Looking’s sixth episode, “Looking in the Mirror”, is a very pleasant surprise. There’s an energy and vitality in this half hour that had been missing from the show up until now. Maybe it’s because almost all the characters finally interact with one another, or maybe it’s because the editing and dialogue are paced less leisurely than usual. But a theme Looking has been exploring – going after what you want rather than what you should want – comes into focus and propels the stories forward in an exciting way.
When Looking premiered five weeks ago it was purportedly the story of Patrick, Dom, and Agustín’s friendship. This bottle episode, following Patrick’s day-long date with Richie, posits that this burgeoning romance is actually the central relationship of the show. “Looking for the Future” shows the awkwardness and passion of new love and all of its flirting, disclosing, playing it cool, and wanting to spend every minute with the new person in your life.
Directed by Alain Guiraudie and photographed beautifully by Claire Mathon, Stranger by the Lake has drawn comparisons to the thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock, and rightly so. The atmosphere is one of chilling tension and highly controlled camera work, with point-of-view shots being used to draw attention to the role of both the cruising space and the cinematic space.
For the most part, cruising spots are associated with casual, no-strings-attached sex. They offer a space where the everyday repression of sexuality is ignored; a place where individuals can explore their sexuality without fear of being attacked or shamed by the conservative hetero-normative members of society. Within mainstream cinema, cruising has been vastly underrepresented, with the leather bars of William Friedkin’s Cruising and the problematic space in Shame being two of the better known examples. With Stranger, Guiraudie goes against the darkened interiors of these films, by using picturesque exteriors that display nature and beauty. He seems to want to avoid any negative surface-level imagery, yet he’s also striving for a realist depiction of the dangers that accompany any desire. By employing tension and suspense to an otherwise positive experience, Guiraudie is fleshing out the pros and cons of cruising.
“Looking for $220/Hour”, the fourth in Looking’s eight episode run, takes place during the Folsom Street Fair, an annual San Francisco BDSM and leather party. Patrick, Agustín, and Dom aren’t really part of that scene, but like much of the city, they use the fair as an excuse for some good old-fashioned Sunday day drinking. Aside from a few skimpy leather outfits, Looking doesn’t show much of the debaucherous celebration. Instead, the episode is structured around a trio of dates, even though the characters would never classify them as such.
Review of Looking, Season 1, Episode 3, “Looking at Your Browser History”
Well, “Looking at Your Browser History” sure gives more ammo to those who find this show boring. There are absolutely no crazy orgies, and even a bathhouse sex scene happens completely off screen. In fact, this episode veers almost completely away from sex and dating, concerning itself with the career and job anxieties of its main characters.
If Patrick was a little awkward on his date last week, in this episode he takes his nervous, spazzy outbursts to cringe-inducing, questionably racist new lows. Remember Richie, the sexy Latin doorman Patrick brushed off on MUNI? Patrick decides to date him, but only as a “fuck buddy” instead of a potential “boyfriend”.
There are a lot of reasons for this. One is his assumption that a purely physical relationship will take the pressure off dating. This is a stupid assumption for Patrick, who so clearly wants to be thought of as a sexually confident player. Unfortunately nothing makes him more nervous than sex, or at least the idea of sex with a new dude, and he badly masks his jitters with inane blather and lots of alcohol.
The first scene in the pilot of Looking is a clever fake-out. Two guys anonymously hooking up in a park is the most clichéd signifier of gay male sexuality out there. Here it is for the hundredth time – the awkward fumbling, the perfunctory kissing, the premature interruption. But it turns out that Patrick, the recipient of this sad outdoor handjob, has wandered into the woods as a sort of joke. He and his friends wonder if gay dudes still do stuff like that, and he decides to find out. The characters in HBO’s new half-hour are both self-conscious of the old stereotypes and confident enough to be unembarrassed when they occasionally fall into them.
Created and written by Michael Lannan (Lorimer) and directed and executive produced by Andrew Haigh (Weekend), series premiere “Looking for Now” introduces the aforementioned Patrick (Jonathan Groff), Agustín (Frankie J Alvarez), and Dom (Murray Bartlett), three 30ish friends living in San Francisco looking (get it!) for love and sex and fulfillment and everything else.
