Very few films have sex scenes that are crucial to the plot. Prick Up Your Ears has one that is, since it provides maybe the only clue to the film's central mystery: why would the hugely successful playwright Joe Orton persist in a painfully unequal relationship with Ken Halliwell, an older, unsuccessful and intemperate man? I might also say unattractive, but that would be leaving my domain of expertise behind.

The moment in question comes early in the film, when Orton, a working-class yob from Leicester, is beginning to break through in London's late-60s theater scene, which according to this film was some kind of homosexual castle in the sky. Despite the generally permissive atmosphere, Orton fancies himself a modern day Christopher Marlowe, building dual reputations as a playwright of weight and substance, while taking any opportunity to leave his calling card in the sexual underworld. It's a lifestyle choice that continually bolsters his ego and complicates his long-running relationship with Ken.

categories Cinematical