We took a look around at what’s available for your flatscreen pleasure right now, and we came up with a trio of films that could keep you glued to the tube all weekend long.
The first narrative LGBTQ feature film from the nation of Slovenia revolves around a story of troubled youth. At 17, young Andrej finds himself in court after he punches a girl in the face for laughing at his apparent impotence. (The pair had been trying to hook up at the time.) Andrej’s mother does him no favors in court. She reports to the judge that Andrej does drugs, skips school and won’t listen to anyone. As a result, he ends up in a kind of juvenile detention center. However, circumstances there doesn’t generally seem too horrible. He’s even allowed to go back to his nice middle-class home on weekends. The real trouble is that some of Andrej’s peers in this new environment appear much worse than he is. Case in point: Željko, a thief who sells drugs and extorts money from anyone weaker than him. Drawn toward Željko’s alpha personality (or perhaps something else about him), Andrej soon ends up trying to please his role model by serving as his main enforcer. Then – after a night of drinking and drugs leads to a surprisingly intimate encounter between the two strapping young men – Andrej finds himself becoming more deeply immersed. Despite his antisocial behavior, the handsome and powerfully built Andrej has a kindness in his eyes that is undeniable — further amplified by his tender behavior towards a beloved pet rat. And speaking of pets, like a loyal dog, Andrej abides by his blackmailing master, until Željko ultimately pushes him too far. The message of the film is clear from its title. The real question is: who will reap the consequences? Will it be Andrej? Those who abuse him? Or those who denied him the love and acceptance that might have helped him build a different life?
The Word: While this film lacks nuance, it does make for a decent cautionary tale about how youths at risk might benefit from
more compassion and less discipline.
This Is Not Berlin
here’s the opening in storyboard form: two large groups of teen schoolboys brawling in a dusty field – in slow motion. In the center, a boy hovers. He is not engaging any of the other combatants. There’s a look of alarm frozen on his face. Eventually, in the distance, he seems to see something. But before we can ascertain what that might be, he faints. The boy wakes up in a car with his school brothers admiring their battle bruises, and thus the scene is set. We are in the world of these middle class youth in 1980s Mexico City. Carlos (Xabiani Ponce de León – who is as pretty as his name) is soon revealed to be smarter than most of his friends. In fact, it turns out he is something of an engineering prodigy. He has a serious crush on his best friend Gera’s, older sister, Rita (Ximena Romo). And when Carlos fixes her boyfriend’s broken keyboard, he earns passage for him and Gera to the underground club where Rita and her fellow cool kids party every night. Inside Carlos are Gera are exposed to a world of punk music, art, drugs and sexual liberty. Gera appears hesitantly drawn to the queer aspects of this new world, while Carlos becomes a quick convert to the look and social defiance of a gay counterculture artist. Diving headfirst into the scene, Carlos is bullied at school for his punk haircut and participation in public protests concerning the then-wildly raging AIDS crisis. And amid the tumult, he still has eyes for Rita. As he attempts to navigate the muddy waters of love and personal identity, Carlos seeks advice from his very cool uncle, played by the film’s director, Hari Sama. What makes this film pop — apart from Sama’s strong visuals —is the personality of Mexico City. This place has long possessed of one of the most exciting art scenes in the world, and it must’ve have been especially vibrant in the lean and permissive ‘80s.
The Word: Not the best story, but Sama’s film successfully captures the vibrant energy of a time and place.
The Sound of Silence
Have you ever heard of a “House Tuner”? can you even begin to guess they do? Hold that thought, because Peter Lucian (Peter Sarsgaard) is a successful one. That’s surprising in part because few of his clients seem to understand what exactly it is he does when they hire him. Only in a place like New York City would you find such a professional. You’ll find him by getting his phone number from an eccentric friend who’s noticed just how stressed and sleepless you’ve been. Then Mr. Lucian comes to your home with his odd and rigid professionalism and proceeds to listen to your apartment. He takes in all of the ambient sounds: the low whine of a radiator, the buzz of a toaster, the hum of an electric clock. He doesn’t try to eliminate all these constant and mostly overlooked sounds. Instead, he seeks to tweaks their collective output to a tone promised to deliver you to inner harmony, rather than the nervous exhaustion you’ve been experiencing. It’s all a part of the Lucian world view: how sounds affect people, and even what unified sound the city itself is making. Like many men of vision, Lucian seems to dwell at the border between genius and madness. Things get a bit more complex when Lucian meets a client, Ellen (Rashida Jones), a woman whose environment appears resistant to his skills or charm. Meanwhile, even as some of his peers respect (and even covet) his work, others seem to believe he could be simply nuts. Expanding on his own short, 2013’s Palimpsest, freshman feature director Michael Tyburski crafts a thoughtful film with an original premise. But he seems a bit tentative about where to take his story. The film’s concept might have worked better as a short, which only has to be concerned with character and ethos, rather than a more well-realized narrative.
The Word: Sarsgaard is the strongest part of the film; he excels at playing volatile and enigmatic weirdos.
Vita and Virginia
We are overdue to see the story of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf brought to film. While some of the romance between these famous Brits is speculative, the wealth of letters that the writers exchanged speaks to their enraptured connection. A more commercially successful writer, the aristocratic Vita (Gemma Arterton –Clash of The Titans) takes an interest in Virginia (Elizabeth Debicki – Widows), whom she recognizes as her artistic superior. Vita pursues the married Woolf with a passionate intensity, which in turn worries Vita’s high-toned husband (with whom she has an understanding regarding their sexual proclivities). He’s already rescued Vita’s reputation after she ran off with a woman once; he won’t abide it again. Nor will Vita’s wealthy and controlling mother (Isabella Rossellini). Meanwhile the mentally unstable Virginia depends on Leonard, her loyal caretaker, publisher, and husband. The representation of Woolf’s ecstatic mind is something worth savoring here. For Virginia, everything will suddenly freeze: vines will snake across a room, climb the walls, then burst into bloom. This exquisite madness has a wonderful intensity that brings to mind the potency with which Woolf was depicted in The Hours. The efficacy of these scenes owe a lot to an excellent, driving score composed by Isobel Waller-Bridge (sister of Phoebe Waller-Bridge – Fleabag, Killing Eve). The film’s strengths are its focus on these exceptional women personified by two strikingly beautiful and talented leads. The script, coauthored by director Chanya Button and actress Eileen Atkins is impressive and literary, if limited by historical record.
The Word: Worth watching, especially paired with 1992’s Orlando (starring Tilda Swinton), based on Woolf’s novel whose gender-switching main character was inspired by Vita.
Last modified: September 24, 2019