Tuesday, January 4, 2011
We're Here, We're Queer, We Shoot to Kill
The Argentinian film Burnt Money (Marcelo Piñeyro, 2001) is a rarity among gay-themed films. It's a crime drama following the exploits of a trio of criminals in 1960s South America, two of which are in a homosexual relationship, after a bank heist leads to the murder of a police officer. They subsequently try to evade capture before a massive, blood-hungry shootout finale. Not exactly The Broken Hearts Club, is it? In fact, one can imagine a "progressive" gay rights group such as GLAAD, those purveyors of good taste and modernity who support every White People Coming Out film or I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, objecting to Burnt Money's depiction of murderous gays who live outside the law in ways that go beyond mere morality. Of course, their objections would be unfounded as (a) the Gay Villians are Detrimental to Gay Imagery in the Cinema is a tired argument and far too easy to lean on and (b) the escalating violence and depiction of a gay relationship amid such a twisted, unhealthy environment is precisely what makes Burnt Money interesting to watch.
Perhaps this speaks volumes about the effect Argentina has on gay relationships, but the film Burnt Money reminded me of the most was Wong Kar-wai's Happy Together. Both films start with a couple, once perfectly in love, now inexplicably out of tune with each other. They are both confined to a small space which brings out the worst in them and drives them further apart. And, perhaps most tellingly, both films share the same major problem: these couples are so deep in their own loathing of each other that, for the most part, it's hard to understand what they ever saw in each other in the first place. Visually, however, Piñeyro seems to be more influenced by John Woo in his Hard-Boiled heyday, especially during the gun-crazy finale. Cornered by the police in a now evacuated apartment building, the three criminals decide to go out in a blaze of glory. They load their massive stockpile of guns, get naked (I'm not entirely sure why, but the guys are hot so I'm not complaining) and begin unloading bullets on the police. It's interesting to note that as soon as the bullets start flying, after an entire film of disconnect, the two lovers finally realize how much they love each other. This association between love and violence is an incredibly unusual connection to make in gay-themed cinema, but it's part of the reason why Burnt Money is worth a watch. B
(Special thanks to Glenn for initially joking about the GLAAD thing and inspiring this "review")