Started in 2007 to keep a track of gay films that I watched, this blog has come much further than I had planned. There are tons of movies that I need to watch and review here. Through this blog, I want to give you genuine, my personal heart-felt review of the films that I see. These are my personal thoughts and opinions about the films and I would love to hear your thoughts on these films as well. I always reply to comments in a day or two. Please help me make my blog more popular by becoming a member, following it and by recommending it to your friends. As far as I know this is one of the very very few gay movie review blogs where reviews are not linked or copy-paste imdb summary. Enjoy and do keep writing your feedback.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Third party (Filipino/Tagalog)

A romantic comedy film, this film has a very interesting premise when started but somehow somewhere in between, I felt the makers were confused as to what genre did they really wanna focus on. It was primarily drama but the comic scenes or dialogues were thrown in at random places, and I as an audience was quite confuse as to what mood should I keep while watching the film.

Max and Andi are a couple in college, but when Max decides to go to US for medical studies, she decides to break up with him because she doesn't believe in long distance relationships. 5 years later when he comes back home, he reaches out to Andi increasing her hope of getting back together but all her dreams are shattered when Max introduces her to his boyfriend, a fellow doctor Christian. Max convinces her that he i snot sure of he is gay but he knows that he loves Christian. 2 years later, the film gets in current time when Max and Christian have been together for 3 years and Andi is still struggling to get her events management business going. Christian is slightly controlling in the relationship and keeps pushing for the couple to adopt baby but Max is not sure, especially when his parents don't even know about him being gay. Around same time, Andi's boyfriend turns out to be a crook and she finds herself pregnant. She reaches out to her best friend Max for help and Christian sees this as an opportunity and they make a deal that the couple will adopt the baby and till then they will take care of all Andi's expenses. As expected, Andi sometimes longs for her ex-boyfriend; Max finds comfort remembering old days with Andi around and Christian is always worried if Andi is going to take his boyfriend away. Things go sour when finally the stress of relationships takes over and Max kisses Andi. Andi leaves home and Max and Christian decide to take a break. Sanity prevails soon and once the baby comes and a year later, everyone is happy in their space.

My big problem with this otherwise decent film is none of the characters are really sure what they are and what they want. Andi keeps telling herself she is over Max but secretly still longs at him. Max is still confused when Andi comes back in life whether he is gay or straight. When in one specific scene, he clearly says he is bi and its about person and not gender, the film could easily have gone to that route, instead of the cliche when Christian asks Max to pick either him or Andy. As an audience we are always confused as to who to empathize with, because all the characters are full of faults themselves but they expect perfection from the others. Some comedy scenes are over the top but I think thats a common scenario in filipino movies , so I will discount that for now. Max and christian's conflicts are cliché, and the solutions to their conflicts are grossly convenient and seemingly ill-suited. The last 10 minutes is so rushed when everything magically and very very conveniently comes along together. Max's parents are accepting, the couple is happy and even Andi is ok being a very good mother. It all felt very convenient. On the positive side, Max as an actor was good and very handsome to look at. His and Andi's chemistry was better than his with Christian.

As I mentioned before, had the film explored the topic of gender fluidity, as it was briefly mentioned, it would have been a lot more interesting. In current space, with some tighter editing, this film is strictly an average light watch. (5.5/10)

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Tinta Bruta (Portuguese) [Hard Paint]

A melancholic film about a troubled young adult who is shy, hates going out of home and has troubles connecting with people and making friends. He is awkward and withdrawn but at night he is sexually provocative webcam dancer for gay men. This film is mostly about loneliness and yearning for company and love. There is a lot of social context from the point of view of the town of Porto Alegre where this is set in when apparently a lot of people are moving out.

The film is divided in 3 chapters: The first one is dedicated to his sister Luiza, who so far has been his companion and support for everything. And now she is moving to another city for better prospects leaving our protagonist Pedro alone. An already awkward Pedro is happy and very sad for being left behind but hopefully through his webcam dance shows he will keep busy. Pedro's speciality is that he uses glowing neon paint on his paint while performing shows for his audience but soon he realizes that his audience is reducing because someone is copying him. He meets this boy Leo (this is the second chapter) and both of them have an instant connection. They are both some kind of outcasts. Leo is working on website to save money in hopes to secure a dance scholarship. They both decide that they should do joint sessions and make money and split. Pedro slowly draws into Leo's circle of friends and gets a new perspective. Also there is a clear connection between two men and signs of love. This is also when we find out that Pedro is accused to violence against a college mate but it was a retaliation for all the years of bullying that he received from that man. But when Ben surprisingly gets a scholarship sooner than expected, Pedro is hurt and we go into third chapter of the NeonBoy himself. This part is slow, runs in depression, focuses on how lonely and emotional Pedro is but at the same time, when a guy tries to trick him, he is completely capable of violence. The film ends with a beautiful goodbye between Leo and Pedro.

This film is not an easy watch. It is slow, melancholic and does not leave you with a happy feeling but still it is a wonderful film with some very poignant and emotional moments. Pedro is an amazing actor and does a beautiful job showing 2 sides of him; the confident webcam performer and the gawky awkward social person. And so is Leo. They have an amazing chemistry. Their painted sex shows, with vibrant splashes of color pulsating in the semi-darkened room, have genuine electricity. The scene when Leo tells Pedro that he knows if him from the violence incident but even how at that point, he wanted to help Pedro, will leave you teary eyed. The beauty with which Leo explains the whole scene is an art. The script's treatment of homophobia, bullying feels grounded in authentic experience. The film has good moments of eroticism but this isn’t a flesh-and-fantasy frolic. You can feel the burden of being different, and the artificial construct of internet chats break down social bonds.

The film does end on a positive-ish note when there is hope for Pedro but only is he looks for for himself and tries to find love. The film is slow but you will definitely be able to connect with it. (7/10)

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Puoi Baciare lo Sposo (Italian) [My Big Gay Italian Wedding]

I absolutely loved this film. When a film manages to keep a constant smile and feel-good emotions inside you throughout its runtime, it already has done its job to a large extent. And to top that, me laughing out loud in a couple of scenes was just icing on the cake. It takes a lot to make me lose my inhibitions and loud out loud, so in that department, this film was a total winner. Yes, this is not a path-breaking cinema, but with right mix of comedy, emotions, family and drama, this film is something that everyone would like and enjoy to watch. Oh! and did I say how beautiful the town of Civita is.

Antonio is in a very happy relationship with his boyfriend of three years Paolo. Just before visiting his hometown for Easter, Antonio proposes Paolo. Antonio has a female roommate who he is good friends with and they just get a new room mate , an older man who has discovered his happiness for cross-dressing. The 4 of these travel together as a group now to celebrate easter with Antonio's family. Antonio has to come out to his parents as well as announce the engagement, and Paolo and his mother haven't spoken in years because of his sexuality. Once Antonio announces, his parents react very differently. His mother goes into acceptance and planning mode with her conditions, primarily being that Paolo's mother has to be present at the wedding and that her husband has to officiate the wedding. Antonio's father, on the other hand, who also happens to be the mayor of the town, does not understand and refuses to support this idea of wedding. To add to confusion, we also have Antonio's ex-girlfriend come in every now and then, who refuses to let go off Antonio and wants him back at any cost. Of course, brief moments of confusions happen but ultimately love wins everything.

