Sunday, October 19, 2014

DVDebut looks at gays in Poland: Tomasz Woszczynski's FLOATING SKYSCRAPERS

The last time we visited gay Poland -- Małgośka Szumowska's In the Name Of -- we were struck by how backward seemed this country in terms of public acceptance of everything from homosexuals to Jews. Another Polish movie from the same year (2013) drives home this point once again, in even fiercer terms. FLOATING SKYSCRAPERS, written and directed by Tomasz Woszczynski, initially seems more like the recent German film about the lawful but societally-frowned-upon love that grows between two young policemen, Free Fall. It is soon apparent, however, that Floating Skyscrapers is less grounded in strong story, physical and emotional detail and characterization than was its German counterpart.

This lack does not destroy the movie, but with a 99-minute running time, it leaves at least some of us in the audience expecting and wishing for more. The filmmaker, whom I believe is pictured at left, offers up some nice visual compositions, as well as some good-looking guys and probably about as hot an example of man-on-man sex as Poland will allows these days. But, as usual, the sense of overall society and its mores seems at least a decade or two behind the times, when compared with western Europe or parts of the USA.

The story? This has to do with a very good swimmer, Kuba (Mateusz Banasiuk, above), currently being groomed as a champion, and his foray into same-sex wonder. He is not, the movie makes clear from pretty early on, a novice in this endeavor. As shown in the scene on the poster at top, he is easily commandeered from the showers into the men's room of the gym, by a fellow athlete who invites him into a stall and services the willing Kuba with a quick blow job. The recipient does not, however -- and he makes this very clear -- like to kiss or fondle.

Not until he meets Michal, at least. This brunette pretty boy, played by Bartosz Gelner (above, left), is as drawn to Kuba as Kuba is to him, though it seems to take an eternity for something physical/sexual to occur. Various women hang around these guys. Kuba, who lives with his complaining mother (whom he is shown bathing, below), also has a long-time girlfriend, while our first view of Michal positions him with a female companion, as well. But it's really the male-to-male attraction that counts.

As shown here, Polish life in all its forms -- family, sports, friendship, even love -- seems dreary, circumspect and hugely limiting. Not much is desired because so little is available. Our two protagonists, in fact, have literally nowhere to go to give vent to their physical needs, as both live with family and can't afford their own apartment. Glumness abounds.

Still, despite the societal stigma and probably because of the lack of privacy, their first major sexual encounter takes place in a public parking garage. What follows this is downbeat, nasty and depressing, though probably not, unfortunately, unrealistic.

The film's odd name comes from a conversation between Michal and his father, as the son recalls a strange and allusive childhood memory. It's poetic but rather pointless to the overall movie -- except its ability to provide a strange title.

While I clearly was not crazy for this film, it has stuck with me -- mostly as a warning about its home country, as well as an appreciation of the beauty of face and figure that resides there. Floating Skyscrapers -- initially from Canteen Outlaws but now available by TLA Releasing, can be viewed either via sale or streaming rental.   

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