A Very Natural Thing (1974)

R | 80,85 or 88 mins | Drama | 26 June 1974

Director:

Christopher Larkin

Producer:

Christopher Larkin

Cinematographer:

C. H. Douglass

Editor:

Terry Manning

Production Company:

Montage Creations, Inc.
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HISTORY

       The film begins with documentary footage of a gay liberation demonstration in New York City, where interviewees encourage closeted individuals to respect themselves and one woman professes that being gay is “a very natural thing.”
       As noted in the 20 Sep 1974 LAT review and in Mark Thompson’s 1991 book Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics and Practice, the film marked the first and only feature film by writer-director-producer Christopher Larkin, who based the film on life experience. Similar to the character “David,” Larkin lived for ten years in Roman Catholic monasticism and studied theology before moving to New York City in the late 1960s to become a teacher. Enrolling himself in film classes, Larkin spent four years making A Very Natural Thing with the hope of introducing gay narrative into the mainstream. The film was shot on 16mm and was later blown up to 35mm.
       A 10 Jun 1974 Box news item announced that Fine Line Cinema had acquired distribution rights and the film was scheduled to make its world premiere late Jun 1974 in New York City; the 28 Jun 1974 NYT review confirmed that the picture opened 26 Jun 1974 at the Cine Malibu and Cinema Village theaters and the 23 Oct 1974 Advocate stated the West Coast premiere was 19 Sep 1974 at the Picwood Theatre in Westwood, CA, as a fundraiser for the Whitman-Radclyffe Foundation.
       Despite positive reviews that pronounced the picture groundbreaking in its realistic and non-exploitative representation of queer relationships, Larkin had difficulty with its distribution and marketing. As noted in the ...

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       The film begins with documentary footage of a gay liberation demonstration in New York City, where interviewees encourage closeted individuals to respect themselves and one woman professes that being gay is “a very natural thing.”
       As noted in the 20 Sep 1974 LAT review and in Mark Thompson’s 1991 book Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics and Practice, the film marked the first and only feature film by writer-director-producer Christopher Larkin, who based the film on life experience. Similar to the character “David,” Larkin lived for ten years in Roman Catholic monasticism and studied theology before moving to New York City in the late 1960s to become a teacher. Enrolling himself in film classes, Larkin spent four years making A Very Natural Thing with the hope of introducing gay narrative into the mainstream. The film was shot on 16mm and was later blown up to 35mm.
       A 10 Jun 1974 Box news item announced that Fine Line Cinema had acquired distribution rights and the film was scheduled to make its world premiere late Jun 1974 in New York City; the 28 Jun 1974 NYT review confirmed that the picture opened 26 Jun 1974 at the Cine Malibu and Cinema Village theaters and the 23 Oct 1974 Advocate stated the West Coast premiere was 19 Sep 1974 at the Picwood Theatre in Westwood, CA, as a fundraiser for the Whitman-Radclyffe Foundation.
       Despite positive reviews that pronounced the picture groundbreaking in its realistic and non-exploitative representation of queer relationships, Larkin had difficulty with its distribution and marketing. As noted in the Advocate, the film’s topic remained taboo in popular culture and it was novel that critics took the picture seriously and recommended it to readers. While LAT once banned the words “homosexual” and “gay” from print, Kevin Thomas used both expressions in his 20 Sep 1974 review; however, the newspaper reportedly refused to print an illustration with the film’s advertisement. A 25 Jun 1979 Village Voice article stated that Larkin’s trouble getting the picture into theaters provoked his “silence and disillusionment.”
       According to Thompson, Larkin moved to San Diego, CA, not long after the release of A Very Natural Thing. There, he changed his name to “Purusha Androgyne,” published a book about esoteric sexual spiritualism titled The Divine Androgyne According to Purusha, (1981), and committed suicide in 1988 after battling acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) for several years.

      End credits include the following written statement: “With the special cooperation of the Unitarian-Universalist Church of the Divine Paternity; the Wonder Wheel, Coney Island; the Museum of Modern Art; the Club Baths, New York City; Land’s End Inn, Provincetown.”

