Tuesday, December 30, 2014

DVDebut: From TLA, two new gay movies, SNAILS IN THE RAIN and THE THIRD ONE

You can always count on TLA for a constant flow of GLBT films. The quality may vary (a lot) but the movies just keep on comin'. Last month saw the appearance of a couple of new-to-DVD releases that just might be worth your time.  SNAILS IN THE RAIN, a rather silly and not particularly appealing title explained only by the final scene of the movie (and even then it's mostly a big "huh?"), takes place in Israel back in the late 1980s and is all about homosexual panic on the part of its protagonist, a young hunk of a linguistics student on the verge of obtaining a much-wanted scholarship and living happily, or so it would seem, with his beautiful girlfriend.

THE THIRD ONE (El tercero), from the looks of its cover art and subject matter (a gay threesome), seems initially like the typical low-end GLBT title meant mostly to turn on its viewers. Instead, it's genuine surprise and a keeper, too: a movie that takes its characters more seriously than its sex (though both here are pretty damn good), pulls us in by virtue of interesting storytelling, writing and performances, and leaves us on as high and thoughtful a note as it does its youngest protagonist, a student who becomes involved with an older gay couple.

The meat of this short (71-minute) movie, written and directed with style, flair and suirprise by Rodrigo Guerrero, occurs over one evening and into the following morning. Earlier, the older couple (Franco and Hernán) has interacted with young Fede over the internet and invited him for dinner and... whatever.

The scene over dinner is actually the high point of the movie because it so beautifully and believably reveals character, motivation, back-story, the works. The filmmaker shoots most of it from the POV of Fede (a lovely job from Emiliano Dionisi, above, center) as he watches for clues about the life of gay adults (at 22, he's around half the age of his hosts). For their part, the older couple (played by Nicolás Armengol, above, left, and Carlos Echevarría, right) offer Fede everything they can -- from food to information to sex. These are, all three, good men, trying to negotiate their lives with decency and caring. Consequently, spending time with them is a pleasure.

Orson Welles is said to have told us that if you want a happy ending, this all depends on where you stop your film. Guerrero smartly ends his the morning after a lovely, productive, highly sexual night in which all three men have experienced pleasure and caring, each for the other two. Whatever is to come will no doubt be fraught with some change and disappointment. But for now, a new world has opened up for these guys.

In casting his film, Guerrero insists on men who are certainly attractive but not model-pretty with gym-toned bodies. This adds enormously to the movie's believability. The Third One -- from Argentina and in Spanish with English subtitles -- is available now on DVD from TLA, for purchase or rental. Oddly enough, the movie contains some very brief hardcore scenes (of other actors, not its main cast) during the initial web chat that begins the film, as a kind of object lesson, I guess, in what young Fede wants or can expect. This also frees the three leads to perform as genuinely and enjoyably as they want or can, since no full frontal views of these three men are to be seen in the actual film.

Snails in the Rain is another matter entirely. Though its story is a good deal darker than that of The Third One -- its young protagonist begins receiving daily  "I love you" letters (below) from an anonymous admirer, and soon his whole identity, personality and life is thrown for a loop -- its ability to handle this subject seriously is questionable. Beginning with the casting and use of leading man (Yoav Reuveni), with his model-pretty face and body-beautiful good looks, we're in "movie" reality.

Further, director and co-writer (with Yossi Avni Levy) Yariv Mozer keeps sticking that body -- as unclothed as possible (save any full-frontal shots) at almost all times -- in front of us to drool over. And drool we do. Mr. Reuveni is sho' 'nuf one hot guy.

As the letters pile up and the character's desire for a little homosexual fun clashes with his utter panic, we get one after another flashback to former times, in which something almost happened (above), or a scene in current times (like the one below) in which something almost does. Meanwhile, his poor girlfriend gets the brunt of his forbidden desires -- nicely in a bathtub or nastily, from behind over a kitchen table.

Character, however, is something that really doesn't surface here. Instead we get the physical incarnation, nifty as this is, but little emotion or depth other than that same old fear that keeps surfacing. Over and over and over. The question of who is sending the letters is fairly easy to guess and eventually comes out -- to a bit of suspense but little real effect.

Snails in the Rain -- in Hebrew with English subtitles and running 85 minutes -- is available now from TLA for sale or rental.

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