DVD Review - Straight & Butch

The idea is simple. One hetereosexual man and one homosexual man pose for pictures that will go in a calendar. There will be 12 provocative photos, one for each month, with two guys in each of the twelve. Of the two guys, one guy would be straight and one guy would be gay. The only catch was that both guys would be totally naked with full frontal nudity.
If you do the math, that's 12 straight guys and 12 gay guys, but, actually what happened instead was there were 12 straight guys and only 1 gay guy. That one gay was Butch Cordora. Butch was a TV talk show host, based out of Philadelphia. This calendar was his invention and this documentary about the making of that calendar was also his invention.
Some of the straight men were friends of Butch prior, but most were people Butch had never met before. Butch never says why he decided to make this particular calendar or what the rationale was behind it. Does he think this is a good way to make money? Is he trying to make a political statement? Or, does he just want to see naked men? Butch himself never directly says why. We in the audience are left to guess.
Now, normally, if a documentary were about someone engaging in something and that someone never says why he was doing whatever it was, I would perhaps harshly criticize that documentary or even the person himself. I'm not going to do that here. I'm not going to criticize this movie for that. With Straight & Butch, it's not about why this one gay man wants to pose nude with straight men. It's more about why the straight men would even agree to do it.
In a lot of ways, it's also about why some straight men would also agree NOT to do it. As we learn, Butch worked on this project and the photo shoots from August 2006 to July 2008. In total, 59 straight men were asked to participate. 48 said no, and only 11 said yes. Throughout the movie, we hear from those 11. Listening to their reasons for doing the nude pictures with a gay man ironically indicates why others would decline the opportunity.
In their reasoning, the 11 straight men offer some expected and predictable hesitancy. Some of the 11 men worry what their families might think. Some worry if having nude photos out there would affect their jobs. Some worry that people would think they're gay. Some even worry that because they don't lift weights every other day that they're not worthy of a calendar shoot. Some just worry that Butch might have ulterior motives. Yet, in the end, all 11 men decided to do it and through this documentary and listening to the 11 state their reasons and their thoughts about it, we learn that those hesitancies are either not so expected and predictable or they don't matter.
What has to be understood is that these 11 men aren't professional models. It might have been easier if Butch had hired Playgirl centerfolds or pin-ups from an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. I'm sure there are straight boys from both those books that are already comfortable being literally or practically nude for a camera. It would have cost Butch a pretty penny, but instead, Butch recruited everyday Philadelphia men who don't regularly appear in magazines or have ever done anything like this ever. He put an ad in the Philadelphia CityPaper, but for the most part he approached men in the street or men he saw doing regular jobs like a guy in a grocery store, a massage therapist, a cook, a former Hells Angels, a video store clerk, a bike messenger, a wrestler and a pizza shop owner.
This documentary is also a test of gay-straight relationships and the boundaries that can be crossed to better those relationships and even to better art. This isn't in the same spirit as Dieux du Stade where the point is to ogle hot rugby players for erotica's sake, or even shameless publicity's sake. As many of the 11 men say, this isn't sexual at all, and aside from one guy it isn't about shameless publicity either. It's a testament to these men pushing the envelope of art to show how safe men can feel in their own skin and with who they are.
Straight & Butch premiered at Philadelphia Qfest in July 2010. Breaking Glass Pictures made it available on DVD in April 2011. Butch Cordora hosted "In Bed with Butch," which aired on DUTV and WYBE. Songs by The Divys are on the soundtrack. Featured are the fantastic photography of Tony Ward, Joe Bowman, Leah MacDonald, Christopher Gabello, Michael Itkoff and Thomas Ignatius Puleo.
The camerawork here is very much guerilla-style with not much production value greater than the average TV station. All of the straight men interviewed are otherwise interesting and engaging, including Gervase Peterson, a former reality TV star. Butch Cordora himself is the standout personality here and watching Butch awkwardly yet cheerfully navigate through situations where he not only has to get straight guys to take off their clothes but also let him touch them in places most people wouldn't dare is just plain funny and certainly worth the price of the DVD.
Four Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Recommended for Mature Audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 29 mins.


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