Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Now streaming: IN THE NAME OF -- Małgośka Szumowska's character study of a gay priest

Can you be simultaneously gay and a priest?  "Is the Pope Catholic?" as we used to ask. But wait a minute: This particular priest resides in a back-water town in Poland. Yes, Poland: the "tolerance" capital of the world. (I jest.) Even though we're in modern times, IN THE NAME OF, (W imie...) the unsettling and often creepy film by Małgośka Szumowska, looks, acts and feels like it could be set in many other European countries -- about thirty years ago.

That's how far removed from present-day mores this oft-fought-over and still pretty backward country appears to be. Ms Szuzmowska, who earlier gave us the pretty but ridiculous "woman's movie" titled Elles,  is to be congratulated for placing herself and her film firmly inside the closeted mind and body of this guilt-wracked fellow who is the main character of the film. Well-played by Andrzej Chira (below) to show an interior life fairly bursting with its attempt to surface, our guy Adam has already been moved from parish to parish, in order, it would seem, to divert attention from his too-interested-in-the-boys attitude. At this most recent Polish Podunk to which he has been assigned, he's at it once again, fending off the advances of a single mom while finding himself increasingly drawn to the elder son of the family.

While the film concentrates almost entirely upon Adam, above, there are various small sub-plots involving the other boys in the orphanage/ reformatory: One young man confesses that he has given another boy a blow job and so now needs to do penance. Then there's the case of the newcomer -- a hunky bottle-blond (below) -- who seems to have the ability to innately know what both Adam and that BJ boy need and want.

The movie moves rather slowly, but you will not question, I think, a single performance or scene in the film regarding believability. Everything and everyone registers as truthful and real. What will tip you most toward either a positive or negative position is how interested you are seeing yet another film about the struggle of a closeted gay.

The object of Adam's affection, Lukasz, proves also to be worthy of some interest. As played by Mateusz Kosciukiewicz (the director's husband, shown above and below), Lukasz is something of a sexy mystery himself, as indicated by a romp through the cornfields midway in the movie.

How all this finally plays out is perhaps the most interesting thing about the film. You will have your own "take" on what the ending means. Seems to me that Ms Szumowska is saying that, so far as Polish culture, history and the Catholic Church are concerned, it is probably best to join 'em rather than fight 'em -- and then just do whatever-the-fuck you want.

In the Name of -- in Polish with English subtitles, running 102 minutes, and distributed by Film Movement -- can be streamed now via Netflix and elsewhere (including the Film Movement site itself). The film is also available on DVD.

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