Book #136: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999)

author: Stephen Chbosky
language: English
length: 213 pages
finished reading on: 12 May 2017

I like it when I find a book that’s just nicely-presented, which is the main reason I bought this novel, if I’m honest. Usually I avoid the ones with movie tie-in covers, but the paper and layout of this novel is very good quality. So I actually feel like I’m getting better quality than I would if I bought the Kindle version.

I watched the movie version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower a few years ago – there are a lot of things I’d forgotten about the movie, but I kept remembering moments as I read through this. The movie is pretty faithful to the book, and it’s directed by the book’s author, which is pretty rare. One thing I’d forgotten is that the movie awkwardly tries to keep the conceit that the main character is writing letters to an unnamed stranger – the so-called epistolary style – by having him type the letters out on screen. It doesn’t work on screen, and I was a bit skeptical about the book when I first picked it up, but I found it works quite well.

It’s very easy to read, especially after the last book I read, which had quite thick and heavy prose. This is written in a more colloquial style and is often speaking directly at the reader. That and the shorter length of the book meant that I finished it much quicker.

I think it’s refreshing to have a young male character who’s unashamed of being emotional and upset – so much media, even modern media, still stereotypes men as being unable to express their emotions. And this tackles quite a lot of mental health issues directly, which is also good. I don’t have a lot to criticize about the book – perhaps that the main character is self-centred despite trying hard to be a “wallflower”, and annoyingly clueless at times. But I also recognized that awkwardness I and a lot of others I know have experienced in our high school days.

And there’s the ending twist, too, which I’d completely forgotten – it comes on the second-to-last page in the book. I don’t want to reveal it – I think the book is easy enough for people to read and I really liked it, so I think people should seek this book out. Perhaps it’s a bit young for me, really – the issues are distinctly teenage, after all, and I’m well past that stage of my life – but I still enjoyed reading it a lot. (And one of the side characters is gay. Also good.)

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Book #130: Openly Straight (2013)

author: Bill Konigsberg
language: English
length: 339 pages
finished reading on: 6 Mar 2017

It remains the case, at least from what I can see, that it’s easier to find young adult LGBT novels than it is to find more grown-up stuff. Perhaps my readers have a different perspective? Let me know if you know anything good! Anyway, for me this follows on from similar books like Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which I read last year. It’s similarly easy to read, and the story is also generally optimistic.

The conceit here is a boy called Rafe who is openly gay, but tired of being The Gay Kid at his school, and wants to be treated “normally”. So he ups and moves right across the country to attend boarding school in Massachusetts, where he decides he’s not going to reveal his sexuality straight away – going back in the closet, as his best friend and family term it.

The arc of the story is very predictable – I could tell what was going to happen within the first two chapters, as all the main characters are introduced. But this predictability is a boon in this genre, actually. It’s comforting to be able to know what will happen next.

The exploration of identity is interesting, but I’m definitely out of the target audience of teenagers still trying to work this stuff out. But I could see parts of myself in it too. I was never “out” in high school, but I would never have wanted to be seen as The Gay Kid. I’m reminded of something my coworker said recently – being gay is important to me but it’s not my primary identity, nor the first adjective he’d describe me with. His impression was that Americans seem to be more eager to make it the centre of their identities, and if I was American I might want to be seen as That Gay Guy.

Not sure about that, but that idea is reflected to some extent here – the other characters are shocked when they find out the main character is tired of broadcasting his identity in such a way, and it looks into the labels we apply to each other. Once he stops broadcasting that he’s gay, he immediately picks up other labels, such as “jock”. And it’s more subtle, but names, too, are very important in the book – the main character goes by different names to different people, and his friend gets angry when people call her the wrong name. I think this was a sensible choice from the author to demonstrate other shifts in identity that everyone makes.

I’m not so into many sports myself, and sports are also a big theme of the book – so I switched off a bit for the descriptions of soccer or American football, but I liked the bits where they went skiing. Selective, perhaps.

