Bicycles and pornography are not an obvious pairing, but they have nonetheless been combined into the baffling “synthesis of sexuality and transportation” that is Bike Smut. The touring event, now in its seventh year, is a collection of short films curated by Portland-based Reverend Phil. According to their website, Bike Smut was created to “[encourage] the Portland community of sex-positive bikers to make short films about bikes and sex to help spread a message of joy and liberation through sexuality and cycling.” To those wondering if such an event could fly (or is that ‘roll?’) outside of Portland, you’ll be either pleased or alarmed to learn that Montreal holds the record for films submitted by a single city (three).
Reverend Phil appears on stage, clad in a leather tanktop and aviators. Using the word “fabulous” more than most members of the clergy, he introduces the fancy dress competition. Only one group had prepared for the competition, and after a couple of minutes they are awarded the prize, which is a gift bag of condoms, stickers, and DVDs. The Reverend claims it has a recommended retail price of $20 – a sum not to be sniffed at, considering it’s $20 more than the cost of being ordained by his church (Universal Life Church, with 20 million ministers – including Conan O’Brien – and 18 million members, is an online church that ordains its ministers in a matter of minutes).
The first film of the evening, The Hot, the Bold and the Foxy, features three women riding bikes – though not with a view to transportation, if you get my drift – to an Ennio Morricone soundtrack. What it lacked in coherence, it made up for in mud and lip-licking. Actually, it had one of the clearer narrative arcs of the selection, although Bike Barber took the award for clarity. This second film features a bicycle repair man who has a haircutting fetish, shaving the shaggy head of a man whose bike has a puncture.
The most confusing film was unquestionably We Come In Peace, a 15 minute story of a bike invasion, interspersed with scenes of a man trying unsuccessfully to masturbate. These two strands meet in a Crimes and Misdemeanours-like fashion in the final scene, revealing that the man had become a bikesexual, attracted to the very bikes that will destroy him. Devastating.
The Hot, the Bold and the Foxy was not the only film in which there was a little more mud than strictly necessary. Cypress Against Me had the most tenuous of links to bikes, and consisted mainly of people rubbing mud on each other – and, possibly (the picture was pretty grainy), a woman urinating on a man. Freewheel and Fixie also climaxed in a forest; there must be something about the woods that lends itself to amateur bike-themed pornography. It may be the sustainability, though it’s unclear whether the films have any ideological message at all.
The understated highlight of the night was Nakenger’s Vélorution, where a guy rides recklessly around Lausanne in the nude, followed by a camera and a trail of destruction. It is a shame it wasn’t placed more prominently in the show, being merely a backdrop for Rev Phil’s “fabulous” introductory ramblings. For those interested, the video is on YouTube.
If you didn’t know better, you might think that Bike Smut was born from a night of hard punning. ‘De-railed,’ ‘oiling the chain,’ ‘pumping up tires,’ ‘handlebar maintenance,’ ‘puncture repair kit’ – in the right frame of mind, all become eco-friendly innuendo. Yet despite language’s best efforts, it seems there is something deeply unerotic about bikes. The moment a bike appeared, even the more straight-forward clips (of which, admittedly, there were few) turned instantly to ironic burlesque. The Rev is cycling from city to city on his tour of North America; with his taste for strange combinations like porn and bikes, one suspects he’ll be living on Nutella and brie sandwiches.