Tag Archives: Young Love

Paperhouse (1988)

When I was a little girl, my younger brother and I were convinced if we strapped enough household wires to each other and fell asleep in the same bed, we could meet each other in our dreams. Of course, my mom told us it was impossible, but that didn’t stop us from trying. Children with my wild imagination and faith in the impossible would love the concept of “Paperhouse.”

Of course, “Paperhouse” has a very adult angle that makes it, ultimately, best for grown-ups. 11-year-old Anna (Charlotte Burke,) who is at that age where kids mouth off to their elders and will pick a fight over absolutely anything, faints in school on her birthday and is discovered to have a raging fever.

Bizarrely, when Anna faints, she discovers that when she’s unconscious or asleep, she enters a world entirely unlike her own- to be precise, to a remote house she has drawn before her dizzy spells began. In the house she meets a boy, physically handicapped Marc (Elliot Speirs, who died at a tragically young age,) who bears startling similarities to a boy with muscular dystrophy who Anna’s doctor (Gemma Jones) is seeing, and who Anna has never met outside to dream world.

Anna’s unspoken issues with her well-meaning but hard-drinking father (Ben Cross) show up too when a fictional recreation of dad shows up at Anna and Marc’s secret hideaway, raging, evil, and wielding a hammer. Caught between wakefulness and forever sleep by her life-threatening fever, Anna must fight for her sanity and her life, as well as the life of her newfound friend.

Contrary to certain opinions, I found the acting in this to be quite effective, from most of the child players as well as the adults. The kids aren’t always the best, but what do you expect with newbies to the craft? Despite her brattiness, I didn’t find Anna to be an unlikable character- actually, I saw her as a bright and willful child struggling to cope with a childhood harder than most.

The psychological angle here is really fascinating- Anna’s mostly loving if distant father becomes a malformed monster in her dreams, while her mother (Glenne Headly) fails or refuses to see her husband’s alcoholism and the rift between him and their daughter. It resounded with me for entirely personal reasons, and I loved the entertaining yet insightful script.

The set pieces here are also magnificent, and this movie has one of the scariest and most memorable dream sequences I’ve ever seen, the kind of thing that haunts the nightmares of any children unfortunate enough to watch it. The score, however, is mediocre- mostly typical 80’s movie music.

“Paperhouse” is an entertaining and  underrated gem of the 80’s, and although it’s not full blood horror, it has enough unnerving moments to make it ‘light horror’ for people who don’t like really intense scary movies. Although it’s not available as yet on Netflix, it’s totally worth getting online if you have a DVD player that will play it. This is a great film about childhood dreams or fears around the lines of “Pan’s Labyrinth” or “Coraline,” and definitely worth checking out. 

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Summer Storm (2004)

Tobi (Robert Stadlober) is at that age when young adults wonder who they are, what they want, and where, if anywhere, they fit in. Unfortunately, what Tobi wants is quite obvious and unattainable: his straight best friend, Achim (Kostja Ullmann), who seems oblivious to Tobi’s affections.

“Summer Storm” is the story of Tobi’s coming out, Tobi’s boat rowing team championship, and Tobi himself, a fragile young man who hides behind a mask of goofball lovability to avoid confronting the world head-on.

Similarly compelling are the trials of Tobi’s girlfriend Anke (Alicja Bachleda), who tries to understand the deep feelings Tobi has for his best bud. The only subplot that I thought did not work was the attempts of a member of the openly gay opposite team, Queerstrokes (cute, huh?) to seduce an apparently straight homophobe.

I found this to be silly and cartoonish, and to reinforce negative stereotypes about gays (they want to “convert” you.) I think that the director should have dropped that and concentrated on Tobi, who is, to be a fair, a compelling and likable character.

He can be naïve, he can be a jerk sometimes, but Tobi is well-realized and sympathetic. Robert Stadlober, who is bisexual in real life, gives a sensitive and restrained performance. I also liked his romance with Leo, a Queerstrokes member. Although I initially felt that Tobi was using Leo, I liked the direction their relationship took.

“Summer Storm” is a good if unexceptional drama with mostly realistic characters, humor, and heart. Some aspects ring false (such as the apparently straight Achim masturbating in the shower room with Tobi) but most of it was believable. It is a movie for people who like gay cinema and true-to-life films about growing up.

North Sea, Texas (2011)

Back in the 50’s and 60’s, any movie that dealt with gay themes was radical and ahead of its time. A GLBT film didn’t have to be insightful or even particularly good — the filmmaker was risking his credibility and his career just putting himself (or herself) out there.

Now, however, things have changed, with entire gay film companies making movies available at the click of a button. Directors of these movies must not merely be willing to make movies — they must be the best they can be, and no less. Movies about the gay experience are in high demand, and makers and distributors of these films don’t need to be afraid anymore.

There have been some extraordinary films made about gay issues the last few years- “Weekend,” “Tomboy,” “Pariah,” and “Gun Hill Road,” to name of few … and  Belgian filmmaker Bavo Defurne’s “North Sea Texas” has garnered some acclaim. Unfortunately, “North Sea Texas” is a disappointment, marred by uninteresting characters and a rushed pace.

Pim (Jelle Florizoone), a pixyish, and disturbingly, often meagerly clothed teenage boy, is first seen played by Ben Van den Heuvel as a child, putting on a sash and a tiara for his own enjoyment. The son of a irresponsible mother (Eva van der Gucht) and a father who has long been out of the picture, Pim longs to escape is dull life. Mom is a frequent visitor of the Texas tavern, where she and her boyfriend get liquored up.