It gets very, very awkward at some points, though, in that way of teenagers unable to express their feelings well. Similar to Boys, the last movie I watched, it reminded me in a bad way of the anxiety of coming out.

So while I enjoyed its exploration of the character’s identity, and in general I found it easy to read and enjoyed the variety of characters and situations, I still think I need to get away from stories of coming out and coming of age.

And thus I reiterate my initial request – does anyone know any gay novels that aren’t about coming of age?

Film #270-271: Boys (2014) + bonus short film

aka: Jongens
director: Mischa Kamp
language: Dutch and a bit of English
length: 76 minutes
watched on: 3 Mar 2017

I’ve been seeing pictures and gifs of this movie online for a while, and it looked good. It’s yet another gay coming-of-age movie. You’d think I’d have had enough of them by now, but I don’t get a whole lot of choice in the genre. Anyway, I bought it on DVD when I was back home.

This movie is basically harmless, and it can be fairly described as “nice” for most of its runtime. It tells the story of two teenage boys on the running team in a rural Dutch school who fall in love. Meanwhile, the main character, in deep denial, also gets a kind-of girlfriend to fit in with his best friend and his brother. Unlike his romance with the other boy, which develops slowly and naturally, this seems forced and rushed. Towards the end it comes down to a choice between the two.

The film has a good visual style. It’s clean and uses contrast and symmetry well. I noticed this watching it, and then the director said that’s what she was trying to achieve in the DVD extras – they wanted something that would be iconic enough that individual frames could be screenshotted easily.

The other important thing about the movie is that I think it’s the first “PG” rated gay film I’ve ever seen – and this was also very deliberate on the part of the director, as her target audience was young people just figuring out their sexual orientation. In terms of sexual content, it goes as far as kissing and making out, but not further. I guess some of the homoerotic exercise shots reminded me of Bavo Defurne’s work, which I watched last year, but they were also pretty tame.

Overall, I liked the visual style of the movie, but as I say, I need to take a break from movies about coming out. I think on the same day I watched this, I read That Article that’s been circulating about how gay men are all lonely and emotionally stunted from the experience of being in the closet (I partially agree with it, but it’s a very pessimistic article and has some faulty arguments/conclusions without advice on how to break such a cycle), and watching this film, about being in the closet and figuring oneself out, didn’t help my anxious feeling that day. Still, I’d recommend the movie, it’s basically harmless and optimistic, and feels really genuine and warm-hearted.

The DVD also came with a bonus short film:
Film #271: Even Cowboys Get to Cry (2013)
aka: Cowboys janken ook
director: Mees Peijnenberg
language: Dutch and a bit of French
length: 25 minutes

So I just waxed lyrical a bit about the importance of having a PG-rated gay movie… and the distributors kind of ruined that by packaging it with this 18-rated short, meaning that young teenagers trying to figure out their sexuality can’t even buy this movie legally in the UK. Like, this doesn’t concern me a lot personally, but it’s annoying. I can see why they added it, though – the main feature is a bit shorter than usual at 76 minutes.

The movie is connected to the other by dint of sharing two main actors – in Boys, they are the boyfriend and brother of the main character, here they are best friends and troublemakers. They have a “bromance” going on at the start of the movie and there are some scenes showing how close they are. But then, one of them starts a fight after drinking, and the other gets in a coma as a result of the ensuing violence. The rest of the movie is his rehabilitation and the first boy’s guilt – they sort of drift apart and reconcile at the end.

It’s not gay like the other movie, actually, although it’s very easy to read subtext into it. And the sexual content that gets it an 18 rating is pretty superfluous – firstly, there is a scene where one boy walks in on the other while he’s having sex with a girl, meant to show how they are inappropriately close, and the other is in the hospital, when we accidentally see his erect penis. I think these scenes are meant to titillate, and I think they could easily be extracted from the film.

