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First there was Sofia Coppola, who made her directorial debut with the
all but safe Virgin Suicides. Now Lucìa Puenzo, another in-bred
filmmaker (her father is one of Argentina's most famous directors), has
chosen an even more uncomfortable subject for her first steps behind
the camera, and the result is a beautiful, bold and oddly touching
Much of the movie's power derives from the astounding central performance by Inés Efron, who plays the troubled Alex, a 15-year old girl living in a village by the sea in Uruguay. It was her father, marine biologist Kraken (Ricardo Darìn) who decided to move there from Buenos Aires, and for a good reason: his daughter suffers from a rare and frankly embarrassing medical condition, the nature of which is hinted at in the title. It has already caused her to break her best friend's nose, and more problems will come as the family receives an unexpected visit from a surgeon and his young son Alvaro, with whom Alex embarks on an awkward relationship.
XXY tackles a delicate issue with great care, allowing both sides to speak their mind (although the movie isn't really about taking sides) and addressing the problem without trivializing it. Most surprisingly, it doesn't get as explicit as other films with similar themes (Boys Don't Cry comes to mind), except for the wonderfully shocking climax (in every sense) of one of Alex's encounters with Alvaro. It's a scene of unexpected poignancy, especially considering the contrast between the brutality of that moment and Alex's visible vulnerability. Therein lies the movie's core: it is not a traditional teen story, nor is it a conventional issue picture; at its center we have a person who is seemingly unable to accept herself, as well as her complex bonds with other people.
It is those connections that the director analyzes with startling precision in the second half, with particular attention to the way the two kids relate with their fathers (close-ups are very important here, as the devastated looks on the great actors' faces act as a counterbalance to the seductive landscape). And there lies the biggest shock: Alex and Kraken, despite the difficulties they're going through, manage to get closer, while Alvaro's apparently perfect life is shattered in a brief, bleak lesson of cynicism from his old man. As a matter of fact, that might be too much: that scene is just a little too cold, too cruel to really feel at home in the picture. However, the rest of XXY holds up in an almost perfect way, with its strong story, affecting cast and an open ending which, despite being frustrating at first, makes perfect sense: this kind of story cannot really end.
Adapted from a short story by Sergio Bizzio, XXY is the story of Alex
(Inés Efron), a fifteen year old intersexual born with genitalia
characteristic of both male and female. Argentine director Lucia
Puenzo, daughter of Luis Puenzo who directed The Official Story, though
tackling a delicate subject has avoided sensationalism while crafting a
deeply touching and poignant coming of age story about the pain of
growing up without truly knowing who you are. Though minimal amounts of
dialog are used and there are long periods of silence, XXY does not
come across as being pretentious or strained. Rather it captures the
uncertainty and awkwardness of teens with authenticity and awareness.
Alex's father Kraken (Ricardo Darin) is a marine biologist who wants to protect his daughter/son from the stares and questions of society and moves the family to a remote seaside residence in Uruguay. Now that Alex has become a teen, he wants to give her the right to choose whether to lead her life as a man or a woman while emphasizing that he loves her unconditionally and thinks she is "perfect" exactly the way she is and the way she is not. Alex seems to have made her choice by stopping the hormones that have kept her female but her mother Suli (Valeria Bertuccelli) pressures her to decide about surgery by inviting friends Ramiro and Erika (German Palacios and Carolina Pelleritti) from Buenos Aires to stay with them, one of whom is a doctor who specializes in plastic surgery, her invitation being on the pretext that she wants Ramiro to get to know Alex.
Along for the ride is their shy teenage son Alvaro, brilliantly portrayed by Martin Piroyansky who knows nothing of Alex's condition and has some sexual issues of his own. What is not anticipated, however, is that Alex and Alvaro will form an immediate emotional connection, though neither will admit it to the other, and in a beautifully controlled scene, have a sexual encounter with Alex revealing herself by playing the male role. Though the encounter was witnessed by her father, he is not judgmental only perplexed about what his proper role should be in Alex's life, and discusses Alex with a gas station owner who had to make a similar choice in his teens.
