The film they said couldn’t be shown, now (hopefully) free from litigation threats and officially credited as being written by ‘a gentleman’, Trouser Bar made a highly anticipated premiere at the BFI Southbank as part of the Flare festival on March 20th. A bigger audience and bigger buzz than you might normally expect for a 20 minute soft porn film gathered to see fascinating supporting short Encounters (a strange, almost science fictiony softcore gay short from Peter De Rome, who was originally scheduled to shoot Trouser Bar) and a fun Q&A hosted by a very 1970s looking Brian Robinson, and to be thoroughly entertained by the main event.
Let’s be clear – Trouser Bar is slight stuff. This is as it was intended, designed to primarily show off the writer’s textile fetish, particularly for corduroy – set in a 1976 gentleman’s outfitters called Sir John’s (a name clearly picked at random) where staff seem keen to go that step beyond in the name of customer service and the customers are only too happy to reciprocate the favours, leading to a six-man naked orgy in the fitting rooms, while passersby outside (including cameos from Barry Cryer, Nigel Havers and Julian Clary amongst others) gawp in amazement.
Although directed by hardcore filmmaker Kristen Bjorn, Trouser Bar is essentially the baby of producer David McGillivray, and remains old-fashionedly, and very sensibly softcore – in fact, you don’t even see a single unclad penis throughout the film (though there is plenty of bulge-stroking). Given that the film affects a careful 1976 feel, it might be that hardcore sex would be an unsettling lurch back into reality, and this is a film that works best as a deliberately kitsch fantasy, based at a time when British gay men really would have to resort to furtive looks, lingering eye contact and known-only-to-the-likewise signals in order to pick someone up in what was inevitably a risky and furtive world of furtive lust. Here, the eroticism comes from that sense of suggestion rather than the full-on orgy, and so the film works much better by showing restraint.
The 1970s vibe is lovingly recreated with authentic costumes, rather less authentic wigs and, best of all, a spectacular disco pastiche score by Stephen Thrower which had the audience amazed – if there is any decency in the world, this will be slipped out on vinyl, ideally housed in a corduroy sleeve.
Trouser Bar may or may not work as porn – as a thrustingly heterosexual man, I wasn’t particularly turned on, but I’m not sure that it matters anyway – this is really not designed as masturbation material (apart from for the deceased author). But as a tribute to De Rome, a celebration of sexual liberation and fetishism and a hugely fun little romp that never overstays its welcome, the film is a genuine delight, and you should seek it out as festivals around the world over the next year.