A bit disappointing, but an interesting look at disability and rehabilitation.

Has anyone else seen this/these?

Film #267: Closet Monster (2015)

closet-monsterdirector: Stephen Dunn
language: English
length: 90 minutes
watched on: 9 Feb 2017

This was another big release of last year that I hadn’t seen – it’s been out in some film festivals and on DVD, and like Departure or Being 17, I’d seen a lot of gifs from the movie, or trailers, or whatever. It looked good even before watching it, just based on the visual style.

I didn’t really know what it was about – from the trailer, you can fairly assume it’ll be a gay coming-of-age story, which is true. So I swear blind I’m not seeking out movies where the protagonists have horribly dysfunctional relationships with their parents, or parents going through a divorce, or whatever (this follows pretty soon after Sing Street and Departure). It just keeps happening that way.

This particular protagonist is called Oscar (and his crush in the movie is called Wilder, of all the obvious allusions you could make), and in his childhood (the initial scenes of the movie) he witnesses a brutal homophobic attack, which leaves him pretty traumatized. A large part of the movie is him trying to overcome that trauma later in the movie, when he starts having sexual experiences – and the other part is him trying to distance himself from his parents. He is desperate to get a place in a college as a movie make-up artist, so that he can move out of his deadend middle-of-nowhere hometown (again, very similar to Sing Street). It’s filmed in Newfoundland – I can indeed imagine it must feel very far from anywhere else if you live there.

The director, Stephen Dunn, has been rightly compared to Xavier Dolan (I’ve only seen J’ai tué ma mère, a while ago, but that also has a dysfunctional parent-child relationship) – perhaps mainly because the films explore family relationships, but I imagine it’s also the visual style of the movie, which is frenetic and colourful. I really liked the use of colour in the movie – too many movies that I see these days are drab in comparison. It also has a nice electronic soundtrack, and I just had to find the music online after hearing it in the movie.

The exploration of the boy’s trauma is central to the movie, and I liked how it did this, sliding in and out of Oscar’s imagination. There are a lot of layers to how this is told, too – shifting the focus of blame and attribution a lot between him and the parents. The way it’s done also fits with the dreamy music, and the colourful mise-en-scène.

The relationship with the other boy is also developed naturally, but we’re left wondering how much of that too is in the main character’s imagination. That too doesn’t follow the usual plot trajectory of the standard gay coming-of-age film.

Ultimately, though, it’s the relationship with the parents that is most important in this film – neither of them ultimately come off well out of it. Fortunately, it didn’t feel quite as relevant to my own life as Departure, as there was a lot more emotional abuse going on from all sides. Obviously the father is the major conflict, but the mother often appears dismissive to her son’s interests and needs, and I was annoyed that she didn’t tell her son she loves him.

But despite all the doom and gloom, I think there is an optimistic heart to the film, including various comedic moments throughout. In the ambiguous ending, there is a sense that things are going to get better, despite the bleak setting and all the terrible stuff that happens up until then.

So generally I liked this. The only things I can think to say negatively are that the movie could be a bit over-the-top, too melodramatic at times, or that people interact in scripted and unnatural ways. That said, there are enough moments that struck me as very real, or directly comparable to my own experiences. But thankfully, not the emotional abuse or the visions of violence.

I would recommend this whole-heartedly. I’m glad I’m getting to watch a lot of good movies recently. Has anyone else seen this? I’d be interested to know what you think.

Film #266: All Over Brazil (2003)

alloverbrazildirector: David Andrew Ward
language: English
length: 9 minutes
watched on: 9 Feb 2017
link to the video: https://vimeo.com/1802140

I’ve still got a fairly long list of short films to get through at some point – when trawling for them on the internet, this is one that stood out to me because it’s set in Scotland in the 1970s.

