All Man: The International Male Story
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 23m
Director(s): Bryan Darling, Jesse Finley Reed
Where To Watch: in select theaters and digital June 6, 2023
RAVING REVIEW: ALL MAN: THE INTERNATIONAL MALE STORY, a spellbinding narrative about a single catalog's remarkable influence on men's fashion, societal masculinity norms, and the depiction of male sexuality over three decades (and more.) This cinematic journey takes us along the transformative path of Gene Burkard. A once-reserved Midwestern soldier, Burkard discovered a new sense of freedom and ingenuity in sunny San Diego, leading him to pioneer a fashion upheaval that appealed to a diverse audience and redefined the societal notion of masculinity.
Undoubtedly, the cultural icon that was Playboy had an undeniable influence on the sexual maturation of young American men from its debut in the 1950s. Nonetheless, it catered almost exclusively to the heterosexual white male demographic. As the 1970s dawned, there was a noticeable absence of similar platforms for gay men – a void that International Male helped to fill (unintentionally?) This ground-breaking project was a brainchild of Burkard, a former Air Force Private. International Male, a unique fusion of a magazine and catalog, offered a cornucopia of fashion choices for men of every sexual orientation. But to the gay community, International Male wasn't just a fashion directory – it validated their identity, presenting the male form as desirable, a previously uncharted view. The revolutionary magazine's transformative impact on LGBTQ+ history forms the essence of this documentary, directed by Bryan Darling and Jesse Finley Reed and produced by Peter Jones.
The narrative of ALL MAN: THE INTERNATIONAL MALE STORY sets off with the backstory of Burkard's life and subsequently unravels the story of International Male's rise to prominence, its eventual decline, and the culmination of its journey with its acquisition by Hanover Direct. The documentary weaves a tale through its striking visuals, engaging dialogues, and eclectic mix of magazine photos and advertisements.
The film touches upon themes like male fashion trends, LGBTQ+ identity politics, the portrayal of the male form, and male sexuality, as well as covering the AIDs epidemic that hit during the magazine's run. While the film successfully presents an all-encompassing picture of the societal backdrop that gave birth to International Male, it merely scratches the surface of these themes, potentially leaving the viewers desiring a deeper exploration. I could see this as a series of documentaries; they wouldn’t have to all be in the magazine, but a series of “ALL MAN” documentaries covering essential cultural milestones over the years.
For the gay community of the '80s, the International Male catalog was a foundational pillar. Its pages were filled with imagery of primarily straight-presenting models donned in bold and risqué apparel. A common sight in many households, this catalog encapsulated the evolution of the pre-internet days.
For more reviews, please visit – https://linktr.ee/Overlyhonestmoviereviews for more info.
Follow me on Letterboxd, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Find my social media accounts on most platforms simply by searching Overly Honest Movie Reviews.
I’m always happy to hear from my readers; please say hi or send me any questions about movies.
[photo courtesy of GIANT PICTURES]