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Taking a great gay movie to new heights

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E.M. Forster wrote Maurice in 1914, but it wasn’t published until 1971 — a year after Forster’s death. As a closeted gay man, Maurice was an opportunity for Forster to explore his own experiences and those of his close circle.

In Maurice, Forster gives us the story of Maurice Hall. While at college at Cambridge in the early 1900s, Maurice falls in love with Clive Durham. Realising the risk to his career and social standing, Clive ends the relationship with Maurice and marries. Maurice seeks medical help to try and cure himself of being gay, but once he meets and falls in love with Alec Scudder he accepts that he cannot change who he is.

The film adaptation, by James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, was released in 1987. It has has now been digitally restored and remastered, and given a second cinema release.

Written by James Ivory and directed by Ismail Merchant, Maurice has all the hallmarks of what made Merchant Ivory productions so iconic — a respectful adaptation delivering quintessential period-drama.

It’s a film with a strong cast, post-card-perfect locations, and it’s beautifully shot by cinematographer Pierre Lhomme. It’s got all the stately grandeur and class-ist Englishness that a Downton Abbey fan could wish for, and Hugh Grant’s hair is award-worthy in its own right.

However, the context of the film makes it even more powerful. Released in 1987, it was only six years after the first cases of HIV and AIDS had been reported — these were some of the worst years of the pandemic. Merchant and Ivory were lovers as well as creative partners — this film was, in effect, their cinematic coming out. It was a big budget, lavish, period-drama with a gay love story at its heart — a gay love story with a happy ending.

Jump forward thirty years and James Ivory is once again at the helm of an iconic movie — adapting the novel of Call Me By Your Name for the screen. Ismail Merchant may no longer be by his side (he died in 2005), but James Ivory is still filling our screens with love and helping his characters and us to navigate the complexity of our emotions.

Maurice isn’t a perfect film, but the Merchant Ivory team have not only given us a story in which we can immerse ourselves, they’ve created a celebration of the hidden life of E.M. Forster, and they’ve delivered a compelling and timely statement on the worth and humanity of gay men.

In any list of of great gay movies, Maurice deserves to be near the top.

Cast

  • James Wilby
  • Hugh Grant
  • Rupert Graves
  • Denholm Elliott
  • Simon Callow
  • Billie Whitelaw
  • Judy Parfitt
  • Ben Kingsley

Maurice is distributed in the UK by BFI — screening nationally from 27 July 2018.

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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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