1/15/2005

A Cause d’un Garcon

Watched a French made-for-TV movie last night: A Cause d’un Garcon. About a high school swimmer who’s outed, and all the fall-out from that. Rather limp and lifeless, but better than L'homme que j'aime. For what that’s worth. I’d rather have a coming-out story than a dying-of-AIDS story when it comes down to it, if you want to know the truth, although it’s not a choice anyone should be forced to make.

But it was worth watching for one reason: Francois Comar, who plays the outed boy’s ever-loyal best buddy. Well, he sleeps with his friend’s fag-hag, which may have crossed some line, but over-all he stands firm through the whole film. And he’s walking around in nothing but a speedo most of the time. Julien Baumgartner, who plays Vincent, the principal character, is well-cast, but not always very sympathetic. But that is part of being a budding queen.

On the whole I liked the movie. It wasn’t very challenging—it’s really a recitation of something that has become a ritual in the first world—there is an enormous difference between the civil rights movement of nearly a half-century ago and the gay rights movement of today. But there is a sense of progression—not necessarily towards a noble ideal—more like the natural or logical progression of inertia. First come the basic rights—the abolition of laws and the censure of customs against people of different races. That’s an issue steeped in class, not incidentally. Then come demands for recognition of, let’s say secondary issues or identities. In most societies one is white or black or Jewish before one is gay. Not only because racial or ethnic identity is in place before sexual identity emerges, but sexual mores are constructed, and plastic. Racial identity is more or less an absolute, at least on the superficial level. Obviously the significance of being black (or white) in South Africa (or the American South) is different now than half a century ago, but while the significance may differ, blackness and whiteness are more or less undeniable. While sex and sexuality are somehow regulated in all societies and segments of society, sexuality as an urgent public matter and homosexuality as a public identity comes about in societies—and mainly in segments of societies—that enjoy affluence. It's Maslow's hierarchy writ large.

I especially liked a part of the film where Vincent meets up with his older fuck-buddy (they’ve been hooking up for some time before his outing), who takes him out to some gay clubs in Paris. This is Vincent’s first public outing, his first time in a gay club. Inevitably, he’s getting hit on by everybody. Fresh meat. He’s understandably repulsed by the whole scene. It was very true to life. The acid cynicism of oversexed queers. The bitter “wit”. Vincent is also obviously repulsed by their camp effeminacy. The way they refer to each other and to him as a “her”. And they seem to be interested not in who he is but what he is: young, handsome, athletic-build. This is, of course, the bottom-line. When gays talk about their type, to paraphrase Quentin Crisp, they would never think to top the list of qualities with “intelligence,” “honor” or “compassion.” “Tall,” “muscular” and “well-hung” is about as close as you get.

Now there are many, many twinks out there who can match any middle-aged queen as for cynicism. But there is a certain kind of youth, more sensitive than the average, for whom this brutal hierarchy of requirements is horrifying. He has a romantic notion, a sense that sex should be married to emotions, not merely to appetites. This type—the sincere type—is most reviled and ridiculed in queer circles. Just who does she think she is? Understandably his first outing in this vicious demimonde sparks a flurry of doubts about the life in store for him. And it is an ugly, corrosive existence, full of bitterness and blame. I mean for part two, just watch L'homme que j'aime.

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