Saturday, October 30, 2010

Marco Berger's PLAN B: a long, sweet, faux flirtation that asks an incendiary question

On one level PLAN B, the recently released-to-DVD Argentine film by Marco Berger, is a fun and funny little movie about romance and revenge gone goofily awry.  When Bruno (newcomer Manuel Vignau), the hirsute, hunky but rather hollow young man who's been dumped by his girlfriend Laura (another newcomer Mercedes Quinteros) decides to get revenge on her and her new boyfriend Pedro (played by the very interesting, works-a-lot actor Lucas Ferraro), he suggests to Laura that her new guy looks gay -- and then begins a clandestine relationship with Pedro to try to prove his point. Berger's movie works perfectly well on this level, providing charm, smarts and even -- depending on your sophistication level and how many movies of this sort you've seen -- some surprises.

On another level (several of them, in fact,) the movie opens up a Pandora's Box of questions that, once asked, need to be further explored, if not answered fully, since those answers will most likely differ from person to person. Mr. Berger, shown at right, appears (on the basis of what we see and hear in Plan B) too smart a guy and too good a filmmaker not to know what he has wrought in his little rom-com-cum-stealth-missile. Is gay attraction and behavior absolutely built-in or can it be learned? Can two presumably straight guys fall in romantic love over the long haul merely by spending time together and growing attached?  If so, just how malleable is sexuality?

Over the decades, Kinsey and other sex researchers have tried to answer questions like these, but given the strictures places on sexuality by religion and social mores, not to mention mankind's (male version) tendency to want to appear as macho as possible, getting an honest reading on the subject seems well nigh impossible. All of which makes Berger's little effort the more subversively explosive.

The two men bond easily and quickly around a few subjects they find in common, particularly games and icons from their youth. Alcohol and light drug-use help, too, as do the very natural, laid-back performances from the two actos (Vignau is shown above, right, Ferraro at left).  It would make sense that neither of them would possess a trace of behavior that might appear gay -- why would they? -- so their increasing friendship seems both natural and suspect, particularly on the part of Bruno, since his original intent was to "reveal" his opponent.  Revelation can come in many different ways, of course, since we all wear masks.

As a filmmaker, Berger trusts his instinct to stay away from not only the overly expository but, surprisingly, even dialog itself. The first four minutes of the film are dialog-free -- all ambient sounds -- and often along the way, the writer/director opts for his characters to remain silent. When it does arrive, his dialog is always believable and cogent, but the film's most memorable scenes may be those that are nearly silent: at the beach, people-watching, or a character lingering over a letter until he fully comprehends it. As director, Berger also seems to enjoy showing us odd shots of local architecture -- why, I am not sure -- but these do not distract much from our enjoyment.

Plan B just may be the longest pre-coital romance in cinema history, and to the filmmaker's credit, this full-length flirtation works better than it has any right to. (Still, at 103 minutes, the movie would have profited by being cut by at least ten, so as not to test our patience quite so much.)  For a film with strong gay content, the movie is surprisingly chaste, which actually adds to its charm. When our boys wake up in the morning (above) they have their shorts on, of course, and nothing has happened -- except some typical early morning tumescence. Finally, it's the performances by Vignau and Ferraro that do the most to bring home Berger's message: "In order to understand you, people have to see through your eyes."  Plan B allows us to do this, and the view is alternately sad and warm, foolish and funny.

Wolfe Video, increasingly important as a source for GLBT films, is releasing Plan B, which became available for sale or rent on October, 26, 2010.

2 comments:

Joseph Denney said...

I stumbled across this movie on Netflix and thought the premise (as outlined in the synopsis) was cute. Almost immediately the performances began to pull me in, and by the end of the movie I was crying. Your review nails it. This one will have a place in my heart forever.

James van Maanen, said...

Hey, Joseph--
Thanks for posting. And yes, Netflix is a great place to stumble across some wonderful little movies. As you say, Plan B is likely to find a place in a LOT of our hearts for a long, long time. I'll be interested to see what Marco Berger does with his next film.