Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene All Sexed Up

A look at naked Latin America

By Noel Murray and Rob Nelson

OCTOBER 5, 1998: 

On the wall--recommended new releases

Latin Boys Go to Hell. Not unlike Star Maps, this indelibly vivid, Brooklyn-set sex-melodrama posits Latino culture against the Anglo-American "show business" milieu that appropriates and stereotypes it. A white woman photographer (Annie Lobst) puts together a portfolio of nude Latinos holding lurid props like corn-ears and skull-heads in front of their genitalia. The young models include Justin (Irwin Ossa), who has a crush on his cousin Angel (John Bryant Davila), and Braulio (Alexis Artiles), whose hardbody lover Carlos (Mike Ruiz) sets the plot in motion when he takes Justin from behind. Running the length of a daytime drama, LBGTH incorporates scenes from a Mexican telenovela before turning into a soap itself. First-time director Ela Troyano grooves on a kind of gay verité, juicing up the frame with nightclub brawls and cutaways to Catholic icons. In a film of remarkable style, the visual high point comes via a bombastic, pinata-popping sex scene that's laugh-out-loud funny and worth the rental price by itself.--Rob Nelson

Nenette et Boni. The films of French director Claire Denis ( Chocolat , I Can't Sleep ) often chart the flow of energy between two dissimilar people while contemplating their place within the larger community. This, the filmmaker's latest, seems at once a thematic summation and a stylistic stretch. The attracting opposites here are 15-year-old Antoinette (Alice Houri) and her 19-year-old pizza-vendor brother, Boniface (Gregoire Colin). Each sibling is the inverse of the other: Boni is a solitary Marseilles slacker with a dirty mind, while nomadic Nenette, newly escaped from boarding school, is seven months pregnant by a man she refuses to name. In a film that's stuffed with visual metaphors, the pizza dough Boni beats into shape first gives rise to his masturbatory fantasies of a local baker's buxom wife. But as his adolescent yearning for connection compels him to discourage Nenette from giving up her child, that fleshy dough comes to represent the unformed ingredients in his sister's belly. Meanwhile Denis carefully kneads her lumpy narrative, letting it bake in still another way.--Rob Nelson

Off the wall--alternatives to "Good Will Hunting"

Searching for Bobby Fisher. As entertaining and moving as Good Will Hunting can be, it offers little real insight into the trials of a prodigy. Far more effective is this fact-based Stephen Zaillan film, about an otherwise normal preteen boy who has a native ability to look at a chessboard and see combinations and strategies with the facility of a grandmaster. The joy of the film comes from watching young Josh Waitskin reduce a complicated game to the level of "let's pretend." The drama comes from watching Josh's father (Joe Mantegna in his finest screen performance) come to grips with his child's strange gift, and hearing the two of them hash out whether talent should develop unfettered or if it should be converted to discipline. The film doesn't resolve the issue, but by letting tutors Laurence Fishburne and Ben Kingsley represent the two sides of the argument, Zaillan assures that the debate is lively and captivating.

Running on Empty. Another great film about the ties that bind a gifted child, this Sidney Lumet sleeper garnered an Oscar nomination for a teenaged River Phoenix. Judd Hirsch and Christine Lahti play fugitive '60s radicals, on the run with their family for a protest gone awry. Phoenix is their older son, who has grown accustomed to the sudden changes in location and identity that come with avoiding the FBI for 15 years. But the boy has a way with a piano--he's been accepted into Julliard--and his sweet nature has brought him his first serious girlfriend, in the person of Martha Plimpton. Making a life for himself may cost his family members their freedom, unless they're willing to sever all ties with him. The melodrama level is high in this picture, but the tone is so gentle and fragile that the slightest well-observed moment--a tense lunch with an estranged father, an after-dinner dance to James Taylor's "Fire and Rain"--can break the viewer's heart.--Noel Murray

Purchase alert

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Shorts. Fans of this cult TV series often face a dilemma when trying to initiate neophytes into the show's ironic sublimity: What to show? The slick but clunky big-screen effort? The acknowledged classics Manos: The Hands of Fate or Red Zone Cuba , both of which are tear-inducingly hilarious but suffer from the standard dry spots? Problem solved--buy this collection of short instructional and institutional films. Some of the MST3K gang's most insightful satire of middle-class mores is here: the paranoiac "A Date With Your Family," the cheerfully cruel "Chicken of Tomorrow," the outsider epic "Why Industrial Arts?" My only complaint? There needs to be a volume two with "Mr. B. Natural," "Truck Farming," "X Marks the Spot," etc.--Noel Murray

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