Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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I lasted about 5 mins witching tis garbage then forwarded it to try and find something of interest... It's CRAP with a capital F for F...KEN CRAP... Everything is annoying about it, crap script & the moron director filmed it in sepia (brown & white) - is that supposed to make it artsy fartsy??? Cause its annoying & CRAP....
Creating a story about just two people in one room seems like a formula for disaster and unmitigated boredom. There are no sweeping scenes of visual grandeur to keep the eyes and mind alert, no outside characters to play off against. Perhaps it is even the ultimate test of a writer or director. He or she must be not only consumately capable of probing a character with the insight of a sculptor like Donatello - but also of creating characters compelling enough to give the reader or viewer reason to sit through, characters which only raise more questions about themselves with the progress of the plot.
Only a few examples come to mind easily, which may be a sign of the success rate. The play "Dear Liar" adheres closely to the rules: George Bernard Shaw and the actress Mrs Patrick Campbell are portrayed reading their letters to each other. A few other stories adhere to the format for most of the time: Noel Coward's "Private Lives", and, in cinema, Bergman's unsettling "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?"
Paul Castellaneta, who prefers to be known as "P.J.", cites "Virginia Wolf" as a large influence on the interaction in his film, "Together Alone". Two men have just met in a bar and come back to the apartment of one of them. "Their thing" is done off-camera, and is over minutes into the film. When they have dressed, and begun talking, it becomes apparent that Castellaneta is tackling head-on the daunting, strict, two people-in-one-room format. The dread eases as it becomes evident that he is going to pull it off. Minutes into the film, he has begun an astonishing power-play of individual will and force. The tension eases at times into wry, laugh-aloud humour, or wooing lyricism, (many of the lines are double-edged and yes, the audience is meant to laugh) but then spirals again until two jolting plot twists almost violate the unspoken limits of their clashes of ideas and values.
At a screening during Toronto's Festival of Festival's, a man in the audience asked why there was no sex on screen. "I didn't realise until later," said Castellaneta, "that he was heterosexual. In answering him, I would have used the example of two women in bikini bottoms, wearing nothing else. You're not going to be looking at what they're saying, you're going to be looking at their bodies. That's not to say that I have anything against naked people - I love them - but I had something very specific in mind.
What he had in mind was "homosexuality, not sex." "Together Alone" examines one-night stands, commitment, family, confusion of sexual lines, coming to terms with ones self, and, of course, AIDS. Whenever cinema has seriously covered these in the recent past, the treatment has usually been on a broader, political level, with the characters compressed by the issues into mere "types". This year, though, with van Sant's My Own Private Idaho and Castellaneta's Together Alone, cinematic treatment of homosexuality begins to come of age. Issues start to define themselves in terms of the characters, bringing all the uncertainty and blurring that that implies.
Castellanta is masterly in his camera work, using closeups that are almost violent at times in their probing to entwine the issues with his characters. He zooms around with the camera while they are talking and testing each other, and then uses a closeup to give a person preemince over an idea. "It's very important to me," says Castellaneta, "to make every shot tell what's going on." He succeeds. Each shot encapsulates their efforts to build a human bridge over the chasm being ripped open by their clashing viewpoints.
Castellaneta's inate empathy with human nature prevents judging one viewpoint as right or wrong, one character as the winner or loser. Though the film has taken Best Feature award in both the San Francisco and Los Angeles Lesbian and Gay Film Festivals, Castellaneta has been criticised because some views expressed by characters in the film do not get explicitly labelled as Uncorrect. Much of gay art lately almost seems as though the creators thought it had to be subtitled for the homosexually impaired. "You can be gay and not agree with the party line," says Castellaneta. "In the gay movement, there's a real need for tolerance and responsibility. Tolerance for the way other people live; responsibility for the way you live your own life."
Though the dialogue is mostly tight, and witty, he lets it spin out at times into monologue, an unusual and risky device on the screen. "With monologues, I wanted to skewer what people say cinema is. Though I suppose the film could be done as a play, I took a very cinematic approach. I control where you see these people. You could hear those same monologues on stage, but you're not (his hands framing his face) here. You don't see his eyes. When you have such discussions, as now, their face is right into yours. You can't get that in theatre."
The monologues not only get off the ground, they soar in moments of brilliance (though at times heart-felt background music dampens their wings), conjuring images that are powerful because they are created in the intimacy of the mind. The characters recount just having had the same dream, of swimming under the sea together. Again, the heart-felt music, but despite it Castellenata seamlessly stitches together cinema and the primaeval art of live storytelling, where a compelling voice and the listener build the story together.
The mastery of screen and words work together to produce insights that are frighteningly honest about the human condition. At one point in the film, one character argues that the penetrator in the sex act got the most out of their encounter, because he conquered, he took. The other character reponds, "After I come I feel - less. Like Christ. As though virtue has gone out of me." Because the hard evidence has been hidden off screen, we can't judge whether he has been a bit overwheening in his choice of comparisons. There remains to contemplate, however, the underlying truth that sex, whatever one's role, can be an essentially emptying act. Its immediate aftermath ruthlessly lays bare a void inside.
The black-and-white film was done entirely in Castellaneta's own apartment in a month, on a budget of $7,000.00 borrowed from his mother. Though his parents supported the film, and knew its content, they have not wanted to see it. "On the one hand, they don't like the fact that I'm gay. On the other hand, I'm their son."
The two actors, Terry Curry and Todd Stites, deliver the script so unfalteringly naturally that at times one suspects the film was done by hidden video camera. These two had, in fact, never acted professionally before, never been on camera. They rehearsed for a month with no pay other than meals provided by Castellanata. He gives himself a catering credit on screen. "I threw the catering credit in because I don't want people to take the film too seriously. It deals with serious things, but this is something I made in my apartment. I don't want people to lose sight of that, that it was from the Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland hey-let's-put-on-a-show school of filmmaking.
Castellaneta's previous film, a short, is titled What's a nice kid like you? "Imagine that you are at college," says Castellaneta, "not out of the closet, and you fall in love with your roommate. The film is about this. The main character resorts to bathrooms as a release for sex. He goes there and finds his "straight" roommate... I'm interested in how heterosexual men express themselves, trying to deal with feminism and still trying to be who they are. In a lot of ways, it's easier now for two men and two women to come together. It seems more natural to me."
The next film planned is My Mother the Lesbian. (Not autobiographical, he notes.) "It's a very calculated film and title, designed to hook a mainstream audience into the gay problem. I have the screenplay for it written: I'm looking for commercial support for it now. I'm very interested in families. Their structure has changed so much now, yet they remain a primal human need. I have a bunch of gay friends who have evolved into an extended family for me."
Some reviewers have found Together Alone slow. Playing strictly by cinematic rules, one would have to say they were right - but play by the rules Together Alone doesn't. It's a film that draws freely but selectively upon many different ways of examining people: sometimes it's a Bergman, sometimes the intensity of the inquisition the characters submit each other to seems like a Friedrich Durrenmatt play. At other times it feels like the mastery of an Alice Munro short story.
Together Alone feels young in some respects. It ends with uncertain optimism. It is, after all, the work of a director who is only 31 years old. It marks the début of an extraordinary talent in cinema, gay or straight, which transcends customary limits of both screen and sexual orientation. Castellaneta takes homosexuality from the sanctity of the preserve where it has sequestered itself while proclaiming liberation, and uses its weaknesses and strengths to sculpt out an image of Everyman. Quietly, with confidence and dignity, he has in Together Alone advanced gay cinema from "We're gay, what are you going to do about it?" to "We're gay; how shall we then live?" How shall we then all live?