In The Mood For Kyle Henry's 'Fourplay'

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Fourplay posterSet in four American cities, director and UT alum Kyle Henry's anthology film Fourplay shows that love, fear and desire are universal emotions that drive our decisions, like participating in a public restroom orgy or hiring a prostitute for your quadriplegic husband. Austin Film Society is screening the movie tonight as a fundraiser for the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund, and on Friday it starts a week-long run at Alamo Drafthouse Village.

"Sex is often portrayed in film as heterosexual and monogamous," says Henry, a former Austinite who's now an assistant professor at Northwestern University. "The writers and I saw a need to make a movie that reflected the lives of the people we know."

Cuddling, touching, kissing ... The sexually-explicit anthology turns the definition of foreplay on its head, and back and side. Fourplay runs the gamut from tales of sexual intimacy that are romantic to sorrowful, comedic to raunchy, and it's through the four shorts that Henry says the film is able to reflect a complete spectrum of sexual expression. 

A spectrum of sexual expression that Henry says his parents (his father's a former Marine and his mother's an elementary school arts teacher) wouldn't understand. His parents may not ever see Fourplay but one of his sisters has, as well as some of his former Northwestern University students. 

Initially, Fourplay was produced in four separate sections, with the first installment being "Tampa," written by Henry's creative and romantic partner Carlos Trevino. However, Henry says the film was always intended to be a feature.

"Tampa," about a lonely man who acts out his insecurities through fantasy, screened at the Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals. Two of the four shorts have also screened at Outfest, the L.A. gay and lesbian film festival Henry says took a chance by screening "San Francisco" and credits the support for the short's Newfest Film Festival awards. "San Francisco" and the finished Fourplay also both played aGLIFF (now Polari) in recent years.

The Outfest screening of Fourplay felt like a homecoming for Henry. His first feature documentary, American Cowboy, which explores the life of a cowboy who is gay, screened at Outfest in 1997.

Much like Henry's American Cowboy, some of the Fourplay shorts are inspired by real-life events. Trevino found inspiration for the short "San Francisco" from the stories of one of America's top cross-dressing prostitutes, Chloe. 

Although Henry says Fourplay was difficult to cast because of its provocative nature, he knew Austin-based actor Paul Soileau was right for the role of Aliya in "San Francisco" after attending Soileau's drag performances as "Christeene." 

Casting may have been difficult for all Fourplay shorts, but filming the sex scenes in "Skokie," which included a stuffed animal, were among the most interesting, Henry says. Jessica Hedrick, who wrote "Skokie," previously appeared as an actress in Henry's 2005 Independent Spirit Award-nominated film Room. The Illinois town of Skokie is the setting for one woman's tale of sexual repression. The word "Skokie" does come from a Native American word for fire. 

Even though most of the shorts were filmed in Austin (namesake of the short about a young couple who turns to the kinky side), Henry says "Skokie" was chosen because of his job at Northwestern University and his desire to shoot close to home. And because the city's name sounds funny.

"Every city has its own mythologies and topography," he says. 

The completed feature Fourplay premiered last June at the Frameline Film Fest in San Francisco and was partially financed by the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund. Read Don's review from aGLIFF Polari for more details about the movie.

Coming up for Henry and Trevino: more tales of sexual repression with an Emily Dickinson biopic.