Sunday 28 January 2018

On Blu-ray - David Hare finds an authentic movie about gay love and sex, GOD'S OWN COUNTRY (Francis Lee, UK, 2017)

Josh O'Connor and Alec Secareanu (above, click to enlarge), the leads in Yorkshireman Francis Lee's superb first feature, God's Own Country which debuted at last year's Sundance.
Cornholing and romance are both experiences depicted here with total authenticity. The film has since played several FF circuits including 2017 NZ and Sydney/Melbourne but only achieved a very limited commercial release in Oz and NZ last year. 
"refreshingly blunt"
The sex scenes are refreshingly blunt, especially after the girly, twirly, fairy floss, queeny swooning of the unspeakable Guadagnino picture and Oscar fave, Call Me By Your Name. Like the boys' moods and their isolation, the sex in Lee's new picture alternates from spit and axel grease to intensely tender, in defining ways which truthfully display how masculine sexuality can and does have a range, and the depths which it can reach, sexually and emotionally. 
Director, Francis Lee
And despite the autobiographically imposed limitation of North Country milieu and a narrow range of family personalities defining the narrative, the movie never abandons authenticity for the sake of flowery, egocentrically self-regarding bollocks like the visual tizzy floss and unceasingly giddy swoontime of such a total phony of arthouse posturing as the vile Luca Guadagnino, a director who throws that film's sex into the soup of the "tasteful" with his pseudo gay, dizzyingly pitched orgy of "good taste", production design, food porn and style, the totally, offensively vacuous and completely shallow Call Me By Your Name, surely the most repulsive and dishonest film of 2017.
"It's not really gay" shrieks la Guadagnino to a breathless homo-baiting press, in fact highlighting the only truth that may be ascertained from his swoonfest of circling cameras, flashes of Bach and breathless smiling actors playing white rich, liberal Jews, all partying in a melee of mutual admiration, Thus Guadagino's sex scenes look as if Armie Hammer and Timothy Chalamet are merely learning how to dance, as ever more decorative artefacts come into frame to amplify the "Proustian" Summer of 83 memory for the final chapter of Guadgnino's so called trilogy of Lerv, starting with a Tilda Swinton bang in the unspeakable and laughably bad Io Sono l'Amore of 2013. This is not the sort of "Love" one might find in, say Dreyer, or Mizo, or Sirk or Ford or McCarey, or Ophuls, it's the one 13 year olds schoolgirls read about in trashy pop magazines, but that's good enough for Luca's version of the "gay" experience.
And of course HIS film isn't anything so vulgar as just, um "Gay". Oh, have I made it clear yet how much I loathe Call Me By Your Name? 
Authenticity is indeed the beating heart of God's Own Country, and it rings clear through the hesitant but affirmative homosexuality of its two lead parts, the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the farm and the animals, the sheep, cows and goats who are tended through life and death by O'Connor and his newly arrived colleague, friend and soon to be lover from Romania, Secareanu.
The melancholy little family tragedies of daily life prompt a final change in the plot that brings the now estranged couple back together, of all things as O'Connor decides to take over running the farm from his dying father. I found both the haltingly enunciated feelings and the other periods of silence and repose as affecting and moving as anything else I saw last year, and, again the sheer power of the movie's authenticity engaged me completely. 
But something like this that actually celebrates rough male sex, and gay relationships which are not sacrificed or actually endangered by familial meddling or other first world factors is a quiet but major triumph in gay-themed movies. Or any movies really.
A lot of critics kept calling this film a North Country Brokeback, but it's far superior to Ang Lee's quite good Hollywood picture, and it doesn't require for a mass audience the very big performances it got from the two male leads, especially Heath Ledger. Brokeback did have MIchelle Williams in an early lead part which did indeed throw the torch of truth through such direct acting of damaged feelings and hurt. In Francis Lee's new film, the same innate truth and honesty are quite simply embedded totally in the material and with the actors themselves.

The new Blu-ray comes from a UK Label called Spirit Entertainment. As far as I know it's the first disc release worldwide.

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