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BEEFCAKE

Canada, 1998 (MIFF 1999, Documentaries)

Director: Thom Fitzgerald

Having stirred the emotions of MIFF audiences fast year with his debut feature The Hanging Garden, Thorn Fitzgerald blends documentary and fiction in an entertaining and provocative homage to 1950s muscle magazines. This Berlin Film Festival hit demonstrates his wide cinematic palette; taking on different styles and genres, Fitzgerald delves into an era before his birth, when being gay meant either 'buoyant and happy' or 'covert and coded'.

Addressing the latter, the film's focus is on the career of Bob Mizer, photographer and creator of the Athletic Models Guild, an agency for beautiful young men who posed for magazines with names like Physique Pictorial. When not posing in Mizer's sludio, near-naked young studs frolicked around the pool, sneaking drugs and boyfriends into their 'dorms'. Fitzgerald subverts the entire notion of a supposedly wholesome 50s. He also charts the ironies of a campaign by cops and courts, itching to shut down the alleged 'muscle mag Mafia'!

Fitzgerald approaches Ihis inherently fascinating topic confidently, blending archival footage, interviews with those who were on the spot, and skillfully staged dramatisations. Josh Peace plays star-struck Nova Scotian beefcake Neil O'Hara alongside Daniel Maclvor as Bob Mizer, The stage is set for a tale of the dark side of camp. More than a neglected corner of queer history, Beefcake is a film about those revered for their bodies but scorned for their passions. Like the magazine culture uncovered, Beefcake is kitschy, good-humoured and sexy.

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