Dennis Cooper & Zac Farley / Like Cattle Towards Glow

November 8, 2016

Dennis Cooper and Zac Farley’s film Like Cattle Towards Glow, whose New York premiere took place last October hosted by The Creative Independent, opens with a shot of a misty-eyed, conventionally handsome young man staring into the distance. I thought, “They’re going to pan down, and he’ll start weeping and masturbating,” and I was right.

This kind of cliché characterizes Cooper and Farley’s postapocalyptic, kinky tableaux. Hackneyed meditations on non-normative sexuality can work when done with either sincerity or critical remove. Unfortunately, Cattle’s emotional and conceptual reserves run dry. After enduring a parade of thin, white gay men who all look the same, I came away depressed about the state of queer cinema.

With five acts that neither coalesce into a unified narrative nor survive on their own, the authors tell a series of sexual fairy tales that exist without context or character development. There are suicidal twinks fucking for drugs, a sweaty teen who is into necrophilic role-play, a hipster who gets raped while telling his life story to a bunch of club kids, and the archetypal deviant who watches her cherubic prey with a drone as he contemplates death. Nothing that was meant to be thought-provoking — or at least shocking — actually produces any emotional response. There is no discomfiting humor or melodramatic excess or even pornographic delight; Cooper and Farley refuse to commit to anything, and, as a result, they emerge with nothing salient to say about the pressing themes they attempt to tackle. It is as if they hope to be a more sophisticated John Waters, but Cattle has no laughs, nothing truly cringeworthy, no memorable moments, and no tact.

The lack of diversity or cognizance of real-world issues is also a severe problem. It goes without saying that queer cinema is already too cisgender and too white. This is not to say that every piece of artistic output by a queer auteur has to be activist (though in the age of Trump and rampant transphobia, I have increasingly come to require it). However, queer politics aside, I think I can say, generally speaking, that although many of us have wanted to die, very few have the option of a glamorous suicide.

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