Sunday, November 15, 2009

Who Am I To Judge?
L.I.E vs Grand Ecole

There were two films I watched recently that refracted onto each other.

The first was Grand Ecole directed by Robert Salis. It is a french Gossip Girl style film about upper class students struggling with their love lives.

The protagonist is a boy with a girlfriend who is falling in love with his male best friend, his girlfriend challenges him to "get" this boy before she does, meanwhile he is showing lust for a muslim student and boys in general.

I thought the film was disingenuous. We see the protagonist longing for boys, but we also see him making passionate love to women after these scenes. The film seems to conclude that sexual differences, like class differences, are moot.

Well that's a load of horseshit, I thought, because we know what we want on a base biological level! Even the film Grande Ecole has a scene unrelated to the romances where the protagonist watches boys bathing after gym practice, a clear moment of lust in a cloud of romantic confusion.

Then I re-watched L.I.E., a film unfairly caught up in the late 90's youth exploitative age made notorious by Larry Clark and his film Kids

I wanted to rewatch L.I.E because the kid in it is Paul Dano who was amazing as the preacher guy opposite Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood.

On this second viewing I knew that L.I.E. was no Kids.

While Larry Clark's film is intelligent, it is also exploitative, his camera lens seems to lust after the teen and tween body with the passion of a pederast, even when he makes important moral points.

L.I.E is honest with its camera work. We see underage bodies, but not often--and when they are shown they are done so in service of the character attached to them.

L.I.E is the story of a young boy whose mother was killed in an accident on the Long Island Expressway. His best friend is a sexually active homosexual hooker. The young boy's home life is repulsive, his father is almost a nympho in terms of how much sex he has while ignoring his kid. The young boy eventually befriends the neighborhood pedophile (an awesome Brian Cox) and they begin a will-he-or-won't-he-rape-him father/son relationship.

L.I.E is a disturbing work, and I wondered why. Pedophiles in film are shorthand for evil, when they aren't then it bothers us. But I think the creepiness factor in the movie was more than that.

The film is really about something rarely discussed in America, male sexuality, which is why it disturbs. The young boy's father is voracious to the point that it is neglectful to his son. The young boy's best friend is cocky and discovering himself, but also lost to the thrill he gives to others. Brian Cox's character is conniving, but has a foolish hope that the young boy could be an ideal partner for him. And the young man in the movie is pre-pubescent.

This is important, because the film hints he is in love with his gigolo best friend, but the boy is pre-pubescent himself, so how deep does his physical intrigue run?

Not too deep at all! The young boy may be gay, or he may not be, but he's is too young to tell definitively.

It's a different message that Grand Ecole's fluid sexuality provides. L.I.E concerns itself with what we are after puberty, the folly of what we want lustfully, while Grand Ecole argues that what we want is not specific to gender.

That's when I thought, "well the main difference is that L.I.E is an American movie and Grand Ecole is french..."

And how many times have my fellow gay readers found themselves kissing a "straight" European man? "All Englishman are gay!" I tell people, and everyone who has come back from there in America agree.

Shit, maybe European guys really do believe sexuality is that fluid. Maybe we're more wonderfully different between us than I thought.

Who am I to judge?



WIlde American said...

hey kevin

very interesting post. i moved to prague a few months ago and i'll tell ya... things in europe are very different when it comes to sexual identity. lines are blurred. things are looser. even the definition of what is means to be a couple are different. it's truly been a learning experience.

WIlde American said...

Other things about life in Prague..

Age of consent is 15. Gay marriage is legal. Prostitution is legal. It's commonplace to see an 18yo with his 40yo boyfriend making-out in public. People don't bat an eye; it's totally accepted.

The idea of monogamy seems to be looser here. Having sex with someone outside of your relationship is considered healthy by most people. That's straight and gay couples.

P.D.A. among the youth takes on an entirely new dimension with hands down people's pants and full-on makeout sessions on escalators, on packed metro cars, in coffee houses and bars. Sometimes they're so close, it feels like you're in a 3-way. It's one giant teenage sex show. Again, considered completely normal.

Kevin said...

The talk about Prague above is worst nightmare. I have a hard enough time watching fat people kiss each other on the subway here in NY, nevermind a bunch of out of control teens stroking each other's groins. However, if they all look like Bel Ami dudes then maybe I'd like that more.

WIlde American said...

It is very irritating and I've actually gotten pissed off and told people to cool it.. which makes me feel like the old man screaming at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn. They usually look me like I'm a crazy American and go back their sex.

WIlde American said...

All the boys here look like Bel Ami dudes. Walking lollipops.