Video of the Day: Smut Becomes Art

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Fred Halsted's legend invariably precedes him, for the simple reason that the handful of daring films he made in the 1970s are largely unavailable and rarely shown. One of gay cinema's least polished and most prized pioneers, the SoCal native made personal, experimental, and uncompromising movies laced with hardcore sex scenes that were intended to provoke a reaction above the neck as well as below the waist.

"I consider myself a pervert first and a homosexual second," Halsted said in a typically forthright interview. "Sadism is more basic to my personality than homosexuality." Tonight's screening of his 1972 debut, L.A. Plays Itself, a big city parable of predators and vulnerable newbies, serves as a confirmation of (and for many in the crowd, an introduction to) a brave talent who ended his life three years after Joey Yale, his masochistic lover and muse, who succumbed to AIDS in 1986. The artist and author William E. Jones, whose 2011 book Halsted Plays Himself combines biography with interviews, contemporaneous film reviews, and some of Halsted's erotic short fiction, conducts a discussion after the movie.

L.A. Plays Itself starts Thursday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Phyllis Wattis Theater at SFMOMA, 151 Third St., S.F. Admission is $7-$10.

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