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A lot is already being covered about the virtues and flaws of this
series in the press as it airs.
However a major concern is that the writer appears to be falling into an unforgivable trap with regards both it's ambiguously stated gay protagonist, Arthur Havisham as well as it's token ethnic-minority male, Artful Dodger. In both instances the writer, though appearing to be mold-breaking on the one hand ,has in reality, evoked the tired and well worn negative depictions of ethnic minorities and gays living in a straight white world, that belong to an era we should have moved away from.
The ambiguously asserted gay character, Arthur H, manages to adopt all the usual negative stereotypes assigned to a gay character for most of the 20th Century and widely castigated and made unpopular during the 70s and 80s. Havisham not only has no real voice as a gay individual, nor any active or satisfactory sexuality, but he's very much the victim, hysteric, corrupter, and corrupted all rolled into one. Usually the gay character with a negative stereotype has been assigned just one of these attributes. Yet Dickensian manages to roll all six into one. Not only is this unforgivable, It's totally anachronistic and homophobic.
Likewise for the token ethnic-minority male, assigned to the Artful Dodger. Despite all appearances of being ground breaking, what non- white male viewers can enjoy is the usual negative images of a black man (in this instance boy) already well versed in the antics of crime and actively untrustworthy and a suitable suspect for accusations of homicide.
As with LGBT depiction, this racist stereotype dominated for the best part of 100 years of moving image history, along side the more permissible image of the fun loving, cuddly, musical, cheeky but always servile black man. Artful Dodger appears to have been assigned something of all these negative stereotypes too. Here we are again, with the unconscious and unchecked racism of the writer and director who no doubt are both white and male, significantly, at a moment when there is uproar about this year's Oscars exclusion of ethnic minorities in the short lists of winners.
It's not a trade off either. Just because a portrayal of ethnically diverse adolescent romance is included, it doesn't mean the writer gets away with the failures described. In fact, the choice continues to affirm what is palatable to the white-male-heterosexual, being his access to the not-too-black pretty girl, alongside the denigration of the gay and non-white male, both who no doubt represent a threat to his power.
The series is still airing as i write, but one is now left speculating to what extent Havisham will escape an inevitable dismal ending (a nail- biter we've just gone through with the gay footman, Barrow of Downton Abbey)and the question of the degree of Dodger's immorality though of course where he'll be inescapably always bad. A good writer would have offered a different set of speculations.
If white heterosexual writers are going to write in LGBT & ethnic monitory characters, then they should at least be familiar with the mistakes and criticisms made against script writers of their profession in the past and undertake not to repeat them. It all boils down to very bad craftsmanship, not political correctness, a defence so often sited by the offending. It's time to grow up, we can't drag these cliché derogatory stereotypes into the 21st century.
A typical example of the prevailing trend among new low budget
independent art house film makers today.
What's the hallmark of such works, compared to the art house movie of yesterday ? What you might call an extreme kind of minimalism that comes perhaps because of the empowering nature of new technology. Striped away are all the once essential components of a good film. It's a purist aesthetic but what does it leave us ?
We're left with work which is very firmly located in what historically we recognise as 'realism', hyper accentuated by an unnatural stripping away of the spoken word as anything but an indicator of underlying feeling. Sets and props are 'realist' and functional but encounters are strictly subservient to the re-ordered sets of directorial priorities. Typically nature features as an element is such films and it is found as such here.
The problem with this currently prevailing approach to making cinema is that is is somewhat repetitive in that it can be seen in many films being released today. It's as though the obsession to create the conditions that capture feeling entropy creative powers in each director in exactly the same way. The film maker becomes trapped by the schema which dictates the whole form of the work, added to which,in a gesture of self intensification, any attempt, if wanted, to veer away from the strategy is simply disallowed by the form itself.
The result is, well to be frank boring. Hasn't anyone told this new generation of film maker artists who are self confessedly preoccupied with the nature of feeling that the problem with feeling is that it doesn't go anywhere, lead to anything and is essentially nihilistic and inward bound. It's also notoriously difficult to convey or control in film, often leading to long empty cinematic voids whose best asset is the slowing down of pace. The idea that there is some kind of key to unlocking the cinematic propensity to convey the strata of human feeling is akin to the search for philosopher's stone. Does someone need to tell this generation to grow up and face reality ?
