Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Wednesday, April 26, 2000

april 2000 gayboyvid festival!

And welcome to the latest edition of the quarterly (sometimes monthly) gayboyvid festival!

(No no no. Not THOSE gayboyvids. In fact, no male frontal nudity was ever involved. Not that could be seen, anyway. Well, except in that bathtub scene in Love is the Devil...)

Basically, over a couple of days, I just went bonkers and rented lots of gayboyvids just to see what I've missed in the past few months. After all, nothing like a bunch of pretty gayboys spritzing angst all over the place to put one's life into perspective.

So to begin:

Men men men (Uomini uomini uomini; Italy, 1995): No no no! Just say no! to this vid!
     Basically, it's a film about four middle aged gay Italian men who ... exist. Honestly, there's no actual story involved with this film. We just sort of follow them around for no apparent reason. They have their various crises and whatnot--not terribly serious crises, at that, except for the one noted below--but there's no actual story.
     The closest thing to anything like a coherent narrative comes in the middle of the film. Simonetta (Monica Scattini) is the best friend of the lot, their "fag hag", as she puts it. They abuse her behind her back, and she abuses them to their face. It's wondefully codependent. In any event, she falls madly in love with this pretty young thing, Luca (Paolo Reconti). So, predictably, do all the men, but Luca is unremittingly heterosexual. Nonetheless, one night, he winds up going out with all the men, and they all get wonderfully drunk and have a horribly good time.
     Until Luca says something along the lines of "Gee, it's too bad you're all gay. It would be so much better if you were all straight." For this sin, they all decide that they should gang-rape him. Luckily, he gets away. He actually goes so far as to begin making a police complaint, but then he decides to withdraw it and just never see them again. Simonetta, needless to say, makes the same decision. And they just go on, tra-la, merrily through life.
     Part of the difficulty, one suspects, is that Christian de Sica, one of the actors, is also the writer and director. Unfortunately, that meant that anyone who could have told him, "Hey, Chris, there's no there there! You ain't got no story, you ain't got no compelling characters, you ain't even got dick, for heaven's sake!" ... well, anyone who could have said that to him was him. For example, there's a couple of scenes in a gymnasium and shower that really should have gone. Although two of the men looked as though the gym might, just possibly, have been in their weekly routine, the others were clearly not the gym sort. Suspension of disbelief and all that, yes, but there are limits, and cute little round guys using a weight machine as though they've never seen one before EVER is pretty much mine.
     To its benefit, Men men men does make a vague nod to the concept that gay life doesn't end at 40. (Not counting the one person who dies of a heart attack after the end of the film.) It doesn't end if you don't have a fabulous body. These people are alive and vital, and the script takes for granted that they should be. They're just pointless. Pity; somewhere in this film there's an interesting concept (in fact, two or three of them) trying to get out.

Love is the Devil (UK, 1998)
(Click the poster to see a review at Bright Lights Film Journal; click the title text link for IMDB information; click THIS LINK for the Strand Releasing producers' page.)
     A reasonable subtitle for this film would be "Portrait of the artist as a middle-aged monster."
     It's one of those films that's difficult to describe. Essentially, it's about the course of the artist Francis Bacon's relationship with inept thief and lover George Dyer. It begins so utterly improbably (though it seems that it actually did begin this way), that you're primed for almost anything. It seems that the affair began when George fell through Bacon's skylight in an attempt to burgle his studio. Bacon offered him the option of a one-night stand or the police, and George took the one-night stand ... which turned into quite a bit more, much to his cost. Unfortunately, Dyer was dead when the film was made, and wasn't the sort to do a lot of writing. You never quite understand why he went along with this. Given the studio, all he had to do was wait until he was in the main room, and make a break for it. For that matter, Bacon (Derek Jacobi) wasn't particularly robust; all George had to do was to knock him over to get out. But somehow, Bacon ... appealed to him. And this started a relationship that lasted seven years.
     Jacobi is excellent at portraying Bacon (who, not surprisingly, refused to cooperate with the film). You get a good sense of a multifaceted person, with affection for George that he both can't show, and doesn't quite know how to show. (And, to be sure, doesn't seem to feel the need to show.)
     Daniel Craig is also excellent as George Dyer. You get a very strong sense of the character, of a person being slowly torn up inside, and he's not quite sure how or why. Partly is't that he needs tokens of affection that Bacon is ill-equipped to give; partly it's ... something else. You're never sure what, precisely "something else" is. You just come to a slow realization that George is not quite "right" any more, if he ever was.
     The other amazing performance comes from Tilda Swinton as Muriel Becher, Bacon's friend and agent. If you've only seen her in Orlando or Female Perversions or The Garden, you won't know her; she's not only physically unrecognizeable, but the character is brash, loud and over the top.
     Parts of the film seem to show a fairly strong theatrical influence; several scenes come across as very deliberately stagey. Not a bad thing, just quite noticeable. It's a very controlled production, for all the periodic disorienting time shifts; the director clearly had very specific ideas about how and what he was doing with this film.
     It all ends in tragedy, unfortunately. In fact, it ends more or less where it begins, with Bacon stunned by and contemplating George's suicide. Definitely worth the trip, if you're willing to go along, but it's not a happy happy film.

