Film #100: Judas Kiss (2011)

judas_kiss_movie_review_3director: J.T. Tepnapa
language: English
length: 94 minutes
watched on: 5 November 2013

There are two possible reactions to me getting to my 100th film on this blog: I can either celebrate the fact, or I can indignantly announce that it’s surprising that I’ve only watched 100 films in the past almost-three years, when I watched over three times that many in one year when I was a student (a “mind-expanding” experiment that involved me watching one film per day, for the uninitiated/those who can’t remember), but that pretty much comes down to me having had less free time in the past couple of years what with work and stuff, and this year in particular just not watching so many films, and reading more. Or, on a more self-perpetuating note, maybe the fact that I’ve been making myself write a review of them all and constantly being behind schedule on that task has discouraged me from watching more and putting more in the review queue. I’m getting back on track with that, though.

That aside, Judas Kiss was a film that I discovered via the previous book I reviewed, Something Like Summer, which is due to be turned into a film next year, as I mentioned. It will be made by the same crew as this film, and this film was apparently the reason why the other book’s author, Jay Bell, chose them to be the makers. So that piqued my curiosity.

The story is best summed up with the elusive term “magical realism” – weird things happen in the movie without really being explained, reminiscent of something like Groundhog Day (although I think that might be too high a compliment). The main character, a mid-30s failed filmmaker having an identity crisis, is sent last minute to fill in on a job in his alma mater judging a film competition. When he gets there, he wastes no time in heading down to the local gay bar and sleeping with one of the students there – who shows up the next day to his film competition, and apparently has the same name (Danny Reyes, but the older guy changed his name to Zachary Wells, for some reason) and has made a film with the same title, Judas Kiss. It turns out he’s either an alternate-reality version of the same guy, or they’ve travelled in time one way or the other. Now we have to decide whether they committed incest or sci-fi masturbation.

In theory, the story after that is them influencing each other’s lives and hopefully changing the future for one or the other, but they actually to split ways fairly quickly, and it’s the young Danny who the film focuses on for most of its runtime, mainly involving a love triangle with a cute tall Belgian guy, who is a bit of a dickhead, and Brent Corrigan, apparently trying to break out of porn (and doing so quite well, I might add). Needless to say, it’s one of those films where literally everyone is attractive, although the young Danny didn’t really enamour me as much as the others. The older “Zach” only appears occasionally to make disgruntled expressions at the camera and get “sage” advice from a creepy janitor.

Some people have praised this film as the “future of gay cinema” – I’m inclined to sort of agree. I didn’t think the film was that great taken as a whole, but it does things like skipping the coming-out phase entirely, and just having all the characters be gay with no further comment, the main focus is not on the relationships (although they are important), and it tries to do things more cinematically than many of the other gay movies I’ve seen in the past. I don’t personally think it succeeded in this endeavour. One thing is that I find making a film about making films to be an inherently narcissistic and self-indulgent exercise, and I’ve found in the past that some filmmakers seem to do this as a kind of shorthand to avoid having to make their films actually say anything, and that’s what I see with this film.

The plot was all over the place, and the message was totally unclear – I got that it was about the man’s identity, but I don’t know what they were trying to say about it. Did he change the destiny of his younger doppelganger? Did he somehow change his own destiny? Did he help himself through a mid-life crisis? Was there some kind of redemption or turning point for him at the end (I saw this in the younger Danny when he confronted the father about (spoiler alert) his previous abuse, but his older version doesn’t seem to get such an experience)? I literally didn’t know. It didn’t help that the film lost its focus halfway through and went on to develop two plot strands and largely concentrate on the love triangle (although at the same time, there were so few characters that it didn’t do this as much as it could have). Plus the sci-fi elements were not used effectively.

Despite the problems, which are there and which are major, there was still something about it. I liked the cinematography – something about the locations made everything seem very bright, for instance. I liked the characters and the actors, even though they were cast against a completely nonsensical plot. I liked what the makers were trying to do: even if I think they haven’t pulled it off with this film, I think they will be able to do it in the future. Even though I didn’t particularly like this film overall, I have high hopes for the Something Like Summer film next year based on this. But I’d recommend it only if you’re into gay cinema, to be honest.


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