Wednesday, August 14, 2013

"Beauty" (or "Skoonheid"): a middle aged closeted gay man carries his desires to the limit

In “Beauty” (or “Skoonheid”, in Afrikaans)  director-writer Oliver Hermanus takes some welcome risks with “gay” cinema.  He also presents a modern South Africa that looks far from the prejudices we thought it had overcome.
Francois van Heerden (Deon Lotz), married, moderately rich and running a carpentry business in the countryside, has been losing interest in his marriage (Michelle Scott).  He looks average enough for his age: hairy, but balding, perhaps gaining weight.  He meets his non-blood nephew, Christian (Charlie Keegan), 23, at a wedding party, and in time starts watching, even stalking him with various ruses.  In the meantime, we learn of his hideaway out on the ranchlands for casual gay sex.

It gets creepy, as he stares at Christian from a distance on the beach, Chris being with a girl friend.  Pretending to need Chris for legal work, he gets them to meet in a motel.
It’s a little unexpected to see a man in his mid forties overpower a young, healthy man physically.  What follows I have never seen in gay cinema that I can recall, although there is something like is in Carter Smith’s classic short “Bugcrush” (Jan. 29, 2008). 
The irony is that Christian is not so straight after all.

I thought there were some problems with the continuity in the gay disco scene.  No, I don't see people throw up in alleys behind bars and go back in. 
TLA’s site for the film is here


The film has a lot of continuous long-takes, in Dogme style (despite full widescreen, often with stunning ranch and landscapes and views of Capetown), often where one can see characters talking (from Francois’s point of view) but can’t hear them.  

The film (2012) is available on Netflix instant play.  

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