Talking of reality, the cliché of reality achieved through this technique needs to be scrutinised and questioned. I would propose that the realism shown here is in fact highly distorted by the entropic effect of the filmic technique which is so bent on prioritising feeling over plot or narrative.
In reality, a farm house can be a hive of activity and the stripped down conversation required for such films as these is highly unnatural and stylistic. The emerging untold story is the plight of the enigma of a gay farmer who is somewhat incidentally tossed into the mix yet is actually a radical and little explored subject. But nothing is given away, largely to maintain the conceit of feeling manifested over narrative. This represents a missed opportunity. The story is not being told. The hinted at relationship between the farmer and the milk collector only highlights that sense of something strategically avoided, if not entirely ignored. The addition of a gay responsive young farmhand becomes almost ludicrous, something closer to an isolated gay farmer's wet dream than anything real and yet the proliferating gay theme is integrated without any realistic sense of consideration or interrogation. Every gay male would comprehend that in reality if three gay farm workers were to converge in such a manner it should be something incredible and very unusual or unexpected. Perhaps a lot would even be discussed. The presence of this gay theme exposes the lack of realism at play here because something very natural is missing. I felt that the director used gay people for her own end whilst ignoring a story that most probably needs to be told.
In the end nothing is clear. The problem with these feeling films is that they leave us with no clarity, with nothing but elemental sensation. A bird, a smell, a bleat, a rustle. A hinted at theme in a throw away line. A lot of guess work. Rather than hover in this unsatisfying threshold, the poetically minded should leap fully into the 'other side' and meanwhile allow stories to reveal and tell us what needs to be told.
The fact that this methodology is currently being repeated over and over again by today's film makers adds nothing to the cause. In fact it conveys a troubling view of a generation so traumatised by the staggering quantities of information and knowledge now available because of new technology that they've backed themselves into a corner from which they must emerge and for which only the totally poetic can cater. Such films as these in the end are neither one nor the other. Meanwhile one asks with concern, which film makers have really got a handle on reality ?
An evocative meditation on history, Boxhagener Platz moves at an
effecting pace through a Brechtian degree of character study towards
the resolution of the 'who-dunnit' that drives the plot forward.
As a film, several elements come together to manifest the film's focus which is preoccupied with the nature of History. The high standards of recreation of 1960s inner city East Berlin with an exemplary attention to detail contrasts with the constant call and recall the characters make to the recent Nazi past and it's ghostly spirit uncannily pervades the very air these people breath. The conflict and all defining issue of Ideology which defined the fate of the German people living in those decades is brought into high profile. The mostly wordless observations of the child protagonist acts to show the confusion of messages and cognitive processes required to adapt to that time and place.
The film's self absorption does indeed make this a particularly German 'Heimat' film but the film is clear in it's indication of the complex social condition which demands such attention.
Despite being an adaptation of a novel, the film is very evocative of Brechtian theatre in the pacing of itself primarily through intense character study. This aspect acts as the bind which synthesises the real and ghostly echoes of the Communist and Nazi reality whose spirited co- existence defines how the film presents History as it's main subject.
Tomasz Wasilewski has publicly declared this to be Poland's first gay
themed film which is not true. In Poland at least the gay film genre is
fledgling, but this film follows in the wake of more than half a dozen
gay themed Polish films made in recent years. To insist on such a
declaration betrays a failure to grasp the tradition of the gay themed
film he has honoured himself with the task of contributing to.
Wasilewski's film displays good acting with a cast who are sympathetically engaging. Cinematically, the visuality is sophisticated, with obvious preoccupations with the elemental essences of spatiality and landscape. But this photographic style threatens to bow under the weight of it's own vacuity where style rules over substance once one considers the terrible treatment Wasilewski consigns upon his chosen subject matter, the gay themed film. Wasilewski can be seen on Youtube to say that his gay character is something new but what we in fact encounter is a much unwanted throw-back to the days when gays in cinema were always the unfortunate, the unfulfilled, the castigated, the bad, mad or murdered.
