Apart from Nickerson and Coffin, I have to give credit to the powerful sinking sequence of the Essex, an effective evocation of people aboard a boat being hit by a giant sea creature.
«Perfect Obedience» is a film about pedophilia among members of the Catholic Church. It is not an overtly condemnatory work, but is it neither complicit nor exalting. The movie does not gloat when it throws the first stone, but it warns the spectators, as if urging them to look at their own transgressions before becoming the most pious of all. Contradictory in intention sometimes it is, and completely in the final credits, when it warns that it is based on real facts, and then indicates that its characters do not resemble anyone, and its story is not similar to any other. However, those who look for sources know that it is based on the case of the pedophile priest Marcial Maciel, perpetrator of sexual crimes against prepubescent and pubescent boys that were concealed by ecclesiastical authorities of Mexico and the Vatican.
However, the overwhelming accumulation of information and images seems to come from a lot of similar stories. They include rape, drug addiction, alcoholism, sexual blackmail by women and endless aberrations. All this is well known by someone like Urquiza, who spent eight years in a seminary, or like all the ordinary beings that we were aware of (in addition to those who were victims of) the erotic goings-on in the Catholic school where we were educated, among priests, students and teachers.
In the first minutes, with Alejandro Giacomán's omnipresent music, I thought, "Oh, hell, another one of those melodramas buried in musical notes ad nauseam", but as the story progressed the soundtrack was distilled and, seeing the sincerity of the result, I said to myself, "Well, no... this is pure horror cinema!" So if you see it, be warned, not for the thrills of the cheap horror story (which you will not find here), but for the assaults suffered by the young seminarians, mostly off camera or on black screen. The main victims of the humiliations are Julián, whom the head of seminary, the voracious Father Ángel de la Cruz, baptizes as Sacramento Santos (poor Sebastián Aguirre, the same guy from "Güeros"!), and his friend Alberto (Alejandro de Hoyos). These two cases are the ones we know for sure, because we soon deduce that Father Ángel (Juan Manuel Bernal) has raped many infant and adolescent seminarians from the urban and rural Mexican bourgeoisie. Because, mind you, in this the film is not surrealistic at all: it sets aside the heritage of the original peoples and almost all the kids are white, blond, with transparent eyes and dull languor.
What I found most interesting is that the film (written by Urquiza and Ernesto Alcócer, whose book is the basis of the screenplay) does not scourges anybody, but coldly and calculatedly reveals to us the process of domination and control (inspired by words of Saint Ignatius of Loyola) to arrive at "perfect obedience". The film won the Ariel awards for best script, actor (Bernal) and young actor (Aguirre), the Diosa de Plata awards for best young actor (Aguirre) and supporting actor (Juan Ignacio Aranda as Father Galaviz), the Jury Prize for best first film at the Lodz film festival and the Grand Prix des Amériques and Audience awards at the Montréal film festival. Recommended.
It seems as if the working title of this were "Where Were You When the Bombs Were Launched?"
Here he tells a story by the book, as he follows one by one the steps of Marek's degradation, since the day he arrives at the Prague station and is approached by a pimp (Pavel Skripal), who later sells him to a horny old man. It does not take long before we watch typical scenes: the transvestite cabaret, the rivalry between the little prostitutes, entanglements with the police, beatings, robberies, sessions with a pornographer... This time Grodecki (who wrote the script with the collaboration of David Svec, a teenager who plays Marek's only friend) introduced the figure of a father, Marek's working class father, but his presence provides little more than moments of crying, shouting and beatings.
The gimmicky and manipulative aesthetic strategy did not change at all by the third round. For «Mandragora», the director hired the services of German composer Wolfgang Hammerschmid who, at the helm of the Munich symphony orchestra, provided him with music from start to finish. Grodecki did not cast aside, of course, the classics or the little rock and roll numbers here and there. In a strict definition of melodrama, the music almost does not stop in this alarming drama. Like the two documentaries, it has very few moments of silence or exclusive use of the background noise. Like those other two works, "Mandragora" is not without interest, but revels in its own sexist moralism and sensationalism.
Once again, Grodecki is talking about Death, about sex that neither procreates nor derives pleasure, but an activity done in front of a cheap camera, for little pay, with no protection and enduring physical abuse. In these times, in which life has depreciated to the point that anyone is killed for a peanut, in which people sell their bodies because they have reduced it to the category of mere shell, «Body Without Soul» is a timely product, even though 23 years have passed since its release.
Grodecki also had one more time a group of young prostitutes between 14 and 19 years old, who spoke with courage to the camera. Among them, there is a young man who, as the film progresses, reveals that he has acquired AIDS, while the others speak frankly of their lack of fear of Death. Then you have Rousek: the pornographer not only gave an interview, but also allowed himself to be filmed during the shooting of one of his movies and, even more impressive, at work in the morgue, in front of a corpse that he dismembered, while making parallels between both activities.
However, Grodecki could not lose the habit of mellowing, melodramatizing and manipulating the audience with fragments of the most tearful music ever composed by Albinoni, Mahler, Vivaldi, Allegri and Mozart. Not even the group Olympic contributed something cheerful, but the weeping ballad "Tears of Your Mother". Neither on this occasion, Grodecki tried to contextualize his documentary in time and place, on the economic, political or social situation of the Czech Republic. Where, how and why did these guys come up with the idea of practicing prostitution or appearing in gay porno? Out of the blue? Because of hunger, but why were they hungry? Simply because they are amoral, ignorant or cynical? There are no answers.
