Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Prick Up Your Ears


I couldn’t figure out what this title meant. Did it symbolize something? Was there deep meaning I was missing? Then it became clear. Somebody was talking it up on the phone and got misunderstood, and the new title stuck. The original title was to be Prick Up your Arse

Sorry about that, I just couldn’t resist. This is about the darkly (apparently; we never see any of his work) comic playwright Joe Orton and his roommate/lover/emotional punching bag/toy poodle, Kenneth Halliwell. Both set out to be great artists; only Joe makes it. It’s an old, old story line, and it always ends badly, though not always this badly. I’m not giving anything away when I reveal that Ken murders Joe and offs himself. The director, Stephen Frears, reveals it right off, and the story is well known. I recall something very similar in Bob Fosse’s Star 80. And you know, though the film was universally acclaimed, I didn’t warm to it. In fact, I didn’t like it very much. It reminded me of Macaulay Culkin in Party Monster, though not quite so extreme. I am aware of just how good the acting is, but the character is so repulsive I just have to back away. The enforced lifestyle of the male homosexual in the ’60s was so sordid, centering around public toilets. I remember you couldn’t go into a restroom back then without being checked out from both directions. Hard to take a leak. The smell of ammonia and Lysol and urinal cakes … No wonder so many gays picked up exotic fetishes.

The acting is very good, though, particularly Gary Oldman. It was years before I realized the man is a Brit, and frankly, sometimes I still forget, probably because he’s played so many Americans and done it so convincingly. I wonder if he’s ever used the same accent in any two movies? He’s one of those chameleon actors I am in such awe of. He can be anybody at all, though he specializes in psychos.