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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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Saturday, June 06, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 42

[42nd of 100]. The films of Argentina's Marco Berger can be rightfully described as the cinema of furtive looks and longing, with naked -- often frustrated -- desire told in the vocabulary of eyes, quiet moments, and the subtlest of action, so much so that sometimes you can mistake them for silent movies. I like it that way. Isn't that how we first behold love? We don't dare speak, our breaths caught in our throats, and our eyes surreptitiously scanning the objects of our yearning, always from the corners of our eyes, afraid of being found out and yet reckless in our want for attention? This is the province of Berger's preoccupations, and he has done this with increasing virtuosity, from the short films in Tension Sexual Volume 1: Volatil to the friendship drama in Plan B, from the sporty conceit of Taekwondo to the classroom drama of Ausente. Did I mention that he does all this in the key of gayness? It's all about virile young men yearning for each other, sometimes almost in a subconscious way, not knowing what it's like to take the first step -- which frustrates but also gives us a heightened level of, well, horniness. I make it sound like his films are porn; they're not. There's barely any sex, but there's a lot of eye-fucking, a lot of shirts being taken off, a lot of swimming and showering, a lot of crotch shots. The thing that makes his films extraordinary though is how he implicates us, the viewer, in the whole drama of desiring. He does that by making the camera a stand-in for us, and we become the invisible third person in the room; the camera's lens become our eyes, and we are placed in the position of being privy to all that is unsaid. It makes for labored breathing watching his films, I tell you. This 2013 film finds Berger at the top of his thematic conceits. In it, he tells a simple story about a young man named Martin who has returned to the village of his childhood, only to find out there's no one left for him there -- and is forced to sleep on the streets. In a nearby farm, he chances upon his old childhood friend Eduardo, who is minding the house of his aunt for the summer while attempting to do some writing. Martin asks to do odd jobs around the farm, and Eduardo assents -- and soon they're spending their days and nights together, for meals, for repairs, for swims, and soon each of them starts to feel something for the other, but they refuse to acknowledge it, skirting around their pent-ups desires like fish ignoring the water its swimming in. And the whole film goes like that. In my own work, I've written whole short story collections centering around desire, both sated and unfulfilled, but I've rarely found it depicted so well on screen. Desire in cinema always seem to be a sexual battlefield [from Fatal Attraction to Last Tango in Paris, from Love to Blue Valentine], or an intellectual exercise in ennui [from Eyes Wide Shut to Henry & June, from The Unbearable Lightness of Being to Body Heat], or a parable of modern connection [from Short Bus to Boogie Nights, from Shame to Blue is the Warmest Color], or an anthropology of assorted kinks [from 9½ Weeks to Nymphomaniac, from Secretary to In the Realm of the Senses]. But never just mundane desire. And so I found it amazing that this could be told so succinctly and so fraught with understandable tension on film, the way Berger treats it. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich