Thursday, November 7, 2013

Xavier Villaverde's alert and alluring ANGELS OF SEX explores bisexuality among Spanish youth

Bisexuality, along with the possibility of anything approaching a genuine threesome, is a topic much-loved by TrustMovies but generally avoided by most movie-makers, unless it's tossed into the mix as a kind of hook for transgressive appeal or entry into a character who's -- aha, we knew it! -- not to be trusted. This makes the Spanish film ANGELS OF SEX (El sexo de los ángeles) all the more welcome, then, as it explores, surprisingly gracefully and without judgment, the slow unfolding of a relationship between two young men and the girlfriend of one of them.

Imagine if you can a rendition of The Servant, in which the character played by Dirk Bogarde brings a freeing and positive sexuality to James Fox in his relationship to Wendy Craig, Sarah Miles or, hell, even to Bogarde himself. Crazy, no? Well, that Joseph Losey/Harold Pinter film landed in our laps a half century ago, and though it punched "class division" squarely in the jaw, anything outside the realm of the "normal" sexuality just had to be seen as terrifying and dysfunctional. Xavier Villaverde, shown at left, who directed (and conceived of this new film, along with José Antonio Vitoria) and Ana Maroto (the screenwriter) have concocted a breezy and smart opening involving a group of break-dancers working the street (below) and its audience, in which a pickpocket brings together our two heroes.

Once the two men have met, and it is clear that one of them is quite attracted to the fairly clueless other, it's just a matter of time before sexual attraction plays out, and Bruno (Llorenç González, below), who has never experienced attraction to another male... finding himself torn between the young man, Rai (Álvaro Cervantes, below), who helped him and is now seducing him into feelings and actions he'd never imagined and which threaten... tear him away from his long-time and much-loved girlfriend, Carla (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, shown at right, an actress possessing one of the most beautiful faces on screen today, and last seen here in the title role of The Well-Digger's Daughter). How the three interact in their dance of attraction, betrayal, sorrow, joy and finally comprehension makes for quite a heady and enjoyable mix of sunlight and shadow. The actors are as attractive as you could wish, and they're quite able to relax into everything and anything that is called for, including bouts of nudity -- though nothing quite full-frontal for the fellows.

The film follows some of the threesome's friends and relations, too, and probes a bit into the love-and-sex habits of the older generation (That's Lluïsa Castell as Carla's mom, above) as well as the younger (her friends, both straight and gay, from the workplace).

Angels of Sex (the original Spanish title is much better: The Sex of Angels -- who are said to be pan-sexual) is so well-executed and believable for so much of its running time that its ending may strike you as too easy and a tad forced.

It works, in any case, mostly because we so want it to work, and I suspect you'll be happy enough to go along. If the movie is not as thoughtful or rich as something like the German 3 (which details the lives of characters a generation older), or as deeply felt and art-oriented as the miraculous 3Some (aka Paper Castles), or finally as truthfully negative about the possible results of a threesome on young people who are simply not ready for it (the French Cold Showers), it remains a film to cherish in an alternative-sexuality sub-genre woefully short on bisexuality.

The movie -- running 105 minutes, in Spanish with English subtitles, and distributed in the USA via IFC Films -- is available now via Netflix streaming, Amazon Instant Video, and on DVD.


Bandana Jack said...

i just watched the film yesterday, and what struck me right from the beginning of the film how much it felt like a 21st century version of brokeback mountain, right down to the two lead actors appearance. how might things have turned out if jack and ennis met NOW, instead of 50 years ago.

i'm a qualified fan, and i would like to see alvaro and llorenç make it to the states to see if they could compete in that market.

James van Maanen said...

Thanks for commenting, BJ. YOurs is an interesting comparison, which I had not thought of, but now that you bring it up, this movie certainly can be compared to Brokeback Mountain, except that in the Ang Lee film, both characters were far more homosexual than bisexual.

As to the two actors making it over here, chances are that their accents would doom them from the get-go. It's difficult to think of many foreign-accented males who have made it big in the USA (not since Ricardo Montalban, at least). Even international star Alain Delon didn't fare too well over here. These two youngsters might crack the Hispanic market, however (Demian Bichir seems to be doing pretty well these days).

Anyhow, thanks for taking the time to watch this film -- and to post your interesting comment!