This film is like life in many ways: most of it pretty boring dross, but it has a few highlights that make it all worthwhile. Set in the grimy poverty stricken streets of some French city, itís about a young manís obsession for the man who gives him his first gay encounter. With his family to see his sister off at railway station, Henri comes across what appears to be a mugging in a toilet. The aggressor, Jean, fired up on the violence, kisses Henri and awakens a vast, squirming nest of repressed passion. The most amazing thing about this movie is that watching it itís entirely credible that Henri can have this one completely life changing moment. Jean, to me, seemed almost demonic in his intense, corrupt beauty. He was Brian Kinney ten years on, fuelled on anger. Whatever he did to Henri in that kiss is utterly believable because he does it to us too as we watch. I was hooked and sat through the dross (and believe me there is a lot) and the non-happenings and the interminable French obsession with talk and no action on the edge of my seat waiting for Jean to reappear. When he does, itís there again: that compelling dissolution that made my guts melt.
In his endless search for Jean through the low-life of the night, Henri has one other intense encounter with a young man from Paris. If Jean hadnít finished me off, the kisses these two share in subways and toilets would have done.
The final scene is one of the strongest homoerotic scenes Iíve seen in any movie. Itís unadulterated male lust and itís just wonderful. But then I learnt the very valuable lesson of being careful what I wished for.
Itís hard to recommend this film because it is awful, but it has these wonderful, passionate moments. Maybe thatís more a sad reflection on how little male passion many gay movies give us (how many have we commented on now where the het sex is more graphic than the gay?), and how starved we are for it.
Maybe I was just seduced by the Mellors-like Jean character. Heís the ultimate fantasy figure if youíre into brutal, beautiful men you want take home and tame.
So, a very mixed bag. Mostly pretty dire, but Iíve watched it twice now just for the few scenes of real male on male passion.
Henri wants a boyfriend.† He moons around his grotty family home, without work or school or anything to distract him.† When they all go to the station to see off his older sister, he meets sexy but dangerous Jean in the toilets.† Jean is a thief and a pimp but Henri is hopelessly drawn to him after a bruising kiss.† Henri also attracts the attention of portly businessman Bosman, who emerges as a more-or-less kindly voyeur.†
Henriís obsession with thuggish Jean brings him to haunt his hang-outs.† Eventually Jean takes Henri home, after a rough encounter leaves him injured, where he meets Elizabeth, Jeanís suffering girlfriend.† Jean appears keen on a threesome, though neither Henri nor Elizabeth share his enthusiasm.† Henri and Elizabeth make a connection based on shared experience of misplaced love.
So far, so good.† Then I got lost, confused like Henri about Jeanís game and the role of Bosman.† Things happen that just donít make sense, like when you fall asleep and miss chunks of a story, except I stayed wide awake.†
The best thing going for the movie is an intense performance from the actor playing Henri, the awkward and needy youth unable to articulate either feelings or desire.† Though heís perhaps a little too old to quite convince as a teenager.† Still, I felt his loneliness & longing, the increasing desperation that guides his actions.† Jean is suitably ambivalent, both sexy and threatening.† You can see the animal attraction.† But heís too handsome in a part that calls for a real brute, and lacks character development for depth.†
I had many questions and few answers.† Characters act without explanation, like O Fantasma, with similar themes of unrequited love and misdirected lust.† The cover promises steamy eroticism not much evident.†† In one shot Jean is so obviously sucking his own thumb not Henri I hoped it was an observation on the character rather than bad sex or prudery.† Then thereís the shocking climax when Henri finally gets what heís been looking for.† Except it doesnít quite turn out like that.† A horrible sequence that certainly shows the fine line between love & hate.†
Henriís been damaged by an adolescent love destroyed by forced separation.† But itís hard to sympathise with a character we donít know well enough to care about.† There are moving moments, like when Henri offers a cute guy he tries to pick up money to give him a kiss, very sad and revealing of his need for affection as much as sex.† Jean is so totally bad for Henri you know itís not going to end well, and his desperate search for love inevitably leads down a dark and destructive path.†
I was reminded of Querelle- and thatís not a compliment.† The film is too bleak and depressing.† Iím not sure Henri accepts his sexuality.† He seems to.† Jeanís major problem is definitely homophobic self-loathing due to a desire for men that drives him to brutal acts of violence and degradation against those he wants.† I wanted Henri to take his quest for love somewhere healthy & wholesome (his dad tells him to go met other boys at a youth club).†
Itís a violent film, like Shiner.† Homoerotic fascination in acts of brutality that I just donít get.† Everyone is miserable so I ended up feeling the same.† I wanted Henri to be Jeanís salvation, self-acceptance and redemption through love.† Sexual abuse disguised as love isnít my idea of entertainment.† Though at least Elizabeth shows common sense.† I really, really need a light rom-com right now.†