JWR Articles: Film/DVD - The Way He Looks and Silent Youth (Directors: Daniel Ribeiro, Diemo Kemmesies) - December 31, 2014

The Way He Looks and Silent Youth

3.5 3.5

The Way He Looks - Reviewed for the 2015 Palm Springs International Film Festival
Two distinct views at coming of age

The Way He Looks (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho)
Daniel Ribeiro, 2014
96 min. Three and one-half stars

When love is truly blind

Anyone with a disability or who has variously challenged people in their lives (which is pretty much all of us), will enjoy the feeling of hope that permeates director/writer Daniel Ribeiro’s entry into the gay, coming-of-age genre.

Blind since birth, Leonardo (a very sensitive portrayal by Ghilherme Lobo) desperately wants to be treated like everyone else not coddled by his—to him—over-protective parents: “Why don’t you try to make it normal?” speaks volumes.

Constant companion Giovana (Tess Amorim is a natural for the screen even if her character can’t find a true centre), would love to be more than just amigos, but can’t handle the obvious-to-most-others news that Leo will never fall for a woman.

The love of his life drops in out of nowhere—a curly-top transfer student who soon has Gi feeling like the proverbial third wheel. Fabio Audi does an excellent job as Gabriel, especially when his face reveals a burning passion while the two young men are so alone in the campground shower before his middle limb reacts in kind—the irony that Leo can’t see the high degree of arousal is a fine, subtle touch.

The false notes in Ribeiro’s generally charming script come in the form of over-the-top bullying, headed up by class buffoon, Fabio. Such overt taunting (culminating in a game of spin the bottle that threatens to go to the dogs!) without any serious backlash amongst the entire class (save and except for the principals), is—hopefully—a thing of the past in the 21st century (anonymous cyber bullying being much more attractive to the insecure amongst us).

The generous use of overhead shots—everything captured beautifully by cinematographer Pierre de Kerchove—adds greatly to the visual feast even as the wide-ranging music tracks (what fun to have Canada’s Gryphon Trio plying their special skills with a wee bit of Schubert) complement the action with every bar.

The inevitable falling apart, then finding a way back to relationship acceptance (Gi) then the bliss of a real first kiss (Leo and Gabriel) is worked out in a virtual textbook manner (still, how appropriate that the soon-to-be lovers’ joint class assignment is about the Ancient Greeks!). Then the drama goes full circle as another transfer student makes his way into the young, strengthening lives of friends with and without benefits. JWR

Production photo

Silent Youth
Diemo Kemmesies, 2012
73 min. Four stars

What else haven't you told me?

In a most remarkable cinematic coincidence, the next film in the lineup after The Way He Looks was Diemo Kemmesies “show it don’t say it” portrait of a decidedly awkward budding relationship between a German and a Russian—both finding, feeling their way into attraction for men.

While both filmmakers must surely have been unaware of each other’s scripts, the similarities are astonishing. The eyes have it: Key to Ribeiro’s story is the fact of Leonardo’s blindness; for Kemmesies, Kirill’s black eye (and related sexual assault) is a vital first step in the series of revelations to come. Both films save the first moment of vrai, unabashed intimacy for the steamy confines of a shared shower. Finally, the seemingly simple acting of brushing or holding hands silently makes the point that love has been found and —hopefully—won’t be torn asunder anytime soon.

Virtually a two-hander, Martin Bruchmann’s Marlo is more nuanced than Josef Mattes’ perpetually troubled Kirill.

The soundscape—notably the brooding, repeated pitches at key moments—are at one with many, many minutes of this largely silent movie.

Some will find Kemmesies’ work painstakingly crafted; others painfully slow. It all depends on where you’ve already been in the heady experience of “the dance.” JWR

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