Alive and Kicking
One of the best films Iíve seen so far. This is so passionate, so funny, and so heartfelt that itís actually hard to review. I donít feel I can do it justice. I cannot believe that this movie is not better known.
Tonio is a dancer in a contemporary dance company. Heís wild, passionate and beautiful and he has AIDS. The film opens with him visiting his best friend in hospital. One by one the men of the company are being eliminated by AIDS. Tonio isnít looking for someone new. His body has betrayed him, and although he can dance with the most heart-aching passion, he canít perform in bed. At the funeral, he meets a stranger, Jack. Jack (Antony Sher) is the complete opposite of all the men Tonio knows in the dance world: heís older, slightly overweight, drinks too much and has a cynical view of life.
Against all odds, Tonio and Jack form a unique bond.
Ironically, and beautifully, Tonio is rehearsing a homoerotic modern ballet called Indian Summer (unexpected warmth) throughout the movie. If I could take one scene from any of the movies weíve reviewed to try and encapsulate what is so perfect about male love, then the final performance of this dance would be it. Their beautiful bodies move as if languid with the perfume of love. They sweat, and it glistens on perfect skin before flicking off onto the otherís body. Itís better than watching porn because the passion is restrained behind the perfect movements, the effort, the emotion.
This film made me cry and laugh. When Jack suddenly cries, I cried too, and what more can you ask from a film but that you feel its emotions? The performances are so good that you forget youíre watching actors. The dance is mesmerising. The soundtrack is wonderful. The kisses are gorgeous. The sex is surprisingly graphic for a British movie. The humour is priceless (the scene between the lesbian best friend and Tonio, trying to prove they are straight, is brilliant).
Have I convinced you? You must see this movie.
Jack (Anthony Sher)and Tonio (Jason Flemyng) make an unlikely couple:† one is a balding, middle-aged, slightly dumpy, alcoholic therapist, and the other a good-looking, vain, body-conscious ballet dancer driven by his art.†
But opposites sometimes do attract.† They bump into each other at the funeral of Tonioís friend and mentor, Ramon, an exiled Cuban, who, like many of Tonioís dance company died of AIDS.† Tonioís lover died of the disease a year before and heís HIV+.† Jack counsels people with HIV/AIDS for a living.†
AIDS is all round this movie but itís not the focus.† Tonio is very much living with, not dying from, AIDS.† He refuses to let it rule or ruin what time he has left.† He channels all his pain and anger into his dancing. †Jack on the other hand is very angry his patients keep on dying, and has only the dubious consolation of the vodka bottle.
Jack & Tonioís relationship isnít easy, but more real for that.† At first Tonio is reluctant to get involved because heís incapable of loving anyone.† Heís a narcissistic arsehole at times but you canít help liking him.† There have been too many losses and unbearable heartache.† His body has betrayed him, so he canít even take solitary pleasure.† Yet, somehow, his need for Jackís far from ideal body leads to a kind of healing through sex, that deepens into love.† Fuelled by an addiction† to Haagen-Dazs.†
Both lead actors are superb.† I cared what happened to them, wanted desperately for it to work out .† Sher often over-acts for my taste but here heís subdued, using facial expression and body language to convey emotions and feelings.† Flemyng is the flamboyant character, free to flounce and strut his stuff, clearly having fun.† The part calls upon him to convince as a dancer and he mustíve had expert tuition because heís amazing.
Tonio knows he canít dance for much longer, and he wants to go out on top, recreating Ramonís role in a beautiful piece of homoerotic dance, an act of defiance against a bloody awful disease and a tribute to its victims.† The sequence is stunning, intense and very moving, hard to avoid shedding a tear.
I really liked this British film.† Itís quirky and funny and very romantic.† The ending felt right.† The two stars are supported by a fine cast including Bill Nighy and Dorothy Tutin, excellent as the head of the company afflicted with early Alzheimerís.† Highly recommended.