Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 22 November 2012


UNDERTOW, 2009. This is another movie with scenes to sob to, and also a prime 'gay interest' title. I am thinking twice about a 'gay interest' label though - does that mean its of interest to nobody else but gays, or maybe that gays are not interested in anything else? Perhaps 'gay theme' would be better ? or maybe remove the whole gay tag ?

Whatever ... here we have a BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN type drama from Peru. Yes, we search the world for new gay items of interest: Mexico (DONA HERLINDA AND HER SON), Germany (FOX AND HIS FRIENDS), France (WILD REEDS), Italy (LOOSE CANNONS) etc as well as the UK (WEEKEND) and USA (A SINGLE MAN) - as detailed at - yes - the gay interest label. UNDERTOW surfaced on our enterprising BBC4 channel late last weekend.

An unusual ghost story set on the Peruvian seaside; a married fisherman struggles to reconcile his devotion to his male lover within his town's rigid traditions. 

The debut feature from Javier Fuentes-Leon appears to address issues of masculinity, sexuality, faith and family with audacious honesty, against a Latin American macho background (where the men only watch football on tv while their women watch the soaps). Fisherman Miguel is duplicitious as he cheats on wife Mariela with visiting gay painter Santiago.  Then Santiago drowns and reappears as a ghost whom only Miguel can see (don't laugh...), so he feels he can happily continue living with his pregnant wife who is about to give birth, and with his lover whom nobody else sees ... Santiago though has left lots of paintings of Miguel at his house and the villagers soon realise what Miguel has been up to with the painter they did not like and who did not fit in, so Miguel is then ostracised by his friends. Santiago can only rest if his body is found and given proper burial by the man who loved him - Miguel though does find the body but keeps it hidden so he can continue his double life ..... and then one day the body is found. Can he find the courage to stand up to his macho culture and Santiago's family and claim the body and give it a loving burial?  This may seem like a bizarre fantasy but is played out in nice visuals, the poor village looks a treat with those nice colours, and yes our hero (?) does the right thing - and earns the respect of his villagers ... his wife is not so pleased though as she leaves with their baby, but perhaps she will be back.

One either responds to this totally in which case it will be quite involving and moving, or not. The 3 leads are exemplary: Cristian Mercado as Miguel, Manolo Cardona as Santiago and Tatiana Astengo is marvellously multi-faceted as the confused wife Mariela who slowly begins to suspect her husband is involved with the painter. Life in the village is no fun for Santiago - while he was alive - as the natives don't like him and he can only see Miguel in secret, then he has to hang around when he is dead too .... one telling moment has Mariela returning home to find her husband and baby asleep on the sofa with the tv soap channel on - wearily she turns it over to the football channel and slumps down beside them ...
I always felt about BBM, involving though it was, that the 2 cowboys should really have run off to San Francisco (or some other city) and opened a jeans store - lots of other country boys did, why stay when they could not be themselves and avoid making their wives unhappy. Likewise here, we can't really approve of Miguel cheating on his loving wife .... he cannot though keep up the pretence as he begins to fall apart. It's beautifully filmed though in a stunningly picturesque Peruvian fishing village. It features tender and complex performances by the actors in the lead roles, and wonderful authentic performances by native residents of the village location. The story delivers a powerful study in internal conflict, grief, redemption, and the power of love, and being true to oneself.  Now for that Israeli EYES WIDE OPEN ...

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