Thursday, December 26, 2013

A most unlikely-but-likable hero is the subject of Dan Hunt's marvelous, moving doc, MR. ANGEL

Not much of a porn viewer, TrustMovies knew nothing about the subject of Dan Hunt's excellent documentary, MR. ANGEL, that tracks the career of one, Buck Angel, an exceedingly muscular, butch-looking fellow with a high-pitched voice, a successful career in the porn business, and a vagina -- which he displays and evidently uses for both fun and profit. Not a hermaphrodite (he has no penis) and born a girl, Buck is set on sharing his "being" and his experience with as much of the world as will have him.

After seeing this fine documentary in which Mr. Hunt (shown at right) tracks Angel's history, family and career, I suspect that -- against all odds -- he's going to convert a lot of people. And I don't mean convert them to doing or being what he himself is doing and being, but rather converting them to a kind of understanding and appreciation of just how "other" a person can be and still be a person you might like to meet, get to know, learn from, and, yes, even get intimate with.  What is most surprising about Mr. Angel -- the man and the movie -- is how they both manage to appear absolutely one-of-a-kind and yet utterly approachable and comprehensible.

The filmmaker lets us into the history of this girl/guy (that's she, above, as a cute, freckle-faced kid), meet his family (mom and dad are shown below) and even wrestle, as his parents do, with who and what their daughter has become -- and why. The relationship between Buck and his father seems the most tenuous -- "Dad did hit us; I think he crossed a line there," Buck relates in passing -- yet both men are in there pitching, trying hard for some kind of intimacy.

We meet Buck's significant other, Elayne (below, left), and when she tells us how and why she fell in love with the guy, it all seems more than a little possible. And when we finally experience Buck's need for and receipt of a hysterectomy due to all that testosterone ("They never told me that the walls of my uterus could atrophy...."), there is no longer any room for doubt about his commitment.

We also go to Adult Entertainment Expos, watch Buck interact with other porn stars (below), learn that he's been nominated for both Transsexual of the Year and for the most outrageous sex scenes (he wins the former). For all the film's "honesty," I wish it had gone a little deeper into Buck's sex life. Since he has a vagina, one might assume he can climax by being sucked, fucked or fingered. Does it matter whether the perp is a woman wearing a dildo or a man using his own penis? But we don't go there, and that's a shame, really. (Buck does tell us that he quickly rejected the idea of having any kind of penis "installed," as this would have given him something unreal.)

One of the most fascinating sections of the film involves Buck's time as a high-paid, high-fashion model when he was still in his feminine form. She was quite exotic and beautiful, so it is little wonder friends and family expected her to easily settle for that glamorous life. (Why didn't s/he? Drugs and alcohol abuse, for starters.) The photo below offers an interim young man, post-modeling but prior to losing her breasts.

When living in the U.S. became too tricky (he and Elayne were formerly located in New Orleans), the couple relocated to Mexico. Now the guy has joined the "lecture circuit," making public appearances across the U.S. and internationally. "My mission, and I know it sounds cheesy," he explains, "is to change the world."

And yet, on some small level, that is exactly what Mr. Angel is doing, and what he is doing is definitely worthwhile. Stretching boundaries, forcing us to understand "the other" a little better, Buck is certainly some kind of hero, and Mr. Angel is one of the best documentaries about that "other" that I have seen in quite some time. It probes, explores, and takes in other people's views (one of the highlights is Dan Savage's remarks on how our society handles pornography). It's a fine place to start for any folk who feel "different," as well as for their families, friends and co-workers.

Shot over a period of six years, Mr. Angel, from Breaking Glass Pictures and running just 68 minutes, made its premier at this year's SXSW film festival and is available on DVD now. Click here to order. (I hope it will also be available soon on various streaming sites.)

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