Eastern Europe is slowly emerging from a traumatised, isolated, abused and culturally starved recent past and at the time of this film's release Poland is dominated by a reactionary conservatism fuelled by a right wing anti-gay middle European Catholicism. But are things really this bad for gay people in Poland's capital ? Are options among the urban set so limited ? In fact there is much evidence that this is not the case. But more to the point, even if it were, then more so than ever, the film maker has in some sense a duty to use their imagination to elevate the gay themed film to a higher and better place. But this is far from what occurs in Floating Skyscrapers.
Despite initial indications of a touching and successful gay romance, Wasilewski freefalls somewhat inexplicably into negative clichés which one had been led to believe were consigned to the vaults of cinematic history. Hail the return of the tedium of the ultra magnified maladjusted gay, the threatened morally indignant heterosexuals, the traumatised parents, the proverbial slaps across the face, the long stoney silences, the angst, the intense sense of heavy burden of the oh-no-he's-gay! problematics and finally the inevitable gay bashing. If Wasilewski thinks this is something new then he needs a stiff pointing back to seminal gay discourses of the 1980s which exposed these negatively limiting stereotypes and were well aired in popular gay documentaries and books such as The Celluloid Closet. This is old hat.
The extent to which Wasilewski fails to grasp his subject continues. If there is something new about this character it is the possibility that he is in fact not a gay character but a bisexual character. Certainly he lives out all the primary psychological dilemmas that define the trials of true bisexuality. Bisexuality is one of the emergent sexual minorities of the era in terms of recent understanding and long held misconceptions finally being overturned. As a portrayal of the obstacles of bisexual fulfilment the story serves well. But Wasilewski falls into uninformed handling here, fixing the identity upon the axis of gay, while inferring notions about fluid sexualities which are currently thought to be wrong and damaging to understanding both the emotional needs of gay and true bisexuality.
Aside from the failure to handle the thematic politics of sexual minorities, somewhat incongruous with the level of prejudice portrayed, the film's characters hang out in art galleries, smoking dope, listen to cool music, socialise in underground urban gatherings, wear trendy clothing, have IKEA filled apartments and own all the latest gadgets which means crucially access to the internet. So how does Wasilewski imagine that the gay subject could receive such a unanimously negative reception among this set of people ? The only concession one could grant Wasilewski is that he is at odds to portray a Poland which may have had a material recovery but devoid of any tangible recent social revolution, it's social mindset remains effectively in the dark ages. Again there is evidence that this is not necessarily the case in Poland's capital. But also, once again if reality in Poland were so, then would it not be in some sense his duty to offer a different vision, a different way of thinking to the Polish ?
Unfortunately Wasilewski does not do this and what we have here is an example of social attitudes presented as cultural immaturity largely because the prejudice portrayed is omnipotent. What's more, the degree of prejudice remains both unexamined & unchallenged but instead accepted and perhaps even gratuitously celebrated. In Youtube interviews, Wasilewski fails to grasp the extent of his negative treatment of the gay subject and perhaps any ownership of his own internalised homophobia which his plot-point choices betray. Though publicly celebrated for creating a gay themed film, he has in fact unforgivably created a homophobic film which revels in the manifestation of gay victimhood and lacks the courage to establish a sustainable vision for sexual minorities in Polish cinema. Further more he plays into the hands of Poland's political right by confirming their beliefs that sexual minorities are unstable, disruptive and as the perpetrator of the unacceptable only ever to be perceived as a victim to be mistrusted. The extent of the failure of responsibility in this work runs deep and that is a shame where obvious cinematographic sophistication can be seen and a very good cast was assembled. Wasilewski needs to consider the charges laid here carefully and perhaps not back away from the subject but make another film which corrects his wrongs and enlightens the territory which this work fails to do.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The problem with this film is that it appears to have set out with the
intention to be broadly exploitative about the wider questions
concerning the nature of seduction, sexual awakening, discrimination ,
freedom and so forth.
However the manipulative spectacle which governs the seduction of Jonas becomes so outrageous that it ends up becoming the central axis of anxiety that dominates the main thematics within the work.