In spite of everything, there is a notable advance in «Body Without Soul» when compared to the first installment of the trilogy, «Not Angels But Angels». Despite the endless music and sound effects, both documentaries will serve as historical memory of the beautiful city of Prague, at a time when it was being eaten away by a contagious and lethal disease. Followed by «Mandragora», last part of the trilogy.
Homosexual male prostitution is not new in any corner of the world, so the subject does not give any novelty value to this documentary that moves at a snail's pace. On the other side, it surely was original to portray the recrudescence of pedophilia, because of the socio-political and economic effects of the entrance of the former socialist bloc to "savage capitalism". However, director Wiktor Grodecki missed the opportunity and the result is an endless parade of heads talking about various topics without utterance, direction or deduction, as a flow of reflections that leads us without knowing where. The boys talk about the first time they had a client, their rates, their overt gerontophilia, approved or rejected sexual acts, AIDS, the future, their fears, their loves (several with girlfriends and one who is a father). Grodecki leaves out, for example, a profile of a typical boy's family, the opinion of social workers' opinions or the measures taken or not by the Czech state. Nothing.
Instead, the filmmaker is sensationalist to the extreme, with apocalyptic sound effects, the manipulative use of fragments of dramatic compositions by Bach, Mozart, Villa-Lobos, rock metal and Tibetan music; close-ups of supposed sweet-toothed customers of old age, a strange striptease by a beggar, shots of statues from Prague that witness the acts, and photos of homosexual pornography (pixelated by the DVD editor who, by the way, also pixelated the subtitles!)
The only merit I found in this distressing portrait of youth is the courage of the boys to tell their drama on camera (without any desire to achieve notoriety): there is everything, from the boy who grew up between New York and Prague and wants to be a gangster, to the so-called "Miss Jackson" (for Michael, but who, in reality, looked more like Diana Ross), going through young men who are obviously mistreated by the trade and a kind of "bathtub divo" who gave his interview wrapped in bubbles. First part of a trilogy, followed by «Body Without Soul», dedicated to the business of adolescent pornography in Prague.
By 1962 when I was about 11 years old, "The Third Sex" was still in the local cinema circuit. I never saw the movie, and I did not even try in adolescence. By then I was more curious about Isabel Sarli's mega-bosom and her adventures in waterfalls and beaches, until the British Protestant boys appeared and seduced us all, with the Beatles and Malcolm McDowell leading hordes of rebels. Nevertheless, the influence of "The Third Sex" lasted everywhere.
The film was made as an argument against the 175 article, which criminalized homosexual acts, even in the privacy and with the consent of the adults involved. However it was mainly used to alert (straight) adults of the "dangers of homosexuality and its vectors", and to give parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and teachers basic instructions on how to "cure" the children of "the plague".
The leading characters are people that "moral majorities" always seem to follow and respect. Members of the petty bourgeoisie, social "wannabes" between being or not being, between having or not having, who go to mass but curse as soon as they exit the church, etcetera... you know them well. The film tells how a "decent" family mother (with the looks of not having sex in more than a decade, judging by the boredom inspired by her banker husband) "saves" her son from the grip of "homosexualism", inducing him to have sex with the maid.
The young man seems quite normal to me, a painter in the making, willing to live "la vida loca", but naïve enough to hang around with men who are either impertinent, foolish and corny, or depraved and corrupt. The wholesome proletarian girl serving the family is the perfect potion, according to mother, a practice that is still common in many homes, behind closed doors. Momma the Witch Doctor goes to trial accused of procuring and before a sentence is pronounced, we watch her story in flashback.
Despite being a piece that did not pass the test of time, «Different from You and Me» is fascinating to see, as not to forget how cruel we humans can be. In short, if we persist on reading only bibles and (disguised) Nazi manifestos to learn about our human essence, we will continue to live on this planet of the apes.
To be honest, today in 2018, there seems to be not much difference between one cinema and the other: the film that won the Spirit for Best Film of the Year is not far from the gore aesthetic present in the Oscar-winning film as the best . While «Get Out» is not as whiny as «The Shape of Water», but a more forceful and "virile" drama with some denunciation, both films are science fiction products that take the path of extreme and bloody violence to lead us to the conclusion. Both films also have in common an Afro-descendant, obese and comical character that plays a decisive role in the plot: in the amphibious fable it was Zelda as played by Octavia Spencer, and here, LilRed Howery as Rod, an airport investigator.
In the film, a white girl invites her black boyfriend to spend a weekend at her parents' house, and the poor young man falls into a terrifying intrigue, surrounded by sinister Caucasian beings and three African-Americans who look like zombies, though as charming as the "Stepford wives". Little by little the intrigue is revealed, although one suspects from the beginning who the villains are - in part, due to the stereotyped performances of some interpreters in key parts of the story.
They say that the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay usually indicates what was the true best movie of the year, according to the "Academy." This year this indirect recognition was given to the director and scriptwriter of "Get Out," Jordan Peele. The film does entertain and is effective (thanks also to a careful soundtrack and very good music by Michael Abels), but if you expect a lot from it, you may be disappointed.
------------------------------------- P.S. The garden party reminded me of a similar scene in "The Stepford Wives". Just as Katharine Ross and friend Paula Prentiss are observing the guests, so does Daniel Kaluuya. As a matter of fact, both Ross and Kaluuya play photographers. And when the Nanette Newman robot malfunctions because it drank too much wine, that is similar to Lakeith Stanfield's "epilepsy" crisis.