It’s about a kid who likes glam rock and wants to dance around with make-up on (the above image is his fantasy). Of course, his dad, more into football, isn’t OK with this and gets angry. But in the end he lets the kid out with his sister to go see the band he likes, and there’s some kind of reconciliation between them.

Obviously I saw this because it’s gay-interest, and I thought it was a sweet film. It doesn’t really match my experience, though – my parents weren’t like that with me. I daresay my dad would recognize the situation more than me.

I was surprised that the movie was from 2003 – I didn’t realize how much video quality has improved since then. I think this was made for TV (for the BBC), and the quality is accordingly pretty low.

An interesting little snippet or slice of life. What do you think? You can watch it online easily – and tell me what you think.

Film #263: Sing Street (2016)

singstreetdirector: John Carney
language: English
length: 106 minutes
watched on: 1 Feb 2017

Following a bit of a theme at the moment, I’m currently making my way through several movies I missed in the cinema last year (this follows The Jungle Book, Your Name, and a few others). I had a cold, and since Japan still has DVD rental stores, I went there instead of doing exercise, and Sing Street was plastered gaudily across the entrance as the latest release of that week. I also finally put my sofa to good use (I’ve had it for a few months, maybe since November), and the new wireless headphones my dad bought me for Christmas, and made a mini cinema setup in my room.

The movie is set in the 1980s (another theme I’ve noticed recently alongside things like Stranger Things is this 80s revival that seems to be happening), in Ireland. The economy is in freefall, and everyone is trying to get out – characters are constantly talking about going to London. The main character Conor’s parents are just realizing that they don’t want to be together anymore, and they have to take him out of private school and send him to the local public school. Then he starts a band to try and impress a girl, and the movie takes it from there. Basically all I knew before watching it was it’s an Irish musical film.

So first of all, the music in this movie is excellent, and I actually bought the soundtrack after watching the movie and still having the songs in my head for the next few days. The songs perfectly complement the story and the journey of the characters, and the kids who play the music are all very talented (a few of them are very much background characters of course). The visual style is equally important, as it’s the story of the pursuit of the perfect music video.

It’s a real old-fashioned feel-good movie – despite the rough situation economically and despite the homophobic and racist attitudes that are rife in the film, it’s still a very optimistic film. It blurs the line a lot between reality and the main character’s dreams and aspirations, never more obvious in the big setpiece scene where his imagination of what the music video should look like takes over, only to crash back to reality.

Like Departure, the scenes showing the parents’ divorce hit close to the bone, too. The movie has real heart but could be very raw with the emotion. Like Your Name, I was worried that the romance would be trite and hokey, but I was cheering them on by about halfway through when the romance kick starts properly.

It’s also a very funny movie – it produces laughs very easily. I was giggling at a lot of the lines, but not just that – as I mentioned, the movie in general has a good visual sense, and the director knows how to pull off a good visual or slapstick gag. I’m thinking in particular of the “cool” boyfriend having trouble driving his car, or the cut to the kids smoking in the shed moments after telling their mum that they never did such things.

It’s a small thing, but one thing I liked a lot was the teenagers in this movie are really teenagers. Especially the ginger kid who does all the filming – he looks really young, as do the main characters. When I was growing up, there was a strong tendency to put 20 year olds in teenage roles, especially in American movies, and I’m glad to see that movies have by and large moved away from that.

Another comedic moment was the disclaimer in the end credits – beyond the usual “this is fiction” disclaimer, there’s a note that says the real Synge Street school, where the film is mostly set, is, 30 years later, much more multicultural and a really accepting environment. The intolerant attitudes from the teachers and pupils in the film don’t make it come across well, of course.

I’m just sitting here writing it trying to think of a way to fault the movie. Too much homophobia, perhaps, but as in the disclaimer above, this is accurate to the era in which the movie is set. Perhaps I find it unrealistic that they get so good at music so quickly, but again, this is part of the whole thing the director is doing where it’s unclear where the music ends and where Conor’s imagination takes over. Everything seems to just… fit.

