Love Forbidden

Ladymol's Review

Intense, angst-ridden and ultimately depressing French/Italian film about the pain of unrequited love. The good parts of this overly long movie occupy about 30 minutes, and they are very good: one extended passionate sex scene and a shared bath. The rest, the majority of the movie, is rather tediously French: lots of introspection and smoking.

Bruce is a French filmmaker attending a sort of extended Masterclass for writers, musicians, artists. The academy is housed in the gorgeous Medici villa, and the mix of international students board at the villa. A young writer, Matteo, is an intern in the library, and he seems to take an immediate shine to Bruce.

At first reluctant and diffident (heís recovering from nursing his dying bother of AIDS) Bruce is eventually besotted with Matteo and allows himself to be seduced during one fearsome night of pleasure.

The minute he opens up to Matteo, Matteo seems to go cold on him. The lead actor playing Bruce is amazing. Iíve rarely seen a man portray the range of painful emotions he does without speech or much plot. Itís genuinely hurtful to watch. Both men, Bruce and Matteo, are very pretty.

Ultimately, though this movie left me cold. I didnít believe the relationship between them. Sure, itís supposed to be enigmatic: why does Matteo behave as he does? But I needed a bit more to get involved with them. Matteo is just too cold and too awful to be believable. He makes Brian Kinneyís attitude to sexual partners positively cloying. Given how beautiful Bruce is, I just find it a bit of a plot contrivance to have Matteo do what he does.

Worth taking a look it. Gorgeous men, beautiful Italian scenery and language and some great smouldering looks. Not going in my top ten though.

Cerisaye's Review

This film is about Bruce, 24 year-old French film student in Rome for a year at the Acadťmie FranÁaise.† He becomes involved with Mateo, a seductive & sultry, supposedly straight but ambivalent, young Italian who has to work in the college library to pay his way.† Mateo has a chip on his shoulder about privileged foreigners in comfortable abodes who donít have to get up at 7:00 to work for a pittance.

Bruce develops an obsession with Mateo and his huge soulful eyes.† Mateo blows hot & cold, flirtatious one day then the next refusing to answer phonecalls.† He shares Bruceís bed platonically and leads him on, turning up at his door unexpectedly, giving him a kiss then just leaving.† Perhaps Bruce shouldíve paid more attention when Mateo talks about deception and the pleasure of disappointment.†

Mateo uses Bruce and an American novelist with a fascination for serial killers (think Poppy Z Brite).† But Iím not sure why.† Or if he really is straight or bi or confused.† Nothing about this film makes much sense if you stop to think about it.†

Bruce stalks Mateo, gets drunk, kisses his pillow and talks to it as though Mateo was there, eavesdrops as Mateo has sex with the American girl.† Bruce is lonely and lost; itís intimacy & affection he wants more than sex, and Mateo isnít giving any.† Heís an emotional serial killer and Bruce gets sucked right in.

Shot using natural light and real locations, it mixes hand-held camerawork with painterly images of beautiful interiors/exteriors, like the Mťdici villa that houses the college. †Iím not so sure about shots of classical statues interspersed through the film.† Perhaps Marconi, who directed as well as stars, suggests living surrounded by homoerotic imagery does something to men, together with a hothouse atmosphere of history & culture.† But itís pretentious, self-consciously arty, like something from an inexperienced film student.†

Now it occurs to me maybe THATíS the point, to make us see whatís going on inside Bruceís head.† Or maybe Iím reading too much into it all, trying to find meaning in a stylistic conceit.† And thatís my problem with the whole sorry mess.† I just didnít get it.† It could be a dark & moody (the soundtrack is excellent) meditation on love & desire, what happens when friendship isnít enough.† Maybe Mateo wants to teach Bruce a lesson or he just fancies a fling.† Whatever, if Bruce wanted to come out he picked the worst place to do it.† Though we discover why he had to leave home to even contemplate accepting heís gay.

Is Mateo simply a cruel bastard? He tells Bruce he doesnít believe in m/m love, that he canít desire a man.† So what the bejasus is he doing in their beautifully erotic sex scene, writhing male bodies and the passion of soaring church music? After which Mateo drops Bruce.† To play with the American he said earlier he despised.† Both the girl and Bruce are prisoners of misplaced love trapped in a nightmare world.† Until a final twist of the knife means no more games.

Itís an unsatisfying mishmash of nourish thriller and overwrought melodrama. Though it LOOKS wonderful, bright with potential in the beginning, then shadowed, as the dark night of the soul overcomes sense & reason.† The movie exploits charactersí sexuality to sensationalise.† Thereís something nasty about it all that troubled me.† Iíd have liked a commentary to explain more.† I wouldnít bother unless you can rent.† (Italian/French with English subtitles).