In his latest production, The End, Noel Alejandro is exploring human ephemerality within the context of an explicit and erotic film.
Filmed in Berlin, The End stars Bishop Black, Pierre Emö, and Manuel Voss.
Alejandro has developed a trademark style of combining complex emotional scenes with intense and passionate sex.
In this film, Alejandro gives us the story of Javier — an obsessed artist who is grieving after the death of his lover Ivan. Javier experiences sorrow as a combination of memories and instinct, requiring a confrontation with his personal demon before he can be released from the purgatory of his grief.
I recently caught up with Noel Alejandro for a behind-the-scenes look at The End.
What was the inspiration for the story of The End?
It’s a film about love and endings. I have my own stories to tell here, but The End is also about the connection we can only feel with ourselves.
I’ve always found death very inspirational — it occupies a big part of my thoughts each day. I’m kind of pessimistic in this respect, so I decided to try and take some benefit from this anguish.
You’ve described The End as your most audacious production to date. What makes this film so audacious?
I finally produced a film in a more responsible way — I delegated tasks to real professionals, and we worked entirely by following the script.
Normally I’m just finding my own way with a film, and editing it quickly to release it as early as possible, but with this one I really wanted to make something I could feel proud of.
I’ve never really thought of myself as a porn studio, but The End really fits my vision of being a melodramatic filmmaker who features sex in his films.
What was your casting process?
I knew Pierre from my film Call Me a Ghost — we became friends during that production. From the beginning I had him in mind for this role in The End.
Pierre has this angelic face that I love. He’s also charismatic, he knows how to perform, his intelligence leaves a footprint on everything he does, and he likes to spend time with me, so he was easy choice.
I cast Bishop Black after another actor rejected the role, but I couldn’t be happier. I’d seen Bishop in Erika Lust films, and he’s one of the most attractive and elegant guys that I’ve ever worked with.
What location did you use for filming?
My friend Daniel offered us his apartment in Berlin. It was great to have the chance to film in a real Berliner apartment — everything you see in the film is a classic Berliner house look.
Is The End a film that will only be appreciated by gay men?
I don’t think so. A lot of women watch my films — I often have emails from women telling me that they like my work and that they connect with it very easily. That really makes me feel proud of what I’m doing.
Your films are a fairly unique blend of narrative, sensuality, and sex. What are some of the biggest challenges you encounter when making a film like this?
Narrative itself is very complicated. After making some films you realise that there are some rules that can’t be dismissed in order to make an understandable and solid story, a story that connects with an audience.
Having to give dialogue to actors that aren’t used to that style of performing isn’t easy, and of course having to add a sex scene without it being too forced and without losing credibility is also a big responsibility.
A good short film requires time and some budget – it’s a challenge to make the film without both of those elements.
My films are, little by little, getting more financial and I’m happy for that. The real challenge for me is to get a good story, one that I connect with, and to put it on screen.
My next film is going to be a big challenge in terms of the topic — I’m realising how many feelings I’ve been going through all my life that can actually be put into a film.
What do you hope that people feel when watching The End?
I hope that they connect with the story and understand exactly what’s going on. I love hearing feedback from people who have watched my films – everyone can reach me through Instagram or Facebook.
Who are some of the filmmakers that have inspired you?
Jaime Rosales, Markus Schleinzer, Martin Provost, Michael Hanneke, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Darren Aronofsky, Lars Von trier. and Almodovar.
Have you spent much time in Barcelona recently? I was wondering what your experience of the city was like given the current political instability there?
I was born there, my family and friends are there, so I go anytime I can. The political situation is just very sad. We have two different countries in one — Spain and Catalonia — with a very, very old conflict, and what just happened is very sad.
If the majority of a society wants to be heard, they cannot be beaten or humiliated as has been happening. We don’t live in a democracy anymore when the majority of a society is criminalised for wanting to say express their opinion by voting. It’s crazy. The damage is now done forever and will take decades to heal, all because the government ignored the reality of how people felt. Shame on them!
How are you enjoying life in Berlin?
I moved here a few months ago, and I’m in love with this city. I really have the feeling that this is a way more modern society — compared to Brussels, or Barcelona.
Everybody just accepts their sexuality, and we’re not afraid if being too much or something. This is life!
Although the weather is bad, for many years Berlin has been the place to be, and it will be for many years – this is a city with powerful vibes.
What travel tips would you give someone visiting Berlin?
I’m very bad recommending places. I’m pretty much always working, but whenever I take some time off my friends take me to some beautiful brunch places.
Also, the best techno parties are here. I’ve been couple of times to Tresor Herrensauna, Berghain, and Same Bitches. These are the kind of parties that you need to experience at least once in your life, but you also need to be careful — it is easy to fall into the kind of drug spiral that could destroy anyone.
What next for Noel Alejandro?
New short films for sure. I’m currently very obsessed with taking my inner fears and transforming them into films. Some people might ask why am I still making erotic films, but to me there’s nothing more inspiring than changing something that needs to be refreshed. It’s good to take on the challenge of never taking the easiest way, I’m always trying to break the rules.
The End is available via NoelAlejandroFilms.com
You can follow Noel Alejandro via Instagram
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Beach Boys in the Buff
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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