If I were going to try to convince someone of the value of Andy Milligan's work, VAPORS would be the film I'd show. In fact, I HAVE shown it to a few people over the years with that purpose. It's a gritty 16mm black-and-white feature set in a gay bathhouse and it seems very much like a "small theatre group" play, which makes sense since Milligan himself ran a few such theatre groups. The film transcends the gay aesthetic it represents and is really a meditation on loneliness--gay, straight, or whatever. While the room-tone echo on the recorded sound takes a little getting used to, it should not diminish the quality of the acting, which is quite moving in the case of the two leads. While the late Mr. Milligan was a unique filmmaker, Warhol always seemed to be his main-man artistically, and that's clearer here than anywhere else in Milligan's work. Milligan obviously knew what it meant to be lonely, to be afraid, and to reach out. This beautiful but raw film captures that as well as, for example, any Bergman film or Saul Bellow novel. History will view this film as a pioneering work of cinema. Please be warned, though, that it is NOT for the casual viewer or the viewer who cannot see beyond the film's lack of traditional qualities of slickness and "professionalism." Seeing this on a big screen at the time of its minimal release must have been a revelation!!! If Milligan had never made another film, this would rate him as a major filmmaker in my book.
New York City, 1965. Thomas is a curious young gay man who decides to take a walk on the wild side one Friday night over to the local bath house located on St. Mark's Place, known in the gay community as a secret meeting place for gay sex. At the baths, Thomas is approached by Mr. Jaffee, a closeted and married older man and first-time attendee who takes an interest in him as the new face "on the scene." A deep and philosophical discussion about marriage, homosexuality, and other social taboos begins to unexpectedly unfold between the two different men, creating a non-sexual, yet intense emotional intimacy in a very short time, while everyone around them are screwing like rabbits. After all, it is a gay bath house in New York City. However, Thomas and Mr. Jaffee are experiencing something much deeper from their conversation that elevates beyond sex.
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March 04, 2018 at 06:33 AM