Jongens (Boys) (Netherlands: 2014): Pleasant summertime love for a cold winter evening

Ko Zandvliet and Gijs Blom

Ko Zandvliet and Gijs Blom

What Jongens lacks in tension, leads Gijs Blom and Ko Zandvliet make up for in charm in this enchanting story of first love.

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White-Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom (China: 2014): Sometimes it’s a better movie if they DON’T fall in love.

The White Haired Witch Of Lunar Kingdom - 2

Sure, the colors are vibrant, the scenery is gorgeous, and the stars are pleasant to look at in Zhang Zhiliang romantic wuxia epic…but why introduce a powerful kick-ass female lead if love is just going to drag her down?

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Gerontophilia (Canada: 2013): The Subtle Side of Bruce LaBruce

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To start with, let’s dispel the idea that Bruce LaBruce’s Gerontophilia is somehow the “Gay Harold and Maude.” Since there aren’t that many comedies, or dramas for that matter, about the subject of young men romantically linked to senior citizens, I can see why looking for a comparison to the best-known example on film would be natural, but these really aren’t the same film. I guess one can say that in both films a rather distant young man learns about life from an a senior citizen lover so they are loosely equivalent. But I think that the fact that we make such comparisons points to the fact that there aren’t many films out there on the topic. Just because the pairing of Lake (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie) and Mr. Peabody (Walter Borden) happens to be of two men doesn’t diminish or increase the unease we may feel about their relationship. LaBruce isn’t making a “gay” anything here. Instead he’s making a fairly straightforward film about a type of relationship that isn’t often put on film. Unlike Harold and Maude the young male isn’t learning to appreciate life, but trying to understand and act on his desires and learn how to deal with the trials of dating men in their 70s and 80s.

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REC (Korea: 2011): The night belonged to them

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The trailer I found actually isn’t very helpful to understanding REC, Joon-moon So’s 2011 short film about two men on their fifth anniversary. Young-joon (Sam-dong Song) and Joon-seok (Hye-hun Jo) have rented a hotel room and in their own little world, make a video recording of their night. They joke that in gay-relationship years, one year equals ten years of heterosexual marriage, so in a sense, they have outlasted most marriages. In the first half of the movie, they are happy, a little too playful, even. Beyond a record of their sexual encounter, they interview each other about their feelings. Joon-seok’s disappointment with his partner is that he never gives in for choices of restaurants and movies, a fairly common complaint for all couples. His biggest fear however comes from the fact that even after five years, Young-joon still believes that this relationship is only temporary. That offhand joke about gay relationship equivalent years isn’t actually so funny in that context.

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White Night, Suddenly Last Summer and Going South (Korea: 2012): The costs of leaving when leaving is easy

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Hee-il Leesong directs films about tumultuous relationships between pairs of men that swing from romantic love to contempt and violence. He is one of the best directors of films about same sex relationships working today. His films may be aimed at his local Korean audience, but his storytelling and technical skills can easily be appreciated outside of that country. He is probably best known for No Regret (2006), which was the first gay film released widely in Korea. That film centered on an orphan and an wealthy man swept up in a tempest of obsession, disdain, romance, revenge and finally love. If you asked me what a hero was in a Leesong movie, it would be a man who refuses to be heartbroken without first putting up a fight. White Night and the two companion short films, Going South and Suddenly Last Summer, follow up on that idea through the parings of an expatriate flight attendant and a messenger, a private and his former sergeant and a teacher and pupil, respectively.

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Voyage (Hong Kong: 2013): The final journeys of love and depression

Warning: Trailer contains nudity

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Voyage is Hong Kong director Scud’s fifth film.  Audacity would be a good one-word summary of Scud’s output to date, and those who have appreciated that about his films will not be disappointed. Like his previous films, Voyage has plenty of obscure and sometimes idiosyncratic symbolism and allusions, abundant full nudity, saturated colors, explanatory texts, and a very negative story about love. Scud is not a director for the modest. The film is a series of shorts on the themes death, depression and and the afterlife, framed as stories being written by a psychiatrist (Ryo van Kooten) as he travels on his yacht with the intention of determining whether or not to take his own life.

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I am Happiness on Earth (Mexico: 2014): My Patience is Wearing Thin

If someone were to ask me what kind of movie I am Happiness on Earth is, I would respond that it is a Julian Hernandez film. I suppose that I could say that he makes “art house” or “festival” films, but he also belongs in that category of director where the style and subject become established patterns such that their films are classified off by themselves. No one makes films like them.

If you haven’t seen one of his movies, I don’t know if I would recommend this one, but Happiness does follow what I’ve come to expect from Hernandez. He is very good at creating stories of attractive men pursuing sex with each other – in fact he probably has no equal in that. There is a certain style to these pursuits in his films that evoke  a very raw sexuality that barely even rises to the level of Eros. It is more instinctual than Eros, which should involve some passion and pleasure. Men (and in this movie, women, too) in pursuit of sex are like animals in heat. They prowl. Stare. They crawl on all fours. Consume as if they aren’t certain whether what they hunt is prey or a rival beast.  Since there is hardly any dialogue in this film or any of his films, the actors must physically convey this animalism as well as any emotional states they might have. It makes sense then, that part of this movie involves an affair with a dancer since modern dancers are trained in the art of physical communication.

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