Kraken's emotional support stands in sharp contrast with Ramiro. In one of the most gut-wrenching scenes in a long time, Ramiro is unspeakably cruel to Alvaro, telling him that he lacks talent and that, with dripping irony, he is glad he is attracted to Alex since he was beginning to think he was gay. Water symbolism runs throughout the film Kraken, who is named after a mythological sea monster, rescues turtles from poachers and removes their shell to discover their sex. Alex has an aquarium filled with hermaphroditic clownfish and a collection of dolls with attached penises attached. None of this symbolism, however, adds much to a story that is told with subtlety and great sensitivity.
Winner of the Critics Week Grand Circle Award at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, XXY features an extraordinary performance by Inés Efron who manages to build empathy for her character while making Alex a symbol of all adolescents' search for acceptance. Director Lucia Puenzo has said that after reading the short story by Bizzio that she "couldn't get it out of her head". A film of haunting beauty and compassion that says that every human being deserves to be loved for who they are regardless of gender, physical deformity, or sexual orientation, it will also be hard to get out of your head.
I Just saw this new movie from the Argentinian cinema and found it
To me the idea of showing the inner struggle of an hermaphrodite with such a profound respect was a First. I never saw a movie treating this issue before --not at all in a Hollywood product!!-- and never so seriously and delicately.
Not only his/her struggle, but both his/hers parents. His/hers parents lived 15 years (the child's present age as shown in the movie) of sheer torment. What could they do about the problem? Where could they go to talk about it without raising eyebrows? - the world can be terribly cruel with anyone "different".
I remember only one scene with an albino hermaphrodite in a frontal nude scene in a Fellini movie -"Satyricon"- But there, it was used only as shock value. A freak case. Not here! This is a very humane movie, very tender in it's treatment of a very delicate problem (Could it be because the director is a woman?).
And the beautiful, truly beautiful ending! in the past a character like this one was always killed at the end: It drowned, it fell in an abyss. It perished, no matter how. It did not have the right to live.
It seems that now we have grown to be more mature somehow; in this movie, not only the hermaphrodite refuses to be operated on, to become either a man or a woman, NO! she decides to remain what she is: A naturally born human being with BOTH SEXES. And really...Why not?? Great film! great, GREAT film!
*END OF SPOILERS*
Technically though, I found a couple of faults: Although my mother tongue is Spanish, after a while I had to put the subtitles on, since almost all the actors (Mainly Ricardo Darin -the father of the hermaphrodite) go through the movie mumbling their words, sort of like Marlon Brando used to do thanks to the Actor's Studio's Method, and I was missing part of the dialogue (My hearing is excellent, but the straining wasn't worth it, and I was using headphones!); also they talked in extremely low voices, so, since the sea rumble or the rain noise are on most of the time as background sound (They are on location in an Uruguayan beach town), they drowned the actors voices most of the time.
I imagine the director wanted to give the feeling of casual, nonchalant conversation, fine, but you can come up with a more efficient sound quality employing other ways, not as it was done in this movie (Maybe they didn't have enough budget, or the sound wasn't top drawer, I don't know).
The other fault was the length of some scenes..., it looked like one of those old 60s movies from Sweden, where the actors were shown on profile, looking to the right into the horizon for two full minutes without speaking a word or moving at all.
But these two faults are minor really. This film makes you think about the very wrong and terribly unjust ways of contemporary society when looking at minorities. Excellent all actors and a superb director.
Hermaphrodites or intersexuals,as they are called today - imho a slightly pejorative expression - are a rare theme in contemporary art; I can only think of Euginides book "Middlesex". The more it is surprising,that "XXY" comes from Argentine, a country not especially prominent in modern gender discourses. But Luisa Puenza impresses in her first feature film with a sensibility and open-mindedness,which will last in the memory for a long time.Puberty is always a difficult state between two identities: Not longer a child and not yet an adult.For the main protagonist Alex that problem doubles,because for her there is also the question of her future sexual identity.Society demands a clear decision.Like the language,which cannot find an expression for his/her existence - the adults alternately speak of "her" or "him" -, so the medicine aims at subjecting everyone to its sexual bipolarity. With witty dialogs and panache the film proclaims the right of being different and of searching one's own sexual niche. But luckily it's far from being dogmatic or didactic.It also understands the position of the parents to give their child a kind of shelter and save it from the confrontation with society.What the film openly criticizes are the operations, or should I better say amputations shortly after birth. The acting is generally fine, especially by Efron("Glue") and Darin.The missing star is the result of little flaws: In some places it too symbolically conceived: It takes place at the coast,which combines land and water; the father working as a marine biologist for sea turtles,whose sex cannot be defined from outside.Such clear hints wouldn't have been necessary. Luckily in our modern advanced society it is for an individual easier possible to define its own "normality" and fight for it, though it will be a lifelong fight.The film shows that in a way encouraging the viewers.