We slide quickly from ambitious reaching for parallels which involve evocations of idealised intellectual emancipation and a nod to ancient Greek love. Where do we end up ? Subsumed in uncomfortable realisations about the clumsy motives which lie behind the adult desires to which we are spectators. There unfolds a glaring itinerary of dubious motives.
1. Jonas initially approaches his adult friends for help about a very specific issue (premature ejaculation) but far from helping him, they never identify the issue but rather use it to increase their grasp over the boy by introducing a confusing melange of pornographic speak.
2. The adult group effectively chase away Jonas' girlfriend presumably because she is not compliant with their intentions or power over Jonas.
3. We never actually see the scene where Jonas agrees to submit to a group sexual encounter. Because of this it is difficult to assess the moment he crosses over into their world and is entirely seduced.
4. When Pierre isolates Jonas and begins his own seduction the question which rises is whose pleasure is he really pre-occupied with ? The boy's own relationship with pleasure or Pierre's desire to sexually over- power the boy and fulfil his sexual conquest.
Both Jonas and his girlfriend challenge the adult's power by backing away sharply at some point. The very fact of this awkwardness indicates a failure of Pierre and ultimately the adult group to transmit his/their noble sexual awakening project. The question arises, why did it fail or why was it so flawed in the end ?
The abuse here is not strictly speaking outside the law and illegal so much as it is about the insensitivity of adults to the vulnerability and naivety of youth AS WELL AS to a notion of inter-relational abuse regardless of the issue of age.
The adults violate their relation to Jonas when they use his problem with premature ejaculation to ensnare him as a candidate for sexual recreation within their group by not providing clear solutions for his needs but instead playing with him. They further abuse him by openly ridiculing the boundaries of his relationship with his girlfriend in what is an unforgivable act of adult manipulation. Finally Pierre abuses Jonas by offering a sexual experience that is closeted, furtive, rather squalid, lacking in a sense of fun and ultimately serving his own interests and this a a far cry from all the talk about the freedom of sexual pleasure as a form of self emancipation.
It's a shame the film lost touch with what appears to be it's original broader potential. Had Jonas been seduced by someone who was more at ease with his sexuality, more playful, giving, indeed well adjusted as a feminine gay man, Jonas' seduction may well have been a positive portrayal of precisely the ideals Pierre harks on about. However the message of the film was in the end ambivalent concerning if it thought gay was OK as an option over and above a flawed notion of bisexuality devoid of emotional attachment which it was at odds to present to Jonas as the acceptable form of sexual fluidity. To this extent one had to wonder what Jonas had been taught in the end about sex, his body and power etc and if he had indeed missed out on a more effective awakening of sexual self knowledge which could have been experienced through more likable, well intentioned, wiser, better adjusted peers.
A previous reviewer of this film suggests that people under the age of
35 might find this film difficult. However, i felt the opposite, that
people over 45 would find this film blows away what they have
To the older generations raised on the explosive challenges of the post war decades of a cinema which raged against both repressive censorship laws and out-moded social norms, their sense of history is invested in what is understood to be a participation in an iconic sexual revolution among other things.
So many of the films of the 60s and 70s both punctuated a sense of historical change and ushered in a new permissiveness. Yet none could stand today against what we see in this essentially small film.
Today's youth are emerging and sex is still central to the radical. Not one of the great classic works of cinema which created a chime with sexual liberation depicted the level of explicit sex which is slowly becoming the norm in new independent cinema. It is in many respects an extraordinary shift in the language of cinema.
This new and overt form of sexual language is not a reaction against repressive norms as it was in the 60s, but rather reflects the effect on a generation of unbound exposure to pornography via the internet from early childhood. The younger generation are so sophisticated in their understanding of sex, that it is quite the norm to extend into the language of their cinema the digital habits which are available to them in private.