So yeah, I liked it. I think everyone should see it. What did you think?

Book #124: A Closed and Common Orbit (2016)

acacoauthor: Becky Chambers
language: English and some invented languages
length: 789 minutes (13 hours, 9 minutes)
finished listening on: 2 December 2016

This is the second book in the series of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. When I finished that book back in September, the sequel hadn’t been released yet. I think it came out in October. Like its predecessor, it’s coincided with an uptick in the amount of cycling I’ve been doing (during which time I generally have it on), as I’m finally getting over various muscle injuries I’ve had during this year. Indeed, I had injured my elbows back in September because of bad posture on my bike, so I’ve now been able to fix the bike position and other stuff.

So I say it’s a sequel, and that’s only kind of true. It’s following two minor characters from the previous book – Pepper, a techie with a mysterious past, and the AI Lovelace, known as Sidra from about the second or third chapter, who was rebooted at the end of the last book with a scrubbed memory, much to the despair of all the other characters. Basically, Pepper convinces the AI to be reinstalled into a body-kit, like a hyper-realistic android, and then this story is about her journey as she settles into her new body, and the people she meets. In alternate chapters, it also looks into Pepper’s origin story as Jane 23 – a slave clone on a decadent world, sorting through junk in a scrap yard in a world populated by “Enhanced” humans. Sounds like something out of the Hunger Games.

Both characters’ arcs are about finding identity, similar to some of the themes of the first book, finding friendship, and feeling comfortable in one’s own skin. It’s coming-of-age, essentially. Sidra’s story is often about being the “ghost in the machine” – she never feels connected to her body, doesn’t feel ownership of it, until really the end of the book. Part of her journey is literally hacking into her programming to be able to tell lies, and this seems to be one of the keys to her feeling in control of her body. Jane/Pepper’s story is more about finding one’s purpose in life, which is reflected to an extent in Sidra’s story, with a hefty dollop of PTSD and the other effects of an abusive childhood – especially at first, as not having a task to do would lead to punishment in her factory.

Compared to the last book, it’s less of a space opera and more of an interpersonal drama set nominally in space. There are maybe five characters we need to care about throughout, which is a lot less taxing to keep track of, and they don’t really go off-world – no journeying through hyperspace like before. But Chambers uses the opportunity to explore the cultures of her invented universe a lot more, and various cultures are mentioned and expanded that weren’t before. It’s like a warm embrace welcoming me back into her world – it’s only been a few months since the last one, and even then it’s nice to come back into it, with all the unique words and expressions that her future people use.

If I’m to give any outright criticism of the book, as I did before with The Long Way…, it’s going to be mostly nitpicking. Perhaps I wasn’t fully satisfied with the genders again (and the narrator is still awkward saying the epicene pronoun xe) – this time we see that the Aeluons have four genders, but I’d prefer to say four physiological sexes or phenotypes. The extra two genders are basically bigender and agender in our modern context, but they’re actually physically different from males and females.

Anyway, one character Tak switches between male and female every other scene, similar to the character Corey/Kory in The Art of Breathing, which I listened to last year. But unlike that, where the male and female represent different sides of the character and their psyche, I didn’t perceive any significant difference in the way that Tak is presented or the way other characters react to them in one gender or the other. It’s more a game of working out which pronoun the character is using in each chapter. Basically I think I’d have liked a more in-depth look at how this affects the society and the characters.

But those are pretty minor points, and they’re not the main thrust of the story. Just like The Long Way…, it’s a great female-driven sci-fi-esque story about friendship and found family, and that alone should be enough to recommend it. It’s also funny and sweet in equal measures, and towards the end I couldn’t stop listening (some other audiobooks, I can only withstand about an hour at a time before I start tuning out). OK, perhaps a bit saccharine at times, but nonetheless a great listen. The two books are standalone, and one can really read them in any order, but I think the previous book is a better starting point overall. It will fill in a lot of background that’s missing from this book, and it’s a more conventional sci-fi story. But this is a really good book.

