Saturday, 6 July 2013

Bent (1997) - ★★★½

Director: Sean Mathias
Writers: Martin Sherman (Screenplay and Play)
Stars: Clive Owen, Lothaire Bluteau, Brian Webber, Mick Jagger, Ian McKellen, Rupert Graves, Jude Law, Paul Bettany

I look back on Bent with a heavy heart. I'm sadder now than I was at the end of this movie. That's because the thought of the story is sadder than the actual movie itself. For the most part, it's a highly effective and powerful film that shows us the struggles of homosexuals in a Nazi-run Berlin. Then it sort of degenerates into an unconvincing ending, which left me wanting more. Even though the movie isn't fantastic, I will never forget it.

Max (Clive Owen) is a promiscuous gay man living in Berlin during the Nazi's reign. He frequents cabaret joints and speakeasy's, where we see the kind of gay-nightlife that existed back then. Lo-and-behold, the Nazi's put a stop to all that by outlawing homosexuality under penalty of death or imprisonment in detention camps. When Max finds himself a prisoner in a concentration camp, he makes a strange friend in Horst (Lothaire Bluteau), a man who is proud to be gay and wears his pink triangle with pride. It becomes an unorthodox, somber, yet sweet romance that leaves us in wonder of how they'll get through the hardship.

Bent started off really strong with stunning scenes of cabaret and a window into the world of gays and lesbians in 1930s Berlin. The cinematography, costumes, and music blew me away, which got my hopes up about the quality of this film. It didn't lose momentum as it progressed into a more serious tone, where Max had to find tickets and a way out of Germany. In fact, this movie was almost always great. It was at the very end of the film that it dipped into mediocrity.

Lothaire Bluteau stole the show, lifting it to greatness every time he's on-screen.

Mick Jagger is astounding.
The Supporting Actor Lothaire Bluteau gave a jaw-dropping performance. He absolutely blew me away, I almost shed a tear a few times. It was powerful, it was raw, it was emotional, and my god was it real! He stole the show and wins my award for Best Supporting Actor 1997. The lead actor, Clive Owen, was very good for the first half of the film. Then his performance fell flat, it deflated the shocking climax. It just didn't seem real enough to affect me, mostly because of his performance. I think they could have cast a more charming, sensitive, and convincing lead actor instead.

Yes, the ending left me deflated. It had the potential to be as crushing as Schindler's List and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas's. What should have been the climax was pretty anti-climatic.

The rest of the supporting cast was brilliant. Kudos to Mick Jagger, who really impressed me as Greta, the owner of the cabaret bar. It reminded me of Joel Grey in Cabaret, but as a transvestite instead. Ian McKellen played a small and effective role. Also, Jude Law, Rupert Graves and Paul Bettany make cameos. It's quite the star studded cast really. Oh, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones) had a small role too.

It's tragic, sad, and very moving. The relationship between Max and Horst was surprisingly emotional. Their dialogue was extremely beautiful at times, and their chemistry was flawless. All I can say is that it did have an effect on me... I just wish the ending capitalized on my intrigue.

One thing people need to know is that this is a really raunchy movie. Most of the homosexuals in this film are really flamboyant and out there (as was the cabaret custom). While I enjoyed the bright colors and dangerous liaisons, some may find it gross and uncomfortable to watch. Even I think they could have classed it up a bit, because I'm not a huge fan of the portrayal of most homosexuals as dirty and promiscuous. But this is the writers take on the people during that time, so it's probably more accurate than I imagine.

Overall, Bent captivated me for the first three quarters, then fell apart in the last leg. I was astounded at the depth of emotion and chemistry between the two leads. This movie is taboo, combining The Holocaust and a gay romance. It worked very well, being both sweet and somber. I think it was a gutsy movie, and it payed off!

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