Akron – I Love You Both – Women Who Kill – Don’t Call Me Son – The Cult – The Nest – (and a Lazy Eye addendum)
I experienced a marathon weekend of new LGBT movies from around the world – a “baker’s dozen”, 13, at NewFest, New York’s LGBT film festival. I wrote about three of them, plus “Moonlight”, previously, let’s dive into the others here, shall we?
We’ll be traveling far and wide through space (Europe and South America) and time (1919 and 2040), but let’s start here and now in Ohio with the romantic drama of young gay lovers facing unexpected obstacles: “Akron“. It’s refreshing to see a love story between two male college students where the conflict is not their coming out or their ethnic differences. No, their families are both fully accepting and supportive of their sexuality and relationship. No trouble there … that is, until a family secret worthy of Sophocles (which is telegraphed early on in the movie but which I won’t spoil here) is revealed one by one to the characters and one by one, parents and sons alike deal with the bombshell in ways that are not admirable, but believable, threatening everybody’s love and happiness.
“I Love You Both” is another US indie about a twentysomething couple, in this case brother/sister twins Donny and Krystal, played by real life twins Doug and Kristin Archibald, who also wrote the screenplay (while Doug directed). The IMDb synopsis, “Krystal and her twin brother/roommate confront twenty-eight years of their codependency when they start dating the same guy”, deftly describes this often drolly funny, sometimes wistfully deadpan effort. In the Q & A after the screening Krystal Archibald explained the “I” in the title could refer to either of the siblings, or even their mother, but copped to push back from many audience members who came into the film expecting the bisexual love object of the twins to be the one saying “I love you both”, expressing their disappointment that the movie never actually explored that scenario nor developed the bisexual male love object as a fully fleshed out character. I felt disappointed at the end of the screening too, yet the problem with that disappointment is that I wanted the film to be something other than the film actually was setting out to be. But is it wrong to expect a movie called “I Love You Both” to more overtly explore a bisexual love triangle from the actual bisexual’s perspective? The working title for the film was “Quarterlife Crisis”, which describes the film we saw much more accurately, but may not be as enticing a title for audiences. Perhaps another title option can still be found, one that evokes the offbeat humor and low-key tenderness of the film without being off-putting or misdirecting.
Perhaps I protest too much about the whole male bisexual thing, but it does bother me how of the whole LGBTQ spectrum male bisexuality seems to be the least explored in the arts. Only three films in the NewFest schedule specifically billed themselves as dealing with male bisexuality, and I was only able to include two in our schedule. And it appears that the one I missed, “Hunky Dory”, may have been the one of the three that dealt with bisexuality most centrally. I’ll look for it in limited release or V.O.D., I hope soon.
Meanwhile I was grateful that “Lazy Eye“, discussed in the previous post, included a fun little affirmative shout-out to bisexuality, when one of the men (in a flashback to 15 years ago) tells the other he is bisexual, whereupon he is challenged to reveal how many women he had slept with. “Five, but what does that matter?” is his response. Oh how I remember how male bisexuality was challenged 10-20 years ago as even being a real thing, let alone accepted, so that little dialog exchange resonated for me. Things are better nowadays regarding acknowledging and accepting male bisexuality, but not yet better enough.
There were plenty Lesbian narrative features to choose from in the festival, so the fact that I saw only one is a definite slap on my wrist, I suppose (although for what it’s worth, if not for unfortunate scheduling overlaps I would have seen two, as the mumblecore comedy “Suicide Kale” caught my fancy but like “Hunky Dory” couldn’t fit the itinerary). The one I did see was a doozy: “Women Who Kill“, a comedy/suspense satire which might also be called “Park Slope Murder Mystery” in a nod to Woody Allen’s “Manhattan Murder Mystery”, except in quality it comes closer to Allen’s stronger mid-to late efforts than that amiable yet shambling trifle. I guffawed plenty early on as the film satirizes true crime podcasting and Lesbian relationships in equal measures.
By the end of the movie, darker and more suspenseful elements outweigh laughs. But the mere fact that the Hitchcockian climax takes place on the roof garden of a Food Co-op confirms that director-writer-star Ingrid Jungermann keeps her tongue firmly in Lesbian cheek throughout.
