Archive for the ‘LGBT’ Category

Concussion_Movie_Poster_2013

USA 2013

Director: Stacie Passon

Writer: Stacie Passon

Runtime: 96 mins

A lesbian drama that lacks drama

This directorial debut for Stacie Passon has already received recognition at several festivals around the world, including being awarded the Teddy Jury Prize in Berlin and a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Festival. Perhaps I expected too much given this pedigree, but Concussion was something of a let-down. It would be easy to make a cheap joke about how Concussion gave me a headache, but in truth this movie is far too anodyne to achieve such a result and that is its basic flaw.

Abby (Robin Weigert) is in a sexless lesbian relationship with Kate (Julie Fain Lawrence), who is also the mother of young Jake (Micah Shapero). Abby begins paying for sex with lesbian prostitutes, but after she gives an orgasm to one of the women she has hired Abby sets up in business herself. She insists on meeting first-time clients for coffee before going to bed with them, and we discover a wide range of reasons for women paying for sex with another woman. Abby only wants to meet women from outside her own town, but this changes when a new client turns out to be in her circle of acquaintances (and married to a master of the universe at Goldman Sachs).

It is no great surprise that many people have secrets in their lives, but to see a range of these secret lives depicted on screen was quite illuminating, especially because Abby’s clients cannot be easily categorised – they come from a range of backgrounds and display different motivations and desires. Another strength of the film is the way that it treats lesbian relationships and lesbian parenthood as an unexceptional part of life. Where the film fails is in delivering any kind of drama, conflict, or amusement. In the first ten minutes or so, there are some witty moments, but having created an expectation that this might be quite a humorous film there is nothing much that subsequently amuses. Abby is living a double life, but we never get any sense that there is anything much at stake. There are no real character conflicts and so there is never any real dramatic tension. Will Kate discover what Abby has been doing? Yes? No? Who cares?

Maybe I missed something obvious, but I didn’t really grasp the meaning of the title. Superficially, the title is straightforward: the story begins with Abby being rushed to hospital after being struck on the head by a baseball thrown by Jake. Are we supposed to believe that Abby’s decision to find sex outside her relationship is the result of some increase in desire caused by her concussion? Having read a précis of the film before seeing it, I thought maybe this was going to be the case. But once it was revealed that Kate had lost her interest in sex, then Abby’s behaviour seemed less in need of “explanation”. Or is the term “concussion” supposed to carry some metaphoric meaning? If so, I have to confess that the meaning has escaped me.

Not even the sex scenes manage to liven things up. These manage to be quite intimate, but restrained, with relatively little flesh exposed (especially compared to something like Blue is the Warmest Colour), and these scenes are only on screen briefly. That probably ought to be a good thing, and if the rest of the film had offered more then these scenes would not even need commenting on. But rather like the person with an urge to shout “fuck” during afternoon tea at the vicarage, I just longed for something a bit un-PC to stir things up a bit. Ultimately, the one word to describe Concussion is “worthy”, and what could be more damning?

Rating: 5/10

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Mexico 2012

Dir: Raúl Fuentes

100 mins

Watching Everybody’s got somebody…not me I could not help making comparisons with last year’s Blue is the Warmest Colour. Both stories concern a young woman, still at school, who becomes romantically involved with an older woman. However, the two films take a very different perspective on their respective relationships. In Blue is the Warmest Colour, the narrative focus is on the younger woman leaving school and her friends behind, and navigating the cultured world of her artist lover. When the relationship goes wrong, her lack of maturity means that she struggles the most to deal with the situation.

Everybody’s got somebody…not me depicts almost the opposite situation.  Andrea Portal plays Alejandra, the beautiful dark-haired publisher who is in a secret relationship with younger blond Maria (Naian Daeva). In the opening scenes we see the two engaged in some passionate night-time fumbling in Alejandra’s car and then, a few hours later, waking up in Alejandra’s apartment.  Here we see the first hint of trouble to come, as Alejandra asks free-spirited Maria not to smoke indoors. Some time later the two women are at a jazz bar, where sensible Alejandra takes some persuading to forget the rules (if indeed they are rules) and to dance in front of the stage. One of the happiest and most tender moments occurs when the two are putting on make-up together and Alejandra shows Maria the best way to do it.

It is not until perhaps a third of the way into the film that we discover how these two women came to meet. This is told in flashback. and in these scenes it becomes apparent that the younger woman is controlling the pace at which the relationship develops. In another reversal of Blue is the Warmest Colour it is the older woman who is asked to navigate the social world of the younger, and fails to do so (to some extent, is unwilling to do so). We see that the cracks in their relationship have existed from the very start. Alejandra’s penchant for quoting philosophy and poetry, initially charming, becomes condescending. Alejandra also seems the more vulnerable of the two. She is prone to jealous outbursts when Maria is speaking on the phone (which, like a typical teenager, she does regularly) and when she encounters friends in person.

In fact, Alejandra emerges as a somewhat ambiguous character. In one scene, we see her waiting for Maria outside of the latter’s school. When Maria emerges, she does not look like the young woman we first saw. With her hair tied back, and wearing a school uniform that includes a check skirt and white knee-length stockings,  she looks very much a girl rather than a woman, and we start to wonder about the nature of Alejandra’s desire. There are shades of Lolita here. At one point another lesbian tells Alejandra that she “loves sweet-talking young girls about Foucault”, which is probably quite close to the truth. However, behind all Alejandra’s jealousy and condescending behaviour, when she is hurt she seems truly hurt. We start to suspect that she always prefers much younger women but, at the same time, can never make a relationship last because she doesn’t know how to exist in their world. In case this all sounds too stereotypically tragic, the ups and downs are played with a deft touch and there are also several very funny moments too.

The performances of both lead actors are quite outstanding and enhanced by strong direction and cinematography. At various points we get close-ups of the women’s faces in which the emotions expressed appear entirely natural and believable. The film is shot in black and white and there is a great visual style throughout. In the opening scene the camera is positioned in the back seat as Alejandra drives through town. We see the back of her head in focus, but all we see outside the window are a series of unfocused lights passing by. There is another contrast with Blue is the Warmest Colour in the lovemaking scenes. In that film, the camera drew back for the love scenes, which lasted for a long time, whereas elsewhere close-ups were predominant. In Everybody’s Got Somebody…Not Me close-ups are maintained for the love scenes, which are also fairly brief and not explicit. Arguably, this approach seems less voyeuristic; that is certainly my opinion, though no doubt everyone will have their own view.

Elsewhere there seemed to be shades of Wes Anderson in the cinematography. Several scenes involved the use of symmetry, with one character appearing centre frame with other people appearing in identical positions to the left and right. There were also scenes using geometrical arrangements of objects or linear perspective. Perhaps the most striking was a scene in a near-empty cinema. We see the aisles receding into the distance, with one couple positioned on our left near the front, a single individual a row or two back on the right, and Maria and Alejandra embracing passionately in the centre of a row nearer to the back.

According to the programme notes that were provided at the British Film Institute, where this is being shown as part of its Flare (LGBT) season, the film is Raúl Fuentes’ directorial debut for a feature-length movie. That being the case, it surely heralds the arrival of a fine new talent into the world of movies.

Rating: 9/10