As everybody knows, adolescence is a roller coaster ride for the seven odd years from 12 to 19 (and sometimes even longer). Add the premise of being a 15 year old Hermaphrodite,and things can get even scarier. This is the story of a 15 year old Argentine girl,living on the Argentine coastline. A visit from another couple,with their 15 year old son makes this for an unusual,but sensitively played drama that in the hands of another director would/could be easily turned into crass exploitation. Granted,there is sexual experimentation aplenty,but this is handled with taste (don't expect a John Waters-esquire treatment here---not like in Pink Flamingo's,anyway). This is a well written,directed,filmed & acted out drama about mature subject matter. No rating here (it wasn't submitted for an rating from the M.P.A.A.),but contains some very mature subject matter,including a rather uncomfortable sexual harassment scene).
I will not get into any comments on the movie despite the medical
facts. I think other people can do and have done this better than me. I
just want to say I loved this movie and for who is interested here are
some facts why the story is fictional:
Alex seems to have both genders. She seems to have both - a vagina and a penis - and the doctors already noticed that before she was born. That is referred to as real hermaphroditism, but it is actually not a part of Klinefelter's syndrome, which is a so-called "pseudo-hermaphroditism". All children with an extra X chromosome in addition to XY (so 47,XXY-children) are BOYS. The Sex-determing Region of Y is making them develop to boys. So they won't have nor a vagina nor a uterus and until puberty they are usually not even diagnosed.
Boys with Klinefelter's Syndrome usually consult a doctor because of insufficient growth of the testes in puberty. Some get gynecomastia (breast development in boys) and stay with a high voice. The penis and hair usually develop normal.
So as long as they don't have a genetic abnormality on their Y-chromosome they won't be real hermaphrodites, which is a really rare condition anyway and comes along with the normal Karyotypes 46,XX or 46,XY in most cases.
Anyway it is a great movie! Enjoy!
The chromosomal abnormality of XXY has been labeled as Klinefelter's
Syndrome, hermaphroditism, and Intersex. The 'conception' defect
results in a child with both male and female organs and when detected
at birth usually results in a decision between physicians and parents
to surgically alter the child to be one or the other phenotypic
assignments - male or female. In this remarkably sensitive film based
on a short story 'Cinismo' by Sergio Bizzio and adapted for the screen
by writer/director Lucía Puenzo, XXY becomes a story of understanding
and acceptance of a diagnosis by both child and parents and the
conflicts such gender variation can present.
