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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

entry arrow7:42 PM | Desire, Memory, and the Blank Slate

What a pleasant surprise this is. Here is a queer film that defies its niche, dodges the predictable, and becomes a lingering testament about the search for connection in this confusing maze of a world. When I first began viewing Joseph Graham's Strapped [2010], I was ready to dismiss it as one of those mindless gay films that serves more as a flesh buffet without paying much attention to story, to character, to insight about the human condition. We've all seen pictures seemingly like this, and they've all been fruitless exercises in gay excess for the most part. Strapped centers, after all, on an unnamed male hustler (played to perfection by the incandescent and boyish Ben Bonenfant) who follows a trick to his apartment complex, and then after the tryst, spends the rest of the night trying to get out of the maze of a building. Unfortunately, the building does not seem to want him to get out -- its ghostly corridors and confusing dead-ends conspire to keep him trapped. In his wanderings, he meets assorted characters, all gay, who sort out their emotional baggage and personal histories or demons as they transact the fact of their lives with their hustling money. The premise sounds like it was made for a porn movie, but this is the surprising magic of Mr. Graham's directorial debut: it favors an intimacy with each character's story over the sexual entanglement. It becomes a tender, knowing, intelligent film that is also edgy and sexual. And so we see individual tales, courtesy of specific tricks, involving memory, fantasy, neediness, homophobia, the evolution of the gay right's movement, and the want for personal connection -- complete with borrowings from Michel Foucault and William Shakespeare. Mr. Bonenfant's triumph as the lead and the connecting thread of the disparate stories is even more amazing considering that he is able to embody, without a single false note, the projections of all the tricks he meets: he is not exactly a cipher -- this is as much his hustler's story as much as the film is about the stories of his tricks -- but he becomes the throbbing and responsive blank slate for the other characters to connect with. When we get to the denouement, it feels right; everything, no matter how disparate the stories were, leads to it. This is a thinking film. That it is also sexy as hell is just an added bonus.

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