Saudade

Longing - A real telenovela

2 stars out of five
by S. James Wegg
Publish Date: May 18, 2004
Reviewed for the 2004 Inside Out Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival
Buff and brooding in Brazil

Jürgen Brüning’s first feature starts from an intriguing premise (three young Germans set up their Internet sex shop in rural Brazil, making cash from having live sex with each other while restarting their stalled lives), but lacks consistency in tone, pace and plot, leaving the magnificent array of male flesh and idyllic scenery to carry the day. Alas, it takes more than spectacular terrain to maintain interest. Sub-titled “a real telenovela,” the script is so awash in incredible coincidence, clichés (“the poor can only watch misery in colour”), and lame humour (“I have to get some things straight.” Reply: “Oh, I thought you were gay.”) that any chance for parody is lost and true-to-life drama is equally absent.

Of the three pornographers-for-hire, it is client favourite Erik (Hendrik Scheider with a petulant gaze that is eerily similar to Dietmar Prinz in Beethoven’s Nephew, cross-reference below) whose longing for lust gets him in deadly trouble only to be rescued from his angst by token-black soap star Miguel (Aldri D'Anunciaçao whose radiant smile and unforced naïveté make all his scenes a delight).

Shot in digital video, the screen brims over with the spectacular locale of mountains, beaches and waterfalls, which keeps set dressing to a minimum and raises our expectations that the principals might also reveal their natural splendour, but only Erik bares all even as he near-tediously hides his horrific secret from his unsuspecting lover.

Meanwhile, Cyrus (Tarik Qazi) the “boss” of the buddies searches in vain for his mother, aided by the house servant, Maria ( Maria Lucia da Silva Ludwig, giving the role just the right mix of lightness and savvy understanding), whose life and loves echo their quarry. The musician of the group is Tim (Daniel Bätscher). His quest for the “perfect” sound provides many opportunities for cuing the Brazilian and German rap/hip-hop tracks that cleverly move from his headphones to the studios and nightclubs where much of the action takes place.

Once love has bloomed, Miguel’s shooting schedule drags him away from Erik, setting up a series of bus, airport and late-night beach farewells/hellos/“I’ve got something to tell you-but not here segments,” that soon have viewers wanting to yell out the nasty truth before having to write off the beautiful TV actor as a complete moron. Worse, a tedious diatribe on the challenges of being black and gay preached with enthusiasm to a self-help therapy group effectively stops what little momentum was left, serving only to set up the drag queen number. Please, more show, less tell (shades of Being At Home With Claude, cross-reference below).

Brüning may have taken on too many roles as director, producer and writer. While it’s nice to have that kind of control, there is a danger that such a one-sided creative view can lose its way, especially first-time out. As the credits roll, everyone is left longing—on both sides of the screen. JWR

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