Alex (Inés Efron) is the XXY patient of the story, having been raised on the isolated coastline of Uruguay as a girl with the aid of supplemental hormones until age 15, the age when her loving Argentinean parents Kraken (Ricardo Darín) and Suli (Valeria Bertuccelli) have decided she should have her 'offending member' removed, allowing her to become a completely phenotypic female. Alex is deeply conflicted about her situation, refuses to take her medications and enjoys being 'one of the boys' in secret. When Alex's parents invite their surgeon friend Ramiro (Germán Palacios) and his wife Erika (Carolina Pelleritti) to their home to advise them on the surgical alternatives, they are accompanied by their artistic son Alvaro (Martín Piroyansky). There is an attraction between Alex and Alvaro and this ultimately results in a crisis that results in the coming of age and self-acceptance of both youngsters. Lucía Puenzo and her fine cast sensitively explore the interaction between parents and children and the coming to grips with choice of identity. This is yet another challenging and rewarding film from Argentina, one that stands alone as a fine movie, but one that also would be wise to add to the film libraries of high school and college students and of patient resource facilities who deal with problems of gender identity. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
I have seen many films, mostly documentaries, dealing with the intersex subject and this is by far the best treatment of the subject I have yet to see. Yes, it is slow, especially for amerikan sensibilities that expect everything to be fast and are therefore lacking in nutrition. This film was complicated, textured and went far beyond any form of politically correct treatment. I especially loved the character of the father. There was suffering but it was tempered with joy and humour, rather than tell the tragic story of the hermaphroditic 'victim' or 'freak'. Most intersex people are not allowed to choose what happens to their own bodies and those that are have to withstand severe societal pressure to conform to the either/or nature of the beast and define themselves as male or female. Alex made the choice to be both seem logical and obviously s/He was not going to lack for friends and lovers. A rare achievement and a template for further treatments of the subject.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I wouldn't like to include spoilers, but what follows may give you some
Some questions that may help you choose to watch this movie or not -especially when you haven't seen the trailers before (as is usually my case): - Are you open minded enough? - Are you able to feel empathy with any confused human being? - Do you think that, when facing a choice, you may choose and you may not choose at all?
XXY depicts a universal part of our lives: the discovery of our own sexuality. What's so particular here is that Alex is given more choices, and none falls into any categorization whatsoever. I mean, she/he may not be homosexual if she/he chooses girls as her/his primary object of desire. She/he may also choose men, and she/he wouldn't be gay at all!
There are some shocking scenes (don't choose this movie for a romantic evening!), nothing unbearable for an open-minded viewer. In fact, you'll see them with a smile if you don't expect them. You'll say "of course, Alex is really able to do that... I hadn't noticed!".
And the ending is, in my personal point of view, exactly the way that situation may be resolved. May be complex for many people, but for me it's just perfect.
Technically, sound is extremely awful. It reminds me of the movies Lucía Puenzo's father used to do: back in the eighties, most Argentinean movies had a really bad sound treatment. Maybe her father paid some assistance in that topic... being Argentine myself, I left subtitles on just in case I missed something. And they proved to be very helpful. The set up is pretty "fairy-taley" for my taste: it makes you feel characters like Alex are only allowed to exist, isolated, in remote, far far away places. It resembles, somewhat, to Pan's Labyrinth's atmosphere (it's just a resemblance, XXY has nothing to do with Pan's Labyrinth... don't go and watch it after XXY). I don't mean this story should be located inside a metropolitan environment, but suburban at least. Would help us see Alex just like the girl/boy next door.
XXY is a pleasant and moving experience. I hope you all enjoy it as I did.
The world as we have come to know it has not changed in thousands of years. That which was seen as strange, bizarre and unusual in past eras, has come to be known as simply different, but nothing science cannot correct. In the modern world, medical wonders have become common place. Unfortunately, that goes for Freaks as well. Such strange and unusual people are still far from the 'Norm'. They are still vilified in such a way, that most people want to have themselves 'altered' to fit in so as not to frighten children or cause controversy. This film " XXY "is about a ' Hermaphrodite ' called Alex (Ines Efron) a fifteen year old girl who has decided not be surgically corrected into either a male or female. Her parents are deeply troubled with her decision as are her few friends. Her closest friend is a teenage boy named Alvaro (Martin Piroyansky) the son of a surgeon and his wife who have joined Alex's parents on a retreat to the beach. There, it is hoped, Alex will chose a gender which best suits her. Despite the fact that Alex feels drawn to Alvaro, she also is troubled as to why she feels it's wrong. The entire film is dedicated to her struggles. It's confrontational setting brings out the curious in neighborhood boys and girls and causes Alex to wonder if she would be better off dead. The film is very slow to develop, slower still to present a particular direction and hampered by juvenile editing and a static script. The ocean scenery fluctuate's like the constant change of setting and furtive characters with no real fixed direction. It does however create a modem amount of sympathy for the main character, who remains as elusive in her decision as her dark aspirations. A good film for an undemanding audience who desires what the main character wants, resolution. ****
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