2017, Daily Log, Personal

TIFF 2017: Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (2017, Matt Trynauer)

This is a very conventional documentary about a man who claims to have been a pimp and a prostitute in Hollywood for 3-4 decades.

Scotty Bowers of the title has a book called Full Service, which is a tell-all. This film isn’t so much about the book – though it certainly is – as it is about some of the stories in it, and Bowers’ life now that he’s published it (and has been retired from pimping and whoring for 30+ years).

The film itself is very typical of its type: interviews with Scotty are interspersed with interviews of other people – one famous, mostly not famous though – and archival footage of the eras discussed, plus footage of Scotty puttering around. Stylisticially at least, the film is pretty run of the mill.

However the content is not: Scotty Bowers claims to have had sex with a lot of famous people and claims to have hooked up many others. The extent to which you believe him probably has a lot to do with whether or not you like the film but I don’t think that’s the point. Some of his claims appear to be verifiable (there are former prostitutes who testify he was their pimp, albeit a nice one) whereas others feel likely exagerrated if not outright fabricated (such as his claims about the Royal Family). I’m not super concerned about the degree to which he’s inventing things because he himself is such an interesting person, a good subject for a film.

Bowers has a clear desire to be friends with everyone. He is the definitive star-fucker/name dropper. He wants you to know who he knew even if you’re not sure who those people were yourself. But he also seems to want you to believe that everyone was just having a good time. Bowers is seemingly utterly exempt from the American prudishness that caused the Production Code and forced so many Hollywood stars to live in closets. The other interesting thing about Bowers is that he has become a hoarder – a pretty bad one. Normally, the “camera following around the subject” parts of films like this feel like filler but, in this case, it feels entirely appropriate because Bowers’ hoarding feels deeply connected to his stories.

This is a fascinating – and provocative – film about a fascinating man who may or may not be inventing much of what he says. However, the film itself is kind of poorly paced and really is so conventional in style as to be borderline cliche.

But if you’re interested in Golden Age Hollywood, if you’re interested in scandal, if you’re interested in sex, or if you’re interested in anything to do with LGBT issues, you’ll probably find it very interesting.


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