Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cuatro Lunas - a review

Fito and Leo
It is sad that the great majority of gay-themed films that come my way fall in the space between disappointing and just plain wretched.  It’s obvious gays are hungry to see themselves represented on the screen and will watch paint dry, as long as they are convinced there is a gay theme in there somewhere.  How else can one explain the run of gay films that come down the pike, one more amateurish, maudlin and trite than the next?  Click on the gay and lesbian category in Netflix, if you don’t believe me, and just look how many of them have a one or a two-star rating.

All the more reason to celebrate when the occasional gem shows up.  A friend had just come across a Mexican film called Cuatro Lunas (Four  Moons), and urged me to have a look.  It made my day.

Cuatro Lunas, strictly speaking, refers to four phases of the moon: the new moon, moon waxing (rising), full moon, and moon waning (falling).  Each phase is used to characterize one of four gay relationships in the film.    The new moon is Mauricio, an eleven-year-old boy discovering sexual desire for a male cousin who rejects him and later bullies him.    Moon rising is the story of Fito and Leo, two old friends from a small town who find each other in Mexico City, discover a sexual attraction for each other, and have to contend with the difference in the pace of each other’s coming out.  Moon waning is a couple, Hugo and Andrés, who have been together for ten years, and are challenged when one of them begins to stray.  And the full moon is the story of Joaquín, an elderly family man of considerable social standing, a poet and university professor who finds himself attracted to Gilberto, a male prostitute. 

The four stories do not overlap, but they are narrated simultaneously, allowing for some tension to build as the scene shifts from one to the other.  Collectively, they lay out four distinct faces of the experience of being same-sex attracted in Mexico today.  Each character is fighting homophobia, sometimes external and harsh, sometimes internal and even harsher.  The stories are told not from a sociological perspective, however.  Each one is a very personal narrative and it is a testament to the writing of Sergio Tovar Velarde, who also directed the film, that you quickly find yourself rooting for each character in turn.  Their stories are told with warmth and a gentle touch and, despite some ugly reality, you are left with the sense that things will work out.

Cuatro Lunas is Tovar Velarde’s second feature film.  Although it was not immediately picked up in Mexico, it made it to the screen ultimately with the aid of American and Canadian (Quebec) support and has already begun the rounds of gay film festivals, at Ft. Lauderdale and San Diego. The film will open the Latin and Queer Art and Film Festival in Los Angeles, this Friday, April 17th. One reviewer described Tovar Velarde’s work as “an outstanding analysis of the human soul of his generation, a sublime compendium of the new laws of desire of the 21st century.” 

There are missteps in the plot line.  Problems are resolved a bit too quickly to be believable.  And Andrés’ tears get a bit too close for comfort to soap opera.  But the film has so much heart you are inclined to forgive those sins and much more.  And, ultimately, it's the honesty of the story-telling that makes you sit up at times in astonishment.  Some moments are agonizing, as when Mauricio takes his eleven-year-old homosexuality to a priest in confession only to be dismissed out of hand.  And some are downright hilarious, like watching two straight men learning how to “do the gay thing.”

Another feature of the film which lifts it out of the amateur category, besides the honest story-telling and some very credible acting, is the theme music provided by two Argentine musicians and their now quite successful group called the Paté de Fuá (as in foie gras), which they formed after emigrating to Mexico.   Their music is a mix of  tarantelas, Dixieland, tango and jazz.  Their theme song, Cuatro Lunas, is available here, on YouTube, the words to which follow:

No sé si he de mirar al firmamento;
yo vivo entre la tierra y las estrellas.
No sé cómo escapar de lo que siento,
mi amor,
no sé cómo dejar atrás tu huella.
Me quema el corazón a fuego lento
la triste realidad de no tenerte.
Paté de Fuá
Lucho con la culpa y el tormento al pensar
que moriré queriéndote amar.
Luna de pena,
nueva y creciente.
Luna valiente,
menguante y llena.
Cuatro lunas,
cuatro lunas.
No habrá una noche igual,
no habrá ninguna.
Será que de vivir mirando al cielo
mi corazón se pierde en lo lejano.
Será que cada noche en mi desvelo,
mi amor,
me alejo para no soltar tu mano
“Dibújame un cordero”, me dijiste
haciendome cosquillas en la boca.
Tus labios me provocan otra forma de ser.
Ya no seré el amado de ayer.
Luna de pena
nueva y creciente
Luna valiente
Menguante y llena
Cuatro lunas
Cuatro lunas
No habrá una noche igual
no habrá ninguna.

An interview with Sergio Tovar Velarde, Alejandro Belmonte and Cesar Ramos (in Spanish) is available here.    And an interview with Gustavo Egelhaaf (Leo) (in Spanish) is available here.  

And if you get hooked on Paté de Fuá, as I did, try these, as well:

and you'll find many more on YouTube.

picture credits:

1. Fito and Leo (César Ramos and Gustavo Egelhaaf) from YouTube video trailer 
2. Paté de Fuá poster also from a YouTube video

"Te amo, chiquillo" - "I love you, kiddo!"

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