Distinctive independent queer filmmaker Everett Lewis takes a mature and more intimate direction with his latest film, “Lucky Bastard,” which will premiere on the East Coast at QFest.
This bold and compelling drama, which concerns Rusty (adorable Patrick Tatten), a buttoned-up home restorer who falls fast and hard for Denny (hunky Dale Dymkoski), a crystal-meth addict, as a more personal project for the writer/director.
“I had this [same] experience with someone who was on crystal meth,” the filmmaker revealed over the phone from Los Angeles. “Because I was naïve, I didn’t know it at the time.”
This difficult relationship spurred Lewis’ creative energies. He kept a diary about his experiences and used the entries to shape his script.
“A lot of things in the film are conversations and events I had, and a lot of direct quotes [became] lines,” he explained about crafting the screenplay. “Denny’s monologue was taken from a guy I met who was in AA and recovering, and lived in a single room.” The scene containing this speech is an emotional, dramatic moment that will likely rivet most viewers.
What Lewis learned — and what comes across in his beguiling “Lucky Bastard” — is that many gay men have massive issues with sexuality and identity, and that very often the two issues are linked. Significantly, the filmmaker, who has been out and proud since he was a teenager, claims he never experienced self-hatred for being gay. However, he said he recognizes that people like the Denny character use drugs as a crutch to make themselves feel good.
“Gay culture is a hyper-commercialized culture. I’ve found that if there is an attractive guy, they’ve usually had some serious drug abuse and are seriously into AA. I’m all for [gay men] trying to take care of themselves. People who are healthy in the gay community, who haven’t taken drugs, are extremely rare.”
Lewis also defends his decision to make Denny a chiseled stud. He acknowledges that the real-life inspiration for Denny was similarly buff: His body had not yet been ravaged by the drugs he was abusing.
Speaking of buff, Lewis is also known for getting his handsome actors in the buff in many of his films. Yet in “Lucky Bastard,” the nudity quotient is lower than in his previous work.
“In the past, I had an agenda to show cock, because I thought that was important. I’m learning [to present] another, more sensual sexuality,” he explained.
While the first romantic encounter between Rusty and Denny involves a rather passionate tryst in a convenience store, little more than the men’s naked torsos are shown.
“I unapologetically like watching men touching each other,” Lewis admitted with characteristic candor about his interest in filming sex scenes.
Another voyeuristic highlight is an episode involving a near-naked Denny taking Polaroids of himself while playing and posing with a translucent orange globe. Lewis is especially proud of this sequence, not only because it brings out Denny’s narcissism, his physical beauty and the effects of his mind while on drugs, but because it pays homage to vintage nude male photography by Bruce of L.A., images the filmmaker admires.
“My camera has the same sensual attitude as the actors. We as the viewer are literally participating,” Lewis said, citing Robert Bresson’s “detached” perspective as a cinematic influence.
Lewis said he likes watching and making films that “unfold clinically.” His aloof style may be something viewers will need to adjust to, but Lewis believes the content, not the form, of “Lucky Bastard” will be the real litmus test for audiences.
“I think that people in the gay community are going to see the film is right on the button, or not at all close,” he demurred. “They will accept it strongly or dismiss it because they have their own experience of many of these issues.”
Then again, Lewis said, referencing his title, “Rusty is a bit of a bastard. He’s not charming or lovable. He’s uptight, distant and rough.” He pauses for a moment, considering how he shaped a film around such a cold, complex character, and added, “But he is cute. If he’s not lovable, he’s got to be hot!”
“Lucky Bastard” screens at 9:30 p.m. July 18 at the Prince, 1412 Chestnut St., and at 4:30 p.m. July 19 at the Ritz East 1, 125 S. Second St.