Greek Pete (2009) - Andrew Haigh

Greek Pete (2009) - Andrew Haigh


Director:Andrew Haigh
Writer:Andrew Haigh
Genre:Dramatised documantary
Plot:A year in the life of a London rent-boy
Awards:2 wins
Runtime:75 min
Language: English, Greek


Peter Pittaros ... Greek Pete
Lewis Wallis ... Kai
Robert Day ... Youngandcutelad
Tristan Field ... Barbara Bush
Barry Robinson ... Fitfuck86
Liam Thompson ... HotBlond84
Rachel Whitbread ... Rachel


No, not a biopic of Peter Andre, but a would-be expose of an age-old subculture about which relatively little is known or documented: male prostitution. Subtitled 'A Year in the life of a Rent Boy', Greek Pete sets out its stall from the start, as 24 year-old Greek-Cypriot Peter Pittaros strips off for director Andrew Haigh's unblinking lenses - for a price, of course. With his ever-present mantra of "I just want to make as much money as possible", Pittaros, aka Gaydar's 'londonboypete', exemplifies a new generation of self-assured male sex worker (the sort London is apparently awash with right now) for whom pleasure is business.

As Lou Reed sung of Joe Dallesandro, the original male hustler-turned-movie star, "Little Joe never once gave it away, everybody had to pay and pay." Pete and his fellow sex-capitalists make the London Stock Exchange look like a high street Oxfam. Even this film is just another business opportunity for Pittaros for whom the acquisition of capitol equals success and happiness. "At the end of the day you're a product. And it's like any product: the more publicity it has, obviously the more people are going to come and buy it." In scene after scene we observe this independent contractor turn himself into an itemised bill of goods: "I'm 5ft 11, athletic-looking, about nine inches thick, uncut, really good at role play, really horny all the time."

This mutually agreed element of fantasy ("always up for it")extends to the film itself, a strange smudging of fact and fiction in which the cast are genuine escorts and the scenarios are purportedly authentic, but the actual presentations are staged. Through improvised conversations and re-enactments suggested by the escorts themselves, we see Pete and the Twinks hilariously discuss their Johns ("It was like a flap hanging at the bottom of a deflated beach ball"), go clubbing, participate in photo shoots, share Christmas dinner ("you've got a popper in the peas") and have gay sex, sometimes with each other. Unlike Dallesandro's married hustler in Paul Morrissey's similarly-themed 'Flesh' - "We're not queers... nobody's straight (or gay) ... you just do what you have to do" - there are no ambiguous sexualities here.

If those ear-opening conversations between Pete, 'Hotblonde84' and 'Tightass91' are real and revealing, the sex scenes, though highly explicit, probably aren't, as evinced by all those semi-erect penises. It is far easier to contrive shots of anal intercourse (especially from behind) than those involving, say, fellatio, which tellingly, isn't as in your face here.

As with Morrissey's Flesh, a narrative of sorts has been lightly imposed on the rough 'n' ready proceedings, centring on the problems inherent in having a coked-up boyfriend who also happens to be trade, along with the build-up to the real-life 'International Escort of the Year' show (or 'The Hookies') held in Los Angeles, for which Pete has been shortlisted from 40,000 rent boys. (Yes, the competition's certainly on the stiff side.) The outcome of that situation may be predictable, but the film's climax is even more so: despite his victory, Pete is left as empty inside as ever.

Greek Pete has been widely hailed as non-exploitative, non-sensational and non-judgemental. And it's certainly admirably frank, illuminating a parallel world many would rather pretend didn't exist. But with its narrative devices, certain stylised edits and none-too-subtle hints about the soul-destroying nature of the job, just how neutral or impartial can it really be? Despite itself, this can't help trading in the same melancholic clichés as more glossy, conventional dramas about male prostitution, such as 'Midnight Cowboy', 'Mysterious Skin', and 'My Own Private Idaho.' Scenes such as Pittaros psyching himself up in the mirror, like a horny Travis Bickle ("You're just a dirty slut, aren't you… you absolutely love it, don't you"), or touchingly confiding in an ersatz-father figure of a client (after revealing his own Cypriot father wouldn't be able to handle his coming out), belong more in Hollywood than in a warts 'n' all verite.

In all the confusion between what's real and what isn't, the film ultimately slips up, with Pete stating that he's been in the business for two-and-a half-years, though previously in the film he says he's only been at it for six months. (It's hard to bury discrepancies in a 75 minute picture.) And which begs the question: just how real is 'Greek Pete' anyway, on screen or off? Since Haigh's film was released, Pittaros has apparently left the escorting business. Which is probably for the best, as the overriding image we're left with is that of a rather shallow young man, operating in a depressingly dreary, soulless and risky environment about which we glean no real insights. And that probably wasn't what Haigh was trying to achieve.



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