Tag Archives: Queer Cinema

Two Drifters/ Odete (João Pedro Rodrigues, Portugal, 2005)

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Two mouths hungrily kiss. The camera pulls back to reveal it’s two young men, Rui (Nuno Gil) and Pedro (João Carreira). They’ve just celebrate their fist anniversary and exchanged rings: they’re madly in love. Their favourite film is Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards, 1961) and their song is ‘Moon River’:

Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way
Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
But it’s not to be. As Pedro leaves to go home, his car crashes and he’s thrown through the windshield. The scene where Rui finds him made me purr. It’s a complete Sirkian moment but with a swooney romanticism Sirk himself was incapable of: Rui cradles Pedro, now a corpse, in his arms. The rings they’ve exchanged glisten in the darkness. At the very moment Rui embraces Pedro, it begins to pour with rain, a totally expressive rendering, just like the beginning of Written on the Wind (1956); and the citation is not accidental: A poster of Sirk’s Tarnished Angels is prominently pictured in Rui’s bedroom.
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The other protagonist of Two Drifters is Odete. We’re introduced to her roller-skating through a supermarket looking very much like Shelley Duvall in an early Altman movie. The song playing is Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’. When she gets home Odete, tells her boyfriend she wants to have a baby. He just wants to fuck. She lashes back at him. They part, and she’ll spend the rest of the movie, like Rui, engulfed in grief, seeing the other side of Clouds:
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
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Rui and Odete will meet at the Pedro’s funeral. She will first try to pretend she’s carrying Pedro’s baby, then begin to shape herself into Pedro himself. Rui and Odete will end up together. But not as you think. And with Pedro looking on.
I’m an admirer of Rodrigues’ O Fantasma, which I think a great masterpiece. Two Drifters is almost as good: a very beautiful dramatisation of love, loss, grief and mourning —  very moving, very queer. It makes me sad that so many of us spend so much time spouting our disappointment in Marvel or Tarantino instead of devoting more time to the depth and beauty of films like this one. I shall be seeing it again.
José Arroyo

Plan B (Marco Berger, Argentina, 2009)


A film that begins as a slacker sex farce and develops into a poetic dramatisation of changing desires. Bruno (Manuel Vignau) regrets dumping his girlfriend (Mercedes Quinteros) and wants to win her back. She’s now got a new boyfriend, Pablo (Lucas Ferraro) and whilst continuing to shag Bruno on the side claims no desire to get back together with him. Bruno hears from one of Pablo’s friends that he’s known to have expressed an interest in men and decides to seduce him in order to break up their relationship and win back his girlfriend. You can guess how it will end.

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One of the pleasures of watching foreign films is to learn about other cultures. Here the bodies, faces, flats, utensils; the ways of being;  the spaces people inhabit and the norms of the culture in which the protagonists dance their game of seduction; all seem strange and appealing to me.

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The film depicts an interesting tension. The protagonists watch TV, have sleepovers, talk about treasured childhood toys, they get to know one another and in doing so discover feelings for each other they didn’t know they had in them. Dramatically, the physical dimension of desire in the film is always blocked, sometimes literally as when half-way through the film, Bruno and Pablo are sleeping together, Pablo goes to cuddle up with Bruno in the night, and Bruno’s arm rises up like a shot to block him. The film seems to take place in a world of feeling — confusing, unexpected, troubling — where homosexual desire is seen as burgeoning but with no release. Characters are confused by their own feelings, uncertain of the feelings and motives of the other, scared to express for real what has heretofore only been expressed as a joke. It’s very beautifully done.

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The formal aspects of the film tell a different story. one that is in productive tension with what we are shown. The camera lingers on these young men’s faces, finding beauty in a glance, a gesture, a way of speaking. The camera is often fixed so that we first see characters from their crotches or bums before they sit down so we can get a big close-up their faces. The camera is often placed low so that we get particularly sexualised views of the characters bodies. And yet it’s only a look at. The faces and bodies themselves are not fetishised by make-up, lighting or lenses. It’s almost as if the rapt attenuation of desire inherent in this particular way of filming  sexualises the relationship in a  way the protagonists restrain themselves from until the end.

In attitude, if not in looks, Bruno is like John Malkovich’s Viscomte de Valmont in Dangerous Liaisons, a better looking but equally charming sexual mercenary who ends up hoisted on his own petard. However, the filming of it reminded me of Ozu or Takeshi Kitano. Scenes often begin on empty spaces, anticipatory of the people that will soon inhabit them; and scenes often end on empty spaces; characters have lived a moment; and the irresoluteness of it lingers and overhangs the scene.

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The characters speak of feeling; the use of the camera speaks of sex; the editing of that deeply felt but as yet unresolved. The combination spoke to me of a sexual awakening with all the urgency, hesitation, confusion, humour and embarrassment one remembers from life.

And I can see why to an extent: there’s a shared theme of sexual awakening here, and with a much more complex rendering of the spectrum of sexuality than in most movies (and one that Call Me By Your Name still hasn’t been given credit for). But the styles are very different.

Plan B is slower, more meditative, with leisurely editing, sparse shots composition, terrible music, and many shots where the audience is only half informed and where what the characters are reading or even saying to each other remains unheard by us. It’s a film with mystery, beauty and feeling; all achieved with the simplicity one has to be very skilled in order to achieve. I look forward to seeing the rest of Berger’s oeuvre.

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José Arroyo