Oh God, do I know 1985 pretty well, a year where I learned a lot of life lessons, so I look at that year with mixed feelings. It was a tough, but I came out stronger from it. I look back and think that this was more than thirty years ago, and the world was different then. Director Yen Tan captures that year perfectly in ‘1985,’ one of those small movies that we used to get a lot more. It’s shot in black and white 116 mm, and the way it looks and sounds adds to its storytelling.
Adrian (Cory Michael Smith) goes home to Texas for Christmas. He has been living in New York City and has not been back in three years. He has a younger brother, Andrew, who seems wary of him. There’s a lot of ‘unspokens’ here. His parents probably know he is gay but won’t talk about it. Furthermore, Andrew is becoming a Madonna fan, and is now interested in theater (he wants to see the movie version of ‘A chorus Line’!) so we all know where that trajectory is going. Most significantly, Adrian’s lover has just passed from AIDS, and it looks like Adrian has it, too, and this trip home may be a way for him to say goodbye to his family – he maxed his card out to buy them expensive gifts. There’s an element of internal heartbreak here, and the actors are all subtle and effective, with Smith leading the way. I was taken by Virginia Madsen who plays his mother. As a mother of a gay man, she is torn between her husband, and her love for her son, and communicates her feelings both sides effectively. The screenplay is spot-on, showing then-topical references accurately. I was very touched by this film, and easily identified with the character of Adrian, who could easily be me at that time (he’s just a little older than me) Gay guys of a certain age now (my generation) would like this film and I hope they find it.
‘Al Berto’ is the biopic of the famous Portuguese poet, and Director Vicente Alves do Ó has pieced together a film culled from the notes and diaries of João Maria, who was the poet’s lover at the period of time int he poet’s life when the film is set. This would be the summer of 1975, when he has come back from Brussels training as a painter. He has reclaimed his family’s mansion, after it being sequestered during the revolution. This is a heady time in the country, where there is an ideological division between the old and ‘the future which has not come yet,’ as one character in the film describes. Ricardo Texeira smolders as the poet – he has a magnetic screen presence that is matched by José Pimentão and together they have scorching sexual chemistry. Since the film is more a character study, though, nothing much more happens, as it is that things happen to them. I found the film visually enriching, but perhaps a little too long. I liked how it gave me a brief insight on Portuguese history, and their gay history as well.
I remember reading the book “We the Animals’ is based on, but for the life of me I could not remember anything about it plot. (I had to refresh my memory by reading my reading my review of it ) Now comes Jeremiah Zagar’s film from te same source. And at first, I really wasn’t feeling the film. It has a gauzy dream-like feel, like it was filmed via a vintage Instagram filter. I also thought the style was a bit self-indulgent – some have compared it to Terence Malick’s. But after a while, I got used to its pace, and its unique editing. and also by the good performances, especially by Evan Rosado, who plays Jonah, the youngest child. Jonah has just turned ten years old, but the film explores how at that age, one starts to explore their sexuality. At first I was a little taken aback by this (at ten?) but then this really feels very true. It is at that stage wherein you really do not know how to sort your feelings. In the film, he starts to develop an attraction to a blond kid, and it is clear that he starts to both acknowledge and fear his feelings (Rosado is particularly good in these scenes) I just read in my review of the book that I was a bit surprised that it was filed under gay fiction, and I have the same question here – is this considered a ‘gay’ film? But then does that genre still exist? The gay here is very subtle, almost an aside, but still very significant in how the whole plot is explored. I don’t know if I even like the film, but it certainly challenged me.
Initially reading the synopsis of ‘Mario’ made me think that this movie, directed by Marcel Gisler what was going to be sport-centric. But I was wrong, and I was glad that this is more a straight-up (yes, pun intended) love story between two Football teammates. And I am glad to note that it is quite touching and heartbreaking, as we see them try to fight the obstacles of falling in the still-conservative environment of European football. This one is set in Swiss-German and it was great to see that setting, one I am a little unfamiliar with. The actors, Max Hubacher and Aaron Altaras were both very effective and you can feel the character’s affection for each other. I like the tenderness that was shown in the backdrop of the rough and gruff world of football, and I couldn’t help but tear up at the bittersweet ending. I liked this movie much more than I thought I would.
‘Peyote,’ directed by Omar Flores Sarabia is a 2013 low-budgeted Mexican film that says a lot in its short running time of 110 minutes. It stars two guys who find each other in a park, and go on a road trip to Real de Catorce in Mexico partly to look for the peyote plant – I think the plant has drug connotations – but along the way we also learn a little bit of historical information about the real. It is one of those ‘two-ships-passing-in-the-night’ kind of stories wherein the characters get to know a lot more about themselves as they get to know each other. It’s not a revolutionary movie, but has nice moments and the two leads are appealing to watch. And since it is short, doesn’t require a whole lot of commitment.
Closing out Pride month, I am writing about, for me, the best ‘gay’ film since last year’s ‘Call Me By Your Name.’ Written and Directed by Ofir Raul Graizer, ‘The Cakemaker’ is one of those movies that got to me. After seeing the movie, I wanted to just get home and think about it in silence. It’s the story of a German baker Thomas (Tim Kalkhof, looking like a German Jonathan Groff) who falls in love with an Israeli businessman who travels monthly to Berlin. When the businessman suddenly dies in a car accident, Thomas flies to Jerusalem and gets involved in the life of the man’s widow Anat (Sarah Adler)
This is a great example of how grief ties people together. There is a lot of softness and delicacy on the film, and I was engrossed from the first frame. It speaks to me about how a connection (or disconnection) can make a lasting impact in one’s life, and the different ways we deal with grief. Thomas changes Anat’s life for he better, and while there’s a certain plot point in there that I theoretically did not believe in, thee are fine actors that I swallowed it whole. Kalkhof is fantastic here, muted and passive, yet expressing powerful emotions in a nod and a glance, and Adler a formative match, vulnerable, determined, sympathetic. It shows us realities in modern day Israel – the dichotomy of being religious and liberal, of tradition and acceptance. By the end, I was sobbing, and I didn’t know why. Of course, I knew it was because of the sheer beauty of the film.
I watch a lot of these gay-themed movies, and even though I am glad they get made and improve queer visibility, some of them just irritate me to the core. For the month of June, I am trying to feature as much gay content in my writings here, and was looking forward to seeing ‘Ideal Home,’ if only because I am a Paul Rudd fan – he can most of the time do no wrong for me. Well, he still displays infinite charm here in this film, directed by Andrew Fleming. But his charm is not enough to save this sinking ship. In here he plays Paul, who is partnered with Erasmus (Steve Coogan) and out of the blue, a kid shows up in their doorstep, Angel, who is Erasmus’ grandchild. Hilarity ensues, right, as this gay couple tries to raise a kid.
But my main problem with the film is that the characters of Erasmus and Paul are so thin that we only get ‘personality’ instead of real human beings. They fight and bicker and insult each other, and it’s like being inside a car of a fighting couple: unpleasant, awkward, and the sense that you just want to get out of there. I hated my time with these people and could care less if they succeed with raising the child. Plus, the child is entitled and spoiled so really, who are you going to root for in this film?
Fleming based this story on his experiences in raising a child. Surely, his own life is more textured than the thin plot here. I was disappointed with this picture. Coogan and Rudd try to save it with charm, but that only goes so far. I try to rid my life of toxic people, and these characters are as toxic as they get.