The story above may seem serious but really everything plays out with a very light joyous atmosphere and there is no one single moment where I felt bored or not smiling. The film is right amount of comedy and feel-good without overdoing either of those things. I cracked up when Antonio's father explains why he doesn't like musicals and why musicals don't make sense. And then to have the movie end with a total musical number was a master stroke. The beauty of the town of Civita adds to the charm of the overall story. The two men have excellent chemistry. Right from when Antonio tells us how he met Paolo and how their relationship developed to this moment of wedding, we as audience feel an instant connection with them both. They have their differences and opinions and this is what makes their relationship more real. The two actors have done an incredible job here. In fact, every single actor is a masterstroke. The conflict of Antonio's parents presents two very different sides of spectrum and adds more to humor and drama. I wish there was more story to cross dressing roommate and the girl but they do add in some good light moments in the narrative. And the crazy ex-girlfriend, although annoying, added more fun. My favorite for some reason would be the father and his character. There was something human and charming about his character of loving his son, accepting him being gay but somehow the whole idea of wedding is too much for him in his family in the small town. I loved the fact that nothing situation was overdramatized just for the sake of it. Not even the climax, which could have gone so wrong but ending the film with a song and dance musical number leaves viewers on a high which was exactly whats needed from a film like this.

There is absolutely no way that this film will not out a smile to your face and show a positive side to same-sex marriage between two people who wholly adore each other. Although the issues are quite serious, there are many humorous moments, and this romantic comedy will leave you on a high. (8/10)

Monday, March 18, 2019

At The End Of The Day

Only if thing and people were so easy and simple, life would be so much better. This movie comes with very very good intentions and to a large extent addresses a lot of issues that it wants to focus on (thankfully it doesn't go all over the place); but ending is so convenient, but religion in every country is so powerful, that this could be a mere wishful thinking.

Dave is a young teacher in a very Christian college, who has string resentment against LGBT people, even more stronger since his wife left him for another woman. He is asked by his dean to go check out this group of outcasts, who are in the process of trying to purchase a property that the college also wants to acquire. When Dave finds out that it is an LGBT group, he is initially shocked but continues to visit thereby getting exposed to a very loving community of individuals and what are their challenges. He meets Samantha, a straight girl and activist helping this group for this property, whose brother was brutally murdered for being gay and advocate. At the same time, Dave is challenged by one of his students Nate that make him constantly question his beliefs. The group tries hard but are unsuccessful in acquiring the property but Dave's late aunt leaves her home for this group, where people can be who they are.

The film started with showing Dave as a dickhead but slowly you warm upto him. He is aware of the hypocrisy surrounding him, especially when the Dean of the college plays double games and worse when he suspends Nate from college. He wants to understand and be supportive but at the same time he struggles to take responsibility of his actions, including teaching his students to hate LGBT folks. The film gets a bit stretched when we meet many individuals who go over their stories of struggle. This scene is important because this is when the first hint of change in Dave is seen but is too long. I really liked the idea that everyone in the support group instantly saw through Dave, realizing that he wasn't gay, but embracing him anyway. This is a touching yet funny insight into people who yearn to be closer to God and a faith that wants to keep them away. But like I said, real life things are not that easy. But that doesn't mean we can't hope. Good theme, but too stretched to come to the point where it can make a maximum impact on the audience.

The film is more about celebration of who you are and if seen objectively, it is not hard to understand and appreciate the struggles of LGBT community. It questions our beliefs that everything doesn't have to be black or white worldview. (5.5/10)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Ka Bodyscapes (Malayalam)

I had heard of this film so much, that I was very much looking forward to watching it. Created in Indian subcontext of Kerala state, this film was in news for long struggling to get itself a decent release in the home country. The film touches upon various subjects and pubic debates but in the end, IMO, fails to properly raise a message against any of these issues.

There are two parallel stories here. Haris is an artist, photographer and painter and is gay and proud. His best friend Vishnu is his muse and model. Vishnu is staunch hindu and besides regular fooling around between roommates doesn't think much about Haris's affection though is close to kissing him a couple of times. One of Haris's close friends is Sia who belongs to a very conservative Muslim family. She is a rebel who wants to make a place for herself and other women and raises a voice against her employer when a woman is humiliated for having her periods. Of course neither goes down well and Sia struggles to defend herself in front of her family and leaves home to come stay with Haris. Haris' landlord evicts him overnight for all the gay paintings that he has and sleeping with a man and a woman. Still keeping his confidence high, Haris still plans to go ahead with his exhibition which gets completely vandalized on the day of the show. Finally, Haris is beat and cant take it anymore.

The film tackles the taboo subjects of politics, religion, sexism and sexuality. The title of the movie is invoked from the Egyptian concept of 'Ka', which is the vital essence of a human body that distinguishes the living from the dead. There is a lot of focus and close shot camera focus on Vishnu's body, who looks pretty hot. You see Haris going through feelings of pure focus but also love for his friend. And Vishnu has to deal with complexities and contradictions of desire and politics that seem to fly in polar directions, difficult to reconcile and negotiate. Sia's story brings its own issues to the forefront of society. The subjects are all handled ok but at some point I feel the film loses focus. There are plenty long shots of nothingness that go on forever. Sia masturbating, her driving scooter, Haris painting or him walking on the beach are few of the many scenes that just go on and on and unnecessarily stretch the film. I'd say the film is more in the space of homoeroticism. The film does not offer any resolution towards the end, and perhaps comes across as bleak, grey and dark. The last scene of Haris taking off all his clothes and using just his body as a metaphor walking naked into the water doesn't offer any solutions. The actors were all very good (and hot in Vishnu's case) but something was amiss in the direction.

This must not have been an easy film to make, but in my opinion if and when you are trying to make a statement at this level, the style of the film making has to be something that can attract more viewers, so the message is spread. This movie felt more of a self-indulgence piece, which personally I did not connect much with. And this is a shame because I really wanted to like this film. (4/10)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Plastic Boy (UK)

This film was shot on an iphone with a budget of approximately 5k pounds. Unfortunately, that shows, and by that I don't mean production quality but I mean lack of investment in a properly flushed out screenplay that could have done justice to a decent story idea. I believe, this film is intended to be a comedy but not once did I feel like even smiling, forget laughing. On the contrary, I did find myself rolling my eyes quite often.

The story is about Sam, a guy probably in late 20s, who clearly is bored at his job and doesn't even try to do something about it. His room mate is his best friend Zoe, who constantly reminds him to get his life together. All Sam cares about is two things: first getting attention of one of his co-workers (a cute guy), and the other, somehow getting together back with his ex-boyfriend, who constantly keeps inviting Sam for sex. Zoe and Sam soon find themselves drifting apart. And they both lose their apartment as well. A tiny prospect of having to move in with his parents, Sam is forced to relook at his life.

As I said before, There is really not much that I liked about the film besides the overall story which had potential but uneven screenplay, and the lost direction of the film takes away from everything else. Clearly Sam (also the director of the film) knows his craft as a director because he does extract good performances from everyone except himself. I know Sam's character is supposed to be obnoxious and unreliable but it came out as annoying to me. I found that odd, since all the other 3 main characters were pretty good at their roles. I also find the film stretched unnecessarily at various intervals with long silences in between. It just became really hard to keep your attention.

I am all for new concepts and experiments and its easy for me to just shot down someone's hard work and efforts put in but I need to be objective in my personal opinion. I think Sam should concentrate on direction because he clearly has good future there. As to the team, good luck for future prospects. (2.5/10)

Friday, March 15, 2019

My Brother's Shoes

This film is another one of those independent film trying to tackle a "new" theme in the gay world. Sadly, not every idea turns out right. And it has nothing to do with low production values. It is mostly to do with poor acting and not a good direction. We have seen some really funny movies that involve such a thought but sadly this one doesnt come close at all.

