As many stories lurk behind the doors of a large, old, labyrinth-like San Francisco apartment building as there are in a European grand hotel, a Transatlantic ocean liner, the compartments of a cross-country train, and so on, and the affable hustler hero of Joseph Graham's new film "Strapped" (USA 2010, 95 minutes), played with gusto by Benjamin Bonenfant, is going to learn a great many of them, all in one night.
Opening or being led through those doors, our hustler-Alex? Max?-finds: a Russian veteran, who had sex with only one man before, a school mate, who beat him up for declaring his love; people so absorbed by the exotic music they're making that they don't notice the young man opening their door; Leon, a crazy queen, who calls him Eddie and brings him to a cocaine-fueled party, where he meets Jacob, called Dirk, who wants to be serviced, and Gary (Nick Frangione), who craves something more serious-more on Gary later; a 'straight' man with issues; a mature man (Paul Guerrier), perhaps a composer, who rescues the protagonist from the belligerent 'straight' man, lives upstairs, beneath the leaky roof, and offers paternal warmth; and Gary again.
In John Rechy's 1960s novels "City of Night" and "Numbers," the hustler, who is the central figure and strictly 'trade,' eventually meets a man who persuades him to explore a 'further country,' and see if he could possibly enjoy reciprocating in a relationship. In both books, the hustler agrees to go along with the experiment, and then backs off: a gay life is not for him. In "Strapped," it is Gary, a sensitive writer and musician, who would strike that chord in our already gay-identified, but relationship-resistant rent boy.
Carlo D'Amore, Raphael Barker, Artem Mishin, and Michael Klinger are among the other actors. Graham takes us on a memorable, colorful trip, so catch "Strapped" in one of its world premiere showings, courtesy of QFest, Philadelphia's 16th annual LGBT film festival, on July 17 at 7:30 p.m., at the Ritz at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead Street, or 18 at 9:15 p.m., at the Ritz East, 125 South Second Street, in Theater One. Graham and co-producer Bill Parker are scheduled to be present. For more information about QFest, which continues through July 19, visit http://www.qfest.com.