To an older generation this may come as a shock. We're not used to such a sense of ease with the genitalia. The male penis has been a heavily censored object in cinema until very recently, though largely through the prudish choice of a director-base which was essentially male and heterosexual. Surprisingly, considering the militancy of the feminist movement, depiction of the clitoris was associated very much with male exploitation of women and has never previously been celebrated as such in cinema. These old types of restrictions, essentially generated through the dialogues of the cultural liberators of the 60s, 70s and 80s appear to have had their day.
It is true that France, and Europe historically have been much more relaxed about the depiction of sex in cinema compared with for example the US and the UK. However this film really brings right up to date that natural licence and we move into a new territory of depicted sexual intimacy.
All of the films emerging which depict graphic sex and i could name at least half a dozen off the top of my head, are not dabbling in pornography. Rather, what is emerging is a new world, a new honesty, a new openness, a new level of maturity, of truth, a language of signs and symbols well beyond the old order of the avoided, couched, suggested and coded.
In this new utopia, the liberation has in some sense already been long around via the advent of the internet culture. Cinema needs to catch up. The old sexual reality are no longer contain the issues of the day. Sex now becomes a way of intensifying the present tense and claiming life through a sensuality finally contextualised by a pure kind of democracy. We can all see ourselves as sexual beings. We can all live, we can all have what we need. Because we all are anyway.
Sex has always been linked in some sense to the arrival of the revolutionary. Certainly this new level of sexually explicit toleration blows away the old struggles which turn out to have only come so far in the end. In other films of this kind, the ease with the sexually explicit has usually been attributed to the emerging younger generation. This film breaks the mold by suggesting that everyone has nothing to hide, both young and old. it's a good development and a generous form of inclusion. Until now one had the impression that the younger generation were only able to celebrate their own interests. This film confirms that this is no longer the case and both the curiosity and technology of the young is capable of transforming and touching the lives of all generations.
I was having problems with this film. It sagged heavily half way
through. However it did continue to produce flashes of originality, the
main points i list below:
1. Whilst struggling to stick with the film (see below), in an attempt to scrape the bottom of the barrel, i was gratefully amused for the slogan 'lesbian bed death' - referring to the condition of the cessation of sex in long term relationships.
2. The film documents a kind of fin de siecle moment for a San Franciscan gay generation who interestingly are not particularly defined by any significant notion in the political struggle for gay rights; a detail which is startling for the fact of it's final appearance after effectively 60 years of multiple generations entirely defined by successive phases of political struggle. The film also focuses on the twilight of youth, where the protagonist, Jesse, sensing his impending maturity into full adulthood seeks to return to the place of his youth and to leave the city which has defined the first part of his young adult experience. It is a timeless right of passage and small details capture that strange sense of change and reappraisal with a quiet sophistication.
3. Characteristic of this generation's gay themed cinematic work, perhaps because of a diminishing sense of identity rooted in oppression and struggle, lies a problematic vacuum. Films such as this and also for example, The Lost Coast, also set in San Francisco, evoke a genre, which though not so much narcissistic, display a lack of capability or willingness to dream up a relationship with the future and consequently portray an intense over involvement in the experience of the present. This creates a genre which has a tendency to over dramatise what could be undeserving issues. Relatively minor events in the path of life are over magnified and their importance exaggerated with a post/adolescent preoccupation whose departure is at times long overdue. One is left with a sense of a potentially lost and tragic generation, who have been entirely defined by a profoundly conservative free-market ideology and show no sense of having engaged in any real spirit of rebellion. What we see is reassuringly quotidian, but also lacking any connectivity to a wider social context.It's essentially stuck at the inward looking. Jesse's departure offer's no sense that this wider malaise is due for a change. It's frustrating to sit through, because cinema in the past has been so much more than this. It raises the question, where are we headed as this generation comes to power ?
4. Something the new generation do offer and which is seen extensively in this film is the growing trend to show explicit sex as an extension of the cinematic language of emotional intimacy. This film raises the bar and pushes that to greater heights than the plethora of recent films which have exploded with a laid back approach to cinematic (gay) sex. However, because the last third of this film is literally saturated in sex it did raise an interesting question. As i gagged and squealed my way through the images i wondered if sex in cinema was like sex in literature; namely incredibly hard to do well. It's not enough just to show the whole ugly load. You need to do something cinematically. Certainly i would not say this is manufacturing moments of porn. But it was also uncertain what it's intention was other than to revel in a new found freedom to let it all hang out. period. That's just not enough. It's immature because as happens in this film, it detracts from the essential flow of energy in the work as a whole, especially for a film whose story is so incredibly thin on the ground. What happens is the sex becomes just another symptom of the portrait of a generation who don't really have anything to say for themselves at all and remain largely undefined and invisible as an entity.
