive, perverted personality. But as for the film as a whole there is a deeper layer of meaning here. Advancing in age means a desire to feel and look younger, to be wanted and the pain of bitter loneliness, living a lie even to his sister (a slight but effective cameo from Molly Ringwald). Similarly, Alicia Silverstone does a lot with a little as Brent’s mother, Janette.
The BFI London Film Festival takes place from 5-16 October. Book your tickets at bfi.org.uk/lff.
Matthew Anderson | @behind_theseens