Friday, October 23, 2020

Streaming premiere for GLBT festival favorite, Jonah Greenstein's visually compelling puzzle, DEDALUS (aka DADDY)

Can a movie be interesting enough merely for its attractive visuals (not to mention its many sex scenes), even if the manner in which its three sections (barely) hang together is more than a tad confusing? On the basis of the 2018 movie DEDALUS (aka DADDY), it can. But at a cost. The press materials offer one explanation: The triptych portrays community, love and loss. Uh-huh, but you could say almost the same thing about maybe half the movies -- single, dip- or triptych -- currently making the rounds, and audiences might nod their assent, followed by: So what?

In any case, Dedalus is indeed a triptych, the writer/director/editor/co-cinematopher/colorist of which is Jonah Greenstein (shown at right). The first part of his film deals with a young woman in Iowa who is gang-raped, and the offspring she produces out of this situation. Part two finds an attractive male hustler -- who might or might not be the young-man version of that boy in part one -- and the older tricks he turns in order to get through winter in New York City. The final segment follows an old man in Los Angeles coming to terms with aging and failing.

(which for some of us can't help but bring to mind the myth of Daedalus and Icarus) is, from the outset, visually enticing as it moves in all-over-the-place fashion from a jogger to a quiet man in his study to fireworks to bedtime. The first section contains little dialog, the second (by far the longest) offers much more, with the third somewhere between the first two, while the visuals -- color, composition and framing -- remain impressive in each.

The acting impresses, as well. Greenstein evidently used a combination of professionals and amateurs and has managed to nicely blur the line between them. (He also unfortnately declines to list which actor played which character in the credits, so attribution is rather difficult.) Most famous of these would be Thomas Jay Ryan (of Henry Fool, shown above, left), here playing one of our Part Two hero's sugar daddies who, much as he may want to, cannot commit to this young man who seems to love him so much. Mr. Ryan is, as always, fully commited to whatever performance he is giving and riveting to watch. The film's original Daddy title is certainly appropriate, as our young hustler does have plenty of daddy issues, just as the johns who hire him have their own themselves-as-daddy issues. 

The sex scenes are hot and graphic (one is full-frontal), and it pretty clear that, via its length and the interest that Greenstein shows in his subject and characters, this hustler-in-New-York section is the reason for the film's existence. Consequently the first and the third divisions/tales appear somewhat tacked-on. 

In addition to the aforementioned themes of  "community, love and loss," the movie might as easily be said to be built around childhood, young manhood and old age (or any number of other ideas tossed into the mix by th filmmaker).

So what is Dedalus, really? Thanks to its crisp and interesting visuals, not to mention the sex involved, those of us who appreciate these will be hooked. But what is this movie trying to say? I either haven't a clue or, thanks to the director's dropping so damned many of these, choosing among them seems arbitrary enough not to even matter all that much.

From First Run Features and lasting 92 minutes, the movie premiered earlier this week on streaming platforms including Apple TV, Amazon Prime, & Kanopy. Click here to link to some of those streaming options.

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