Film #241: For Dorian (2012)

for-doriandirector: Rodrigo Barriuso
language: English
length: 15 minutes
watched on: 28 October 2016
Boys on Film 11 (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)

This is one of the more poignant movies on the “Boys on Film 11” series, but it was less explicitly gay than the others, in my opinion. It’s about a boy with Down syndrome (Dorian of the title) and his father. The boy is coming of age and starting to seek his own independence, much to his father’s chagrin.

As far as I can tell, it’s a rare look into the sexuality of a disabled person, and it treats its protagonists with respect. The boy is obviously interested in a hot weatherman, and has a collection of screenshots on his computer. He only talks about the weather to his dad. He also walks arm-in-arm down the street with his best friend from school and it’s sensible to read something more into their friendship.

Dad isn’t having it, though – he chastises the boy’s after-school carer for not bringing him home. He also won’t let the boy cook his own breakfast, even though he’s willing to help, perhaps worried that he’ll mess it up – but he hasn’t had the opportunity to try! He needs to realize that he won’t be responsible forever.

Aside from that, it’s obviously a coming of age story, and fits a few more of those tropes well. Furthermore, I liked the minimalist cinematography and the precise composition of so many shots in the movie. I also thought the setting – Toronto in winter – was evocative, and the scenery was crisp and clean to match the interiors. Out of the eight films on this DVD, I don’t think this was the best, but it’s probably second or third.

Book #117: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (2015)

svhsaauthor: Becky Albertalli
language: English
length: 303 pages
finished on: 27 October 2016

Just like the last book I read, I wanted to finish this one quickly so I could get started on my new Kindle (which I got for my birthday). So I ended up reading the last portion of the book in one sitting.

The book is a “young adult” story about gay teenagers. I’ve mentioned it before, but I don’t think I had access to any such things when I was a teenager… but whether I’d have taken the opportunity at that time is a different story. Being in the closet does that to you. I’m making up for lost time now.

The central character is Simon, who is in the closet, but seems to be comfortable with himself – just not ready to tell the world yet. He’s writing to someone that he met through Tumblr (another modern institution that didn’t exist in the previous decade), who goes to the same school, and trying to work out the other person’s mystery identity. At the same time, a rather despicable boy discovers the emails and blackmails him into trying to hook him up with a girl.

The depiction of the main character is spot on, I think, and his/the author’s sense of humour is well-observed. It captured the awkwardness of teenage years well. I really felt for the characters, despite now being in a stage of life where I’ve largely stopped caring about people’s reactions (ie. I’m not generally scared of coming out anymore).

I did often feel like the main character was being a bit stupid, or thinking the wrong thing. For most of the book, he thinks the mystery emailer is one particular character, and it’s fairly obvious that that’s not the case, and it’s wishful thinking. It’s like a narrative trope, or something. At the same time, the eventual answer to the mystery seems to come out of nowhere – the hints and foreshadowing are there if you know what to look for (the main character smiles at him in a certain way about two thirds of the way through the book, for example), but the character was so minor up to that point it’s a genuine surprise.

I liked it, anyway. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in young adult gay fiction, which is probably not most of my friends, but hey. How about you, the reader? What did you think?

Films #203-206: Campfire (Bavo Defurne shorts)

campfiredirector: Bavo Defurne
watched on: July 1 2016

I bought this DVD when I was in London a year ago (that shows you how long I keep stuff before bothering to watch it, I guess). It was in the BFI shop, when I was wandering around the South Bank, so not exactly a normal shop, but it makes me lament that there’s almost nowhere in Japan that sells LGBT works together with other films, or precious few that signpost it (shout out to Tsutaya in Kichijoji for having a small LGBT section, by the way – unfortunately I’d seen almost all of them already). They have BL comics, but they’re not even for us.

Anyway, it’s a set of short films by Belgian director Bavo Defurne, who directed North Sea, Texas. I was surprised to realize I watched that two years ago, come to think of it. They all share themes with that film, concerning themselves with longing looks, a bit exploitational towards younger teenager main characters, and largely or completely devoid of dialogue. They were all made in the 90s or early 2000s, but shown out of order – I’m sure if they were shown in the correct order it’d be even easier to see the director’s development process.

As before, I’ll do a quick review of each below, but as with the last short series I watched, seeing gay guys on film again has been good for my mental health, I think. I also liked these ones in general more than the other series – as they’re by the same director, they fit together more coherently. However, they’re also a little slow and contemplative for my liking. Anyway here goes:

campfire1Film #203: Campfire (2000)
aka: Kampvuur
language: Dutch
length: 20 minutes

The titular film of the DVD, this one is about two boys on a camping trip. They go out to the forest together and things get a little hot under the collar – and it kind of follows the standard trope that the other boy freaks out when they get back to civilization. Then they play Spin the Bottle and are forced to confront it in front of everyone.

The story is nothing new, but the visuals of the countryside (I forget which country – perhaps Belgium, but maybe in France) are positively lush, and the use of colour is cartoonish and bold, but striking. The characters seem to be colour-coded: the main character is bright red, and the other boy’s girlfriend starts wearing bright purple when she accepts him later in the film. The other characters wear boring colours. There’s also a lot of naked flesh bouncing around – as seems to be standard by the rest of this guy’s films…

pnisFilm #204: Particularly Now, in Spring (1995)
language: English
length: 8 minutes

This was the most purely fetishistic of the films – it is a monochrome series of images of boys doing sports and exercise, with a monologue in English about things they’re doing. It’s evocative, and as with the later film Saint, the camera is a bit blurry, adding to the atmospheric effect. However, there is little substance to the movie itself. It’s more like a silent movie, as indeed the other movies also are.

I’m pretty sure the acronym of this title isn’t a coincidence, by the way. I had a little giggle when I noticed.

matroosFilm #205: Sailor (1998)
aka: Matroos
language: silent
length: 17 minutes

This immediately reminded me of the gay French artists Pierre & Gilles, although the movie doesn’t get as explicit as some of that artwork. As with the last movie, there is no dialogue in this. The use of colour in this is even bolder than the first movie, which was actually more subdued, despite all the brilliant images of nature. Here it’s almost cartoonish at points and belies a director experimenting a lot with form and symbol – it’s fairly obvious that any red object is the main character (the same actor as in Campfire, incidentally). This also features images of nature – apparently from Belgium’s national botanic gardens. The story is about two boyfriends, one of whom leaves to be in the navy. They keep in contact by post but it’s not to be in the end. Out of the four this was my favourite.

saintFilm #206: Saint (1996)
language: silent
length: 10 minutes

This is about the execution of Saint Sebastian, famous for being tied up naked and killed by arrows, and one of the most evocative images possible just by itself. This pretty much takes it to the next level. The buildup to the moment of execution is astounding and the anticipation is palpable. The eroticism of the moment is what makes this short.

Sebastian’s image has been portrayed many times in this kind of erotic manner and is famous as a gay icon of sorts – Derek Jarman’s movie is a notable example, although I still haven’t seen it. I personally don’t see the appeal of being shot by arrows, to be honest, but it’s not that, it’s the nakedness and torturedness of the character that appeals to people.

Again the camerawork in this is great, with a monochrome image, but blurry in a way that makes it genuinely look like it came out of the 1920s, and it adds to the atmosphere well. I thought the actor who portrayed Sebastian was the same as in Campfire, but evidently they just look similar – this guy was also in the earlier Particularly Now, In Spring.

Overall I recommend this set of movies if you’re at all interested in erotically-charged LGBT movies. I liked it a lot.