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It's about the 17-year-old Peter (Levine) who heads off to university and is soon involved in a menage-a-trois with his roommate Joe (Lissauer) and Joe's girlfriend Bess (Taylor). But when Joe realises that Peter is more interested in him than in Bess, things get messy and Peter takes refuge in the home of a sympathetic teacher (Perillan), which causes a new set of problems.
Yes, the subject matter is strong, especially in the period when the hippy-ethic freedom hid an undercurrent of homophobia. Strangely, Misawa makes very little use of the time period--we have to keep reminding ourselves this is 1972 because she rarely does. And the gravity of the story is further undermined by amateurish film techniques, most notably an excessive use of cutaways and blurry slo-mo--genuinely stylish flourishes that scream "art film!" even as they add nothing to the story. Several scenes are so badly shot and edited that they make no sense (most notably the embarrassingly chaste sex scenes, which in a film like this should really mean something more than, "This is a sex scene").
The cast is slightly better, at least making something interesting of the characters. Levine (a beefy Ryan Phillippe type) is quite good in the central role, giving us someone to identify with as he goes through a difficult situation and emerges a different person at the end. But the filmmaking is confusing and underexplained, generating some real tension but never really drawing us into the story. Alas! A film with this strong a message shouldn't feel so pointless.
[themes, language, drugs, violence, sex] 15.Apr.03 llgff
Tom (Newman) is a good-looking young man in London living in a glitzy loft owned by his "keeper" Norris (McGann), a violent mob boss. Tom's American neighbours Max and Nikke (Johnson and Barry) think he's a model, and are enjoying getting to know him. But it all goes hideously wrong one day, and Max and Nikke are drawn into the web of horror that's Tom's everyday life. And now they're on the run from a cop (Benfield) who's even more sadistic than Norris, if that's possible.
The film has a slick, stylish look and a prickly tone that highlights the brutal tension in the story. Director Wicks makes nice use of the settings, keeping things gritty and interesting to look at. Performances are good, even though they're rather uneven (some are far too broad, others more subtle).
But the real problem is in the inept dialog, unsympathetic characters and improbable plotting, which veers from naturalistic to extremely heightened horror (a ludicrous torture sequence) and sweetness (some queasy flashbacks). Wicks' makes the cardinal mistake of taking his material far too seriously, like a TV movie version of life on the mean streets of London. It really needs a dose of black humour to keep it in some sort of perspective. And it also needs much a better musical score.
[strong themes, violence, language, sex] 12.Apr.03 llgff
Vincent (Baumgartner) is the school swimming champion with a loving girlfriend Noemie (Maraval) and a loyal best friend and teammate Stephane (Comar). But when a new kid at school (Eklaim) figures out that he's gay, his life unravels around him. Noemie is of course very confused, Stephane sticks by him, and his parents (Bonnel and Millet) struggle to help. On the other hand, his thug-boxer big brother (Michel) is incensed, as are the other members of the swim team.
There are several other wrinkles, other characters both sympathetic and adversarial, and the path is not remotely smooth for Vincent as he just tries to be himself. The attractive young cast is quite good--not always great, but capturing the characters well and leading us through the story in a welcome understated way.
This isn't a political treatise on homosexuality; it's written and directed as a personal drama about coming of age in a very difficult way. Homophobia, gay-bashing, bigotry and prejudice are all touched on without overdoing it. And the reactions from Vincent's family, friends and teachers are startlingly realistic. Sure, it starts to wallow a bit, drifting down a couple of unnecessary sideroads here and there, and the ending is tad too tidy. But the emotions are real--this is a moving film that hopefully might help someone who really needs to hear what it has to say.
[15 themes, language, nudity, sex] 14.Apr.03 llgff
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© 2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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