5. Regarding the title, 'I want your love', the meaning is ambiguous on inspection. Certainly the protagonist Jesse, spends the film contemplating the cessation or diminishment of his emotional bonds in general. He may be sensing a future to come where the definition of love is going to have to be far broader than his previous assumptions. The title could also refer to the short-sightedness and frustration of emotional bonds and sex in young adult groups in general. The people we meet here stand in contrast to the old 1970s and 80s San Franciscan gay 'communities' defined by a celebration of hyped up promiscuity as a mark of liberation and also the more recent era preoccupied with AIDS and death. But either way, it remains unstable as a title. It speaks more of insecurity, of a need unfulfilled rather than a love successfully acquired. To this extent it supports the idea of a new generation who remain undefined and occupy a vacuum, despite ironically, finally inheriting the legal right to fully love in public. Is this a depiction of a generation in shock at the arrival of the 'you are now normal' identity and it's options ?
I gave this film 4 because i do remain impressed with this new breed of actor who is willing to share their body so intimately. I also gave points for the 'lesbian bed death' slogan. But i remain concerned at the appearance of yet another film which portrays an emerging generation caught in a sense of unarticulated and broody crisis about their sense of purpose.
While watching this i became acutely aware of the generation gap
between the new arrivals and my own who are most probably their parents
or at least their uncles and aunts.
So i wondered how my niece or nephew might enjoy this film as a right- of-passage film which reflects their age group. For myself i felt a mixture of impatience and boredom mixed with reminiscence for an early adulthood which has truly past for me at least. To this extent, whilst needing something to think about, I was struck watching the film that humans are destined to rediscover the same universe with each new generation. The same rite's of passage, the same movement from childhood to adulthood, the same fumbling, the same moments of fascination and self absorption. I'm doing it even now, aged 48, where i find one is still fumbling forward in some sense but in a different sense to the age portrayed in this film.
That said, i did find the film almost painfully whimsical. Whimsy is the great undoing of youth. As an adult, there is little patience for such foibles, though again I was struck at how reflective of my own experience the furtiveness captured really is for the age-period of life portrayed. It was however, with great relief that having stuck out the ins and outs of this trio of characters, the film all but completed with what was a compelling, riveting and sensual threesome between the actors. Beautifully shot, a startling musical score and intense with a prospect of a director who finally might well have something to say. I could easily have done without most of what had gone before. The symbolism of fairy tale worlds,childhood, and so forth was all in keeping with it's thematics but left me still essentially bored and wondering if the film might be pointless.
I wondered if the car exploding was something which had really been earned by what we had witnessed ? It was slightly an inverted Zabriskie Point moment. Only with Zabriskie Point, the explosion metaphor stands as a symbol for absolute patriarchal rejection. Here, perhaps it stood for the end of what had gone before, but i still felt that the furtive post adolescent exploration of boundaries of which the film mostly consists, just aren't as significant or interesting as they may have felt at the time.
However as a symbol of a generation who usher in a new inter-sexuality which is indeed new, the opening and finale may yet still stand. Moving beyond the old order of straight, gay and lesbian, we are entering the dawning of multi-dimensional notions of both loving and gender. Certainly when new configurations of social sexuality emerge they are indeed socially explosive and one is left speculating if the three characters are coming to new conclusions or simply replicating the timeless experimentation of ages past. The gender politics portrayed was pretty conventional. The hansom 'straight'male, confident, at ease with nudity, the furtive more reticent 'gay' male, a little closeted, lacking confidence and quietly desiring the straight male body of his girlfriend's lover, the self absorbed enigmatic woman discovering her female 'power' - all standard non-boundary pushing portrayals. However the increasing representation of bisexuality in cinema is refreshing though reflective of that group's current emergence as a psycho-sexual cultural discourse.
