Apparently, Jean-Luc Godard once said that D.W. Griffith once said that all one needed to make a film was a girl and a gun. We at the Yale Film and Media Studies Department have not yet achieved such sublime simplicity, but we’ve tried. Or, more specifically, Jonas Kilga (SM ’23), a close personal friend of mine, tried. In the fall of 2022, aided by Danya Blokh (TD ’24), another close personal friend and an acclaimed Yale Herald columnist; Maya Shah (TD ’23) (you get the deal, he made this movie with his friends); and myself; Kilga shot what is almost certainly Yale’s first arthouse porno: Bumping Uglies. The story of the film is simple: two men (played by the director and Mr. Blokh), inexperienced in the art of fornication, try and fail to have sex. The real story of the film is actually also pretty simple, but given both this publication’s insatiable lust for salacious journalistic detail and the fact that I’m the only member of the crew whose cock isn’t prominently featured (I’m still waiting to be asked to star in Bumping Uglies 2), I’ve been asked to testify to the production of probably the finest student film ever made at this university.
The production of Bumping Uglies happened at something of a pivotal moment for Jonas, Danya, and me. We split our time between performing the indignities common to the amateur Yale filmmaker (we made a few movies about guys fighting with their girlfriends) and participating avidly in the New York avant-garde (we were all regularly but independently having sex with Jewish women in the East Village). It was hectic, it was embarrassing, it may very well have been the best time of our lives.
Back then, Jonas was taking a class on the Weird Greek Wave, a loosely defined filmmaking movement characterized by spare cinematography, off-kilter framing, and a deadpan attitude towards human sexuality. The movement ostensibly emerged from the collision between Greece’s mythic status in the West and its ongoing economic crisis. We knew this, of course. We talked about it. But mainly we were (or, rather, Jonas was) tickled by the idea of two people not knowing how to have sex.
Objectively, fucking is one of the funniest things a person can do. Perhaps this wasn’t the case when it was first discovered. Back then, sex was an act; today, it is an edifice. As a species, we have assembled such a bizarre set of customs, practices, beliefs, and other varieties of sick shit around the idea of sex that the act itself has become almost entirely opaque. Don’t get me wrong—I am a big proponent of sick shit, both for its obvious erotic appeal and for the material it provides for philosophical contemplation. Anyways, this is what Bumping Uglies is about: the institution of sex, and the absurdities that result when two village idiots attempt to enter it with no preparation whatsoever for what awaits them inside.
In spite of its mythic status, Bumping Uglies is no comic epic. It is a modest film, never overstaying its welcome. Following a brief opening scene in which Jonas’s character appears not to know what to do with his penis, the film proper begins, as many of the greatest films in the avant-garde tradition do, with the two idiots, dicks out, facing the camera. One man’s dick is clearly bigger than the other’s, but in a stroke of screenwriting genius, this fact is never commented upon. For a film which features as much taint as any film I’ve ever seen (and trust me when I say the annals of cinema contain their fair share of taint), it is the subtle moments like this which speak the loudest. The only thing we need to know is that each man desperately wants sex with the other. And sex—if one could call it that—they have.
Separated by title cards denoting different kinky behaviors (biting, unconventional positions, etc.) the two men go on a sexual odyssey. As is the case with any work of genius, the comic high point of this routine emerged entirely by accident. You see, the crew of Bumping Uglies was not entirely human. (This is not a comment on my nor Jonas’s character, contrary to popular belief). For the duration of the shoot a horny, barely breathing, vomitous dog named Jackson was traipsing around the “set,” where he lived when we weren’t making porn in there. If you listen closely, you can hear his breath in just about every part of the movie. So when the time came to figure out a third thing for the protagonists to do (Jonas has visions, not plans), the answer was obvious: they should have a third, and that third should be a dog. For ethical and hygienic reasons, Jonas and Danya didn’t fuck the dog, but his appearance both expands the scope of the film (I will forever resent that he, not I, became the film’s third lead) and provides crucial motivation for the two characters’ ultimate decision to stop their sexual shenanigans. Instead, the two go back to their version of kissing: licking each other’s faces with no attention to decorum or good taste at all.
This ending, like the rest of Bumping Uglies, is something of a joke. But it is also a genuinely sweet moment. These characters, in spite of their perpetual horniness, are innocents. They know nothing of the world and nothing of sex and nothing of kissing. It’s easy to feel this way in a world where sex is less a pleasurable activity than a cultural phenomenon. Or I assume that’s how some people feel. I wouldn’t know. I love the cultural phenomenon of sex, and I love whatever worldly and personal absurdities led to the conception and making of Bumping Uglies. More than any project I’ve worked on at this university, it’s the one that has shown me the value of letting one’s freak flag fly. So if anyone needs license to be a freak, I encourage you to ask Jonas for the link to the masterpiece that may very well define his time at Yale forevermore.