Documentaries about gay men are not in short supply. Feature films fictionalizing stories and circumstances of Friends of Dorothy are readily available. How marvellous, then, that director Fabiomassimo Lozzi has dug courageously into nearly every aspect of homosexuality by re-working true-life interviews into the mouths, minds and bodies of nearly four-dozen actors.
What is lost in the spontaneity of first-person accounts is made up for in polished performances that capture the essence of the three basic visions (Hell, Purgatory and Heaven). Better still, no one is at risk of being outed by appearing on camera (of course, some would have no trouble posing for their close-ups, but many others might be less than totally honest knowing that—one day—these clips might be seen by family, friends and the invisible millions who continuously stalk social media outlets in search of titillating personal moments of identifiable others).
Shot in Italy, the Catholic Church plays its miserable role decrying the “instinctually wicked behaviour” of many of its clergy and their parishioners. Sadly, only after the credit roll is complete, do the filmmakers damn the spiritual leaders, reporting cause-and-effect statistics (every time homosexuals are officially condemned by the Vatican, gay bashing and murders—largely unsolved—increase).
An intriguing array of narrative techniques are employed to give visual variety (creating interest in a full-length helping of monologues is no easy task). The camera/viewer as silent second party is used to great effect. After a film-unifying dip in the pool, a burly, angry man showers while being sexually taunted by an unseen acquaintance. The denialism (“No way, I’m not queer”) heats up the scene to the boiling point of either self-loathing or dangerous rage. Only when the camera pulls back will viewers be able to decide for themselves if he doth protest too much.
Moments later, twenty-something tries, mostly, to avoid being picked up in a cocktail lounge (suggestive glances had been exchanged on the street, leading to this confrontation). Thank goodness the squirming target (“I have principles”) has his girlfriend’s waiting lips to seek heterosexual succour as soon as the unwanted guest departs (Did he leave his card?).
Midway, there’s a marvellous tableau. In the centre of the screen are two somewhat blurry men boldly satisfying each other in a public park. As these silent, furtive actions continue, their alter egos relate back-stories in turn. Screen-left is an experienced bushes regular who tells his boyfriend a few white lies in order to enjoy “rushed, stolen sex.” The fear of being caught heightens his enjoyment and heats up the passion when home. Screen-right reveals a preppy white-shirted man explaining that “I can’t afford to be found out ... none of my friends suspect.” Seeing a long-shot mime of the acts as confessions are heard heightens the impact of both.
On the darker side are tales of beatings from the man “who loves me best—no one ever better.” A self-described degenerate lives for humiliation and golden showers; another revels in his role as his “master’s” dog. Small-town queers take solace in the Internet—to which many city-dwellers become addicted—and live for the day that the death of their parents will provide the wherewithal to escape perpetual persecution and isolation. One man gives up waiting and takes a very long walk into the welcoming arms of the deep.
Importantly, the final monologues offer hope and joy. Relationships can last, love can be returned, age is not necessarily a barrier to years of contentment.
Giordano Corapi’s sensitive score is as varied as the tales. With much string tone (vrai and synthetic), piano (nothing like a solo keyboard to epitomize wide-ranging loneliness) mixed with bits of clarinets and percussion to establish mood and tone, the transitions along this incredible journey beautifully underscore the lives laid bare along the path. Benjamin Minot’s inventive camera—frequently becoming the “other” man—gently moves in and out of these disparate, occasionally desperate lives with compelling ease.
Curiously absent are the three dependencies that so often drive gay men to death or despair: drugs, booze and body worship. No worries, those problems have also been recently discussed (cross-reference below).
Lozzi’s film—once it’s understood that this production is most certainly not a thinly veiled wrapper for a parade of flesh and bulges—is an important passageway into the world of gay men. Hopefully, if enough thinking people from the “other” side take in a viewing, there will be less and less need to prove, defend or exploit who we are based upon who we hope to love. JWR