In another post about scrambled-egg identities and maybe time travel, before I get back to my own work again, I wanted to talk about a few LGBT films, and maybe a couple more mainstream independent films.
The main source of inspiration right now seems to be the 2011 film “Judas Kiss”, directed by J.P. Tepnapa, written with Carlos Pedraza. I saw the movie at the Reading Cinema on the Minneapolis East Bank at the LGBT film festival in 2011 and the director was at the QA. The film is now distributed by Wolfe.
The basic concept is that a flailing screenwriter and director Zachary Wells, now supposed to be about 35, played by Charlie David, returns to his alma mater Keystone University (depicted as being in the Seattle area) to participate as a judge in a college filmmaking contest. Soon, in a nearby disco, he meets Danny Reyes (Richard Harmon), who suddenly seduces him. Quickly, Zach finds out that Danny is trying to enter the same short film (“Judas Kiss”) about family child abuse into the contest, and begins to suspect he has time-traveled and that Danny is another incarnation of him. One critics on Rotten Tomatoes called this the “The movie about the man who had sex with himself” (“and it’s never mentioned again”), link (and plot details) here.
What makes this movie work for me is the trio of three young gay male college students: Danny, then Chris (Sean Paul Lockhart, generally known from “adult cinema”) and Shane (Timo Descamps, a rising star in both the music and film world from Belgium and the Netherlands). All three are athletic, clean-cut, role model type gays (too young for chest hair, in comparison to Zach), including “bad boy” music student Shane Lyons, the alpha male of the group, who can have anything (and anybody) he wants because he is the biggest and strongest, and the richest. Yes, Danny “fears” Shane the way one should fear God (the “back rub” scene between them is one of the most gently erotic in all of cinema). There is a youtube video where Timo Descamps and Richard Harmon run a race, and Harmon actually wins.
But does the premise make sense? Is Zach-Danny the same person in two bodies? Who owns the chain of consciousness? Will Danny get a second chance for a “better life” and change history?
There is something about the male student atmosphere here. It seems like a world where homosexuality is the norm, and where heterosexuality need not exist (except for Ronald Reagan, especially when took his pants off in “John Loves Mary” – showing, as “Christopher Street” pointed out in 1985, that Ronnie had gone downhill fast) because, well, the stork will bring you babies, collect on delivery. No need for the caring intimacy of a husband for the entire childbirth process (as filmmaker Morgan Spurlock shows for his wife at tend of his own “Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?”) Different strokes for different folks.
There are a few other films to dispatch here. One is “The House of Adam” by Jorge Ameer. In the Tahoe area, a business owner hires a gay man (Jared Cadwell) to run his café. When the business is taunted by homophobic visitors, the owner hires his son to check up on things. This was a first a short film in the set “Straight Men and the Gay Men who Love Them”. You wonder after twenty minutes where Ameer is going with this material. The story gets messy. Pretty soon, Cadwell is murdered in a home invasion, and then some time after, a new couple moves in, and starts to encounter an angelic ghost or reincarnation of Adam.
One idea that works in films with this kind of material is to go on the road, and see what’s “out there” to change your view of the universe, even as Jack Kerouac (“On the Road”, “Big Sur”) would see it. One of these is a notorious short film, “Bugcrush” (2006) by Carter Smith. A high school “bad boy” Grant (Donald Cumming) takes a naïve but nerdy Ben (Josh Caras) on a road trip to a (a la Stephen King) Maine “cabin in the woods” to show him his bug collection, and then seduce him. The last five minutes are riveting, as you wonder if Ben (after being undressed) is being prepared to become bug food. The film runs 36 minutes, too long for most shorts festivals but seems very spare; it could well have been a feature, with a little more explanation of the ambiguous ending. The film is released by Strand as a set “Boys Life 6”
Another road film, without supernatural ideas but stylistically related, is “Old Joy” (2006), by Kelly Reichardt. People may compare it to Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” but it is a much simpler narrative. From Portland, OR, a young heterosexually married man Mark (Daniel Landon with a pregnant wife goes on a weekend road trip into the Cascades with a drifting old buddy Kurt (Will Oldham). After an appropriate buildup and arrival at a lean-to near a natural hot sbring, the men enter a hot tub, and Kurt, in gentle fashion, brings on the intimacies. Dan seems to need this one last time in his life.
The “time travel” component of “Judas Kiss” comports with that of a much larger film, “The Tree of Life”, by Terrence Malick, which I had seen at the Uptown Theater in Minneapolis the night before (when a couple of celebrities appeared). The theater management actually offered refunds to people disoriented by the unusual effects in the film. The main backstory of the film concerns a family in Texas, with the senior Mr. Obrien (Brad Pitt) and then the son Jack (Sean Penn as an adult). The elder regrets has not having become a musician (a theme in my own life). His son may become what dad should have been, but the adult son, after a setback of his own (seems to be shot in downtown Minneapolis) suddenly has a vision of the end of the world, all the way until the Sun becomes a red giant. I’m not sure what is said by the collapse of time at the beginning and then the end of the movie.
Perhaps I should have been a composer and pianist myself, as I have written elsewhere. If I meet someone a few decades younger who writes the way I do and expresses the same attitude, and succeeds professionally as a musician, and if I can anticipate his new music in dreams, have I experienced some of “Judas Kiss” or “Tree of Life” (which seems curiously parallel to the gay film).