On May 2017, same-sex marriage was legalized in Taiwan, and I honestly did not realize that the country was that progressive. But I was pleasantly surprised by that, and when I saw that Netflix had acquired the LGBT film ‘Dear Ex,’ I wanted to see it right away. I had read some glowing reviews of the film, saying it was touching and heartbreaking. After seeing it, I wish I could say the same. I really wanted to love the movie, but I barely like it. Directed by Hsu Chin-Yeh, it is just so overwrought and loud, and the performances are same – screechy, and they hit you like a blunt instrument – making all the characters unlikable I didn’t want to spend any time with any of them. Worst is Ying-Xuan Hsieh, who plays the wife/mother who gets short shifted her husband’s Life Insurance payment. She starts the movie screaming, and never lets up – I have never seen such a shrill performance that is so noisy and it’s all hollow noise. By the time the character does something nice at the end, I have long checked out on it. All in all, this was supposed to be a feel-good movie, but I just got so tired of it about half-way through that I felt the film unredeemable at that point. Still, I am glad that Netflix is supporting these kinds of films so I won’t really put it down. I am glad this film exists on this platform and hope more will come. And maybe my reaction is isolated – I see a lot of people connecting with this film, and that’s good.
‘Cola de Mono’ is set at Christmastime, but it’s really not your typical Hallmark Christmas movie. It’s a little bit dark and very very gay. The title is based on a drink that Chileans prepare for the Holidays, and the term is also a gay slur. The film is a about a set of brothers who both come to terms with their sexuality on Christmas Eve. The theme is on the dark side, and even though I had read the film labeled as a thriller, I was very surprised by the turn if events towards the latter part of the film. It is also quite explicit, and director Alberto Fuguet definitely has a very specific point of view that he slaps into the film. I thought it was a very interesting film, even if I really did not enjoy it in the sense that it wasn’t a feel-good kind of film. It’s a little offfbeat for the Christmas season, but offbeat doesn’t necessarily mean bad.
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.