JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Inside Out - Quick Takes (Directors: Lee Hae-yeong, Lee Hae-jun, Dan Castle, Juan Flahn) - May 16, 2008

Inside Out - Quick Takes

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Reviewed for the 2008 Inside Out Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival
Wrestling his/her way into song

Like A Virgin (Cheonhajangsa Madonna)
Lee Hae-yeong, Lee Hae-jun
2006 116 min.
Three stars

Similar in many aspects to Ekacahi Uekrongtham's Beautiful Boxer (cross-reference below) Like a Virgin has some spectacular moments (both physical and athletic) in the sand-floor ring of traditional Korean Ssireum, but can’t score convincingly almost everywhere else.

Oh Dong-gu (played with courage and emotion by Ryu Deok-Hwan) is a pudgy sophomore who’d like nothing better than to enlarge his breasts, require the personal plumbing and become the pent-up girl he knows is lurking in his genes. He’s head-over heels in love with Teacher (Tsuyoshi Kusanagi) and prays he’ll put off his impending marriage until his adoring student’s advances will have the chance of reciprocation instead of humiliation.

When Dong-gu realizes that joining the wrestling squad could put him in the running for enough cash to transform him into a her, he begins a regimen of training with a teammate who happily (er, gaily?) trades off the secrets of inner-leg throws for Madonna video dance moves.

All too predictably, the home front is a disaster: Dad’s a career alcoholic (after his own boxing career ended in injury), Mom’s bolted and works in a theme park (replete with bubble guns) and a seldom-seen brother tries to keep their father from killing everyone.

As more and more friends, family and colleagues discover their bud/son/shower-mate is hell bent for brassieres and hose, the set-piece scenes come one after the other (Dad walks in on a lipstick session; Mom comes around and vows to respect her son/daughter, later telling her ex “You hate yourself too much”; getting pissed with best buddy results in the inevitable titty grab and cues the timeless question “Is having a painful dream better than having none; still, the crouched over sprung-a-stiffy-in-my-ever-so-tight shorts won’t fail to bring a laugh, which is only overshadowed by the coach proffering his pre-match advice in his own throes of taking a crap) without much magic in the narrative to bind these disparate parts into a whole.

No worries. The closing celebration is a music video version of Madonna’s hit, where the curvaceous reborn Dong-gu reminds all who will listen that “I made it through the wilderness.” Party on!

Surf's up, plot's out

Jesse dreams of the next wave

Dan Castle
2008 95 min.
2 stars

Writer/director Dan Castle with his buff cast and talented crew have brought a buffet of skin, surf and sex to the screen, but in the absence of a storyline that has somewhere to go and characters to care for (beyond what some of them might be doing after the movie from either side of the gender/preference divide) this production’s waves aren’t big enough to stay for the ride.

Jesse (the wonderfully mole-a-plenty Lachlan Buchanan) wants to get out from the shadow of his too on-the-nose-named half-brother Victor (Reshad Strik) and prove to the world he’s got more than what it takes to win surfing trophies. Naturally (plot development 101), his older semi-sibling has had his field of dreams dashed due to injury and has been dumped by wife and baby daughter when his failure finds solace in other beds and booze.

Youngest brother, Fergus (Xavier Samuel, who despite some blue hair dye and not-too-well-kept coloured nails doesn’t pass the Friends of Dorothy test) is the family fag derided by all except Gramps (congenially played by Barry Otto) whose own closet may contain more than just old suits.

Soon it’s love at first board as Andy (Kirk Jenkins) puts his bare torso out on offer, inspiring Fergus to take private lessons until he, er, can get up on his own. To bring all of the principals together, a wild weekend is planned on the beach.

All of this sounds promising enough, but the devil is in the details. From closed-door washroom interruptions (after living together for years?), to no-condom-at-hand for a weekend with babes (“Don’t worry, I’ll pull out.” Yikes!), to dateless Scottie (Israel Cannan) taking revenge on his humping/stroking pals by driving off in the purloined SUV (how convenient for all the keys were in the ignition) the narrative switches off before it has a chance to get going. We are left cheering Jesse’s angst and wondering when the next board sequence will begin (one saving grace is the underwater photography, yet the accompanying tracks merely move things forward rather than propel the action).

Nonetheless, eye candy devotees won’t be disappointed with an array of boobs, butts and appendage flashes to titillate (hilariously the two brothers running naked through the neighbourhood: gratuitous as it was revealing) when there’s nothing much else to say.

On to the next.

Queer goes the neighbourhood

Cleaning up the neighbourhood

Boystown (Chuecatown)
Juan Flahn
2007 100 min.
Three stars

Those with an interest in mother/son relationships of all stripes will find lots to chuckle about in director/co-writer (with Dunia Ayaso, Félix Sabroso) Juan Flahn’s breezy comedy that shows the lengths to which upwardly-mobile queers and their realtors will go to create a gay-friendly environment where straight-acting politicians will happily strap on their rhetorical dildos to court pink ballots.

Effectively accompanied by David San José’s light-and-sassy score, svelte Victor (Pablo Puyol) singlehandedly clears away the hold-out apartment owners (nearly all of whom are approaching heaven’s waiting room) by first making them a generous financial offer, then crushing their windpipes as they become window hangings. Set-up lines such as “I won’t sell …I want to die here” are efficiently realized as the dead grannies make way for the rainbow moving vans.

It falls to a pair of bears (Carlos Fuentes as the claw-sporting Rey, Pepón Nieto plays furry Leo) to hold the script together. The Wolf Cub’s chain-smoking mother, Antonia (Concha Velasco) moves in beside the open-relationship couple, becoming a target herself even as she does her level best to break up the bickering pair (Antonia’s decided that if she has to put up with her only son being gay then at least he can do better than being partnered with an overweight driving instructor).

As the bodies pile up, Inspector Mila (Rosa Maria Sardá) and her son/fellow-employee, Luiz (Eduard Soto) are in hot pursuit: their only real clue comes from the perpetrator’s penchant for spraying his hapless old dolls with an upscale perfume, which, er, puts the familial sleuths on the scent only to witness her boy-detective’s coming out. Presumably, the up-close-and-personal interrogation of the swishy suspects awakens his inner Dorothy.

The resident fag hag comes in the form of Lola (Mariola Fuentes) whose “love and luxury” unpublished novel is, much to the surprise of Rey and Leo, based on their lives.

The pace ebbs, flows and drags, has a few great lines and manages to send its chase scene into a bathhouse, but Flahn, despite many fine performances, can’t find the right balance between hilariously bizarre and overarching narrative direction, so this neighbourhood gets a slight redo instead of a complete makeover. JWR

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Further information, future screening/performance/exhibition dates,
purchase information, production sponsors:
Australian Film Finance Corporation (AFFC) Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film and Video Festival Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation
Cross-reference(s): Please click on the image link(s) below
for related work: