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Daddy issues in a volatile world

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With his latest film BPM a critical and commercial success, I caught up with filmmaker Robin Campillo to look back at his earlier film Eastern Boys, which has recently been re-released.

It’s an intense and seductive film, with authentic and unpredictable characters.

Set in Paris, Eastern Boys gives us the story of Daniel solicits Marek - one of the young Eastern European boys that hangs around the Gare du Nord. Daniel gives Marek his home address, but when the doorbell rings and it isn’t Marek standing there, Daniel realises he’s fallen into a trap.

What was your inspiration for Eastern Boys?

I went for dinner at the home of a friend of a friend. This guy had recently returned to Paris from Russia. He was about 55-years-old, living with his son. While we were there, the son left to go out to a party and said goodbye to his father. The dynamic between the two of them confused me a little, and my friend told me afterwards that the man and the boy had been lovers in Russia, but that now he had adopted him as his son.
I found this surprising and interesting. I wanted to try and understand how it was possible to go from a sexual relationship to a father and son relationship. I wanted to write a story that explored that.

At the same time, I also wanted to write about immigration, and how people from Eastern Europe were coming to France and being seen as threatening.

The relationship between Daniel and Marek is complicated one. How did you reconcile the evolution of their relationship?

The heart of every relationship is a bit unknown. After you’ve been with the same person for a period of time, your relationship changes, it evolves, it goes to another level. For example, some people in a relationship don’t have sex anymore. It’s not something that we ever really talk about.

The story in this film is an extreme example of the mutation of a relationship.

What was the casting process for Eastern Boys? Olivier Rabourdin was obviously already an established actor, but the rest of the cast seemed to be relatively unknown?

I spent nine months on casting the film. I really wanted to cast Russian guys, so I was looking at Russian films and searching for Russian actors. But, it was very difficult - particularly because I don’t know the language and can’t read their alphabet.

Eventually, I found Daniil Vorobyov. He’d been working in low-quality films, but he was such a great actor. At first I thought he might play the role of Marek, but he wasn’t quite young enough for that. During the casting process, he read for the role of the Boss and it was perfect - he brought so much to that character that we evolved the character and gave him more depth.

I eventually found Kirill Emelyanov for the role of Marek. He comes from a family of actors, he’s been acting since he was five. He was so clever and so authentic that it was as if he wasn’t acting.

Daniil and Kirill came to Paris six months before filming started, and it was great to be able to spend time with them and see how they really embodied these roles.

Eastern Boys explored some of the facets of the immigration and migration experience in France. The tensions of that experience have heightened since that time - would Eastern Boys be a different story if you told it today?

I wouldn’t change the story - the situation is the same, but getting worse.

French society is becoming more and more closed. We’re so afraid of everything, the risk of others. We pretend that people coming to this country don’t belong, but that’s not the reality. The law is being used as a weapon.

In the film there are two moments where the law is used as a dirty weapon. First, when Daniel’s home is invaded, the boss uses the threat of paedophilia to prevent Daniel from calling the police. And at the end of the film, Daniel uses the immigration rules to get the boss and his gang arrested as undocumented immigrants, so that he can save his lover.

We spend so much energy trying to protect ourselves and our country, but we don’t realise that immigration is becoming more and more important - we have to address that. I want to continue to explore the issue, and how our history is shaping what’s happening today.

Were you pleased with how Eastern Boys was received? Did the audience understand the story that you were telling?

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I did a lot of Q&A sessions at screenings of the film. What people seemed to respond to was that it put the audience in a situation where the moral standpoints weren’t obvious. The subject of the film, the behaviour of the characters, the age of the teenagers - it’s complex.

The experience of migrants is also complex. Often we feel obliged to talk about migrants in a positive way, but sometimes the countries they’ve come from and the experiences that they’ve had, that does something to them. There’s almost a metamorphosis in these characters.

BPM has been incredibly well-received. Could you have made BPM without having the success of Eastern Boys behind you?

Eastern Boys was a subject that was very important to me, but I was so afraid of everything - the character of Daniel was a bit like me.

What that film taught me was to not be afraid of anything, to jump into the unknown.

Working with my cinematographer - Jeanne Lapoirie, who I also worked with on BPM - we learnt how to work quickly, to get a scene set up and to start shooting, to capture the energy of those early moments and not worry too much about all of the detail.

It’s made me more free as a director, to let the film breathe.

Eastern Boys is distributed by Peccadillo Pictures

 

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Artists

Beach Boys in the Buff

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Antonio En La Playa by Marc DeBauch (image supplied)
Antonio En La Playa by Marc DeBauch (image supplied)

I caught up with artist Marc DeBauch to look at his series of work titled Beach Boys.

When did you discover and start to explore your passion for art?

I started drawing and painting when I was three years old. Before I was five, I remember creating a crayon drawing of the Sinking of the Titanic on the rough plaster of the living-room wall of my parents’ house. It was impossible to remove — my parents weren’t happy with me, but after that they provided me with enough art materials to pursue my creative interests without destroying their home.

Lonnel on the Beach by Marc DeBauch (image supplied)

When did you start specialising in painting naked men and creating erotic art?

It was 36 years ago when I started painting male nudes and selling them in a local gay book store. Then, in 1995, I entered two paintings in the Tom of Finland Foundation’s Emerging Erotic Artists Contest. I was won first place, which opened the door for my art career, as I was immediately approached by galleries and magazines that wanted to feature my art.

This gave me the confidence and notoriety to exhibit and sell my work at erotic art fairs and gay events. At that time, the internet was just emerging, so my friend Andrew created a website for me, which was a fantastic tool to get my art out to people around the world.

Aussie Boy by Marc DeBauch (image supplied)

You’ve written that Tom of Finland is one of the major influences on your work — when did you first encounter the work of Tom of Finland?

I remember seeing Tom of Finland’s art in a porno magazine my friend had in high school. I was just amazed at the sexual tension, outrageous anatomy, and attention to detail in Tom’s art.

This was back in the early 1970s, so gay porn was just emerging legally in magazines and films. At the time, I wasn’t talented enough to draw the human figure accurately. But, I was fascinated enough to want to try. My sister’s boyfriend was a photographer, and he gave me his dark room equipment — back then you actually had to develop film, as there were no digital cameras.

I talked a friend into posing naked for me while jacking off, and I developed the film and made some prints. I was 14 years old, photographing another 14-year-old boy. It was very exciting creating my own porn! Unfortunately, my dad — being supportive of my art — wanted to see the photos, and of course I couldn’t show him. Not only did he not approve of gays, he didn’t want his son to be gay. He would have probably hit me if he knew I was a homosexual creating gay porn! So, I destroyed the photos almost in front of him, while saying — “The photos didn’t turn out and I would show him better work at another time.”

I was scared and freaked out. I knew I was self-censoring. But I also realised that if I was going to create erotic art that I would have to do it in secret. When Tom of Finland began drawing naked men, he also had to make his art in secret. I think most erotic artists learn to be very careful about choosing the right audience to exhibit their work to.

Trevor on the Beach by Marc DeBauch (image supplied)

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from people I know. I’ve been fortunate to see and meet many beautiful men in my life. Capturing their beauty and illustrating them in a unique way, is my goal.

What’s your creative process?

My creative process is different every time I paint. Sometimes an idea for a painting just pops in my head and I try to find model to pose for a photo to match my vision — that’s often the easiest route.

I rarely work from a live model. My paintings take so long to create — I often work all night on a painting — so, finding a model to sit for that long of a period and whenever I want them, is impossible. I use the photos of my models as reference.

Often, I look through hundreds of images and piece things together in a collage. It’s more like a jigsaw puzzle — lots of pieces missing, and my mind fills in those missing pieces with an arm from this model, the chest from another, the dick from another, the face from another, and so on, until I have the entire figure. But then I have to decide how the light and setting will pull all of those puzzle pieces together.

I have dozens of photos that are my references for every detail of plants, animals, rocks, furnishings. I sort through a constant mess of photos — gradually eliminating those references as my brain digests the information and my brush puts it on the canvas or paper.

The paintings that form the Beach Boys series are beautiful — what are some of the challenges in creating beach scenes like this?

Trying to find a balance between the setting and the model is always a challenge. I don’t want the model to overpower the beach, or the beach to feel more important than the model. I want my paintings to have a natural feeling, like you could be at the beach with my models.

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Who are the men featured in the paintings of the Beach Boys series?

The men in my Beach Boy series are mostly friends that have modelled for me. Sometimes I find a photograph of a model that someone else has taken, that inspires me to use it as a reference pose to work from, then I find one of the photos of a beach that I’ve visited and I try to recreate a similar pose in a drawing that will eventually become a painting.

What do you hope that people feel when they look at your work?

I don’t want to just give the viewer of my art an erection, I want them to feel like they’re part of the painting, that they want to invite the men in my paintings into their homes, their beds, their dungeon, their car, their locker room, or the bushes for a hot fuck, butt licking, cock sucking, ass spanking good time.

I hope to excite the viewer visually, emotionally as well as spiritually. It’s my goal as an artist and sexually active gay man to paint erotica that continually challenges the views of people who oppose sexual freedom. If my paintings assist the viewer in discovering where they are in the spectrum of human sexuality, then my aim is reaching its target.

Dive into the world of Marc DeBauch

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After the Swim by Marc DeBauch (image supplied)

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