Category Archives: International Romance

Eismayer-2023

Eismayer-2023

Director David Wagner

Starring Gerhard Liebmann, Luka Dimic

Scott’s Review #1,427

Reviewed May 31, 2024

Grade: A-

Eismayer (2023) may be the first Austrian-language film I’ve ever and is the first Austrian LGBTQ+ film. Similar to German cinema there is a cold and stark naturalistic veneer to the filmmaking making it feel moody and foreboding.

I’ve said this many times before but the statement still has merit. The LGBTQ+ cinema genre has been saturated with offerings since the late 1990s, especially into the 2000s and it can be difficult not to tell the same story continuously.

As proof of the above, our Prime subscription contains numerous LGBTQ+ films to showcase so we decided on Eismayer which sounded interesting.

It focuses on the military, is Austrian, and focuses on a love story between two soldiers. The fact that it is based on a true story held special intrigue.

Sergeant Major Eismayer (Gerhard Liebmann) is known and feared as the toughest training officer in the Austrian Armed Forces. He is ruthless and unfeeling with recruits and a staunch disciplinarian, with order and macho toughness.

Unsurprisingly, the new batch of recruits despises him.

Surprisingly, in his personal life, he is a loving father to his son whom he adores and treats his wife respectfully.

But when he starts to fall in love with Falak (Luka Dimic), a recruit who is unashamedly out and proud as a gay man Eismayer must decide if his closeted existence is worth it.

The director, David Wagner, paints a lovely canvas of the love between two men that slowly takes shape. He wisely makes the running time less than an hour and a half so the film doesn’t drag.

It’s not a shock what develops between Eismayer and Falak because their embrace appears on the cover art but that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment.

I like the direction Wagner takes with this story. Eismayer being the title character the focus is on his character not the couple as a whole. The plot centers on his plight to come to terms with his sexuality and also make it publicly known.

He doesn’t have to come out naturally but if he wants to have an open and honest romance with Falak he must do this genuinely.

It’s unexplained why Eismayer is the way he is but one can easily guess why. His father was probably stoic and military-like he is and the expectation was to be macho and tough at all costs, showing no vulnerability.

To satisfy his urges he is reduced to having hot sex with willing recruits in the back seat of a car but it’s hardly candlelit dinners and romance nor satisfying.

In addition to being in love with Falak, he admires his courage to be out and proud in a traditionally masculine environment.

We know virtually nothing about Falak’s backstory. What made him come out? What was his father like?

While there has been a clear shift in acceptance of gays in the military a story like this hasn’t been told in film to my knowledge.

Gone hopefully are the days when LGBTQ+ filmmakers told stories of mere resistance to a gay character’s happiness as an obstacle to their joy and acceptance.

There is a raised eyebrow or two when Falak makes his homosexuality evident in the shower and one grizzled senior officer complains that ‘fags don’t belong in the military’ but the younger officers have little issue.

They even applaud at the end when Eismayer and Falak kiss and embrace, cementing their open and blossoming romance.

A fantasy? Possibly, but Wagner gives the likely predominately gay male audience something to admire and cheer for.

Understated, but packs an emotional punch and an uplifting and inspiring message, Eismayer (2023) is an Austrian film I hope will inspire more American filmmakers.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg-1964

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg-1964

Director Jacques Demy

Starring Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo

Scott’s Review #911

Reviewed June 17, 2019

Grade: A

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), translated in French to mean Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, is a darling and daring film, unique like none other, consisting of all dialogue being sung recitative, like an opera or a stage musical.

But wait there’s more.

The film has an abundance of colorful and dazzling set designs that enrich the entire experience amid the lovely French culture and atmosphere. Interspersing one of the loveliest melodies imaginable and the result is a stoic treasure.

The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film and several other nominations.

The film is divided into three parts and moves along chronologically over six years. Part One is The Departure, Part Two is The Absence and Part Three is The Return, each title representing a meaningful part of the story.

Madame Emery (Anne Vernon) and her sixteen-year-old daughter Genevieve (Deneuve) own a struggling umbrella boutique in Cherbourg, France. Genevieve falls in love with Guy (Castelnuovo), a local mechanic, and they have sex the night before he is drafted to war, resulting in an unexpected pregnancy.

Madame Emery and Genevieve must decide what options are best when she is courted by wealthy jeweler Roland (Marc Michel), who is unaware of her pregnancy. Genevieve and Guy continue to write letters to each other as she softens towards Roland and a decision is made.

An injured Guy returns from the war and events kick into high gear as the love birds face an uncertain future amid surrounding barriers to their happiness.

To embrace the flavor and pacing of the film takes a few minutes of patience- like some viewers becoming accustomed to sub-titles in general, which the film also possesses, the singing is initially quite jarring but before long is to be embraced and appreciated for its unique nature.

To stress the point, the film is not a standard musical, with songs mixed in with conventional dialogue, and each line of the film is sung.

