Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Reverend's Reviews: XXY Marks the Spot

We've all experienced confusion and isolation at times in the process of coming to terms with our queer sexuality. Imagine, though, being born intersex; that is, having both male and female sexual organs. While rare, it can and does happen, and adds the uniquely individual challenge of having to decided whether one's identity is primarily a man, a woman, or something else entirely.

XXY, being released by Film Movement this Friday at the NuArt Theater in Los Angeles and on DVDOctober 14, is one of the first films to address this experience. It is extraordinary, both in its story and in execution. It was Argentina's official entry in the 2008 Academy Awards and has won major awards at numerous film festivals including, most recently, Outfest, where it snagged the Grand Jury award for Outstanding International Dramatic Feature. (Watch the NSFW trailer here.)

Based on a short story, Cinismo, by Argentinian writer Sergio Bizzio, XXY explores the experience of Alex (a difficult role well-played by actress Ines Efron). To all appearances an ordinary teenaged girl (while clothed, anyway), Alex and her loving parents live unassumedly in a small fishing village on the Uruguayan coast. Tensions unexpectedly enter the picture when the parents' friends arrive for a visit from Buenos Aires, with their 16-year-old son Alvaro (an impressive performance by Martin Piroyanski) in tow. Alex and Alvaro become attracted to each other and Alex's physiological secret is inadvertently revealed.

How Alvaro, the parents, their fellow villagers and, most importantly, Alex react to this revelation becomes the film's main focus. Screenwriter-director Lucia Puenzo depicts Alex's plight sensitively and without "shock" tactics. Natasha Braier's shadowy cinematography is exceptional, as is the mostly-guitar score by Andres Goldstein and Daniel Tarrab.

Puenzo notes in her director's statement, "I was surprised to see there are almost no stories on this subject, there's a strange cultural silence over it." Thankfully, she and her brave cast have broken that silence. Intersex persons and world cinema can only benefit as a result.

UPDATE: XXY is now avalable on DVDfrom

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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