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.