When it comes to movies centered on transgender protagonists, there are a number of extremely well-executed documentaries. The fiction, however, has a tendency to get a little carried away. Often we get a trans woman lurking in the shadows, hoping to spy the children she fathered; or the trans woman harboring from her new lover the dark secret of having been born a bio boy. But Romeos is a fresh take. Lukas (Rick Okon), a 20-year-old trans man transitioning from female to male and fulfilling his year of ”civilian service,” is demanding of nothing more than his basic human rights. Conflict here, in part, centers on the seemingly mundane, like why the heck can’t Lukas be housed in the boys’ dorm? Yeah, there’s sort of a love story, but it’s not nearly as interesting as Lukas’s relationship with his childhood gal pal, also in the dorms, who is quick to call Lukas out whenever he’s acting like a dick. No one dies. The tears are minimal. It’s refreshing simply to watch Lukas navigate his landscape with curiosity as he surpasses his unique challenges, uplifting to see him demand to be treated with equality and respect, even if his particular cross to bear might seem particularly heavy at times. –WOB
When the great Alfred Hitchcock dealt with homosexuality, it was a tacit affair. Strangers on a Train (1951) notwithstanding, Rope is probably the closest he dove into the topic, even though it was akin to a wading pool. What gives Rope its gay frisson is the subject matter on which it’s based — a 1929 stage play that was, in turn, inspired by the notorious 1924 abduction and murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks by University of Chicago students and lovers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. Nothing in Rope implies that the protagonists — two bachelors who share an apartment — are in fact cavorting in a single bed, but the performances by John Dall and Farley Granger have uber-cultured personas that, at that time, would hint at such. James Stewart plays the professor who unravels the boys daring stunt of placing a body in the apartment during a dinner party. Rope is renowned for being shot in the illusion of a single take, a brave move that doesn’t really quite work, but makes for an interesting bit of cinematic eccentricity. The obvious companion piece is Tom Kalin’s Swoon, a blazing, stylish indie that deals far more explicitly with the gay relationship of the two young killers and is made all the more electrifying by Ellen Kuras’s startling, high-contrast black and white cinematography. Charged with malice and evil and, yes, even sorrow, Swoon is worlds apart from Rope‘s sedately cerebral yet sinister game of cat and mouse. –RS
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