Sunday, August 17, 2008

New film from Argentina ("XXY") examines cross-gender issues, with many plot twists


Recently, ABC news has presented women with “androgen insensitivity syndrome” and male chromosomes (XY), who develop socially as women but biologically should be men. A recent film from Argentina, “XXY”, directed by Lucia Puenzo, takes up a related them: a hermaphrodite appearing to grow up as a girl, but possibly desiring to become a man, and therefore (essentially) transgendered. At first, she looks like a girl, completely so but perhaps a touch tomboyish; it takes a while for the visual clues to build up, more in her male-like behavior.

The movie is distributed by "Film Movement" but the opening credits lists a record number of production companies. The principle companies are Pyramide and Wanda Vision.

The story revolves around how other characters interact and how they find out. Ines Efron plays the teen (“Alex”), growing up along the Uruguay coast under a protective father Kraken (Ricardo Darin). One day a surgeon Ramiro (German Palacios) himself transgendered to male as we eventually learn) and his (adopted) teenage son Alvaro (Martin Piroyansky). Alvaro is appealing but, according to his dad, talentless. He starts to take an interest in Alex, which will lead to a physical encounter that reverses the “normal” but also will lead Alvaro into wondering about his own sexual orientation. At first, Alvaro talks about being “normal” as if that were a moral requirement; his own belief system will only break down, as if he is hardly aware of what happened in his own family. The story unfolds in such a way as to make society’s expectations of gender roles to look like a totally adaptive exercise, one that hardly respects the possible natural variety in human beings. The movie builds on some analogies between human sexuality and the varieties of sea life (especially invertebrate) that support the fishing community.

The film visually is focused; the coastline looks barren and cool, and cloudy most of the time.

A remote comparison could be made to the 2002 film "XX/XY" (IFC) directed by Austin Chick with Mark Ruffalo as Coles.

Another distant comparison from earlier this year would be Mitchell Lichtenstein's horror film "Teeth" from Roadside Attractions, LionsGate, and Dimension Films.

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