Tuesday, February 24, 2015

FUTURO BEACH: Karim Aïnouz's gay love story and family drama, complete with waves and sand

FUTURO BEACH (Praia do Futuro) is something of a rarity in the gay movie genre: a genuine art film concerned with more than the usual problems of coming out, finding a partner, gay parenting and the like. Instead, it is heavily involved in place, feeling, motion and connection. From Brazil and starring one of the countries most popular actors, Wagner Moura (the Elite Squad films, Elysium), along with German actor Clemens Schick, and, in  the role of the Moura character's brother, Ayrton, newcomer Sávio Ygor Ramos (as the child version) and Jesuíta Barbosa (as the adult). That's it, concerning any important cast members. This is basically a four-hander film -- in fact, more a three-hander, since Ayrton appears first as a child and then as a young man.

The film, co-written (with Felipe Bragança) and directed by Karim Aïnouz (shown at right and best known for Madame Satã), does a lot of things well. The homosexuality here is simply a given: no excuses, no explana-tions. While we get a taste of homophobia (particularly from the brother, but this is more about anger at being left and forgotten), the sex scenes are terrifically handled -- as hot and as believable as you could want. (There is some full-frontal, as well, but nothing approaching hard-core). Visually, the film is often quietly stunning -- with fine widescreen cinema-tography (by Ali Olay Gözkaya) and a lovely sense of space and depth.

What is missing most, however, is enough content to fill the 106-minute running time. Filmmaker Aïnouz is evidently a man of few words, or at least this is what he parcels out to his characters. While this allows for less clunky exposition, it finally makes the movie seem more shallow than I suspect it actually is. The key relationship between Donato (Moura, above, center) and Konrad (Schick, below) comes about due to the sudden drowning of Konrad's best friend and perhaps lover. As grief can sometimes do, it tosses the two men (Donato was the lifeguard who tried to save the drowned friend) into an near-immediate frenzy of sex, and from there into further intimacy.

When Konrad returns to his native Germany, Donato comes to visit, and when Konrad wants something permanent, Donato must face separation from his Brazilian family. All good, so far. But when Donato feigns (or maybe fully feels) his inability to separate, Konrad calls him a coward.

Turns out, the guy is indeed a coward. When the scene shifts, so does the time frame and we're maybe ten years ahead. Aryton (Barbosa, above) is now a young man who has come to Germany to find his brother. Over this huge time period there has been little or no contract by Donato with his family. This is hard enough to believe in itself, given what we've seen previously, and because the filmmaker favors little dialog, we get no specifics about how or why. All of which proves quite a lack.

For all the visual display and occasional poetic verbalizing of feeling (particularly in the film's final moments) we have simply not been given enough detail upon which all this angst can properly hang. (There is a wonderful fight-vs-feeling scene, below, between the brothers when they initially reunite.) Finally, Futuro Beach, as beautiful and "felt" as it is, remains something of skeletal movie, waiting for the filmmaker to fill in a few more of those blank spaces.

From Strand Releasing, the movie opens this Friday, February 27, in New York City at the IFC Center, and in a few more cities over the weeks to come. To see all currently scheduled playdates, with cities and theaters listed, click here and then click on SCREENINGS.

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