box cover for TRICK
Trick (US, 1999)
(Click the box cover to the left for the IMDB information; click the link above for the publicity site)
     I resisted watching this film for a long time. When it was in the theater, I just never got the chance, and then it came out on vid, and EVERYBODY was raving about it, so naturally, I couldn't watch it then. Besides, I had better things to do than to watch a couple of guys in hot pursuit of a place to get it on.
     Well.
     This vid is really really ... nice. And pretty dang good, too.
     Thing is, 99.9% of all guys have been Gabriel (Christian Campbell), or something like him, at one point or another in their lives. Not necessarily gay or anything like that; just that horrible horrible mix of intense desire and intense insecurity all at the same time. (You 0.1% of guys who have always been massively confident your entire lives, you just go away. We're not speaking to you. We're in a cosmic huff.)
     Basically, seemingly against all odds, Gabriel catches the attentions of Mark (John Paul Pitoc), a go-go boy, and they decide to have a nice little one-night stand. Unfortunately, the world decides to conspire against them. First, Gabriel's roommate (aka Tall, Blond and Really Stupid) comes back a couple of hours early with his girlfriend, who has been in Paris for several months, and he's not at all minded to let Gabriel use his apartment. Then the friend whose apartment Gabriel was going to borrow gets back together with his boyfriend, thanks to Mark's intervention. (Though I'm not at all sure how that actually worked, but it did.)
     Then things get weird. It does turn out, much to everyone's surprise, that there are a few hidden agendas wandering around, and they're not quite where you would think. Somehow, despite getting talked about rather a lot, sex doesn't fall quite where you expect in this film; it's not quite about the sex.
     The supporting roles are almost all perfectly cast. Perhaps the biggest surprise (though it really shouldn't be after House of Yes) is that Tori Spelling can actually act. She's a delight as Gabriel's ditzy best friend. And the other supporting roles are well cast and well acted. (Special mention should be made of Lori Bagley as Judy, Gabriel's roommate's girlfriend. It's not that she's a better actress than any of the others, but her voice ... her voice is a dead ringer for Marilyn Monroe's. It's hard to tell whether or not she's doing it deliberately, but I think not, in which case she'll have a rather hard time of it in her chosen profession.)
     Thing is, it's difficult to say anything about this film. Partly because there really isn't a lot of plot; there's a theme threaded through several set scenes. Partly because to say much in detail about the scenes is to give away some of the film's charm.
     Put it this way: rent the thing. It's a delight. You won't be disappointed.

Defying Gravity (US, 1997)
(Click the boxpic to go to the Wolfe Video page--the link undercuts their frameset, so you'll need to fiddle with the URL to see anything else there--and the text link for IMDB information.)
     If you watch this vid, don't watch it after Trick, that's all I have to say. Not that it's bad, but the tone change will bring you down HARD.
     To be sure, it is slow. Slow to get started, slow to keep going. If you don't go in knowing that it's all about a coming-out crisis (among other things), you'll get very frustrated, because it takes forever to get going. And everybody is young and pretty and devoutly insecure.
     Griff (Daniel Chilson) is madly in love with Pete (Don Handfield). Pete is more or less in love with Griff. Unfortunately, neither of them quite wants it. Griff doesn't want to be gay, and Pete doesn't want to be with someone who doesn't want to be gay. Unfortunately, not only are they at college, but Griff is still in the old frat house; Pete moved out when he decided to come out, because your typical frat house is not necessarily the most gayfriendly place to be.
     Things come rather abruptly to a head when Pete gets gaybashed right after he gets Griff to go to a gay coffeehouse (although he didn't tell Griff the clientele was mostly gay, which contributes to a lot of friction right there).
     The frat boys themselves are ... unreal. Not in the sense that they're not realistic--I have, unfortunately, known far too many fratboys to believe that--but just that they feel somehow like they've sailed in from another planet. Some planet where, when someone you've known gets beaten to within an inch of their life, your first concern is how this reflects on your house during rush week. Unfortunately, being young and stupid and perceiving a crisis is just NOT a good combination.
     Griff's meeting with Pete's parents in the hospital also occupies a sort of surreal plane. You get the feel that they've deduced quite a bit from things that Pete said to them, and that he has somehow not mentioned to Griff. Griff, meanwhile, is emotionally wounded and trying not to show it, and trying really hard not to seem gay, so it just makes for a truly surreal meeting, especially when the clue train chugs into the station and he begins to realize what they know and he panics. Not a good time for it.
     Griff, after trying to hold things together for a very long time, eventually starts imploding in periodically spectacular ways, and finally Todd (Niklaus Lange), his best friend in the frat, gets him away from everything so he can recover a bit. (FYI, the title comes from something Griff says during this. It is, unfortunately, the one line that goes clunk! in the entire piece.) Griff finally gets the courage up to tell Todd what's going on. Todd, of course, figured it out by watching his friend crumble to bits. Being a good best friend, he's wonderfully supportive.
     It eventually all comes together in a fairly ugly resolution which has the interesting side effect of forcing Griff to choose whether or not to stay in the closet. (Actually, there's a series of fairly spectacular and ugly scenes, all played very well and realistically.)
     Even granted the desperately slow start and a somewhat stock ending--not too happy, not too sad, a tad too concerned with wrapping up loose ends you'd completely forgotten about, and quite a bit too long (how many endings does one film need? there are at least three in there...)--it's definitely worth seeing. It does manage to capture what it would be like to be young, to be desperately insecure, wanting everyone's approval and still wanting to be yourself, even when you're not sure what "yourself" actually is or how to manage it.


You know, I think next time, I'll do Better than Chocolate and maybe some of the gaygirlvids. I'm getting kind of tired of the boys, somehow.

Posted by iain at 11:08 PM in category