'Bag Boy Lover Boy': Fantasia Review
Andres Torres evokes a bygone underground in his debut about a killer with artistic ambitions.
A micro-budget story about exploitative art and the rage it unleashes in a powerless man, Andres Torres's Bag Boy Lover Boy hints at what might have happened had Bucket of Blood been reimagined in downtown New York circa 1980. Such a movie would have benefited more from the city's threatening streets than this one, which feels hermetically sealed despite being shot on recognizable blocks of Broadway and Bowery. Still, its modest narrative scope is appropriate to its means, and the pic will play better in midnight festival programs than many more ambitious thrillers.
First-time actor Jon Wachter plays Albert, a hot dog cart vendor who may be developmentally challenged and is certainly not leading man material: he's slack-jawed and dead-eyed, with a chin that's just a scruffy bump on the slide down from mouth to Adam's apple. Albert attracts the attention of Ivan, who claims he's one of the city's most successful photographers. (Ivan is played by prolific character actor Theodore Bouloukos, whose IMDB filmography lists 57 roles, in indies with unrecognizable names, just since 2010.)
In Albert, Ivan sees a path to Diane Arbus-like grotesquerie: "He looks like a f---ing bag boy from a deli in Hell," he brags to a colleague. He convinces the young man to participate in depraved photo shoots by promising he'll teach him about art — having watched photographers pick up women, the lonely boy thinks this might work for him. Ivan jets off to an exotic assignment before the lessons begin, but Albert has seen enough to make use of the studio keys he accidentally leaves behind. Soon, Albert is luring prostitutes and drunken party girls to the studio for photo shoots that turn deadly. What will happen when he gets the woman he's actually obsessed with to join him in that SoHo loft?
Bouloukos, a barrel-shaped ringer for Julian Schnabel, plays his part with a broadness that fits the film, steamrolling over Albert despite the fact that Albert isn't as docile as Ivan expects. Wachter keeps us guessing about the boy, wondering if he really believes he's making art or has simply found a way to avenge himself on womankind after years of being made to feel subhuman. Torres and co-screenwriter Toni Comas throw out hints of class issues that might also fuel this violence, but don't follow up on them, too interested in the particular loneliness of this creep to make him a symbol of a fed-up New York underclass. In the end, the film is more nostalgic for a seedy era's aesthetics than authentically transgressive itself; but as Ivan knows, finding something that truly disturbs a viewer isn't easy to do these days.
Production company: EXU Media
Cast: Jon Wachter, Theodore Bouloukos, Kathy Biehl, Kara Peterson
Director: Andres Torres
Screenwriters: Toni Comas, Andres Torres
Producers: Ziyad Saadi, Andres Torres
Director of photography: Anna Franquesa Solano
Production designer-Costume designer: Rocio Gimenez
Editor: Charlie Williams
Music: Barbara De Biasi
No rating, 77 minutes