Primary story is around two brothers: Austin is younger, gay and is struggling for love and making his ends meet. His dream is to won the miss diva beauty pageant. Elder brother Dallas, is supportive but not completely used to with Austin being gay. He is stressed at work and at home he is trying to have baby with his wife. Each brother thinks the other “has it so good.” By a strange twist of fate, they switch places. They know they have switched but no one else realizes this. Only person, who believes the story is Jackie, who is Austin's best friend. Now Austin needs to save his brother's job and his family. And what is to be seen is how far will Dallas go to make his brother's dreams come true. Finally the evening comes and now Austin has to go home to Dallas's wife who wants to get pregnant. And Dallas has to now go on stage in drag and perform for Austin! Thankfully at right time, the switch back happens and things all fall in place.

There was a lot of scope for making the whole situation very funny but it felt drag in al events. The acting was below average and the overall direction was also pretty bad. There was a scene where Jackie recounts his life to Dallas and that goes forever as if suddenly Jackie is the protagonist. Also when the situation occurs, even more reason for brothers to stick together and help each other out, but rather they dont even talk throughout the day. This could have been very funny short film but I think the makers thought they had a solid product in their hands.

Strictly below average, there is a lot of good stuff out there, so save your time. (3/10)

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Paper Boys (Web Series)

This series premiered with 6 episodes on Dekkoo, each of about 15 minutes in duration. So it was an easy pleasant watch. The series is nothing out of the ordinary but it a nice slice of life episodic watch with a twist (a good one).

Cole arrives in SF from NYC to attend the engagement party of his best friend Darren. Trying to save money, he is staying with Darren and his fiancé Rebecca. Cole has not been completely honest with Darren about his visit to SF. He has actually moved out of NY and is looking for a job. We soon find out that one of the reasons he did that was perhaps to get closer to his ex-boyfriend Max. The first night Darren Darren confides that his engagement was an accident and asks Cole to help him tell his fiancée Rebecca that he doesn’t want to marry her. Following one incident after the other, Cole soon realizes that whatever sketches he has been making, they are coming true. Using his power of sketches, he and Darren think that maybe they will be able to overcome some of their issues, but only if life was that simple. Frustrated in getting landing any job and things moving at a snail's pace with his ex Max, he blurts out to Rebecca that Darren doesn't wanna get married. Of course things are not the same , and even Darren feels betrayed. Rebecca throws them both out of home and its at this time that Max comes to their rescue. Cole has somehow managed to save his friendship but what about love?

The series is essentially a romantic drama with a twist of an interesting super power. But the drawings sometimes doesn't give him exact results that he expected although they do come true, albeit maybe with different individuals around him. Over the six episodes, the series explores the relationship between Cole and Darren as they try to help each other navigate their respective issues. Its interesting that despite short duration of the episodes, as an audience we still get time to understand the characters and join them on their journey of self-discovery. I am sure most people like me would have expected that at some point Cole and Darren would hook up; but I am so so glad that this not happen. That would have been too cliched. Their chemistry as friends was amazing and its refreshing to see that a straight man had no second thoughts on going to a gay party. Acting by everyone is quite good. My favorite was Rebecca's sister, who doesn't have much to do overall but clearly stands out with a very funny and interesting portrayal. ON a side note, I would have liked to understand the dynamics between Max and Cole a little more with respect to their background and what really happened between them in the past.

Not sure of this is going to get renewed for a second season, but this was a decent watch. (6.5/10)

Monday, March 11, 2019

Dear Ex (Mandarin)

On the surface, this film seems like yet another film about conflicts. But this is so much more than that. It is a dark comedy, an emotional roller coaster, where things are not really black and white. Given the nature of the story, you will struggle to take sides. You are supposed to, given that nature of the film, but you will be able to appreciate why the individuals did what they did. In fact, this is a very very emotional film about love. It talked about boundary between hate and fear. By the end of it, I had a lump in my throat by the overall story line and how beautifully and emotionally some of the scenes were handled with the dignity they deserved.

Liu is angry and bitter that her husband left her and their son for another man Jay. Now that he is dead, she finds out that Jay is the beneficiary of his insurance money and demands that he return that money for her son's future. Jay is a young hippy-ish man who is spending his time attempting to direct what appears to be a poor quality play. In between the two is stuck Song, who is angry and frustrated with his mother for being angry, resentful frustrated over everything around her. He finds himself leaving home in a fit of anger and comes to live with Jay, who clearly doesn't want him. But neither Jay nor Liu can do anything about him. Song keeps reminding himself that jay is a bad man, but then he is the only one who he can stay with since he doesn't want to be with his mother. He thinks that all she cares about is money. In between all this, we see glimpses of flashbacks of everyone's lives, which are no longer than a couple of minutes each, which help us come closer to every character, including Zhengyuan who binds all these characters. Unhappy about the situation around them, the three characters eventually begin to manage to come to terms if not with their own grief then at least by the end of the film they have a better understanding of each other’s.

The film is about pain, and it can be painful to watch it at times. It is from the point of view of the kid. As I said above, you think this is gonna be one of those silly over-the-top films but by the end of it it is such a rewarding film that isn’t afraid to feel its feelings and grapple with what they mean. All three characters start as one-dimensional and the way it is shown on the screen, you are put off by the mother's character. She is over-bearing and frustrated but we slowly understand that how this bitterness started. And Jay is more like a hippie who has no money and for some inexplicable reasons wants to run this play at any cost. Jay and Liu bicker and antagonize each other, both jilted by the same lover, but the two need an outlet for their anger. Jay's character is the one who get to know eventually towards the end. You want to blame him for stealing a woman's husband, but through flashbacks you get to know the realities. You find out that Zhengyuan and Jay were lovers long before he married Lui but, struggling to come to terms with his sexuality, Zhengyuan  leaves to try and live a “normal life”. When he becomes ill he leaves his family to spend his last days with his true love Jay. Zhengyuan's death happens so sudden that he never has time to grief for it. Its only when he finally presents the play that the wife realizes about his true love and how finally on the 100th day of his death, through his play, Jay is giving his final goodbye. There are many more emotional scenes like this. One other scene that stood out for me was when Zhengyuan tells Liu about him being gay. The performances are all outstanding from every single person. The cast each do a wonderful job of showing themselves before and after grief and all of them. This is a Netflix release and I hope more and more people get to see this film.

There is so much I wanna write about this film and all the memories of watching it are coming back. This film is a lot more than drama, comedy, coming out genres. Its a complete package about emotions, love, sacrifices. Love can never be wrong. People may be. It is a tale of two ill-fated loves, treated with immense pathos. A strange, mutual sympathy for the grief of losing the same man, in ways both very different and very similar. (8.5/10)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Vergot (Italian) (Documentary)

These days when everyone is trying to make a realistic film, it took me 5 minutes to realize that something is off in this film. It was NOT a feature film, rather it was a documentary. duh! I felt stupid. Maybe it was also a bit of dramatization but I am not sure.

The story is primarily about 2 brothers living in a farmland. Alex and Gim are brothers and love each other very much. Their farmer, belonging to a family of farmers, is very rough and exuberant. Life in hills is hard and people are who they are. When Gim tells his family that he is gay, things dont go down so well with his father, who self-admittedly says that he would have killed Gim three years ago, without even giving a second thought but could not since he is his son. This is where Alex finds himself stuck between modern changing world and supporting Gim, while also trying to change his father's attitude. In such an exasperated context is hard to recognize the love hidden behind. The father eventually comes around and embraces Gim, with support of Alex.

