Film #65: Men to Kiss (2012)

20121022-174547.jpgaka: Männer zum Knutschen
directed by: Robert Hasfogel
language: German and some English
length: 83 minutes
watched on: 15 September 2012

I went to see this as part of the Tokyo Lesbian and Gay film festival recently. It was, rather confusingly, titled “Berlin Love Panic” (or ベルリン・ラブ・パニック, or “Berurin Rabu Panikku”, however you prefer!) in Japanese, which almost sounds like a better title. It was a German film, in any case (subtitled, fortunately, in both German and English), set in Berlin and visibly made on a shoestring budget.

Unfortunately, it was badly projected. I think they were using a DVD player rather than a film projector. I guess having been to a few other film festivals I was expecting something more high-tech, but this was in a rented hall which wasn’t normally a cinema. At one point I saw a cursor on the screen, and at many points I could see pixellation. So I wasn’t too impressed with that at all.

As for the film itself, it was clear that they had made it for very little money, in terms of the production values at least. The story is about a gay couple living in Berlin and their gripes with each other. Then a friend comes into the picture and shakes the foundations of their relationship. Or something like that. There were three main characters, in any case, along with a few side characters, none of them hugely fleshed out and most of them basically flamboyant caricatures. The main character is basically the “straight” man of the relationship, while the other man is much camper, and this serves as the focal point for much of his humour.

The third character is the best friend of the main character, and ostensibly the third character in a sort of love triangle with the main couple, in that she is loved by the main character, and despised by his boyfriend. And yet, of course he despises her: she, out of nowhere, threatens him with a knife and tells him to leave the main character. Huh? Where did that come from? Was it supposed to be a dream? And then how does that justify it when they basically start torturing her later on? Remember, too, that this is the main plotline of the story, and it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. She is a rather hyperbolic character, to be fair, who I suspect wasn’t meant to be taken seriously (she starts beating up a waitress for asking her to stop smoking), but I still had a hard time understanding any of the characters’ motivations here.

Anyway, the rest of the plot can be summed up as people not communicating with each other, which has been seen before a thousand times. The thrust of the central plot point seems to be that the main guy doesn’t get to spend time with his own friends, and yet the only example of his own friends that we see is this ridiculous woman who threatens people with violence and commits it on other people for real. The rest of the characters are basically interchangeable; there were 2 or 3 other gay men floating around whose roles could easily have been condensed into one, for instance. Or left out entirely.

As for the comedy, it was silly and trashy but funny at times. Some of the characters were actually funny, for instance, and there are a few laugh out loud scenes. And I did enjoy that part, at least; I came out of the movie feeling fairly satisfied that I hadn’t been cheated out of money, and that in general it had been amusing. I probably wouldn’t recommend it, though. There are plenty of funny gay movies that make more sense than this.

One other thing: why do all gay movies feel they have to awkwardly shoehorn a sex scene into the middle of the movie? Actually, I guess straight movies do this too, but the question still stands.

Anyway, we got treated to a Q&A with the two lead actors afterwards, who indicated that the director was actually the two of them under a pseudonym. I was quite impressed by the dedication they had towards their project, and they were clearly just out to have a bit of fun, although it does come across as studenty on film. They also indicated that they were planning a sequel, where the characters go on holiday or something (“to put them into a different setting”), although I’d have to say I’m opposed to such things, and think they should take this fairly commendable first effort and improve on it by making something entirely new. And have it make sense this time!