Deneuve, who with this role gained wider recognition beyond simply a French audience already familiar with her work, shines brightly in the lead role, never looking lovelier. The young lady, hardly appearing just sixteen (in truth she was twenty-one) carries the film with a chic and sophisticated style perfectly in tune with the 1960’s time-period.

Her magnificent grace and elegance make her the primary reason to tune in as she sings her lines flawlessly and with unforced precision.

The story is unequivocally a basic one of a girl meets a boy, the boy is drafted into the army, the girl becomes pregnant, the girl meets another suitor, and the boy returns home as conflict arises, but the magic is what director Jacques Demy does with the piece.

Everyday life is presented in situational scenes adding substance and commonalities. Genevieve and Guy are in love and face external as well as internal obstacles. At the same time Madeleine (Ellen Farner), a quiet young woman who looks after Guy’s aunt, is secretly in love with Guy, as she adds a secret weapon to the film.

The audience cares for the characters, especially Genevieve and Guy, but the supporting characters add a robust quality worthy of mention.

Anne Vernon is pivotal as Madame Emery, stylish and lavish, she is concerned for her daughter’s well-being, while slyly seeing opportunities to save her boutique. Guy’s sickly Aunt Elise provides security and love to those who heed her advice and is remarkably played by actress Mireille Perrey.

The vivid colors and sets make The Umbrellas of Cherbourg tough to forget. Stark and florescent painted pinks, greens, and blues, mainly on the walls, provide zest and flavor, a grand style all its own.

With bright and crisp designs, the result is reminiscent of a lavish Hollywood musical, but with a cultured French twist. The result is perfect, and one can easily immerse themselves in both the singing and the artistry.

The recurring main song “I Will Wait for You” (the main theme, also known as “Devant le garage”) is delicious and emotional as it appears in many poignant scenes.

Those seeking a charismatic and distinctive experience with nuances and a hint of experimentation will undoubtedly sink their teeth into this fruity and tasty treat.

With a French atmosphere for miles, the film is simply encompassing all that is good and cultured about French film.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) will entertain and unabashedly knock your socks off, with something grandiose and sizzling with flavor.

Oscar Nominations: Best Foreign Language Film, Best Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Best Song-“I Will Wait for You”, Best Music Score-Substantially Original, Best Scoring of Music-Adaptation or Treatment

The Way He Looks-2014

The Way He Looks-2014

Director Daniel Ribeiro

Starring Fabio Audi, Ghilherme Lobo

Scott’s Review #408

70307130

Reviewed June 4, 2016

Grade: B+

The Way He Looks is a foreign language film (Brazilian) from 2014 that tells a coming-of-age story about a blind high school student, who develops feelings for the new kid in town. The other boy has rapidly become his new best friend and the boys, while unsure of the other’s sexual preferences, fall in love.

The film is a charming story about a modern romance, now becoming more prevalent today.

Leonardo (known as Leo) is a blind high school student struggling to be his true self.  His close friend Giovana (Tess Amorim) is in a similar situation as neither has ever been kissed, yet they feel adolescent desires- they are lonely but share a close bond.

Regardless of his disability, Leo is quite independent, despite having parents who border on smothering. One day, a new student named Gabriel volunteers to sit behind Leo in class and strike up a friendship.

Giovana, unaware of Leo’s sexual preferences, develops a crush on Gabriel.

The film then tells a sweet story about a young, blossoming, romance. The main characters do not face particularly tough obstacles from outside sources, but rather from each other as their feelings and emotions are fragile.

In addition to romance, the film focuses on the friendships between Leo, Gabriel, and Giovana.

The Way He Looks is a warm film. It is sweet, compassionate, and tenderhearted. The viewer witnesses a budding romance between two teenagers and the fact that they are both males is secondary- that is how charming the film is.

The audience will root for Leo and Gabriel because they are nice kids. Giovana, the outsider, also has a rooting factor- she is in no way a villain, nor does she harbor resentment for either Leo or Gabriel, but rather yearns for her first romance and happiness.

The film wisely does not turn her into an emotional wreck, or a psycho. Sure, she gets drunk at a party, but this is only to escape her feelings.

I recoiled at the scene after scene of Leo’s parents either fretting about something, worried sick about Leo coming home late or worried that something may happen to their son.

Relax already. Life is not meant to be spent frazzled because your son is blind.

The parents are not the strongest written characters in the film and are rather secondary characters. The case is the same for the bullies, the slutty girl, and the teacher.

The film belongs to Leo, Gabriel, and Giovana.

The supporting characters in The Way He Looks are meant to react to the central characters.

The Way He Looks is about a same-sex, young romance. Charming, not too heavy, with likable characters, who one can root for. There are no bombs, car chases, or explosions needed.

The Way He Looks (2023) is a slice of life that is simple, pure, and true.