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On the gay film festival circuit, Circuit continually packs theaters with eager audiences wanting a scintillating and incisive look at the party-based, sociological phenomenon of gay circuit parties.
Well, that plus the chance to ogle a lot of hard, sweaty, dancing bodies.
Dirk Shafer’s movie returns to Washington for two weeks as part of Out@Visions, a new weekly series at the Florida Avenue theatre, celebrating the wide-ranging field of gay and lesbian cinema, featuring both classics and new releases.
To sum up the main plot: After small-town cop John is outed and bashed, he moves to West Hollywood where he naively finds himself involved with a drug dealing escort who initiates him into steroids, K and crystal. He quickly spirals downward to becoming the sex addicted gymbot that everyone hates but supposedly still wants to have sex with.
The existence of circuit parties can elicit strong pro and con reactions among certain circles: one side thinks the parties are an excuse to do drugs and have dangerous sex, while the other sees the events as celebratory and spiritual experiences that liberate an oft oppressed community. Both sides get their soapboxes in Circuit, to the extent that at times you’ll wonder if director Shafer was afraid to offend one side or the other.
Shafer, who delighted many with his debut film, an autobiographical account of his term as Playgirl magazine’s Man of the Year, overreaches somewhat with the multi-character, multi-storyline Circuit. Still, he shows occasional visual and compositional flair, as in one sex scene that intercuts with James-Bondish close-ups of a bump bullet while “White Rabbit ” plays in the background, or when John’s straight best friend mistakenly does some of his crystal and goes on a cleaning spree that would do Hazel proud. Shafer even gets a surprisingly good performance out of Paul Lekakis.
Anyway, when things slow down — and at 121 minutes, things do slow down — Shafer throws in a sex scene or other excuse to show sweaty naked men. Not exactly a reason to throw your popcorn at the screen.
Circuit plays at Visions, 1927 Florida Ave. NW, on Sunday, June 29 and July 6 and Monday, June 30 and July 7, at 9:30 p.m. Drink specials — $3 vodka drinks and 2-for-1 drafts — are served during the movie. Visit www.visionsdc.com.