Since this whole docu-drama was through scenes and dramatization without any voice-overs; it is a bit hard to believe what's real and what's not. Is camera constantly following Gim, even when he goes to gay clubs? I don't know. But overall the documentary had a very neutral effect on me. I mean, I didn't see a point of making this film. There was no point to prove. ITs a simple coming-out story of a farmer boy and defeating odds of his surroundings and with help of his brother. Mane scenes felt too stretched and this would have been a. abetter fiction short-film.

I wouldn't waste my time on this. Its a done to death premise, doesn't offer anything new. I am struggling to say anything positive about this. (1/10)

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Al Berto (Portuguese)

So, I did not know anything about the film when I started watching it. It felt as if it seems like a true story, a biopic of sorts, with scenes moving along at a fast paced. It felt, as audience we were supposed to know the context of the area and the times. Thirty minutes into the film, I decided that I need to read a little bit more about the film before I continue to watch. And I am happy I did that because suddenly the film started making a lot more sense. Al Berto is one of Portugal’s best-known poets and the film focuses on his youth immediately after the Portuguese revolution of 1974.

in 1975, Al Berto decided to return to his childhood town of Sines as his base to become a writer after spending time in Brussels. He stays in his family mansion which was seized by authorities during revolution and is now empty. Once there, he starts befriending like-minded individuals who are into poets, arts, eccentricity and sexuality. He meets João Maria and the two men have an instant connection and fall head over heels in love with each other. Al Berto is fearless yet a kind hearted revolutionist who is happy to share his space with locals but most locals do not appreciate the youthful vibrancy that comes along with Al Berto. Another important character of the film is Sara, a young woman who dreams of a better life but faces a moral dilemma because of her own working class background. The film largely focuses on the romance between João Maria and Al Berto and how it progresses. The y have fights, especially when João Maria cheats on him but as someone says, Its not easy to be in love. And they get back together and together they always provide Sines with its well-deserved trendy scene. The open relationship between two soon leads to more conflicts and ultimately the group starts to separate. And eventually Al Berto leaves his lover to go back to his safe place.

As I said before, a bit of context on the poet and the political situation of Portugal will help grasp this film better. The chemistry between Al Berto and João is killer. The intimate scenes between them are some of the film’s finest moments and you can almost feel the heat from your screen. João is unbelievably good looking and both the actors have put up an absolutely incredible performance. I believe its both their first film. Al Berto is brave but naive. He loves João but finds it hard to trust him and eventually leaves him. Sadly, as a viewer I connected with João's character more than of Al Berto. But the fim is not just about gay romance. Yes, thats the pretty strong element but its a portrait of youth and the film is a portrait of the artist as a young man. Its about post-revolution when free people wanna be free and do as they please and after effects of dictatorship are still seen. What is captured really well here is the ‘anything goes’ attitude of the community during this time period. While it’s important to live your truth and embrace an authentic life, you can’t always control the outside influences and pressures that come with it. Al Berto is painted here very much as an idealist rather than a realist, and by the end of the film that becomes his downfall.

I will strongly recommend the film. Finding faults with the film is hard. Its about the beauty of love, thoughts, relationships and freedom. Go for it. (8/10)

Friday, March 8, 2019

Hazlo Como Hombre (Spanish) [Do It Like A Man]

I am seeing a gay comedy after a long time and it felt good to laugh. Yes, the activists would feel hurt about stereotypes and that this is regression but you have to remember that you are watching a sort of satire. The film opens with a warning that opens with a mock advisory warning that its protagonist displays behavior that should not be repeated at home. And that pretty much sets the mood. And to top of it all, the film is not about gay love, but its about friends and friendship and how strong these bonds really are which can't easily be broken.

Raul, Santiago and Eduardo have ben best of buddies since childhood and have led a very happy and "masculine" life. Raul is married and is expecting a baby soon but confides in Santiago that he actually sleeps around with other hot women but justifies that sex and love is different. Santiago is engaged to marry Raul's sister Nat, who complains that they havent had sex in the longest time and is a bit of a nutjob. Eduardo has no girlfriend and is a barber and Raul suspects he is gay. Having had enough, one day Raul confesses to his friends that he is gay. Eduardo is happy and ecstatic but Raul thinks its just a phase. He tries to convince Santi that its a simple sexual confusion and tries many tricks to "cure" him. Despite his wife, Eduardo and everyone around questioning Raul on his homophobic behavior in 2017, he is adamant that Santiago is wrong. Things go so bad, that the friends have a big fight and they stop seeing each other. This is when Raul's wife finds about his philandering ways and Santi decides to movie to US with his boyfriend. Raul's wife leaves him and Santi finds out that his boyfriend and lover actually believes in polygamy while he himself is very traditional. Its only the night before Santi is supposed to leave, the friends reconnect over video games and Raul apologizes. Raul leaves aside his prejudices and decides to help Santiago to venture into their new life with his new partner.

The film is funny right from the get go of interactions between the 3 friends. Their expressions, dialogues, connections is all good. The funniest of them all is Nat, who goes crazy when she finds out that Santiago is gay and wants to call off wedding. She is desperate and tries to win him back but its all funny. All the interesting tactics that Raul tries to use to convince Santi that he is not gay also cracked me up. I am soooo glad  that, everytime he would react weird, everyone around him would give him a look and say its 2017, this is all good, so why is he reacting so weird. There is also a reference to how everyone (straight or gay) knows about grindr. Using his psychiatrist (also a lot of funny scenes there), learns that he will go through different stages, such as grief and denial, as he mourns the loss of the friendship he once knew. The interactions between the three friends are very heartwarming and they all share an excellent chemistry. Raul never stopped being friends with Santi because of his sexuality. It was the fear of losing the friend he knows that drives him to such extents. It was also refreshing to see that Santiago didn't conform to any gay stereotypes and that his straight friend Eduardo kind of did.

Yes, it may not be politically the most correct film but we all sometimes need a good time. It is high-spirited, buoyant and full of laughs. The movie also has some nicely affecting moments that deal with male friendship and loneliness. Personally, for me, this is definitely a winner. (7/10)

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Aus der Haut (German) [Shed My Skin]

This decent little German film is not path-breaking but is definitely a film that holds your attention. Its far from perfect but there is something relatable especially for teenagers who are going through their usually growing up and identifying themselves phase. Sure, it does handle some topics in a very cliched way and by the end of the movie, you are slightly puzzled as to what's the message that this film is trying to give, but does it always matter?

Milan is a 16-17 year old teenager who has a crush on his best friend Christoph. One evening while getting drunk, Milan kisses him which freaks out Christoph. Afraid of what just happened, Milan gets into his parents car drunk for an attempted suicide but is thankfully saved. We find out that Milan has history of drugs, depression, aloofness and possible suicidal tendencies. Things are not easy at school when Milan is now completely snubbed by Christoph. One evening, Milan has a chance meeting with an older guy who he later has sex with, which makes Milan feel liberated and finally he tells his parents that he is gay. His parents are relieved to hear this and do not over-react, but primarily because they are themselves going through their personal issues. The father is unhappy in his job and the mother is unhappy in the marriage. Milan is heart broken when he realizes that he was just a fling for the older guy. Christoph in the meanwhile understands everything that's going on and he and Milan are back to being friends. Its now the turn of the parents to sort out their differences for the sake of their son.