Sound On Sight Podcast #370: ‘Stranger By The Lake’ and ‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’ + ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
With the (wider) release of Abdellatif Kekiche’s widely-discussed Blue Is the Warmest Colour (aka La Vie d’Adéle), Ricky, Josh and Simon thought it a good time for a roundup of recent, acclaimed fare that touches on LGBTQ issues and depictions. First up is Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake, a noirish thriller that takes place entirely within the open confines of a gay cruising beach; second is the aforementioned Blue; and last (and – spoiler alert! – least), comes Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club, which ultimately prompts us to recommend a completely different film, though to find out which one, you’ll just have to listen ’till the bitter end.
The answer ranges from “not a lot” to “not the right things,” depending on how closely you observe. In the generation (30 years) since HIV/AIDS became a maligned social epidemic, only two American studio films,Philadelphia and now Dallas Buyers Club, have addressed the disease forthrightly. Other films have touched on it, of course. Larry Clark’s Kids and the musical adaptation Rent looked frankly at the decimation the disease caused in the specific enclaves those films depicted, though the production models of both films — small indie and theatrical adaptation, respectively — render them moot to this conversation.
FNC 2013: ‘L’inconnu du lac’ is an incredible thriller with the mood and atmosphere of a great horror
Male bodies glisten in the summer sun while wandering eyes fall upon a murder that leads to a torrid love affair with a killer. This is the premise to Alain Guirandie’s L’inconnu du lac, an incredible thriller with the mood and atmosphere of a great horror. The murder seems almost incidental, as the dread and suffering of desire haunt all the proceedings. It is not even clear when this film is set, though we can guess that it lies somewhere after the AIDS epidemic and before the Internet boom. Does it matter? Context here lies in the outcast nature of the characters and the isolation of their stomping grounds.
NYFF 2013, Day One Dispatch: ‘Like Father, Like Son’; ‘Stranger by the Lake’; ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’; ‘Nobody’s Daughter Haewon’
There’s a sweetness and emotional weight to Hirokazu Kore-eda’s tales about children and family dynamics that instantly recalls another great Japanese auteur, Yasujiro Ozu. Kore-eda’s previous film, 2011’s I Wish, follows a pair of brothers who plot a long-traveled reunion following their parents’ separation. Over the course of two breezy hours, they go through various trials and tribulations all in the name of an afternoon spent with a loved one. Rather than forcing the tale’s import with overwrought emotional confessions and stylistic cliché, Kore-eda opts for the power of universality. What makes his refreshing approach in I Wish and in his newest,Like Father, Like Son, so resonant is that the nostalgic inferences never veer into the maudlin.
TIFF 2013: ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ finds brilliance in pairing daring emotional honesty with sexual frankness
In director Abdellatif Kechiche’s absorbingBlue is the Warmest Color, Adèle (newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a teenager whose growing pains are amplified by her attraction to women which she rightly sees as something a few of her classmates won’t be able to accept. The atmosphere at school is detrimental to Adele’s exploration of herself, and so it’s more than fortunate that the older, alluring, self-assured, and blue-haired Emma (Léa Seydoux ofInglourious Basterds) walks into her life. What follows from their meeting is an incredibly immersive love story that syncs the truth behind ardent, impulsive lust with the importance of emotional culpability in relationships.
Quebecois director Xavier Dolanreturns to TIFF in the Special Presentations programme with the gorgeously atmospheric psychological thriller, Tom at the Farm (Tom à la Ferme), shedding some of his visual compositions while embracing the themes of desire, loss, and attachment with mixed results in its overall plotting. The film is an adaptation of a French-language play of the same name by Michel Marc Bouchard, who worked with Dolan to bring the story to the big screen. Tom (played by Dolan) leaves Montreal for rural Quebec to attend the funeral of his lover, Guilliaume. While this would usually provide opportunities for a sense of closure and some semblance of inner peace, Tom is initially met by confusion and then eventual acceptance by Guilliaume’s world-weary mother Agathe, played by Lise Roy. Tom settles in, Agathe makes him a delicious home-cooked meal, and invites him to spend the night at the house. The thing is, Agathe has no idea her estranged son is gay and in a relationship- two pieces of information her older homophobic son Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) intends on keeping a secret even if it means holding Tom in a captive role play that could cost him his life.