Refreshing to the new generation though is a lack of prudishness about filming genitalia as an extension of the expression of intimacy.The camcorder shaky aesthetic also characterises freshness, though at times here was a little reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project in it's proximity to the sinister aspect of the woods.
I gave this film 4 and then 5 largely because i think it over rated the rites it portrayed but also then to acknowledge the bravery of the degree of nudity the actors were prepared to give of themselves. With regards the acting, it was difficult to give credit where it might be due, largely because of an absence of a script of any notional interest. The film was heavily reliant on a kind of 'pure' cinema with a stripped down plot mostly concerned with manifesting emotional tension above all else.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is fine until the last 15 minutes.
Some people here have said that the film could never capture the subtleties of the book. That may be so but the film does stand on it's own merit...until the very end.
I found the last fifteen minutes absurd and a difficult swallow. (No pun intended.)
Are we really to believe that Ray is willing to risk everything for a blow job in close proximity to his very straight and butch comrades ?
Are we really being compelled to believe that Nathan, who has obviously suffered sexual abuse from his father now dies whilst being raped by one of Ray's butch friends. Sorry, but it looks all too ridiculous on film.
Then the ending is fudged. Do they leave the body in the house undiscovered ? Did they show it to the father ? Did anybody find out ? Does Ray realize his blow-job has cost his lover Nathan his life as well as make his straight buddy a raping murderer ?
Do we assume it's Nathan's ghost that haunts Roy in the final sequence or that everything is back to normal and nothing actually happened ?
It all gets a bit Twin-Peaks at best with a big emphasis on the subject of being haunted, very muddled and confused and unbelievable for everybody else.
That's a shame as it had a thing going for it for the first 3/4s of the movie.
This film is of a portrait of man's desire in relation to another man.
However, from a post modern point of view, the portrait sits on a historical crossroads.
A cynical appraisal of the story might tell of a bored, married, city commuter who is tied to the conventions of an office job and a marriage that has stagnated. The commuter seeks distractions from the hum-drum of his life and makes the mistake of falling for a bit of rough trade he picks up at the road side. The more he sees of the anarchy of the hustler's life the more he lets himself go. However, everything in the film want's you to believe in Etienne's (the city commuter) attempts not to see the situation in this way, but rather to share and perceive Etienne's ideas about spiritual love and redemption from suffering. In Etienne's delusions he is a Christian hero bringing salvation and peace by following the purity of his natural propensity to love. But from a Freudian perspective Etienne is a latent bi/homosexual in a state of contradictory denial and personal crisis characterised by self destruction.
From a post queer era perspective, actual verbal reference to 'homosexuality' is noted to be almost laughably absent from the film despite a repeated inference to a homosexual underworld which provides a good part of the setting of the story as much as an explicitly declared same gender love. It's a queer (in the old sense of the word) contradiction, meaning, it is rather 'odd'.
Anything gay is unmentionable and this cinematic convention towards omitting reference sets up typical devices which are left to carry any notions of 'gay' queer themes present. Devices like, the blurring of definitions, the creation of ambiguities, the muddling of religious ideas with social inferences and even ironically,the necessity of asserting a 'gay gaze' to negotiate the existence of all these devices. Perhaps the most classic of these devices is the untimely demise of the character who embodies the taboo emotions. Sadly, this film does present that cliché. The use of such cinematic techniques to undermine the subject to which it refers to, that is, sexuality, is nothing new, but the overt assertion of same gender love portrayed to such an obsessive degree does feel edgy and remains exciting.
The film works best if the audience is moved towards a state of intellectual enigmatic-ism. However moving away from this comfortable position and trying to provide answers to questions concerning the characters' actions feels like a decidedly queer task. At the heart of the question of the love portrayed in the film, it must be asked, what language best describes what has happened and who these people have been to each other ? This void in language is as relevant today to unfixing constraints and coming to a process of knowing as it has ever been. It's not a matter of labels but rather language. But at the same time this does not mean avoiding altogether reference to the obvious or major themes portrayed in the film.
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