‘Four Days in France’ (‘Jours de France’) is one of the weirdest movies I have seen in a long time. It is one of those films that is truly hard to describe. Directed by Jérôme Reybaud, this premiered at Venice Film Festival. It stars Pascal Cervo as Pierre Thomas. At the beginning of the film, Pierre leaves his lover in the middle of the night, and starts driving through Central France. We don’t know why he is doing this – we get a very vague idea in the end. As he goes through the different rural cities, he goes to rest stops and cruising areas looking for hookups. Most of the time he is aided by the ever-reliable phone app Grindr, where he ‘meets’ the men of Central France (Are there really that many there?) There is the idea that he has sex with a whole lot of them, but curiously he doesn’t. He meets a lot of other people along the way – his French teacher from childhood, a young gay man who wants to move to Paris, an older lady walking to the market.
And then there’s his partner, who (again) uses Grindr to track him down. That familiar notification notice of Grindr is ever ubiquitous here, if Pierre isn’t listening to classical music. One can find this film very tedious, pointless even. At times I did as well, but I have to admit I also liked the languid pace of the film, and was amused by the quirky characters he met, even if most of the set ups were quite contrived. This film runs at least 140 minutes, and you feel its length. Oddly enough, though, I felt that my time wasn’t wasted.
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.
One of my first real pleasant movie surprises this year is ‘Handsome Devil,’ an Irish feel good coming of age/coming out movie. You would think at this point of my life I have already had my fill of these kinds of movies but I guess my jaded heart still hasn’t ceased from feeling because I found myself balling while watching it – tears of joy, because I got so involved with the characters.
There’s nothing new here, bur we have great performances, starting with Fionn O’Shea as Ned, the outsider who is geeky and nerdy but with a musical heart of gold. Then comes Connor (Nicholas Galitzine) as his new roommate – expelled from another boarding school because of fights, and they form an unlikely friendship. Circumstances dictate this friendship to be compromised, and revealing more would be criminal.
You will find yourself very caught up with this, and it’s one of those movies where you are tearing up while you are still laughing. It’s treacly, and preachy – probably to the choir – but it is ultimately uplifting and you will be clapping your hands by the end credits.
Father-Son movies touch me more than usual, and Polish/German Director Piotr Lewandowski’s film ‘Jonathan’ hits me right to my core. Watching it felt like being punched in the stomach. Jonathan is a young man who is taking care of her father, who is terminally ill with cancer, on his second stage of chemotherapy. He has given up his life and made sacrifices to take care of his father. But his father has one big secret he hasn’t told Jonathan: he is gay. And this movie demonstrates that in order to let go of life, you have to put life in one last time.
Jonathan is played by Jannis Niewohner, and he is a most beautiful male specimen. Lewandowski knows this and photographs him in the best light – you cannot help but fall in love with his character: handsome and sensitive, caring for his ill father. When the secret is finally revealed to him, you feel his anguish, and it doesn’t hurt that Niewohner is a fantastic actor, taking you to different emotional journeys throughout the film. But ultimately, the film is about someone waiting to pass, and I don’t know if I could bear watching this film again. But if you are in the mood to make sure you still feel your heart, nothing is better.
‘The Pass,’ directed by Ben A. Williams, was adapted for the screen by John Donelly, from his hit p lay at Royal Court. While I did not see the production, I have read that his adaptation is pretty faithful to his original work. The resulting movie is a little claustrophobic, to be honest, and its wideness doesn’t help it – at times the action left me a little bored, and a lot of the British slang went over my head. But make no mistake, this is a great and important piece of film, and it is anchored by two fine performances – Russell Tovey (Jason) and Arinze Kene (Ade)
The film is broken in three portions, all five years apart: the first third is set in 2006 in a hotel room in Bucharest – both Jason and Ade are holed up before a game in the morning, and clad only in their underwear, verbally spars with each other. But all sense that there is more as the tension – sexual above all – is insurmountable, and you just know it will have to combust at some point. And it does. The film moves to five years later as Jason gets embroiled in a sex video scandal with a stripper, in his elaborate plan to beard in order to hide his sexual orientation. The last third is set in another hotel room, as he and Ade face each other again after ten years.
I loved the last part most of all, as it turns very emotional and both characters have to deal with their emotions – unrequited, unexpressed, unfiltered. Tovey is a marvel here – giving a richly textured performance of a man who has to hide behind a machismo persona. But I think what makes his performance work is because he has to react to kene’s subtlety – his glance here, his look there sometimes says more than the long dialogues, which sound stage-y a lot of times. I found myself thinking about these characters a lot, and what would happen to both. This film has some limitations, but overall it will touch you.
I cannot remember the last film I saw where there was such explicit lesbian sex and in ‘Below Her Mouth’ there’s plenty of it. And much of it is pretty hot, even for me. But ask me anything else about the film and I don’t think I can tell you much else. Perhaps because there isn’t really much there. Jasmine (Natalie Krill) is engaged and on a weekend when her fiancé is away, she has a torrid affair with Dallas (Erika Linder) and well, you can just pretty much imagine what happens after that. The film, supposedly made by all women (April Mullens is the director and Stephanie Fabrizi wrote the screenplay) has a very soft and stylish appeal, and you can see there is a lot of tender care there, but I wish it just had a little bit more substance. The acting veers almost towards parody, so it doesn’t help, though I should say Linder has magnetic screen presence (perhaps because she is a model) and I hope she keeps on acting. Even with these reservations, though, I am glad this film exists, for visibility.
It’s always refreshing for me when I find a film that seems like it did not come from a factory. Everything in ‘What We Have’ is interesting, and unpredictable, but never manufactured or fake. It’s the story of Maurice, played by Maxime Desmons, who also wrote and directed this film. Maurice is an actor has moved from Paris to a small Northern Canadian town, and the locals are asking why he would ever move there. We find that he has a lot of demons inside him, and slowly these come out as he gets entangled in the life of Alan (Alex Ozerov) his French language student.
This is a very affecting story, and you at once get invested in these people’s lives. The story takes interesting twists and turns, and at times is very unsettling to watch – but it is extremely real and explores issues of loneliness, commitment phobia, and teenage bullying. It is exhilarating, and it never alienates. Desmons is fantastic, with just the right amount of detachment to make you feel for him as you feel his journey. It will leave you thinking about the characters even after the film has ended.