Purple Magazine
— S/S 2012 issue 17

Pink Narcissus

Film stills from Pink Narcissus, 16 mm, color, 71 min, New York

the influence of James Bidgood



In 1971 James Bidgood made Pink Narcissus, his only short film, a surrealistic work that draws the viewer into a visual tornado. The film was a major influence on a generation of gay artists, but Bidgood refused to acknowledge it as his own until the late ’90s. For a long while, Andy Warhol was given credit for making the emblematic film. Shot partly in Bidgood’s New York apartment, the film explores the archetypal homoerotic fantasies of a young Adonis named Bobby Kendall, fantasies that include a bullfighter squeezing into tight leggings. Much of the action takes place in public toilets and Oriental harems, cumulating in a feverish night when Bobby is introduced to sensual pleasure. Bidgood employs clichés of homoerotism, many of which were present in earlier gay-oriented films, but his greater influence was aesthetic. He created theatrical scenery with glitter, antique sculpture, and kitschy decor, some of which he borrowed from sets of movies made in India and from burlesque cabarets. Bidgood’s theatrical aesthetic influenced the French artists Pierre & Gilles and, more recently, David LaChapelle. The famous S&M scene in Nowhere (1998), directed by Gregg Araki, is based on sweet, almost threatening dreams, like those Bidgood often featured in his work. These themes and ideas became omnipresent in gay cinema.

Film stills from Pink Narcissus, 16 mm, color, 71 min, New York

Pink Narcissus may be the perfect gay movie, but its crazy homosexual aesthetic runs counter to certain clichés, such as the “Macho and Bears” movement. Bidgood’s influence went well beyond his representation of the homoerotic. The contemporary photographer Ryan McGinley recalls Bidgood’s theatricality in his surreal photographic series, “Moonmilk,” in which caves serve for decor in scenes featuring young naked people. If James Bidgood had a fault, it might be that he was too much of a perfectionist.

Pink Narcissus is available on DVD from BQHL Editions.








[Table of contents]

S/S 2012 issue 17

Table of contents

purple EDITO

purple NEWS

purple BEST of the SEASON





purple BEAUTY

purple TRAVEL

purple NAKED

purple NIGHT

purple SUMMER


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