Movies: Phillip Morris, Black Swan, and Gay Oscar Hopeful Undertow

Black Swan drops the fearless director & his actress into the rigid high art of ballet and Lincoln Center. Once settled in, Aronofsky is closer to a mad DJ than a ballet company leader. He tosses out the classical records, preferring to spin and sample from classic films instead. (The Red Shoes, Vertigo, Rosemary's Baby and Carrie all come to mind.) The end result is closer to a rave than a staged ballet, as the DJ encourages his dancers toward abandon. It's all ridiculously over the top, maybe a little thin, mostly insane, nearly camp…and the very definition of a "must see." With a fine quartet of actresses (Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder) serving as each others dark mirrors and tragic echoes, Black Swan is deliciously sapphic but it's not all girlie; Darren Aronofsky has major balls. 

ALSO OPENING: Martial arts drama THE WARRIOR'S WAY, the supernatural thriller DEAD AWAKE, the 80s set murder mystery ALL GOOD THINGS starring Kirsten Dunst and Ryan Gosling, and the 70s Black Panther related drama NIGHT CATCHES US starring Kerry Washington & Anthony Mackie (both of whom ought to be much bigger stars by now). Finally, if you're in L.A. and you love movies about the theater, the terrific Danish film APPLAUSE is having a special one week run. The film stars Paprika Steen as an alcoholic actress (she's playing "Martha" in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) who is trying to regain custody of her children.  



Finally, if you haven't had a chance to see the gay Peruvian film UNDERTOW (Contracorriente) seek it out. The supernaturally tinged romance is about a married fisherman with a pregnant wife who is having an affair with a male artist. It won the World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance and opened last weekend in select cities. It's also one of the 65 films screening for Academy voters, hoping to become a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee on January 25th. I had an opportunity to speak with its first-time director Javier Fuentes-León [complete interview].

We talked a lot about Latin American concepts of masculinity and sexual labels.

Picture 13 The reason why I set [Undertow] in a rural town and not in an urban city is because I think we are obsessed with labels where's there's a strong gay community. Gay. Straight. Bisexual. In rural areas those labels are not as important… Miguel is not having a personal crisis like 'am I gay? am I bisexual?' His crisis is 'How do I dignify this love without losing my marriage and the love of my people? And how do I reconcile this with my religion?'

I wanted to liberate the film from those issues. That's why in the sex scenes in one, one is on top of the other and the other is the other way around and they roll. It was my way of saying…I'm not going to be answering to people saying 'Of course the painter is a bottom!'

Despite not wanting to stereotype or label Undertow's lovers, Javier humorously revealed that the script, which he started writing in 1996, was once about a man who loved two women.

It was later in 2001 when I myself came out I thought 'well, f— it. Let's make it real here.' You know?


  1. says

    Rather enjoyed “Phiip Morris.” Didn’t care for “Undertow” at all. As for “The Black Swan,” Darren Aranofsky wouldn’t know how to shott a ballet to save his life. Less “The Red Shoes” than “The Red Shoe Diaries” crossed with “Repulsion,” its mouldy camp.

  2. MrRoboto says

    Saw “Phillip Morris” nearly two years ago now and I’ll probably check it out to see if much was changed. I loved it when I saw it back then. Reminded me a bit of “Raising Arizona” in tone.

    I loved “Undertow” when it screened at Outfest this past summer and I’m glad to see it’s getting mainstream attention due to the potential Best Foreign Film nom.

    Definitely interested in seeing “Black Swan.” I’d heard nothing but praise until the past few days and now there seems to be a critical backlash.

  3. Charles says

    I saw Phillip Morris a year ago – really, really good movie. At last a movie about two guys in love, not the *thunder* DIFFICULTIES OF BEING A GAY MAN *thunder!!*

    I may have to check out the Black Swan though.

  4. Mike In Philly says

    Mr. Rogers,
    I believe your review of “I Love You Phillip Morris” is spot on. I saw it a year ago and all my friends are asking me how it was. The best I could come up with was “Ignore Jim Curry’s attempts at humor.He plays it too broad and comes off unintentionally homophobic.But is a great story about a great con man”.
    Now after reading your review I can be a little more articulate about it.
    I guess this is why some people get paid for their opinions and some do not :)
    It’s a pity because with the right direction Jim Curry can be a fine actor and this could have been a great film.

  5. says

    where is “Do Comeco Ao Fim”?

    Well, it WAS at the Montreal Image + Nation festival. Some beautiful scenes and some hot actors, but the narrative is very choppy and it never really addresses the elephant in the room, the fact that two brothers become a couple.

  6. Dback says

    “Do Comeco Ao Fim” is on Youtube in about 10-11 chapters. I highly recommend the end of Chapter 5, and Chapter 6. Would still like to watch the whole thing at some point.

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