Because almost all of the many male-on-male centered movies I saw in the festival had almost no women in each capacity audience, I expected to be the only dude in the screening for “Women Who Kill”. But I was wrong, it turned out to be about a 2-1 female-male ratio, for what that’s worth.
And with that we leave the United States to explore films from Brazil, Germany, Poland and France. If you have been following my blog lately, you would see I am in the midst of a two-fisted touristing series of the sights and sounds of Brazil. Brazil means a lot to Ed (who lived there three years) and thus to me now too, and it has lately contributed mightily to South America’s explosion of high quality LGBT films in recent years (Brazil’s “The Way He Looks”, Venezuela’s “From Afar” and Peru’s “Undertow” are just three that come quickly to mind). All four Brazilian films in this year’s NewFest program were striking and unique entries. I discussed the Argentinian/Brazilian coproduction “Esteros” previously, the other three are “Don’t Call Me Son”, “The Cult” and “The Nest”.
“Don’t Call Me Son” was the third “bisexual male” film in the festival. Although seventeen year old Pierre is certainly acting bisexual – we see him engage sexually with girls and guys – his exploration of gender fluidity – he enjoys putting on make up and women’s lingerie and dresses – indicates that Pierre himself may find the term bisexual inadequate or limiting. But he has bigger problems. It turns out he was not adopted but snatched from the maternity ward soon after he were born. The only mother he has known is arrested and Pierre is welcomed by a new family who rejoice at the return of the baby Felipe they lost 17 years earlier. In rebellion to such radically altered circumstances, the formerly more discreet Pierre comes out of the cross-dressing closet with a vengeance. Writer/Director Ann Muylaert (“The Second Mother”) has a great eye for off-kilter yet truthful details in teenage behavior, pan-sexual expression and economic and class distinctions. The movie ends abruptly and leaves you wanting more, but in the best possible way. Pierre and his families’ story cannot end, it will continue, and the audience is prompted to imagine for themselves how as the credits roll.
How to describe “The Cult“? It’s a stylish low-budget sci-fi dystopia of glam gays in choice decor wiling away their days within the ruined deserted buildings of 2040 Recife (not a pretty city to begin with, but director André Antônio depicts it at its most decadently derelict). It’s quirkily hypnotic, luxuriously languorous, meaning that its cool, arch pace and barely there plot (which nonetheless teams with rich hints at world building back story) may either stultify or seduce you. I was seduced into a dream state that threatened to compete with the conscious reception of the movie’s climactic slo-mo bacchanalia. But I suspect Antônio might even approve of experiencing “The Cult” that way.
Our final Brazilian entry is “The Nest“, not a movie but four half hour episodes of a television miniseries about Queer youth in Porto Allegro, Brazil (if São Paulo and Rio de Janeiros are the NYC and San Fran of Brazil, Porto Allegro may stand in as Detroit or Baton Rouge). Bruno, a soldier on leave, searches for his long lost brother – kicked out of his home over a decade earlier when he was only 15 because his family couldn’t tolerate his homosexuality. Bruno, himself gay but not out to his family or the army, finds a clique of LGBT youth and, with the help of a close friend of his brother’s, tries to unravel the mystery of his brother’s disappearance. His brother’s friend is played by a transgender actress, and I am assuming the character is transgender too, but that detail is not yet discussed by the end of the first season of “The Nest”, and much else in the plot remains tantalizingly unresolved (a second season is promised). What “The Nest” does do wonderfully is lovingly, entertainingly and honestly depict the lives of marginalized queer youth.
Four more films from the festival to discuss. But as one is the restored print of 1919’s “Different than the Others”, the perhaps first film to ever depict homosexuality sympathetically almost a hundred years ago, and thus of huge historical significance; and as one other is my favorite film of the festival, one that the more I think of it I am emboldened to call a masterpiece and one every gay male should see (and will want to see), I think I will leave their discussion to Part 3 of the Queer Baker’s Dozen. Stay tuned.