Monday, July 25, 2011

Reverend's Reviews: Sexually-Charged New Releases on DVD

Just when summer couldn't get much hotter, both men and women have provocative movies guaranteed to raise their temperatures out on DVD this month. For the ladies (and for men interested in good international cinema), Argentina's celebrated The Fish Child (El Niño Pez) is now available from Wolfe Video. The film, named after a traditional Guarani folk tale that figures in the plot, was an official selection at 2010's Outfest, Frameline, Berlin and Tribeca film festivals.

The romance between Lala (Inés Efron) and Guayi (Mariela Vitale Emme) has been forbidden by Lala's father, not only because Guayi is the family's maid and thus from a lower class but because both of them are women. Having essentially spent their adolescence together, Lala and Guayi are only feeling their love become more intense. Matters aren't helped when Lala is jailed for a crime in which she played part several years before. Guayi launches a risky plan to rescue Lala and take down a drug kingpin who has his eye set on Lala. Things come to a head in a violent, climactic showdown.

The Fish Child is very well acted and beautifully shot, especially during some dreamy underwater scenes. The film was made by Lucia Puenzo, who previously did the striking XXY about the plight of an intersex teenager. Her style is very observational and some may find it slow-moving, not unlike a Terrence Malick movie (The Thin Red Line, the current The Tree of Life). Also, Guayi comes across as unhealthily obsessive at times but it's all in the name of love and devotion.

Meanwhile, Blackmail Boys spins a cinematic web of young gay love, prostitution, religious hypocrisy and, yes, blackmail. The DVD will be released August 30 by TLA Releasing. It is written and directed by Bernard and Richard Shumanski, talented brothers who also made the similarly edgy, gay-themed 2009 movie Wrecked.

Sam (played by Nathan Adloff) and Aaron (Taylor Reed) have been boyfriends since they met during college four years prior. Sam has more recently moved to Chicago to attend art school but the men's relationship has continued long-distance. Art school, however, is expensive and Sam's parents have cut him off due to his homosexuality. Unable to find a job that will pay him enough for housing and tuition, Sam has turned to prostitution as what turns out to be a lucrative option.

While Sam has told Aaron about his temporary vocation, Aaron doesn't realize how uncomfortable he feels about it until he visits Sam one weekend. The situation is initially made more difficult when Aaron spies on Sam with one of his high-paying clients and recognizes the john as a fundamentalist Christian, rabidly anti-gay author/radio talk show host. When Aaron informs Sam of this, the boys hit upon the idea of blackmailing the homophobe as a means of financing Sam's education. Things don't quite go according to plan.

Blackmail Boys is obviously low-budget and the filmmaking technique is crude in spots. Adloff and Reed aren't the most professional actors but there is a nice, natural look to them and their relationship. They also display abundant nudity and sex in this relatively brief (67 minutes) movie. Most surprising, though is the participation of indie actor-director Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs, the upcoming Autoerotic). He gives a great, fully-committed performance as Sam's hypocritical (not to mention married) Christian client. Not only does Swanberg nail the inner conflict and self-loathing that many such men experience, but he is depicted in graphically sexual scenes with Sam that couldn't have been faked, as well as masturbating on camera.

There are several twists as well as some humor and social commentary in the script, and I appreciated it's unexpected ending. If you're in the mood for a sexy if imperfect morality tale that might make you question your assumptions, buy or rent Blackmail Boys today.

Reverend's Ratings:
The Fish Child: B
Blackmail Boys: B-

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.

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