What is it about falling for the unattainable? It’e the theme as old as time that keeps on taunting us, and I have to admit there is a certain romanticism to it that I clung to when I was younger. But now that I feel that time is so precious, unrequited love just seems a waste of my time. I recently saw two movies with this theme and found myself still getting into the idea, but feel I am a lot more grounded now about reality.
In Andrew Steggal’s ‘Departure,’ that theme is a lot more forgivable, given that the story centers around fifteen year old Elliot (Alex Lawther) who goes home with this mother to their vacation house in France to pack it up as they are in the process of selling it. he meets a young boy Clement, who fascinates him, and this gives himself a clue to their sexual orientation. This languid-paced film is slow, even for me, and Juliet Stevenson who plays his mother is fantastic. All of that still cannot overcome the laziness in storytelling. This held such promise that did not deliver.
Speaking of slow, Marco Berger’s ‘The Blond One’ is glacial in pace. There is a lot of subtlety int he story that every minute, every silence, every ‘insignificant’ scene all constitute great narrative. And again, with the unattainable. This Argentine drama centers on two men who have recently become roommates. Even though Gabriel (Gaston Re) is seemingly ‘straight’ (he brings home women) he carries on a relationship with Juan (Alfonson Baron) and it becomes a no-strings-attached relationship, until it becomes not. I had a little bit of a problem with the dynamics of the relationship, but then I thought why should I when they don’t. It shows more about societal limitations in Argentina about homosexuality (or bisexuality) that men are not comfortable expressing their orientation. This is one of those movies that quietly gets you. You watch and you realize you are suddenly so affected by it.
Someone on Letterboxd described ‘Mi Mejor Amigo,’ as the Patagonian ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ and of course I did everything I could to see this film right away. And even though I wouldn’t describe the film as such, I thought the film, directed my Martin Deus was effective and sensitive, and I recommend it highly.
It is about a young man, Lorenzo (Angelo Mutti Spinetta) who is living a quiet life in the Patagonian region of Argentina. When Caito (Lautaro Rodriguez) comes to live with them, he finds himself confronting feeling sand a lot of the status quo that he has been comfortable with. The two develop a deep friendship, and Lorenzo ends up taking care and protecting Caito. I know some have described this as a gay coming-of-age movie, but that part is a little ambiguous. When Lorenzo’s mother confronts him about being gay, Lorenzo just shields his face and says that ‘I am not in love, I just feel bad for him.’
But is he? Lorenzo is shown pursuing and even having sex with a young girl, even as we see him almost swooning over Caito. I know some viewers would feel shortchanged by the relationship between Lorenzo and Caito, but I think I like it more that everything is subtle and could be interpreted either way. I have to say though that Spinetta is a fantastic actor, showing all the turmoil and confusion of being young and confused and unsure about everything he is feeling. I felt every emotion in his face, in his gaze. it may be my projection, but I felt the very deep love and affection he felt for Caito.
On the surface, one looks at ‘We are Thr3e’ as a film about a threesome. Indeed, Argentinian director Marcelo Briemm Stamm’s film is about three people who starts a relationship. But for me, the film really is about the fluidity not of gender, but of love. You just fall in love with the person, and that is shown vividly int his film. The trio of actors here (Juan Martin Martino, Florenicia Dragonetti, Carlos Etchevers) are very natural in their roles, and I like the way they presented the relationship in a very nonchalant way. And you think the film will end a certain way, but it is smarter than that. This is a very welcome watch.
‘El Angel,’ from Argentina, is directed by Luis Ortega and produced by Pedro Almodovar (among others) It is Argentina’s entry in this year’s Best Foreign Film Category. I was mostly fascinated by it because of Almodovar’s name attached to it, and also, the poster to the left features a very attractive Latin twink. I learn that the film is based on a true story, of Carlos Robledo Puch, who is an infamous thief from the 70s in Argentina. He apparently captured the interest of the public because he was handsome, and had an cherubic face. Based on this film, that may be his most unique attribute.
Basically, Carlito (as he was called, and played by Lorenzo Ferro) is just your basic run-of-the-mill sociopath. He started young, doing petty crimes, until he meets Ramon Peralta (Chino Darin) who is part of a criminal family, and then Carlitos just graduated to more complex crimes. There is just a tiny bit of homoerotic touch between their relationship, but it is not really explored (or maybe there really was nothing to it) The film is pretty to look at, but a lot of the storytelling is laboured and a little difficult to sit through. I do have to say that Ferro is pretty to look at, so that part was very pleasant. Otherwise, this angel was mostly a bore.
Argentinian Director Marco Berger, in his 2014 movie ‘Hawaii,’ teased his audience on a will-they or won’t-they angle, and in his new film ‘Taekwondo’ (which he co-directs with Martín Darina) he does the exact same thing. Germán (Gabriel Epstein) is invited by his friend Fernando (Lucas Papa) to an all-boys summer vacation in a resort town near Buenos Aires. He doesn’t know why he was invited – he senses that Fernando is into him, but he gets a lot of mixed signals, not just from him but from his posse in the house. He even asks, is he even gay? We find out that Germán is, via his phone conversation with a friend and we spend the rest of the movie testing our gaydar if Fernando is. All things seem to point that way, but are we really sure?
The ‘tease’ here can be frustrating and it is compounded by Farina’s penchance for closeups of the male genitalia, and when we are kind of certain things are going a certain way we get sidetracked. We also get to see how other cultures are more comfortable with their sexualities, as we see the whole group of men here always in various states of undress, and can you imagine an American movie – even a gay one – do that? I read of a study recently wherein straight men get more sexually flexible when they are drunk, and we sense that homoerotic tension here as a group of guys drink, shoot the breeze, and tell sexually sated stories with each other. As I said, this film will try your patience but it is thoughtful and there is a nice payoff in the end. Epstein and Papa are pretty to look at (everyone here is, actually) and the dialogue is nice and easy going – its languid pace makes you really feel like you are on this vacation with them. I don’t know if I would recommend it to everyone, but for the lovers of gay independent niche projects, this a big go.
As thirteen year old kids, Matias and Jero (Ignacio Rogers and Esteban Maturini) spent summers at Matias’ summer home, near an estuary. They get separated a- Matias’ parents move to Brasil – and ten years later Matias comes back to visit, with his girlfriend in tow He is surprised to see his old friend again. Feelings surface, and we find out that something happened that last summer when they were together, and feeling are resurfacing.
The pot sounds tedious, but director Papo Currotto doesn’t dwell on the obvious, and makes the film bloom slowly. Its languid place is contrasted by the sizzling chemistry between the two actors, and even though the answer is pretty obvious, it is still believable. I admit there were very slow parts, but the payoff was rewarding, and as I had mentioned earlier, both Aguirre and Maturini are appealing actors that your wait will not feel too much of a chore. And the Argentinian estuary is beautiful to look at, and the film’s subtle nod to land preservation doesn’t need to be hammered to be effective.