There is currently no shortage of opportunities during this holiday season to "make the Yuletide gay." We can delight in an abundance of ginger(bread) men, ugly sweater-inspired undies, and battery-powered toys (ahem). And there are plenty of hot guys getting down and dirty in three new, gay-themed home video releases from around the world! Two of them even have Christmas connections.
Cola de Mono (now available from TLA Releasing) is set in Santiago, Chile on Christmas Eve. Two brothers – younger, precocious Borja and the older, studious Vicente – have gathered with their amusingly pessimistic (at least initially) mother. As the three get intoxicated on wine and the special holiday punch which the film is named after, family secrets of a homosexual nature are revealed and result in some decidedly non-jolly, bloody mayhem.
Talented writer-director Alberto Fuguet draws from his own upbringing during the 1980's for this provocative psycho-sexual thriller. Borja and Vicente sport short shorts, and there are numerous references to such popular movies from the "Me Decade" as Short Circuit, Aliens, Gremlins, Poltergeist and Revenge of the Nerds. In one memorable scene, Borja (played by the deliciously sassy and sexy Cristobal Rodriguez-Costabal) does for dancing in a jock strap what Tom Cruise did for dancing in tighty-whities in 1983's Risky Business. William Friedkin's controversial but pioneering (at least in hindsight) gay slasher flick Cruising is also eluded to.
Fuguet's biggest inspirations, however, are the 70's-80's oeuvre of director Brian DePalma as well as horror novelist Stephen King's works. Cola de Mono even opens with a quote from King: "We lie best when we lie to ourselves." King's Carrie figures strongly, especially during the finale (notably, DePalma directed the original film version), as well as DePalma's Body Double and Dressed to Kill. Topping it all off is Christian Heyne's great, synth-pop score and 80's songs by the popular Chilean group Upa! Made with a potent combination of economic storytelling, nostalgia, visual flair and eroticism, Cola de Mono shouldn't be missed by gay men in the 45+ age bracket.
Meanwhile, the infamous Chinese provocateur SCUD (Utopians, Amphetamine) is back with his latest, explicit gay epic, Adonis (now available from Breaking Glass Pictures). It isn't set at Christmas time but does open with a bevy of beautiful naked men in a forest who we later learn are elves! The film stars and is even named for SCUD's current muse Adonis He, who also headlines the director's last production.
In what may be an at least partially autobiographical story, Adonis is a Beijing opera performer who turns to porn and prostitution after he is cut from the company. He is taken in by an older man he comes to affectionately call "Uncle," although this agent is revealed as truly wicked by the film's horrific climax. Told in non-linear style, we learn about Adonis's childhood with a terminally-ill mother. There are also bondage, kink and orgies throughout that at times threaten to be too much even by SCUD's standards.
Nathan Wong's gorgeous cinematography in color, black & white, and sepia ravishingly depicts the sometimes sordid proceedings. Adonis is not without its philosophical and even theological aspects, especially in the end. Like most of SCUD's films to date, it is an often hypnotic blend of both sacred and profane elements.
From China we are transported to India for Jayan Cherian's Ka Bodyscapes (now available from Ariztical Entertainment). As the first Indian film to deal openly with LGBTQ issues, censors demanded heavy cuts to it and ultimately banned it from theaters. There is no explicit sex shown but the relationship between lead male characters Harris, a gay artist, and the athletic Vishnu is undeniably sensual. Jason Chacko and beautiful Kannan Rajesh assay these roles, respectively.
The pair confront prejudice and persecution, especially once they support their female friend and her fellow feminist activists. Sadly, things don't end well for them, in a harsh reminder of how far Indian society still has to go in accepting its LGBTQ citizens. But writer-director Cherian does an admirable job of showing the diverse attitudes that do exist in modern India. There are also beautiful shots of the local flora and fauna plus of Harris' provocative paintings.
Ka Bodyscapes makes for eye-opening holiday viewing on many levels. After all, this is the season of goodwill toward all.
Cola de Mono: B+
Ka Bodyscapes: B
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.
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