Tribeca wraps tonight but we're still writing. Here's your host Nathaniel on three LGBT offerings. Portions of this piece were originally published in his column at Towleroad
The Tribeca Film Festival, founded in 2002 at least in part to help revitalize the Tribeca neighborhood after 9/11, has migrated and grown over the years; in 2014 I saw almost everything in Chelsea. An apt location because there seemed to be a lot of gay movies. Here are three, the first two of which seem like warring fraternal twins and the other which may or may not have psychotic doppleganger issues.
Match is a three character drama about a ballet instructor (Patrick Stewart) who agrees to be interviewed about his career for a dissertation by a visiting couple (Carla Gugino & Matthew Lillard). They seem more interested in his sexual exploits with other dancers than in his talent. The formerly-randy still-chatty professor is all too happy to share details until he realizes this couple has arrived under entirely false pretenses. It's not quite accurate to say that "the shit hits the fan" or "all hell breaks loose" because the movie's drama is so keyed up from the beginning that the unsubtle twists, though they come early, have been inauthentically forced down your throat from the first encounter. I was gagging. And not in the good way. It doesn't help that Patrick Stewart, usually reliable, appears to be giving a stage performance from the largest of Broadway houses. The intimacy of the camera, especially when there are only three characters in an medium sized apartment, begs for a little subtlety. D
Boulevard trains its eyes on a timid bank manager Nolan (Robin Williams) who is bored with his quiet life with his wife (Kathy Baker) who he hasn't slept with in years. One night on a drive he impulsively picks up a male hustler named Leo (Roberto Aguire, strong in a surprisingly tricky part... no pun intended). Obviously smitten, Nolan keeps returning for more though the movie stays vague and strains credulity about what's actually happening in their hotel rooms; The movie isn't a purposeful cock-tease, just a prude. Nolan's obsession with Leo starts to unravel the life he isn't really living anyway at the bank, with friends, and at home.
The movie from Dito Montiel offers a change of pace fordirector of all those early roughhouse Channing Tatum pictures, though it isn't hard to picture Chan in the hooker role if they'd made this 7 years ago. The movie means well and is likely to win at least a small appreciative fanbase, but it's underwhelming and a little dull where less timid writing and direction could have made for a more potent coming-out drama. Bolder scenes, that felt more informed by lived rather than scripted gay experience, would have gone a long way in making its more sordid elements (an evil pimp!) feel less awkwardly grafted on from an entirely different picture. C
It'd be wonderful to sing the praises of these two dramas about older gay men to make it a happy trend given the considerable beauty of Love is Strange but sometimes movies just don't work. Boulevard is meek, quiet, and chaste and to these eyes underwritten despite being crowded with characters and plot details (what we really need is to dig deeper into Nolan's affair and what it's unlocking in him.) In some ways Match is its polar negative: aggressive, loud, and horny but also overwritten and claustrophically under-populated. Maybe a mash-up would save them though it's difficult to imagine a film which could succesfully marry the coarse verbosity of Stewart to the asexual mouse that Williams is playing.
This Queer Horror entry from Germany (part of Tribeca's Midnight lineup) starts strange with a hot ginger cop carrying a bag of raw meat to feed a wolf in the woods. It only gets weirder. It's the most politically offensive film of the bunch. Offense will happen when you put a man in a dress and hand him a samurai sword to hack up a town with. But horror films are meant to set hairs on edge, and in this particular case we're talking the short and curlies - an erection is a darkly funny plot point once and an actual disturbing visual later. The blonde samurai and the hot ginger pursuing him are caught in a bloody psychosexual cat and mouse game ... or more accurately given the film's allegorical subplot, cat and wolf.
Or wolf and wolf? The cop is straight-laced but not so straight, and his motives for the actions he takes and doesn't to stop the samurai's mayhem as it escalates are often unclear. What's even less clear is which parts of this are actually happening since there's more than one suggestion that what we're watching is not the whole truth. Let's just say that the cop might have a very tenuous grasp on reality.
I'm not sure that Der Samurai is "good," per se, and I'm less than well versed in the horror genre to see how it stacks up there. But with a tight 80 minute running time, and much memorable weirdness and boldly icky confrontational subtext, who cares. Grade Immaterial