The production quality of the film is top-notch and the direction is also pretty good but its the story that lacks finness. Between the struggles of parents and their issues and that of Milan, the focus of the film kept getting shifted. Having said that, I really liked how the parents supported Milan when he comes out, thereby instilling confidence in him to be who he is and be confident of that. It may have something to do with his history which we never get to know the reasons for. I wonder if thats to do with the relationship that the parents share with each other. Milan is definitely a good looking guy and acts well and has good potential. The ending is also not one that really makes up for everything before that and seems pretty abrupt. Few issues are raised in the film but none of them actually gets a closure.

You are not missing anything by not watching this film, but you will definitely not be bored. At a crips 80 minute running time, you just wish, it had a point to make by the end of it all. (6/10)

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Curious (Australia)

This movie was simply soft porn and nothing else. There is no way you can get around to defending this film in anyway.

Beth and Ryan are engaged but a fight leads to them wanting a break Ryan is passing through a gay bar and curiosity gets the best out of him. Next one hour is spent on multiple sexual encounters filmed in much details that Ryan has with various people inside the club, thereby making him realize what he truly wants. Beth and Ryan become best friends.

Trust me, there is absolutely nothing besides what I just wrote here, The sexual encounter scenes with Ryan sniffing poppers way too extended that it makes me feel this was an extended audition for porn films. The acting was poor and there is absolutely no point in making this film. Completely avoid. The half star is just for Ryan's good looks. (0.5/10)

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Beneath The Skin (Canada/UK)

Low budget amateurish movies can be a hit or miss. This film could have had a good potential but somewhere neither storyline nor direction was upto mark. That combined with slow pacing and random nature scenery thrown throughout tests your patience. On a brighter side, the two teenagers are good to look at :)

Movie starts with we witnessing Jay getting abandoned by his Alabama parents for being gay. He is taken in his wing by a straight guy and his girlfriend who are moving to Halifax Canada to open a tattoo shop. Forward one year, and we meet Joshua, who is being shipped off to Canada from England after his mother's death to be with his biological father. He starts getting bullied at school and is saved by Jay on the streets. The two boys immediately connect and fall in love with each other. The bullying continues to an extent that Joshua punches the guys in his school and is therefore expelled. Social services decide to send him back to England. Completely heart-broken, both boys do not have a choice and Joshua moves back to England. A few months later, he gets a surprise visit, not only by Jay but the whole crew. They are in town for exhibition of Jay's photographs and finally things are starting to look better for both.

So, storywise as you can read, its pretty alright. But there are so many loopholes and things taken for granted, that its laughable. After all the vandalizing and almost life-taking attempts at bullying, there is no mention about reporting this to cops or school. Why?  Also, its 2019 and its Canada.. such ignorance about homosexuality still exists? Why does a big ass school have only 5-6 students and just 2 teachers. The couple owning the tattoo store has not a single tattoo on their body. Joshua doesn't go meet his father even once in Canada (since he is with Jay all the time). Acting by both main characters is actually just average, not bad; but the couple who owns the tattoo parlour is the worse. They are both sooo bad. And as I mentioned above, a good part of movie time is taken away by random shots of the town. They are pretty but there is way too much unnecessary focus on that. And the sex scenes also look awkward.

In short, "Beneath the Skin" is a beginner's work. It shows potential because it isn't brilliant. The editor needs some massive coaching. You can watch it on a fast forward mode. (3.5/10)

Monday, March 4, 2019

Happiness Adjacent

First five minutes into the movie and I was starting to doubt whether its gonna be a big mistake watching this film and wasting my time like most trash queer films out there, but thankfully it did spring a pleasant surprise on me. It wasn't earth-shattering or game changing in anyway; but it did manage to hold my interest in the lives of our protagonists. There i a lot of improvement that can be done in this, but more about that later.

Hank is now taking the week long cruise alone, because his best friend had a last minute family emergency. Aboard, he meets Kurt, vacationing with his wife. Since Kurt's wife is sea-sick, the two men hang out all the time, and there is some connection. At the end of day 1, Kurt ends up in Hank's room and they both have sex. Thankfully, the next morning is not about guilt or snubbing but taking it one day at a time. Hank is not sure, why Kurt os doing this and if he is just a vacation fling. But on the other hand, Hank is also here to get over his ex, but his increasing attraction towards Kurt is something that he really doesn't want to happen. Kurt's wife eventually gets better and join the two of them but still afraid of getting off the ship. This gives the two men enough opportunity to hang out and in fact have a heart to heart conversation. They both like each other and have great chemistry and want more from life. Only if it was that simple. Just when Kurt is starting to make up his mind about leaving his wife, he finds out that she is pregnant. Also we find out that this is not the first time that he is having flings with men and that his wife has always been aware of that. It is decision time and Kurt decides he would change his ways and wants to be a good husband and have a family. Hank respects his decision and they both decide to keep in touch as friends.

To be honest, I was slightly disappointed by the ending. In the long run, I really doubt that Kurt will be able to stay faithful to his wife but who am I to judge. Besides that things about the movie were pretty on and off. Production wise, this film seems to have been shot with a hand held camera or even an iphone over an actual 7 day cruise. If that is in fact true, then I have to say that acting was very very goodby all principal characters but the feeling of watching a film was amiss, which personally bothered me. There were way too many close-ups and the audio was bad but thats understandable given that it was probably shot in sync-sound. The acting was solid and thankfully there were not random side stories to take our attention away from core issue of sex, attraction and finding love in most unexpected situations and places. I wish, Kurt's wife's character was a bot detailed because in all this, she seemed to get a raw deal because you never sympathize with her character which I would have preferred, especially given how the maker wanted to story to end.

Its slow in beginning but eventually picks up. Audio is also an issue. But its not a bad film at all. Keep your expectations low. It's not exactly a feel-good movie, but it does bring to mind differing aspects of gay/bi romances. (6/10)

Sunday, March 3, 2019

The Cakemaker (Hebrew/English/German)

Israel, more often than not, surprises me with the films that they make (or maybe it has to do with the films that I have seen). The Cakemaker is a provocative, unexpected and finally very moving work is as unusual a love story as you are likely to find. The film is shot in Berlin and Jerusalem and very minutely shows us about love, relationships, exploring sexuality in a world where no one takes time to enjoy the small pleasures of life.

The primary focus is Thomas, a reserved German pastry chef, who is content in his life. Oren, a married Israel guy frequently visits Berlin every month and they fall in love for almost a year and are pretty serious about each other. A freak accident kills Oren and Thomas is devastated. Thomas is now longing to find out details and decides to visit Jerusalem to meet Oren's wife Anat and his son. Anat, not religious herself, runs a cafe in Jerusalem but is also kind of controlled by Motti (Oren's brother) who is still strict about religion and regulations. Thomas visits her cafe as a customer and soon manages to get a job as a cleaner in the cafe. Soon Thomas skills as a pasty chef become very evident and he starts baking for the cafe, thereby increasing the business. He also does get a warm welcome by Oren's mother and increasingly starts getting close to Anat as well. And finally they make love. But soon Anat realizes, that Thomas is the same person, about whom, Oren had told her that he has met someone in Berlin and would like to move to Berlin. Thomas is immediately pushed out back to Berlin, only later to be visited by Anat to make sure he is doing ok.

Before I talk any further, I have to comment on Thomas' performance. It is such a still, calm and silent performance that speaks just with eyes. The man is grieving on the death of his lover but cannot show. He is mysteriously absent yet present in past. All his interactions with Anat and her family, are strictly business, even though he wants to touch and connect. He yearns for any connection that he can have with his lover(the scene is the swimming club is an example). Only later we find out the reason that he stays so disconnected is because Oren never wanted Anat to find out. The last sceen when finally Thomas cries his heart out once he realizes that Oren's family now knows the secret shows us how much pain has he been carrying in his heart. It killed me to watch him like that. The film treats issues of sexuality and sexual identity as subtly and indirectly, as so is religion. It’s just a tender love triangle with a dead man in the middle. Like Thomas, all the other characters are also beautifully portrayed. One thing that wasn't clear to me was whether Oren's mother knew who Thomas was. Their 2 scenes together makes me want to believe she knew who he was, but its hard to say. Also , the film is slow, but it more than makes up for it in the beautiful and delicious looking cakes, pastries and cookies.

