Literally translating the Chinese title to “Who Started Loving Him First?” gives us a lot more insight into what this film is actually about; perhaps, rather, it could have been “Who Did He Start Loving First?” ー the “he” referring to recently deceased Song Zheng-yuan. We spend the film with the people who surrounded Zheng-yuan’s life: his teenage son Song Chen-hsi; his ex-wife Liu San-Lien; and the male lover Chieh he left them both for in his final few weeks and months of life. When a battle for Zheng-yuan’s life insurance money forces these three characters into each other’s company, chaos ーpredictablyー arises. [...]
After they first sleep together, Martin does everything he can to not let David get away. First, he makes him breakfast. Next, he drives David to his parents’ house in rural Sweden and they spend another night together. After driving David back into Stockholm the next day, Martin knows that this is as long as he can cling on; now, he must let David go back home, and hope that he comes back to him after his homosexual comedown. Fortunately for us, this is a romantic comedy, so I don’t think it spoils anything to say that’s not the end of their love story.
Sometimes bad films are so bad they become iconic: The Room (2003), Michelle Visage’s favourite Showgirls (1995) and even the nightmare-fueled Cats (2019) have become cult classics. On the other side, sometimes great films have huge success and go on to be universally acclaimed by critics and audiences alike: think Citizen Kane (1941), The Godfather (1972) and even Titanic (1997). The least memorable films sit right in the middle: never good enough to be truly great, but never bad enough to be iconically awful. Stage Mother is one of those films. [...]
Soft acoustic pop and passing cars lead into lingering glances across a sleeping city. Adoring fan Sang-i gazes longingly at street singer Kang In-su as he strums his way through a soppy ballad, the almost-title track “Wish For You”. Initial seeds of romance are planted within the first 2 minutes; yet, we are forced to wait with baited breath until the last 2 minutes to see whether the buds will blossom. This, of course, begs the question: how much do we really gain along the way? [...]
Home videos, car journeys and small town Americana vibes quickly move aside to reveal the harsh security and even harsher rules of one gay conversion therapy programme. Participants read out increasingly strict rules in an arresting first 10 minutes: “members must be supervised by staff in all restrooms visits”; “no physical contact with any member at any time apart from the briefest of handshakes.” I think this film might be a little more intense than But I’m A Cheerleader [...]
Marketed as part- queer coming-of-age story part- bittersweet romance, Taiwan’s most popular film of 2020 landed on global Netflix in December. Complete with a seemingly deep and enigmatic title, Your Name Engraved Herein (Patrick Kuang-Hui Liu, 2020) sells itself as arthouse queer cinema out in the mainstream; it is, after all, the highest-grossing LGBT film in Taiwanese cinematic history. And yet, having reached the end of an intense and brooding 1 hour and 54 minutes, I couldn’t help but ask… am I missing something? [...]
He stares into the fire as if searching for something; he seems drawn to it inextricably, and nods when he sits down, perhaps recognising memories from summer in the twisting flames that eventually must mark his retinas. A mix of tears, sobs and smiles, the moment —along with Elio's emotional journey— is bittersweet. He bites his lip, chewing on a memory; later, a tear falls down his face and he lets it enter his mouth, letting himself literally consume the sadness, embracing and surrendering to the emotion. [...]
“Call me by your name, and I’ll call you by mine.” It really is the perfect eponymous quote for a film about narcissism and projected self-obsession. Suggested by Oliver to his younger male lover, it reads from his mouth as a yearning for lost youth. Yes, this film is beautifully shot, and yes, the stylisation is exquisite; but this love story is far from pure. [...]
After a particularly sensuous title shot ー quite simply, a smoking cigar ー this film opens rather frivolously. We pan over New York City, watching our characters go about their daily lives in a classically retro scene-setting montage. But don’t let this cheery start fool you. As catty bitchiness descends into destructive hate, ancient and fresh wounds alike are torn open, exposed to the audience. Further still, dripping in internalised homophobia, our cast of bitter gay men pour in the salt..
Paraíso Perdido is Portuguese for paradise lost. Set almost exclusively at night in a Brazilian cabaret club lost in time, I could think of no more appropriate a name. Paraíso Perdido (Monique Gardenburg, 2018) follows the lives of a family who own and work at the club after which the film is named. We also meet other performers ーa kind of extended familyー and are introduced to the scene through Odair, a policeman who is given the club’s flyer by a speeding motorcyclist. Odair acts as a way-in for the spectator, and we discover the club, the family and their secrets alongside him. The more time he spends there, the more we all learn about this twisted family touched by tragedy. [...]