Saturday, April 25, 2009

Coming late to Lionel Baier's STEALTH

Can't believe I waited this long to see a film that will certainly be on my 2009 Best-Gay-DVD's-of-the-Year list for GreenCine -- perhaps at the top of it -- even though it was released to DVD in 2008. As big a fan as I was of Lionel Baier's earlier (2004) Garçon stupide, I still arrived unprepared for the difference that two years can make: bigger budget, wider scope, more professional look. As a filmmaker, Baier, who plays himself in STEALTH -- which was titled Comme des voleurs (à l'est) in the original French -- is still the inquisitive, questioning, unsatisfied heart of both films. Yet here, perhaps because the latter film appears to deal with Baier and his family (whether it is in any way a truthful account, I do not know), he and all the characters around him -- family or not -- take on the importance of life, real rather than reel. And though there is much humor and irony in his movie, by its end I found myself surprisingly moved, oddly satisfied, and even a bit exalted by the experience.

You can't really call Stealth a comedy, but there are plenty of comic moments along the way, as Lionel discovers a heretofore unknown Polish ancestry -- and goes a bit berserk. His becomes involved with a Polish immigrant to Switzerland (above), begins to question his sexual identity, and before we know it, the film has become a "road" movie, taking one detour that has us wondering if we've wandered into Frontière(s) territory (see below). Thankfully, we have not.

Baier seems a philosophical young man, interested in everything from sexuality and transgressive behavior to nature versus nurture, countries or origin and countries of choice. Along the way he comes to grips (or at least to a nodding acquaintance) with issues of identity, parenting, extended family, sibling rivalry, "greens" and more. He doesn't solve anything, nor is the viewer likely to. But his journey proves as delightful and worthwhile to us as to him. And, as I say, if you don't feel at least a little uplifted at its conclusion, I'll be very surprised.

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