Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The gay romantic comedy is a strange hybrid. Dennis Lim , writing in the Village Voice, says that Bumping Heads, a short in the Boys Life 4 anotholgy is "stupendously inept", a "blabbering concussed cringefest of unrequited lust". Lim, like his colleague Michael Atkinson, is guilty of overkill. Dave Kehr, writing in the New York Times, says that gay indies havce become "much less overtly political" and "tend towards naturalistic comedy and drama, trading slogans for complex emotions.".

I have nothing against Bumping Heads which I found slight and pleasing. It belongs to that genre of indie romantic comedies, which adopt multiple-points-of-view narrative, overlapping voiceovers and intersecting flashbacks to jazz up a light romantic story-line. What I object to is that this short is placed in a gay shorts anthology even though, it has really nothing to do with the experience of being gay.

The same goes for "This Car Up", an annoyingly pretentious story that claims to be about serendipity and fate when it is really nothing much more than a series of meet-cutes lifted straight from the movies. Again this one is buoyed up by its fancy syntax: four split screens, two to map out its protagonists and two that act as their thought-bubbles.

The other two shorts can at least claim to be "gay". O Beautiful which is again filmed mostly in split-screens (suprisingly well, I must say) is about the aftermath of a hate crime. The premise and the movie's ambition and it's fearlessness to venture into melodrama are it's strengths. Its actors' tics and mannerisms are it's liabilities, as well as its inability to make the melodrama really affecting.

The worst film in the anthology is LTR, a preening, elbow-digging pseudo-documentary. I suppose Philip Bartell thinks that filming a mock documentary on two twinks who rhapsodize about love committment rings is insightful. Well, it's not. This is the kind of movie that tries to make itself good by making its viewers feel superior to the protagonists. Forget about insight, it's not even remotely funny, except when the documentary-maker ends up having a fling with one of the guys he's filming.

Is it a sign of progress and amalgamation that indie gay cinema is leaning more towards light romance rather than "serious" examination of gay issues? Not really. It'd be a sign of acceptance if gay romantic comedies found a place in romantic comedy anothologies, rather than gay anthologies. This is clearly not the case. Gay romantic comedies are clearly marketed towards gay audiences. The need of the hour is to take the gay out of the romance.

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