In a broad, non-judgmental way, this film depicts love and loss, unbound by social and cultural divides, without taking sides. A beautiful, honest, and melancholic piece, a tale of emotional journey and life after tragedy. Besides the pace of the film, I can't think of any reason why anyone would not like this film. I wanna reach out and give Thomas one big hug. (8.5/10)

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Giant Little Ones (Canada)

On the face of it, this movie feels like just another coming of age teen drama, but there is so much more to this film. For the first time in queer cinema, I saw a story that deals with sexual fluidity. Its not about labels but about curiosity as growing up during teenage years. Its about love, friendship, acceptance and today's times.

Franky and Ballas have been best friends forever and are also a part of the swim team. Ballas is older of the two and has a steady girlfriend and enough sexual experience. ON Frankie's birthday night, the boys ending up "experimenting". They both are slightly discomforted by the whole thing but Ballas completely freaks out. He spreads the news in school that Franky initiated the encounter and that he is gay. News spread and suddenly the school is against him. Its also important to know that Franky lives with his mother and sister and his father left them when he is realized he was gay; which is something that Franky doesn't want to accept. Shunned by everyone, Franky finds a companion in Ballas's sister Tasha, who is herself a victim of bullies and has a backstory. Also she is well too aware of her brother’s tendency to deny having any part in occurrences he himself instigated. Franky is not sure about his sexuality and both his mother and dad try to tell him that its ok to experiment. You shouldn't have to label anything. It should just be about sexual encounter with a person. Why does the gender have to matter! Tables soon turn when Ballas encounters Franky in an empty parking lot of beats the crap out of him. This gives Franky time to gauge things. He decides to make amends with his father and visit him and thats one of the most brilliant scenes of the film.

Some scenes in the film stand out. When Ballas and Franky have the encounter, we are not clearly shown what exactly happened and like the characters in the film, we don't actually know the truth for quite a while. And everyone , including audience is just assuming because no one is coming out in open and I thought that was wonderful. Also when Ballas beats up Franky, it speaks volumes about the self-loathing and his inability to accept. True friendship is tested and honored by Franky, when he does not tell anyone what really happened. Because that would put Ballas and his career in swimming team at risk. I love that at the end Franky learns to own it. We are still not 100% sure about his sexuality and neither is he but thats not important and this is exactly what the film is trying to educate to today's teenage youth. The end of the film is also very poignant. Franky recognizes that Ballas has had extreme difficulty owning his own sexuality. Franky can finally see that Ballas is suffering, and he lets Ballas know that he is aware of it and that he will always love him.

I am so thankful that this film did not follow any cliches and seemed very natural. Even parents judgement and their interactions were more practical than over dramatic. I would highly recommend this film. I am shocked that this film is not being talked about on a larger scale. (8/10)

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Disco Limbo (Spanish)

This seemingly long stretched film is like one big hallucination. In almost 80% of the film, there seems to be no point of story. Its just events that are joined together, not easy to follow at all and whats up with all the video game flashes, neon images etc. Sadly you don't even get to see the faces of the leads properly. I mean, why would anyone make such a film.

David sees Lucio at a dance party and it catches his eye, But Lucio disappears and they meet again one year later but this time David disappears. He has a girlfriend who lives far away. Using her help and exorcism, David tries to find him in parties and similar situations to that of their first encounter. Yes, thats pretty much the summary of this one hour long film.

The film has lot of voiceovers, weird topographies including mountains, karaoke, parties, discos, video games etc. and none of these make any sense whatsoever. Is this about time travel or space travel or just a weird imagination of film makers. I seriously hope that this was a bad experiment and someone was actually not seriously thinking of making a film which absolutely makes no sense. Please do not waste you time at all on this one. (0.5/10)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Gay Short Films : 61

Something New (USA)
After breaking up with a cheating ex-boyfriend Jonah has been satisfying his sexual needs with a hot man he met on Grindr. But Jonah is thrown when the man asks him on a "real date." Is Jonah really ready for something new?

L’Américain (France)
A chance encounter unexpectedly leads to an unlikely friendship when a young, reserved Parisian takes in a mysterious American backpacker for a few days.

!Que te den por culo! (Spain) [Get It Up Your Arse]
One night he boyfriend tells his girlfriend how a friend asked him whether he’d take it up the arse, for a huge sum of money. And this is when the girl starts asking the same question for him to prove his love for her.

Tell Me How (Canada)
Damien and Matt have been romantic for a couple weeks But Matt identifies as straight or bi and his flirting with a girl leads to a fight that will challenge their future commitment for one another. They find themselves fighting for their love but who knows what's destined.

Alone (USA)
A gay man faces his fear of abandonment after revealing to his partner that he is positive.

Un homme mon fils (France) [A Man My Son]
Fred is gay and upcoming drag artist. As he has to project a silver film, he convinces his father to go with him. The road-trip will be a journey through clash of generations, sexuality, drag-queens and family affairs.

Los que odian la Navidad (Spanish) [Those Who Hate Christmas]
A guy remembers his childhood when he was interested in his sister's Christmas presents than his own.

Angel of Anywhere (USA)
An empathetic stripper plays therapist to the many damaged clients. Things become awkward when he realizes that two of his recent clients are actually married and they both came to seek happiness in him.

Snap (Denmark)
A couple of teenage boys decide to send out a challenging picture of their dick by a friend's phone in the dressing room, but will they take responsibility?

Un punto menos sobre el cielo (Spain) [One Point Less on the Sky]
Teenager Miguel discovers love for his best friend Lucas, who wants desperately to be a popular guy at school. Miguel tries to warn him telling him that he's special for who he really is, but Lucas doesn't believe him.

First Date (USA)
Intimidation makes way to sympathy when Shaun realizes on his first date that the guy who he thought was way out of his league is a man with limitations.

Buddy (Netherlands)
A young man agrees to support his ex lover during an HIV test. Not having seen each other for awhile, they are forced to sit together in the waiting room of an STD clinic. What starts out as an awkward conversation, soon becomes something more tender.

Bare (USA)
When a young gay man has unprotected sex without revealing his HIV status, guilt propels him down a rabbit hole of memory & regrets of his past.

Wonderkid (UK)
Wonderkid tackles one of football's biggest issues - homophobia. It depicts the inner turmoil of a gay professional footballer. After earning a dream move to a London Premier League club, the teenager is faced with jokes, slurs, messages on social media and, most importantly, himself. The film highlights the key issue - why should his sexuality be an issue? But sadly, in today's world, when it comes to sports, your sexuality still matters.

Barcelona Des De Dalt (Spain) [Barcelona From Above]
David accompanies Martí, who is going to scout the location for his next short film. On the way, Martí’s script will be unveiled. Is this ex-lovers reunion?

Polilove: Explained for Moms & Grannies (Spanish)
When the grandma of one of the guys in a trio relationship is about to die, he needs to take matters in hand & introduce his boyfriend and girlfriend to family.

Admirador Secreto (Spain) [Secret Admirer]
Story of 4 roommates: 3 boys and a girl. First the girl receives letters from a secret admirer and then one of the boys. Are the roommates playing these tricks?

Sundays (USA)
Jonny is teaching Tommy how to drive but a kiss that becomes viral on youtube gets their domestic lives crumbling all around them. Jonny is now on his own having being thrown by his family.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Still About Section 377 (Hindi) (Web Series)

Amit Khanna is back with the sequel to his mostly entertaining web series All About Section 377 which I reviewed here. Both that and this series and freely available on youtube to watch. The series comes at a time when India's supreme court gave a verdict in favour of LGBT community decriminalizing homosexuality in the country.

This series continues from where it left. Rohit's partner Sid is back in his village and has no courage to come out to his parents. He breaks up with Rohit over phone and agrees to marry a girl. On his cousin Suresh's insistence (who now has become a TV star), Rohit, Suresh and Chhotu decide to come to the village to win back over Sid. Sid lives in a joint family and the bride's family is in the neighbourhood. Slowly, Rohit takes over himself to win hearts of everyone in the family while hiding the actual relationship between him and Sid. Sid's girlfriend slowly realizes the truth and supports them. After a bit of drama, the relationship is partially accepted. There is a simultaneous parallel track about the struggles faced by the hijra (eunuch) community, especially in rural India. We meet Bhakti, who is constantly shunned by villagers. This is when Suresh comes into her life, gives her the respect and friendship that every human being deserve. Yes, Bhakti falls in love with him but she knows her limits but this never stops Suresh from being a true friend to her.

Unlike the prequel, this series is not only funny but also highlights some major aspects of LGBT community that needs addressing and the eunuch track adds that extra speciality to this. I can't remember if and when such subjects in Indian context were handled on screen. But thankfully the makers have not made it all teary-eyed. The sassiness and sarcasm and fun from part 1 is all maintained here as well. Bhakti's poems are all very good and so is the acting by all actors. My one big complaint about these total of 9 episodes is that, there was a lot of background music in pretty much every episode which slowed down the proceedings for me. Web-series needs to be fast paced and those moments sometimes feel stretched forcing me to fast forward some of them, and this is definitely not good when you can't hold audience's attention for full 100%. But that doesn't take away the fact that makers need to be applauded for the brilliant subject and execution and respect that they have given to the subject. For some people (including myself sometimes), Rohit (played by writer/director Amit Khanna) might seem too stereotypically feminine, but I appreciate the different types of queer men this series continues to show. There is no correct way for gay men to act. Everyone expresses themselves differently and that’s a good thing.

If you are looking for queer content to make you laugh and think at the same time while addressing issues queer people face in India, I highly recommend watching Still About Section 377. (6.5/10)

Friday, February 15, 2019

Martesa (Albanian) [The Marriage]

This is the first LGBT film from Kosovo on my blog. I am not sure if this is the first LGBT film from the country itself but if this film is any benchmark, then I will have to look for more options. This film, by the way, was Kosovo's official entry for Oscars. I will talk about this in details, but the chemistry between the lead actors is something I have not seen in a long time in movies, especially between two male leads. Also what's important to understand is that the film is set in and after the Kosovan war.

We meet Bekin and his fiancé Anita in an opening scene where Anita is looking for her missing parents. The dead bodies come from Serbia. This sets the history of the contested nation-state of Kosovo. Bekin and Anita are soon to get married and are very happy and in love. Through a couple of flashback scenes we see how they met, started courting and have reached this point today. Enter Nol, who has just returned from Paris, where he is a successful musician and the dynamics between the happy couple suddenly change that is hard for Anita to comprehend.. It turns out that during the way Nol and his family stayed with Bekin's family. The three form a tight bond but we soon get to know that Nol's lost love is none other than Bekim and now Bekim is struggling and pining for his only true love. One night when after a fight at the bar, Bekim comes to get Nol from the police and this is when its confirmed how the 2 men fell in love during war and how much ever they suppress it, it can't be changed. Bekim's love for Nol is pure but he is also bound by his duties and responsibilities towards his soon-to-be wife. Nol is not ok with being a side affair and expects Bekim to tell the truth to Anita but Bekim can't. And this is more because he really does love Anita too. The wedding day comes and with some drama from Nol, it does happen. Their secret is still safe. The film ends at a very sombre note where Nol heads back to Paris but Bekim refuses to let him go before he says a proper goodbye.

I have to admit that the ending is not what I was expecting but in hindsight it was the right thing. There could not have been an ending which would have pleased everyone. I do feel bad for Anita's character because she never got to know the truth but who knows if Bekim is ever gonna love her the same way he did Nol. She deserved more. But having said that its the chemistry between Nol-Bekim which is electrifying. The night and morning after Bekim gets Nol out from Police Station, we see the interaction between them so pure and natural as if you are peeking into someone's real life through a secret camera. The sex scene between them is so passionate without being explicit. And their flirting with each other the next morning is just too good. It is one of my most favourite scenes in the entire film. The film doesn't start with being a LGBT film. It will be wrong to classify it as just that. It is an authentic portrait of a middle class contemporary Kosovo and a relatable snapshot of how a society grows crookedly around its unresolved secrets, in the same way that a marriage can. Coming to acting. every single actor does a great job including all supporting actors but needless to say that its the 3 main actors who give an absolute standout performance. They are all absolute stunning. Bekim is my favourite though. He is drop dead gorgeous and you can see and feel the love in his eyes for Anita and even more for Nol.

I am feeling short of words to describe how much I fell in love with the love between Nol and Bekim. Love will continue to persist. Highly recommend watching this film for brilliant story, acting, direction and Bekim, on top of all. Maybe it will also rekindle the idea of wanting to fall in love all over again. (8.5/10)

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Un Couteau Dans Le Coeur (French) [Knife + Heart]

I am not sure if I should roll my eyes after watching the film, laugh at the absurdity or actually applause the makers for trying something different in the queer genre. Probably part of me wants a little bit of all three and hence the confusion. This film uses a lot of sex and porn to dive deeper into the themes of desire, abandon and sexual repression.

Set in 1979 in Paris, we meet Anne who is a gay porn film producer. She has just broken up with her editor girlfriend Louis and pours all her energy into work. We realize that her porn films work because she takes a leaf out of real life situations and turns them into gay porn. One of the make actors from her films is murdered pretty quick and the police calls her for interrogation. She uses that situation and creates a porn film out of it. But soon there are 3 more murders in quick succession and her cast and crew start questioning her on how can she not be affected. Since investigating murder of gays is not a police priority, she decides to do digging on her own. Secrets are revealed on how the killer is this man named Guy who is presumed dead in a barn fire when he was caught with his boyfriend and burned alive in a barn. Only in the end we get to know that, Anne had made a gay porn film on the subject and the murders were all the actors who featured in the film. And of course, in this journey Anne is helped with future readers, a blind crow etc.

So, if you read the story above, you can tell that it is weird. I am shocked that the film featured at Canned because according to me this was a B-grade movie. Multiple porn gay films within the movies. (Although I do have to admit that it did bring me a chuckle more than a couple of times to see how the porn films were being shot in the film). The absurdity of the murder, bling crow and everything that happens is too much to handle. Also, I am not sure on what was the purpose behind setting the film in 1979. When the explanation of the murderer’s motives finally arrives, it’s deeply unsatisfying. It would have been more interesting if it was someone from within Anne’s entourage. I am wondering now whether this was supposed to be spoof on some bad murder mysteries or gay porn but doesn't seem so, because I didn't laugh much overall.

