Friday, May 21, 2021

Reverend's Reviews: Sadists and Sequins

When I was coming of gay age back in the 1980's, there were two prominent gay-themed movies I was obsessed with seeing: Making Love and Querelle. Unfortunately, both films were rated R and I was only 14. They were shown on HBO approximately one year after their theatrical release but late at night, so I recall sneaking down to our living room and watching them with minimal volume so as not to wake my mother or brother. On a side note, Querelle is available on HBO Max today, nearly 40 years later!

Querelle served not only as my introduction to elements of S&M but to filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the young enfant terrible of German cinema. It would sadly be his last production, as he died at the age of 37 shortly after its completion. Some of his other acclaimed movies are Fox and His Friends, Lola, Berlin Alexanderplatz and The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. Many of Fassbinder's works were controversial since the gay writer-director often portrayed homosexuals, transsexuals, prostitutes and criminals sympathetically.

A new biopic about Fassbinder appropriately titled Enfant Terrible is now playing in US theaters. While undeniably gifted and quite prolific during his fairly brief career, the man is also shown as demanding, racist, sexist and abusive, sadistically so. His abuse of drugs and alcohol is also graphically depicted. Actor Oliver Masucci, who plays Fassbinder, and director Oskar Roehler have created a no-holds-barred dramatization of his life that can be as off-putting at times as it is illuminating.

The movie opens with a card reading "Each man kills the thing he loves," a memorable quote from Querelle (which was adapted from gay writer Jean Genet's novel). Primarily set during the 1970's, Enfant Terrible traces Fassbinder's evolution from a community theatre actor and playwright into one of the world's most renowned filmmakers. It is filmed in a stylized and theatrical manner, not unlike Querelle. An angel of death even appears to Fassbinder several times as his health declines.

Masucci does a superb job resurrecting the man and his debaucheries, which must have been difficult for the actor at times. The supporting cast is also excellent. At more than two hours, the film is arguably too detailed and revealing although Fassbinder's fans will likely love it for this reason. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

Another new release this week is the gay coming-of-age tale Sequin in a Blue Room. It is also pretty unflinching in its depiction of a 16-year-old named Sequin, who is exploring his burgeoning sexuality through an obsession with no-strings sexual encounters. After one such hookup he receives a mysterious invitation to the Blue Room, a strictly anonymous sex party. Sequin connects there with a hot, captivating stranger but they suddenly become separated. Utterly fixated on this man, Sequin sets off on an exhilarating yet dangerous mission across Sydney, Australia to track him down. Meanwhile, a gay classmate becomes attracted to Sequin but Sequin is too distracted to see it.

The movie marks the impressive feature debut of Australian writer-director Samuel Van Grinsven and features a breakout performance from bisexual actor Conor Leach, who plays Sequin. It won the Audience Award for Best Feature at the 2019 Sydney Film Festival and played to wide acclaim around the world, including Outfest and the Toronto International Film Festival, before the COVID-19 pandemic. The titular Blue Room is artistically staged and shot with an intense, accompanying techno score. The film also features a nice, deserved romantic ending.

Sequin in a Blue Room is now available for streaming on multiple VOD platforms courtesy of Peccadillo Pictures.

Enfant Terrible: B-
Sequin in a Blue Room: B

Reviews by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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