Antoine Craigwell

'SLOW' Explores Constructions of Hooking Up

Filed By Antoine Craigwell | July 24, 2011 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Living
Tags: Adam4Adam, black gay sex, Carlton Byrd, Darius Clarke Moore, Harvey Gardner Moore, hooking up, instant sex, Internet sex, Long Term Relations, LTR, Mykwain Gainey, Online sex, Rodney Parnther, Slow the film

SLOW.jpgIn the business of sex, with the advent and emergence of the Internet as a powerful communications tool, magazines and newspapers have gradually become antiquated sources of advertising. The Internet has replaced hard-copy ads as the fastest and most efficient way to connect with someone. In recent years, online sex sites have mushroomed into a multibillion dollar industry. Feeding into this industry is the fact that there is nothing new about heterosexuals and homosexuals looking for instant sexual gratification.

It comes, then, as no surprise that just as there are black gay men who tap into online sites to identify potential partners for sexual gratification, there are many who search these sites in the hopes of attracting someone for a long term relationship. Many choose to go this route as other avenues to attract a partner have proven to be either unsuccessful or not as rewarding. To those looking for instant sex and those looking for something more, online sites offer some degree of anonymity. A searcher is furnished with the most salient and relevant information often accompanied by a photograph about a prospective partner and is able to make an instant determination without the complications of appearing to pass judgment on another.

SLOW from Darius Clark Monroe on Vimeo.

From the first frame, the blurred, hazy outline of something white and ball-shaped, a hint about the underlying nature of "Slow (directed by Darius Clark Moore and produced by Moore, Rodney Parnther and Mykwain Gainey) gradually comes into focus. As the camera's focus sharpens, the viewer recognizes a man about to slice an onion, and with his back to the camera, he is on his cell phone giving his address to someone, and says, "See you when you get here." He could be any man who has invited someone over for dinner. As the film progresses, he turns out to be in many ways a very different black, gay man. In the fast pace world of instants, without camera effects, everything slows down, not only for effect, understanding and absorption of the visual images, but because of his physical limitations - movement is forced into a deliberateness, a slower pace.

The film maker seems to suggest a counter to the instant nature of hooking up, to taking it slow, to those who would engage in online assignations. It is as if the director with help from his actors, Carlton Byrd and Harvey Gardner Moore, are using the film as a public service announcement: When hooking up with someone unknown and inviting them over to your house instead of meeting in a public place, beware, be careful and instead of rushing to have sex, slow down, take time to get to know the person you welcomed into your home.

The film's tagline samples an ad which could easily be found on Adam4Adam or Black Gay Chat Live - BGCLive and other gay sex sites, "26yo, DDF, 5' 11", 185 fit. 7 cut. Vers. Looking to host now. 420 is cool. Send a face pic," which translates into: age; health status (drug and disease free - no STDs, including HIV); height; penis size; sexual position; inviting prospective partner to come over immediately for sexual liaison; comfort with smoking weed; and requests interested person send a picture. By omitting waist size and weight measurements, the ad, leaves much to the reader's imagination about the physical stature of the person who placed it.

The camera's focus on his hands as he slices the onion, his attempt to stir the pot, tasting its contents by raising a spoon of liquid gingerly to his lips, and feeling for the cupboard handle, selecting bottles of spices, and shaking each to determine by sound and quantity which he would use, to improve the taste of the stew, gives another hint as to his condition.

In an age when visual images race across a screen and brains have become forced to evolve quickly to react instantly, the 13-minute video clip - a film selected for the OutFest Film Festival, initially evokes a feeling of impatience, almost as if to shout at the actors to "get on with it." One is almost inclined to hurry the scenes along, but the dimmed lighting, the expectation and energy of two sexually attractive black men potentially hooking up for a sexual liaison makes the viewer want to stay, to endure the film's slow movement and to absorb its subtleties, if only to become a voyeur to some steamy sex. As the film progresses, it upturns expectations which have assumed the position of norms in a world of "hook-ups" and instant sex.

The invited arrives, knocks on the door, and the occupant calls out, "It's open, come in." The guest enters and proceeds to survey the room, taking in the kitchen and the food cooking on the stove. He comments that he didn't know he was coming over for a meal. But, with his mind programmed and already set on coming over for a hook-up, he rolls a joint and proceeds to light it. In effect, the film maker plays on the concept of a meal - the predatory action of the guest as hunter and the host as prey, and the bonding created when two people share a meal. Immediately, the sound of the flicker of the lighter and the hint of the smell of weed assails the host's senses. He objects and his guest responds that his ad said "420 is cool," the euphemism for weed, at which point he confesses that his sister created the ad for him.

The guest then realizes that his host is physically blind. Still acting on his program to complete his mission, to have sex, the guest slowly undresses, finally removing his pants and revealing that he wore no underwear; his intention for sex now more apparent. He sidles up to the host, whose back is turned and crudely attempts to seduce him. The host reacts violently, he spins around and tries to beat his guest off, who, instead of reading the signs, persists, interpreting the resistance as a twisted form of acceptance, until the host grabs a nearby knife in self-defense to stab his guest. The guest, realizing that his host is not participating in the sex program firmly rooted in his mind, backs off and reconsiders his position. He gets dressed and heads for the front door.

The host dishes out the food and asks the guest if he has to eat all this food alone. The guest turns back and takes a seat at the table. The host walks over to the dining table with two plates, put them down and sits. For the first time, the faces of the guest and host are illuminated, showing their expressions - the guest realizing since he arrived that he was invited to share an experience and to consider possibilities beyond instant sex, and the host, staring sightlessly into the distance waits for acceptance of his offer of more than sex.

Through this portrayal of a twist on a hook-up for sex, the film explores expectations born from stereotypes: That black gay men who frequent online sex sites have psyched themselves and reprogrammed their minds to think only of gratification, while there are others who prefer to take it slow, using the same sites to find and build meaningful relationships beyond the immediacy of sex.

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This is an amazing piece of film making. Poignant, sexy, dramatic... and what a message it has to share. I would recommend it highly; it's a great use of 13 minutes.