As a fifteen-year-old, Pim hates his mother’s loutish boyfriend but loves Gino (Mathias Vergels), his boy neighbor and best friend. Unfortunately, Gino’s sister Sabrina (Nina Marie Kortekaas) is in love with Pim, and can’t understand why Pim shows more interest in her motorcycle-riding brother.

When Gino breaks Pim’s heart and leaves, a love triangle develops between Pim, his mom, and handsome Gypsy Zoltan (Thomas Coumans). But Pim’s trials are not over, and his painful experiences lead to a eventual reconciliation.

I never really cared about Pim or any of the other characters — I guess that was one of the main problems with this film. Pim was nothing special — just your average soft, sensitive gay boy with a affinity for walking around unclothed. His apparent youth made his sexualization at the hands of the filmmaker seem somewhat skeevy.

Gino was a unsatisfying romantic interest who was willing to betray Pim just to go “Yeah, I’m straight” to the rest of the world. I didn’t like him either. Sabrina was okay, but she was a bit of a whiny busybody brat. I mean, who just goes into a person’s and starts browsing through papers?

The only things I liked about “North Sea Texas” were the decision to cast a fat person as Pim’s mother, Pim’s performance, and the scene at the end where Pim and Sabrina come to a silent truce. Otherwise, the movie was startlingly mediocre, and I hope you’ll take a pass on this one in order to watch a more worthy likewise-themed movie.

The Last Summer Of La Boyita (2009)

    “The Last Summer of La Boyita” is a sweet and humane film about a willful young girl struggling to understand the complexities of sex and gender. Despite content involving burgeoning sexuality and youthful curiosity, “La Boyita” never seems exploitative or tawdry. On the contrary, it is a wonderful film about the friendship between the girl, Jorgelina (Guadalupe Alonso) and an intersexed farmer’s son, Mario (Nicolás Treise.)

   Jorgelina is a somewhat entitled little girl living in Argentina who spends the summer with her doctor father (Gabo Correa) in a rural area. While vacationing there, she immediately takes an active interest in Mario, the low-key son of a farmer who has been pulled out of school to work full-time on the farm. Living with few joys or options, Mario is further burdened with a destructive secret- he is intersexed (popularly coined a hermaphrodite.)

   Cursed with both male and female reproductive organs, he must live in fear that someone will discover his secret. Jorgelina takes a prepubescent fancying to Mario, and becomes curious when his strange sexual status is almost accidentally revealed. Meanwhile, Mario prepares for a horse race that will prove his manhood to the other young lads.

   The child actors are wonderful, but the stand-out performance is Mirella Pascual as Elba, Mario’s mother. She effortlessly plays a woman to whom life has dealt a shit-ton of pain and sadness. Mario’s father, a rather brutish man (Guillermo Pfening) seemingly humiliated by his son’s gender abnormality, refuses to take Mario to a professional for fear of embarrassment. He’s good too. Actually, the whole cast is quite fabulous.

   I honestly don’t have anything bad to say about this movie. Beautiful cinematography, natural acting, delightful leads… It’s sad and sweet and wistful all at the same time. The plot can be a little slow, but if you like nuanced, slow-paced movies like I do you will forgive the film it’s occasional sluggishness.

   What impressed me most about “The Last Summer of La Boyita” was the natural way the dealt with the boy’s affliction. It’s easy to take a schoolboy’s stance on a subject like intersexuality, snickering and clowning around a serious topic. It is also easy to turn the whole thing into a lurid melodrama. It is harder to show restraint and sensitivity to a rare but still prevalent issue. I highly recommend this movie to anyone.
                                                   

 

Let the Right One In (2008)


It’s no secret that “Let the Right One In” is my second favorite movie of all time, and was, in my opinion, in no need of a remake. The experience of watching this movie is akin to that of reading a great book — afterwards you want to recommend it to everyone, in hopes that they will feel the way you did watching it for the first time.

Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), an unhappy twelve-year-old boy, is bullied by his peers and fantasizes about making them pay, though for the time being the violence stays within the confines of his imagination. While outside his apartment complex at night, he meets Eli (Lina Leandersson), a strange twelve-year-old who offers him, for the first time, a chance to dream of a different life.

Eli is not like other girls. She goes outside into the bitter Swedish winter wearing no shoes. Occasionally she smells like a putrid corpse. Animalistic growls emanate from her gut. But she floors Oskar with her concern for him and her insistence that he must fight back, no matter what the cost.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, Eli is a vampire, which doesn’t stand by itself as a big spoiler, as it is alluded to in the first twenty-or-so minutes. Eli is not twelve, but rather thousands of years old, and her intentions toward lovelorn, nerdy Oskar are ambiguous throughout.

This is a extraordinarily well-shot film — the snowy, coldly beautiful backdrop is the perfect setting to tell this story, and the cinematography is gorgeous without being showy or pretentious. It is the kind of story that makes you fall in love with its characters. It doesn’t matter if Eli is a vampire or a zombie or even a robot — she is an undeniably real presence, and you root for her as she carries out what must be done.

Lina Leandersson is surprisingly good and carries most of the acting duties on her small, vampiric shoulders. Kåre Hedebrant is a little underwhelming at times but still makes a decent effort, and acts much better than Daniel Buttcliffe is the early HP years. He pulls off the mix of darkness and pain in Oskar’s heart combined with his ultimate naivete.

There’s a lot of symbolism in the second half of the movie (Oskar closing the doors of his toy cars, anybody?) which you may not catch if you are overly literal-minded or are not paying attention. The film never lets us forget the suffering of Eli’s victims, including Lacke, a local drunk she ensnares with a nasty trick and makes a snack out of.

The strength of “Let the Right One In” is that it cares as much about its characters as its blood and special effects. The small bit of controversy it earned with its content involving children is unfounded, and should not deter you from watching what is most certainly one of the all-time greats in modern horror.