This is a film which is drunk on its own trashy aesthetic which doesn't make much sense otherwise. A lesbian love story, a gay murder mystery, a campy trash or just a sattire? This wasn't as bad as some trash form 90s but given that this is a brand new film, there is no excuse for making this in the name of cinema. (4/10)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

I Miss You When I See You (Cantonese/English)

This was surprisingly a very interesting film. It was mainstream, it was emotional, touching and a story of obsession and love. Interestingly, the topic if depression has become quite mainstream all over the world, and seeing a queer film handle the topic interwoven with a gay love story makes it even more interesting and something very novel. It is slow, but a film of this subject needs that focus as it was given.

The story is about Kevin and Jamie. Kevin is the kind of boy who gets bullied in school all the time. His only close friend is Jamie, but even Jamie does not acknowledge their friendship in front of rest of the classmates. When Kevin tells Jamie that his mother has decided to move to Australia, the two boys finally give in to their feelings and kiss each other. Their passion is broken by local cops after which Jamie decides to play it safe. Years later, Kevin is now in a group home dealing with depression in Australia. Jamie makes a surprise visit. The two old friends reconnect for a brief day and a year later Kevin shows up again Hong Kong on their school reunion day. Since Kevin doesn't have a place to stay or a job, Jamie offers to temporarily live with him and even gives him a job in his teaching school. Jamie's girlfriend does not like this and suspects that Kev has feelings for Jamie which are never reciprocated by Jamie. Jamie meets a student in his class and they both get along since somewhere they are both misfits. The student is more interested in Kevin from a sexual/romantic angle but it seems Kevin is using him more to possibly make Jamie feel jealous. Kevin even moves out. When the student realizes this, he also leaves Kevin. Kevin eventually loses his job also because of professional indiscipline and this leads Kevin to going for random sexual encounters including unsafe sex. The old friends reunite at Jamie's engagement party where Kevin tells him that he is moving back to Australia. And this is when finally Jamie comes to realization about his love for Kevin (not just empathy), kisses him and asks him to stay back.

As I mentioned above, its the treatment of the characters, the emotional ambiguity of their lives, love , work and depression; that makes this film for an interesting watch. If you watch it without those in mind, the film is quite predictable. You get to see what depression does to a person when you see how Kevin is isolated within himself, although in Jamie's presence, he sees hop and need to live. Kevin's presence causes disturbance to Jamie as well because he feels the emotions for him after all these years which he had forcefully suppressed. The moments that show how the two friends try to reconnect over walks, work, hikes with Jamie's girlfriend are all done really well. It was also an interesting portrayal when Kevin and the school student automatically gravitate towards each other as the two misfits. It's a very odd friendship but totally understandable. The actor playing Kevin, does a fantastic job of playing a fragile depressed young intelligent man. Jamie is ok. The young student also does a great job, especially when he plays along with Kevin to make Jamie feel jealous. The film is not without flaws. The pace for once and some unanswered questions. For example, how long has been Kevin depressed and why. It cannot be because of Jamie's indifference over a kiss which was more than 10 years ago. Why is Kevin bullied. Does Kevin has any other issue that prevents him from bonding with anyone else besides Jamie? But the strength lies in honest portrayal of emotions, intimate moments, reconnections, even if they are awkward.

The movie deal with the pressure of conform to social/cultural identity, while trying to maybe stay in closet. Neither of the characters are happy, yet not sure of other alternative. This is a very good watch if you don't mind the pace, because of the subject it offers. (7/10)

Monday, February 4, 2019

Frisk

I can see this movie being a talking point way back when it came out in 1995. But so much has evolved since then in stories, story-telling and overall cinema that it is hard to sustain interests of today's audience. This film explores the underground, less explored territories of desire in its darker manifestations and hence makes for an uncomfortable watch. Also the events sometimes don't feel linear. The film constantly goes back n forth between present and past and makes it difficult to keep a track.

Dennis is big time into S&M. He is on this path between what is real and what we can only hope is surreal. We get to follow his journey that he has written to his friend and former lover Julian and his younger brother Kevin, an object of desire to Dennis. We are told how as a teenager he is drawn to the extremes of porn and sex via a bookstore owner Henry. When he hears that Henry has been the victim of a grisly murder, Dennis fantasizes carrying out increasingly elaborate sex murders. He becomes friends with one of the famous hustlers but is somehow unable to kill him. For another murder, he becomes friends with a couple (or were they friends?). Dennis recounts all murders in gruesome details and the two brothers wonder if this is all made up. When they both turn up to meet Dennis, the film ambiguously ends with another possible murder.

The narrative of the film as mentioned above is very diffuse and all over the place. After a while I couldn't keep my hands on reality vs dream. All the murders and sex was pretty detailed, which were really not needed in my opinion. There is not much justification for the behaviour. Most people in the film seem like random people, making the plot more confusing to follow. As a viewer, I am subjected to squirm-inducing sado-masochistic rape/murders which are done on-screen for sexual pleasure. But there seems to be no point behind it. On a positive side, the acting according to me was pretty good. I mean the lead's character is supposed to despise you and you do that.

It is disturbing movie and the acts are not even shamed. I am sure there are people who may enjoy the film, but it is definitely not for me. (2.5/10)

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Venus (Canada)

I have seen a few transgender stories and in fact have reviewed some here as well. This film was interesting in the sense that it was an interesting blend of drama and comedy. Most trans theme films have a very serious approach to the subject, which is definitely needed to bring attention to the audience; but this film take s a different route and brings in an interesting twist alongwith some laughters along the way. I am not sure if the ethnicity of the protagonist just happened or was there a very specific purpose behind that.

Sid, an Indian by origin but born and raised in Canada, is a transitioning woman. She is already dealing with judgements not only from colleagues but also within the family. Her life is turned upside down when a pre-teen boy Ralph shows up claiming to be her biological son with her college ex. Ralph thinks having a transgender parent is pretty cool and is very upbeat about it. But he has not told his mother and stepfather that he had tracked down his biological father. They start to bond. Around same time, Sid gets back together his her ex Daniel, but another issue here is that Daniel has also not told his parents about his relationship status with Sid. It takes time for Daniel and Ralph to get along but Ralph soon makes Sid realize that Daniel never goes out with her. Sid , in the meantime is trying her best to be as open and honest to her parents, who by the way are thrilled with the prospect of having a grandson. With constant persuasion from Sid, ultimately Ralph's mother gets to know and reconciles, but by the time Daniel decides to come out, its too late and Sid throws him out of her life because she deserves better.

With so many stories going in parallel, the director surprisingly balances the importance of each effectively culminating the film in a credible yet dramatic climax. The script allows the humour to flow from the characters, especially the witty one-liners from Sid. Most of her scenes are chuckle worthy if not laugh-out-loud. Sid's facial expressions are also funny enough to evoke much laughter. As I mentioned before, the film smartly tries to avoid any serious discussions and issues around transformation of Sid. Ralph, very naturally becomes the bridge between Sid and her mother who is struggling the most to accept Sid. But, having a grandson now, she can pour all her love through food, like most Indian mothers. And hence, I felt that the film also becomes more about the immigrant experience than gender. All primary actors do a good job, although, I feel that Sid's parents were made to act very stereotypical and not natural. And culturally this hits closer to home for me, so I have the right to judge. Also the whole thing about Ralph hiding everything from his mother was stretched too long. It didn't have to. The moments between father and son bonding were beautiful. This is by no means a perfect film.  Direction could have been better and the a little more focus on the finness of the craft, but despite all this, the film didn't feel dragging at all and thats where I feel, it is successful in brining its point forward.

The film will definitely bring a smile on your face. Watch it with heart. Ralph's innocence and Sid's charm and wit will win you over. (6.5/10)