Road to Love
This movie has an inauspicious look to it: very handmade and grainy. But I urge you to give it a go. Itís fascinating, erotic and very tender all at the same time. Karim is a young, straight, Arab sociology student living in Paris. Heís making a film about homosexuality in Arab culture. It seems an unlikely choice for a straight guy. During the making of the film he meets Farid, a gorgeous Arab flight attendant, who takes an interest in the film and wants to help him meet other gay Arab men.
Spending time with Farid confuses Karim and brings forth his latent homosexuality. Their romance is very naturalistic and convincing. The whole movie is impressive with its naturalistic acting, and the film within a film technique is used to great effect. Youíre never quite sure if weíre seeing Karim or Farid in the movie or when they are filming each other for the documentary.
If I had one major argument with this movie itís not the ending per se, but that the film stopped five minutes too early. Lots of gay movies weíve seen seem to shy clear of actually showing any gay content, which is wholly dishonest. Iím not sure that I would go so far as to say that this one was dishonest, but for a movie making a movie about gay relationships, it is too coy. Iíll give them the credit that theyíre saying romance is more important than sex. The film certainly is romantic. Itís tender and sweet and well worth watching.
But you might need another outlet for frustrations when itís over.
French Arabs feature in many gay films from France.† They're handsome, seductively sultry, and very sexy.† This movie is like a dramatised documentary.† Kalim is a student in Paris, originally from Algeria.† When he decides to make a film about homosexuality in North Africa for a sociology class his choice of subject reflects subconscious desire to explore his own repressed desire.† Kalimís girlfriend dominates him.† She makes the moves when it comes to sex, and does most of the talking.† Clearly sheís more serious about their relationship than he is, like Lucas in The Man I Love.†
When Kalim advertises to find interviewees for his film, he gets a variety of responses, some genuine, others weird, and a few just wanting to hit on him.† One contact, Falid, makes a particular impression.† A sexy air steward with bedroom eyes, he encourages Kalim to acknowledge his feelings about menÖwell, for him really!† Falid however comes on a little too strong for Kalim, who visibly struggles with the idea he might be gay.† Though itís pretty obvious heís got the hots for him..
Their relationship is very real.† Almost too much, so you feel like youíre snooping on their privacy.† Also, Kalim, though very sweet and likeable, has got very bad skin- which I found off-putting in their intimate scenes.† I feel bad for calling attention to this because I hate plastic perfection in Hollywood movies.†
Kalim goes a long way to admitting his feelings but canít give himself to Falid like he wants.† So Falid takes him to North Africa, where, though Islam condemns homosexuality, it isnít so clear-cut.† The cultural taboo against pre-marital sex means young men routinely have gay sex (though they look down on those who take the passive role) and for tribes in the Magreb actual m/m marriage was common practice until the 1950s.
Falid is a bit of a rascal.† You can see why Kalim is attracted to him.† And Kalim, though more reserved and nervous about expressing his feelings, has a flamboyant side he allows expression in dance, revealing passion waiting to be unleashed now heís found the kind of love he wants.† Falid is determined to have Kalim, and works to overcome his cultural conditioning.† Itís a sweet and tender love story.† Falidís openness and ease with his sexuality, practical help with the video project, and the revealing trip to North Africa, culminate in a moving scene where they seal their commitment to each other.†
You have to work to appreciate this film.† Shot on hand-held video thereís a nice fly-on-the-wall feel.† Itís a bit muddled, with different strands making a slightly awkward mix of documentary/romance/coming out story, and loses focus in the middle.† Yet for all that itís definitely worth watching, for the beautifully realised and very believable relationship between Kalim & Falid, who have incredible chemistry together, as though theyíre real life lovers.†