Leave no taboo unturned

To raise HIV/AIDS awareness, Cinéma L’Amour goes back to its grindhouse roots

Over-the-top gore, outrageous sex scenes, rockabilly music, cheap beer, and HIV/AIDS awareness education – these things are not usually mentioned in the same breath, let alone as ingredients for a night of raucous partying. However, that is exactly what Grindhouse Wednesdays is all about.

Beginning Wednesday, December 2, and continuing on the first Wednesday of every month, Cinéma L’Amour is hosting an evening of sexploitation and music to celebrate its 40th anniversary and to provide a safe space to discuss HIV/AIDS. On December 2, Grindhouse Wednesdays will be showing Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, a classic Russ Meyer film. The Hellbound Hepcats, a rockabilly band, will be playing live music and cheap beer will be flowing. Each month a different genre band will be featured to complement the movie of choice.

Cinéma L’Amour opened 40 years ago in 1969 as Le Pussycat, and began showing grindhouse films. Later it moved to showing the hardcore porn it is now known for, and is the last remaining theatre in the city where one can view porn in public. For the 40th anniversary, the classic theatre is giving a nod to its grindhouse beginnings.

“There’s a huge taboo about watching porn in public,” says Aaron Hancox, filmmaker and organizer of Grindhouse Wednesdays. “I don’t think we’re going to change the world [with Grindhouse Wednesdays], but I think it will soften the idea [of watching porn in public] and break down some of the mystery [surrounding Cinéma L’Amour].”

Cinéma L’Amour is working in tandem with Head and Hands, a youth support group that is also celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The connection between HIV/AIDS awareness and grindhouse films is not explicit, especially in content. However, both are taboo in society and the goal of Grindhouse Wednesdays is to generate discussion about issues that society generally ignores.

“HIV awareness is still in many circles a taboo subject,” explains Hancox, “so we’re just trying to tackle the issue in a really direct and in-your-face way.”

Daniel Allen Cox, the MC for the evening, is an author published by Arsenal Pulp Press, a Lambda Literary Award finalist, and former porn performer. He believes that this event will be instrumental in breaking down barriers surrounding things that make society uncomfortable.

“The amazing thing about grindhouse films is that no matter how cheesy or violent, they break taboos and they open conversation,” says Cox, “and that’s exactly what we’ll be doing at this event. We’ll be talking about HIV/AIDS openly, frankly, in a sex-friendly atmosphere.”

There is a lot of buzz surrounding the event already, and Cox has high hopes for the night.

“Lonely Planet just ranked Montreal the number 2 party city on earth, and it’s because of events like this,” states Cox. “Where else could you get free condoms, Johnny Cash tunes, and [a party] in the first cinema to ever show porn in Montreal? This new series has a cult following already and it hasn’t even begun, so we’re really excited about it.”

Cinéma L’Amour can be an intimidating place to enter because of its association with hardcore porn and the stigma surrounding public viewing of porn. To those who have never entered the hallowed halls of Cinéma L’Amour, Hancox offers this advice.

“Expect a culturally enriching experience on a number of levels. [You’re] going to a wacky place and [you’re] going to see something equally crazy. This film is over the top. Russ Meyer makes crazy, crazy films. Beer is going to be really cheap, and [the night] is going to be a lot of fun.”

This event is about watching some crazy movies, listening to some amazing music, having an awesome time, and raising money for HIV/AIDS awareness programs.

Ultimately, however, “[the] very important goal here is to get people talking more openly, more frankly about HIV/AIDS so we can all play a part to remove the stigma that sadly is associated with it,” notes Cox.

The connection between sexploitation films, HIV/AIDS awareness, and taboos is not often made, but the ingenuity and individuality of the event makes it stand out from traditional HIV/AIDS awareness events. It lends the event strength to not only survive, but also prosper and make a real difference in the way society talks about sex, HIV/AIDS and porn.

For more information about the event, which begins at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, December 2, visit thegrindhouse.ca and become a fan of the Facebook page.