Friday 28 July 2017

Lazy Eye: 'an ex-love story'

The subtitle is slightly misleading: the two men who have Tim Kirkman's gem of a film almost to themselves would seem to be the loves of each other's lives, and that's something that never becomes 'ex'. Graphic designer (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) is quietly having a mid-life crisis when his lover of 15 years ago, Alex (Aaron Costa Ganis), re-enters the picture. The results could be predictable, the casting of one of the two as the weaker figure tempting to make, but this is far too subtle a script, and the actors way too winning as real human beings complementing one another, to follow the expected course of hundreds of small-scale gay movies. It's also probably in the film's favour that this is just a love-story, period, and could with some tweaks deal with a man-woman relationship, but of course with two such attractive characters I'm glad it is what it is.

A week or so ago we watched a film based on a true story about a gay American activist who went - though of course not convincingly - religiously 'straight', and we didn't give a dam(n) about any of the characters. Here you warm to Dean in the very first scene with his optometrist; his quirky, self-deprecating humour saves him from smugness. And anyone whose favourite film is Harold and Maud has to have something going for him.

The desire that's never gone away is realistically handled, albeit with no cock shots, but it's the tensions between the two lovers that power the film once they meet at Dean's retreat in the Mojave Desert. To reveal the turning-point would be a massive spoiler, but the dynamic is neatly summed up in the scene where Alex says he wants only one thing, and Dean replies that he wants so much more, conflicted in his wishes. I find I can't write much more about the film without dragging in the spoiler, so let's leave it at that. One thing seems obvious to me: the dialogue is so realistic that you can't help feeling it must be autobiographical for Kirkman. And the ring of truth in films both great and small is so elusive that this one should be treasured.

That's all I can think of to salute the 50th anniversary of our gay rights milestone, though I did my bit for The Arts Desk a couple of months ago by reviewing the Queer British Art exhibition at the Tate, and no doubt there will be other events through the rest of the year.

Back on the film front, Bong Joon-ho's fantasy-with-a-message Okja, controversially tied to Netflix, has had the effect of making me forswear pork (only a small push was needed) thanks to its terrifying abattoir scene. I've sat through the cinematic depiction of real ones unmoved, as in for example the one which launches a Fassbinder movie (I think it must have been Fox and his Friends), but this was a trigger.

The CGI for the hippopig of the title is spectacularly good, the chase scene one of the best in any movie, though there are OTT performances from Jake Gyllenhaal (terrible) and Tilda Swinton (good in parts, mostly as the darker of two twin sisters).

We also finally caught up with Alejandro G. Iñárritu's Birdman, an essential companion-piece to Louis Malle's Vanya on 42nd Street - I've just ordered up the Criterion Edition of that - in its atmospheric use of an old Broadway theatre. As with Lazy Eye, much of it could transfer to the stage, but here, too, would you find actors as charismatic as their screen counterparts? Michael Keaton is excellent, the younger ones (Edward Norton and the so-compelling big-eyed Emma Stone*) better still.

And the cinematography is superb. The only false note for me comes at the end, not easy to buy after all the hard truths building up throughout the rest. But a worthy Academy Awards winner, certainly, and way more intelligent than most of its ilk. Finally for something completely different: my Arts Desk review of Fritz Lang's 1921 four-story fantasia Der müde Tod (Weary Death, known outside Germany as Destiny).

*Surprised to see I never wrote up my long-delayed reaction to La La Land. Which, having encountered negative reactions from friends whose opinion I trust, I was surprised to enjoy so much on a flight. It brings us back to the Lazy Eye syndrome - if you're charmed by the lovers, you go with it. And I did. Would happily sit through it again any number of times.


Susan said...

I didn't realize you'd reviewed the Queer Art exhibit. Glad to read it now, and much of what you write on TAD is consistent with my own response. Overall, aside from some works in the women's room, I found little to detain me, and there was certainly a surfeit of second rate art on display. Much better to spend time at the Tate with Hockney.

David said...

Well, the Hockney was a major retrospective, but because he went 'off' so after its midpoint, not all great either. But the first half-dozen or so rooms, fascinating. Think I must have paraphrased in the review that comment of Prokofiev's mentor, 'good for the history of music (viz art), but not for music (viz art).

Now, I really do recommend you see Lazy Eye. Its humanity is universal.

Tim KIrkman said...

David, thanks for writing such a nice review for my film. Keep up the great work. -Tim Kirkman

David said...

I salute you and your actors warmly, Tim - that is a perfect film. So real and funny. None of the false notes in the beautiful-to-look-at and well acted 'Call Me Be Your Name', though I'm glad that's done well. As you probably gathered, I only write here about what really takes my fancy; I simply keep quiet about the duds and also-rans. Do keep me posted about your next - so easy to lose track.