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Advocate
23 Oct 1974
---
Box Office
10 Jun 1974
---
Box Office
15 Jul 1974
p. 4706
Daily Variety
6 Jun 1974
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jun 1974
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Sep 1974
Section IV, p. 8
New York Times
28 Jun 1974
p. 22
Variety
29 May 1974
p. 14
Village Voice
25 Jun 1979
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Montage Creations presents
a Christopher Larkin film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Orig story and scr
Orig story and scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Lighting asst
Lighting asst
Lighting asst
Lighting asst
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des consultant
Prod des consultant
Prod des consultant
Prod des consultant
FILM EDITORS
Ed asst
Ed asst
MUSIC
Orig mus
Orig mus
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the dir
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Cont
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Adagio For Strings, Op. 11," by Samuel Barber, by special permission of G. Shirmer Inc.; excerpts from "Don Quixote Suite," by Georg Philipp Telemann; "Entrata After William Byrd," by Carl Orff, by special permission of Belwin-Mills Publishing Corp.
DETAILS
Release Date:
26 June 1974
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 26 Jun 1974; Los Angeles opening: 20 Sep 1974
Production Date:

Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Montage Creations, Inc.
2 May 1974
MP25546
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
80,85 or 88
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

David, a twenty-six-year-old Catholic monk, leaves the church to become a high school English teacher and explore his homosexuality in New York City. At a nightclub, he meets a successful executive named Mark and they return to Mark’s apartment. After they make love, David admits that his religious beliefs were inconsistent with his carnal desire and he has lost faith in God. As time passes, the men fall in love, but Mark is not as romantic as David and is hesitant to make a commitment. One day, David wrestles Mark to the ground and forces him to declare his love aloud. Sometime later, the couple attends the wedding of David’s heterosexual roommate, Gary, and they contemplate monogamy. David moves into Mark’s apartment and they establish a domestic lifestyle, with Mark the breadwinner and David cooking meals. However, Mark soon feels confined by the relationship and takes on other lovers. When Mark fails to come home for dinner one night, David refuses to make love and they refer to themselves as a disgruntled married couple. Later, at a dinner party with two other gay couples, the friends discuss the complexities of gay marriage. On the way home, Mark admits that he is unhappy with David’s possessiveness and insists on spending the rest of the evening alone. In the morning, Mark announces that he cannot be monogamous. When he suggests they experiment with other lovers, they visit Fire Island and engage in an orgy, but David is discontented and leaves. Back in the city, David is unable to relinquish his hope for romantic love and Mark continues to desire ...

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David, a twenty-six-year-old Catholic monk, leaves the church to become a high school English teacher and explore his homosexuality in New York City. At a nightclub, he meets a successful executive named Mark and they return to Mark’s apartment. After they make love, David admits that his religious beliefs were inconsistent with his carnal desire and he has lost faith in God. As time passes, the men fall in love, but Mark is not as romantic as David and is hesitant to make a commitment. One day, David wrestles Mark to the ground and forces him to declare his love aloud. Sometime later, the couple attends the wedding of David’s heterosexual roommate, Gary, and they contemplate monogamy. David moves into Mark’s apartment and they establish a domestic lifestyle, with Mark the breadwinner and David cooking meals. However, Mark soon feels confined by the relationship and takes on other lovers. When Mark fails to come home for dinner one night, David refuses to make love and they refer to themselves as a disgruntled married couple. Later, at a dinner party with two other gay couples, the friends discuss the complexities of gay marriage. On the way home, Mark admits that he is unhappy with David’s possessiveness and insists on spending the rest of the evening alone. In the morning, Mark announces that he cannot be monogamous. When he suggests they experiment with other lovers, they visit Fire Island and engage in an orgy, but David is discontented and leaves. Back in the city, David is unable to relinquish his hope for romantic love and Mark continues to desire freedom. After a fight erupts and Mark pushes David to the ground, David moves out and stays with his friend, Alan, who warns that David is an idealist and claims that eternal love is unrealistic. However, David insists that he and Mark will get back together. In time, the former couple meets for a date at Coney Island and Mark invites David to come home with him. Although David is reticent about being a casual lover, he is unable to resist. When David later describes the encounter to Alan, he admits that the affair felt more akin to a test than an expression of love. Alan encourages his friend to entertain himself in a bathhouse, where men engage in anonymous sex, and David finds himself in an orgy. Sometime later, David observes a gay pride demonstration from afar and meets a young photographer named Jason. While Jason is a political activist, David is unconvinced that the gay rights movement will effect change in society and notes that coming out at work would jeopardize his career. Back at Jason’s apartment, David learns that his new friend was married for two years and has a young son. David announces that he is no longer in love with Mark and the men kiss. When Jason later visits his ex-wife and son, he admits to his new relationship with David. The men take a vacation in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where they make love inside an Inn during a rainstorm. As Jason photographs David, he suggests they live together, but David is now reluctant to make a commitment. Pointing his camera at David and focusing its lens, Jason asks his model to say, “I love you.” When the storm subsides, the men run naked into the ocean, frolic in the waves and passionately embrace.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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