Sunday, June 18, 2006

Beau Travail

France 1998

Picture and details amazon

Seen 18 June 2006

Travails. That is an apt title for the film. A French Legionnaire sergeant, Galoup, reminisces his past. Galoup seems to have a growing hatred for a new recruit from Russia, Sentain, whereas his commandant, Forestier, has a more ambivalent attitude towards the boy. Sentien himself is genial to his fellow legionnaires and his likeability rating grows when he becomes a hero of sorts during an accident.
The film does not show exactly what angers and irritates the sergeant about Sentien. There are undercurrents of longing and attraction but nothing explicit is shown. The scenes with the sergeant's girlfriend just shows a blissfully happy contented couple. The film soundtrack which is based on an opera might give some indication of the sergeant's travails. Intriguing watch.


Indonesia 2003

Picture and details imdb

Seen 17 June 2006

A look at the social happenings among the middle and upper middle class Indonesians. The story revolves around Sakti, a successful architect who is still in two minds about his sexual orientation. The story picks up pace when we see him sending his best friend, Mei to an arisan, a meeting of ladies with similar interests. An arisan can be construed as soirees but basically they are meet-ups between like minded individuals and supposedly with a particular theme at each meeting. In this case, the women are ladies of leisure and the topic of conversation almost always revolves around the latest fashion and who is the most successful among them. Mei herself has problems with her husband and is not too keen to join the arisan.
But Mei's friend in this particular arisan, Andien, persuades her to give it a try. Sakti who comes along to fetch Mei later, is also persuaded to join. All these people seem successful but each have their own problem. We see how the director touches the subject involving the three main characters, Sakti, Mei and Andien. The film does not try to delve too deeply into the problems but gives a light touch to each of them.
Good editing, and the fast paced dialogue sometimes necessitates reading the English subtitles. The Indonesian language has evolved into a different direction since those days when the basis was still Bahasa Melayu that nuances are lost to me.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Un Chant d'amour

France 1950

Picture and details imdb

Seen 15 June 2006

Enthralling. This short film - 25 minutes - is a gem of a film. It is a love story between two prisoners who are in different cells. The longing for each other is captured marvelously by the camera. Interspersed are the fantasy sequences which give weightage to their feelings. The jazzy music in the new film edition enhances the overall sexual tension.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Happy Birthday

Country USA 2002

Picture and details amazon

Seen 9 June 2006

A story about five people with the same birthday.
First, there is a reformed gay man who turns to religion and tries to persuade other gays that this path will help them change their ways. He himself faces challenges and temptations trying to live up to his beliefs.
The film also shows a lesbian woman who just broke off with her live-in partner. She tries very hard to lead her own life without the intrusions from the ex-partner. An old friend who moves to her town rekindles old feelings. An invitation for dinner brings back memories and she ponders the many what-ifs that could have happened if she took the right step many years ago.
A Chinese American lesbian gets a visit from her mother who nags about her still single status. The mother finds out the truth accidentally and confronts her about her sexual preference.
An Indian man maybe deported over his immigration status. His lover is a porno movie star who is willing to sacrifice and work his butt off literally to save his lover.
The last case was a telemarketer for slimming products who is representative of the product itself. He won the chance of meeting the product spokesperson due to his commendable effort of being the best telemarketer in his district. He goes through the motion of trying to build up the courage to meet up with the main man but flounders. This is despite the encouragement of a supportive colleague.
All the five persons’ stories are interspersed between each other and the audience could see the highlights of their peaks and lows. The film follows a semi-documentary style which jars at certain moments but magnifies the problems faced by the protagonists at other moments.
The conclusion is not the usual happy ever after finale but more a mixed bag of reality plus some hope for a better outcome in the future.

Slight fever of a 20-year old

Country Japan 1993

Picture and details rottentomatoes

Seen 11 June 2006

An illuminating story in some ways but does not go too deep into the issues behind the protagonists’ actions. The film revolves around two Japanese rent boys. A college student who is in the profession just for the money and a high school boy who prefers to take only customers that he likes.
The two work part time in a bar that provides boys for rent. There are ups and downs in their line of business. Both have girlfriends who are concerned for their welfare but the boys tend to have mixed feelings about their relationships with the girls.
At the end of the film, the two boys are in the same room with a customer. We will be able to see the lamentations of the customer and the boys’ reactions. The focus is on the customer’s feelings and the whole business of rent boys. There is no conclusive ending but more questions come into mind at the last frame.