I really need to start looking at a calendar. On Saturday night, I made my way to Cineplex Odeon International Village to see Alexandra-Therese Keining’s Kiss Me, part of this year’s Vancouver Queer Film Festival (August 16 to 26). I had the fortune of screening Jon Garcia’s The Falls before the premiere (August 19) and I figured what better way to follow up a movie about young gay Mormon men with a movie about two Swedish lesbians falling in love? It’s all about balance. Also, I’m a huge fan of Sweden. So. Yeah.
Well, so much for balance – it turns out Kiss Me played on Friday, and I apparently can’t travel back in time, so I ended up seeing whatever happened to be playing at 9:30 p.m., which was Travis Mathews’ I Want Your Love. Mathews’ has been well received to date, garnering endorsements from a number of gay directors, including John Cameron Mitchell (Short Bus): “Mathews gives queer cinema a much needed injection of emotional intimacy.” The fact that Mitchell is highlighted in the film’s press struck a chord with me because while watching I Want Your Love, the thought “This is kind of like Short Bus, style-wise,” popped into my head early on.
If you’ve seen Short Bus, then you know what to expect; I Want Your Love is not for the sexually squeamish or for any remotely conservative filmgoer. It tells the story of Jesse (Jesse Metzger), a 20-something gay artist who is moving from San Francisco back to his hometown in Ohio. He’s broke and in an artistic rut, and needs a change. He’s searching for something and it becomes clear that he’s not even sure what that is – his father’s love and approval, artistic vision and motivation, some financial security would be nice… By eavesdropping on his conversations with close friends, we come to the realization that what he’s really searching for is his sense of self – Jesse doesn’t know who he is or what he wants or what the hell is going on, and it’s hitting him hard.
Balancing out Jesse’s crisis plotline is a plethora of penises, as we are allowed into his and his friends’ steamy bedrooms and well-lubricated parties. I don’t believe there to be a lot of film left on the cutting room floor from these scenes; it’s all here. To call it pornographic would be accurate; I don’t say this with any moral disdain, mind you, but simply calling it what it is – material presented with the intention of titillating an audience. The sex is raw, uncut (most were cut, actually… ba-dump-tshh!), hot, and sticky. But who said porn can’t be sweet? The sexy footage isn’t only about sex – intimate moments, genuine and tender, are captured in all their hairy, sweaty glory. Hilarious moments of naked laughter only experienced by true lovers behind closed doors.
Beyond the opening few seconds that hooked me when I heard the words “the small town Kim Deal’s from” (“Kim Deal reference?! I’m in!”), one of the standout moments for me was Jesse’s mental reliving of the good times he’d had with his ex. We see the two nuzzling in bed and in love, and the vividness of the scene underlines just how deeply he’s feeling this; he’s right back there, and the audience is right beside him. Cold reality seeps in as the pop and hiss of a vinyl record that’s played its last tune serves as the backdrop to what is now nothing but a tender memory, and a sad reminder of a joy now gone.
Quite honestly, Jesse’s story does get somewhat overshadowed by his friends’ both sexy and hilarious antics (who knows – perhaps this was intentional), yet I can’t say that it takes anything away from the film. Instead, it allows the viewer to be properly introduced to Jesse’s circle of friends, and through this, we get to know Jesse all the more. Whether it’s Wayne’s belly attack on his lover (played by Wayne Bumb and Ferrin Solano, respectively), or Brontez Purnell’s uproarious conversations, we quickly become friends with Jesse’s friends. I don’t remember the last time I laughed aloud so much in a theatre, much of it thanks to Brontez Purnell’s electric performance. I’ve never been more entertained by a “how I got crabs” story, and I doubt I ever will again. His observation on differences in East Coast / West Coast art scenes is another highlight – speaking on the more laidback Western approach to one’s art projects, “Let’s discuss this for ten years before anything happens.” Ha!
So, while this was definitely not the Swedish lesbian flick I’d been gearing up for, I consider it a happy accident that I caught I Want Your Love. It’s quite the ride. If graphic gay sex gets you running for the door, well, I feel bad for you, because you’ll end up missing a real gem of a film here. But if you’re OK with the action, or better yet – if that convinces you to go see it, you big freak, you – then this story of a group of youngish men in San Francisco, living their lives as friends and lovers, will make you laugh, maybe choke a tear back, and touch you… in a few different ways.