Visiting and/ or living away from major cosmopolitan centres and seeking out or simply being born and existing within small towns or even mid-sized cities is so often a great combination of escape, solitude, natural beauty and the kind of simplicity of pace which offers considerable solace, allowing for growth and exploration that might not be possible in places like New York, Toronto, Paris, London and/or other similarly sized metropolises.
Dir. Maxime Desmons
Starring: Maxime Desmons, Alex Ozerov, Jean-Michel Le Gal,
Roberta Maxwell, Kristen Thomson, Marie-Eve Perron, Johnathan Sousa
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Talk about a change of pace. Maurice (played by writer-director Maxime Desmons) has left Paris to live the expatriate life in, uh, North Bay, Ontario. There's some gorgeous bush up there, but the town itself is a major shit hole. Canadians will know it as the hometown constituency of Mike Harris, one of the country's biggest right-wing scum buckets, a former ski instructor and golf course manager turned politician who, with his fascist "Common Sense Revolution" did a fine job dismantling much of the social welfare, education, health and cultural life of the country's biggest province and in particular, due to a forced amalgamation, the city of Toronto. Harris's constituents comprised some of his most avid supporters. Great place to live, eh.
Plopping the character of a gay man with a mysterious past and an undetermined future into this miasma of pettiness and intolerance would almost be enough to let rip in a dramatic paint-by-numbers fashion. Luckily for us, though, the film succeeds well beyond those trappings. This deeply moving, compelling and complex movie places the thematic concerns of identity in isolation - one which is self-imposed on an emotional level and yet another within the realm of physically being isolated in a world lacking most of the comforts and conveniences of a cosmopolitan existence.
Maurice decides to offer his services as a personal French-language teacher/tutor and one of his first customers is the mother (Kristen Thomson) of the sensitive teenage boy Alain (Alex Ozerov). This older man and young lad hit it off as friends almost immediately. Alain's britches are obviously going to be too big for the popcorn stand of North Bay and Maurice has clearly been around the block a few times. It's a relationship which offers both of them what they need. Maurice discovers someone who needs him, while at the same time, allows him to exercise his natural (though submerged) proclivity towards helping those who need it the most.
There's a strong sense that Maurice sees himself in Alain while the boy sees a gifted teacher, friend, father-figure and just the right kind of individual to crack his shell of potential. There is a problem, here. Teacher and student begin to develop an admiration for each other which could possibly veer into dangerous territory, especially since Alain is on the cusp of discovering his burgeoning sexuality. Maurice, of course, attempts to engage in sexual relations with the few closeted members of North Bay's gay community, but they want more, they want love. Maurice has a lot of love to give, but he's clearly suppressing it and of course, where he needs to keep it in check is in his relationship with Alain.
There are clearly very kind and intelligent people who live in this community of repression, but a community bound in constraint already carries serious baggage. Maurice himself already has his own "baggage" to deal with. At one point, Maurice gets involved with the local community theatre company and he wins the title role of Harpagon in Molière's immortal satire "The Miser". Given the complex relationship in the play twixt a father and son as well as the obsessive nature of both (though to completely opposite ends), writer-director Desmons subtly parallels the play with his relationship with Alain. In so doing, he fashions a labyrinthine series of layers below the simple outward shell of the story which yields a deeply rewarding experience.
He also elicits tremendous performances from his cast (including himself in a gorgeously restrained turn). Alex Ozerov handles his role as the young man with sensitivity and maturity, but is most of all blessed with the considerable talent to allow an audience to connect with his character while also displaying natural gifts as a screen actor. The camera loves him and with the sure hand of director Desmons, Ozerov is clearly well on his way to commanding the sort of attention reserved for only the very best.
Jean-Michel Le Gal as the theatre company's stage manager produces a healthy balance between yearning and the capacity for deep love. Kristen Thomson is especially piquant as Alain's mother - she manages to capture that perverse small town blend of naiveté, repression and openness. As someone who's lived in his fair share of small towns and big old small towns masquerading as cities, I'd say I found her performance so spot-on that it bordered on scary. In this small, but vital role, Thomson exudes the qualities of every doyenne of small town mediocrity that I've ever had the personal displeasure to encounter.
This is all as much an attribute of the film and filmmaker's powers of observation as anything. He carefully places his subjects on slides, clips them within an inch of their lives to the mount and sharpens his lens so that we not only see and experience what he does, but are given enough opportunity to formulate our own perspective. At least he lets us believe that which, of course, is what great filmmaking is really all about.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4 Stars
What We Have (Ce qu'on a) is playing at the Inside Out 2015 Toronto LGBT Film Festival. For further info, please visit the festival's website by clicking HERE.
Fourth Man Out (2015)
Dir. Andrew Nackman
Scr. Aaron Dancik
Starring: Parker Young, Evan Todd, Jon Gabrus,
Chord Overstreet, Kate Flannery, Jennifer Damiano, Jordan Lane Price
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Shot in and around Albany, though set in a somewhat more generic version of a small burgh in upstate New York, Fourth Man Out proves to be a solid bromantic comedy about four longtime twenty-something pals of the working class persuasion who've spent their many years together doing what bros do: watching ballgames on TV, playing poker and hitting the local watering holes to nail babes.
They're all on the cusp of potentially needing to grow up, but there's the pull of why grow up when there's way too much fun to be had? Then again, they might even realize that growing up doesn't mean giving up their manly fun and games. Like most straight buds in small towns or big-old-small-towns-pretending-to-be-cities, these guys would, in more enlightened ancient cultures be fucking each other, but closets these days are deep in these contemporary environs and like the Chester See song says: "Brrrrrroooooooooo-mance, nothing really gay about it."
So what happens when one of the buds has been hiding his gay lifestyle from both his family and his buds? Furthermore, what's going to happen if he comes out? Well, as it turns out, nothing too serious, really. All the usual stuff in comedies like this make their familiar, comfortable appearance: the buds seem cool, make loads of ass-fuck-dick-suck jokes, until the time comes when they need to learn everything possible about being gay so they can accept their bud and grow up in the meantime. The straight pals actually become walking, talking, living, breathing expounders of all that's gay, albeit from their well meaning, but still stereotypical standpoint.
Yup, this is basically a situation comedy in feature length form and though it's rife with cliches, the whole thing is damn well played, often extremely gosh-darn-low-brow funny and even has a major sweet tooth going on. The movie doesn't have a sophisticated bone in its body (though its indie veneer suggests it has plenty), but its heart is in the right place and in spite of the picture's slightly machine-tooled quality, most audiences will enjoy a pretty fun and sparkling night at the movies.
Besides, I've not seen sausage fellatio in a movie in sometime. All the more reason to recommend it.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** 3 Stars
Fourth Man Out is playing at the Inside Out 2015 Toronto LGBT Film Festival. For further info, please visit the festival's website by clicking HERE.