Imperial Tranz-Am is not your average love story. The experimental short takes obsession to an all new level, exploring gender identity through a Lynchian love triangle between a dark priestess, a hunky mechanic and a mint green classic car. Inspired by Kenneth Anger’s 1965 film, Kustom Kar Kommandos, and a range of vintage porn, filmmaker Aron Kantor crafts a surrealist fantasy that’s both overtly sexual and unapologetically queer. Starring genderqueer performance artist Boy Young, with a soundtrack by Honey Soundsystem DJ, Bézier, Imperial Tranz-Am reimagines car worship as an act of rebellion, destroying gender constructs and social convention through dreamy visuals and an unwavering voice. By deconstructing the fetishization of car culture through exaggerated notions of masculinity and female sexuality, Kantor creates a space in which everyone is free. With Imperial Tranz-Am love, sex and muscle cars give way to a utopian reality where gender is what you make it. In the new Trump era, Kantor’s world is exactly where we want to be.
Watch the BULLETT premiere of Imperial Tranz-Am and learn more about the film, below.
What inspired the film?
Boy Young actually approached me with a really abstract idea for a shoot using classic cars. Immediately, that made me think of Kustom Kar Kommandos, the Kenneth Anger film from 1965. That film looks at gender signifiers and the sexual nature with which cars are treated, and I love the idea of cars serving as proxies for sexuality and gender constructs. I wanted to update that idea for a new era, and make the sexual metaphor more overt, but also push the gender play a lot further, using this genderqueer character to move us away from any binary concept.
Why did you decide to focus so heavily on the car metaphor?
Cars are always seen as objects of sexuality, but they waver between being a symbol of hyper-masculinity, or being a feminine object that commands the straight male gaze. So they’re always fetishized, but are they masculine or are they feminine? We as a culture can’t really decide, so I felt like that was a great playground with which to play with gender.
How did you explore those ideas in the film?
Primarily, Imperial Tranz-Am is about gender, it’s about lust, it’s about desire, it’s about nonconformity. I use the way that cars are fetishized as sexual objects as my entry point to look at gender and desire, and I use Boy Young to bridge the gap between the masculine and the feminine. She really is this uncomfortable caricature of femininity, contrasted with the classic masculinity of the hunky mustached mechanic.
Who are your biggest influences?
I think of my holy trinity as John Waters, Pedro Almodóvar and Kenneth Anger. But I’ve also been inspired by a ton of musical stuff, like Bob Fosse. For Imperial Tranz-Am, the primary influences besides Kustom Kar Kommandos, were, for the music, Patrick Cowley’s porn soundtracks from the ‘70s, and also, Fred Halsted’s Sex Garage, which is a porno he made in the mid-to-late ‘60s. In it, this mechanic is working on a car and fucks a female customer, then he fucks a male customer, and then he fucks a motorcycle—like literally sticks his dick in the tailpipe and cums all over the seat. We actually thought about recreating that for this film, but I wanted to be just under the limits of metaphor, and this would’ve pushed it too far over.
Why did you decide to cast Boy Young?
I’ve known Boy Young for a long time and I’ve been a fan of her drag and performance art. She routinely turns out these incredibly inspiring looks. She uses aggressive sexuality that makes you kind of uncomfortable, but also, maybe a little turned on—she’s always sexy, but at the same time she’s hideous, she’s demonic, she’s subversive.
How does Imperial-Tranz Am compare to the rest of your work?
It’s a lot longer and much looser than a lot of my other work—I usually try to get in and get out really quickly, just deliver a quick punch. But on this one, I really wanted to create something really meditative—I wanted to let you sit with the images, and really let the narrative seep in. Contextually speaking, it’s definitely one of my most experimental films, only because I created it without an end goal in mind. I usually have a really clear picture of how a film is going to end up, but I just let this develop organically. I didn’t know as we were shooting it whether it was going to be a 45-minute installation or a 2-minute music video—I played with format a lot and really let it become what I thought it needed to be.
Are there certain themes that connect all of your films?
Dirty Glitter is my moniker, so everytime I make a film, I examine it and ask, ‘How Dirty Glitter is it? How well does this embody my voice? How well does this fit in with my body of work?’ With Imperial Tranz-Am, it’s totally Dirty Glitter.
How would you describe the Dirty Glitter voice?
I like to look at the intersections of things that don’t go together, the intersection of opposites. High brow, low brow, filth, glitter—that’s the main conflict in my work that I explore.
What is your role as a queer filmmaker?
I think now, more than ever, we all need to be digging our heels in, and screaming that we’re queer as fuck, that gender binary is a myth that’s not helping anyone, and that individuality is currency that needs to be celebrated. If that can’t happen in art, then why even bother making it? The new administration is basically telling schoolyard bullies to go ahead and be mean, and it’s a kick in the shins to all the kids who are different. I think it’s my duty to keep making queer art, keep celebrating radical queerness, and encouraging people to be as weird as fuck. This film is just me adding my voice to that rally cry, and creating one more expression of different being beautiful.