If you’re in the mood for some retro raunch, Le Beau Mec (★★★☆☆) — essentially The Handsome Dude — may well deliver. If you’d like your retro raunch to be fully close-up ejaculatory, unintentionally campy, and French, Le Beau Mec absolutely delivers. Much like The Pizza Boy, to offer an apropos porn pun.
This 4K digital restoration is still gritty. Much like the “plot,” it is often out of focus. Le Beau Mec is certainly more ambitious than a simple 8mm porn “loop” of yesteryear. There are sets. Somebody wrote what might be considered dialogue. There’s even a wee bit of cabaret choreography. (The aforementioned unintentional camp. And “choreography” is being very generous.)
As a plain ol’ movie, Le Beau Mec is pretty bad.
You can’t help but expect the legendary and late Divine to pop into a scene, circa Female Trouble. After 45 minutes or so, you really wish she would. The dialogue is bizarre, framed as a voiceover interview with the title’s mec, Karl Forest. The subtitles do their best, but the dubbed English voiceover is wooden to the point of distraction. Perhaps that’s part of its charm?
As erotica, it’s decent. Forest is certainly hot. His scars — one on his lip, and the remnant of a serious gouge on a butt cheek — are endearing. One imagines he got them zipping about on a little motorcycle, as he’s filmed doing in an unfocused, nighttime bit of Parisian travelog. Around Place de la Concorde…. And around Place de la Concorde…. And around….
Regardless, Forest is attractive, as are others in the movie. Le Beau Mec can easily hold its ground against any number of same-era “Falcon Video Pacs,” though it’s not quite as engaging as the American gay-porn trilogy of the same era, Kansas City Trucking Co., El Paso Wrecking Corp., and L.A. Tool & Die.
As something unique, however, there is an argument for Le Beau Mec. Simply, it’s a creation all its own. If there is another film in existence featuring an enthusiastic client fellating a cigarette-smoking sex worker to the overzealous point of rubbing off his toupee on that hustler’s scrotum, well, blow me down.
A WW1-themed striptease featuring a German spiked helmet? A camera panning over various offerings in a 1970s Parisian sex shop? There is so much here you won’t find elsewhere. Le Beau Mec may not feature outstanding production values. Or writing, or sound, or acting…. But for some idea of what it may have been like to be a confident, blessedly sex-positive gay man at the dawn of gay liberation, prior to the AIDS pandemic, in late 1970s France, now’s your chance.
Le Beau Mec is preceded by the locally-made short, Safe Word (★★★★★, CRITIC’S PICK), for which there are no end of adjectives. The short is immediately curious, then seductive. It is captivating, then gripping. And it’s so very pretty.
While a mere 15 minutes, the team behind Safe Word have delivered an abundance.
The camera framing alone is obviously thoughtful. To that, add dialogue that evolves from sparse to intimately confessional. The original sore by Ryan Walsh provides perfect accompaniment to this intense tale, with light and hopeful notes, then powerful when appropriate.
While the few scenes all occur in a single attic loft, director Christopher Cunetto takes his audience on a journey. Is it self-discovery? A relationship moving in an unpredictable direction? A voyage of sexual exploration?
It is surprising to find yourself on the edge of your seat, so immediately drawn into the trappings of what seems on its surface to be a simple scenario. A safe word, a tangerine, and a rope. One man’s home, another man enters. Your imagination will immediately begin to autofill scenarios, but Safe Word will likely veer off course of whatever you’ve plotted. That’s not to say the twists are earth-shattering. This little film mostly savors nuance — until it doesn’t.
Special mention must be given to the film’s two actors: Jonathan Adriel as Bear and Mauricio Pita as Cesar. Each is individually mesmerizing. Together, their interplay is nearly breathtaking.
If a safe word is designed to stop the action, the irony of Safe Word is that its greatest attribute is that you very much want it to continue.
Le Beau Mec and Safe Word play on Saturday, Oct. 21, at 11 p.m. at The Eaton.
Live screenings of Reel Affirmations films are Oct. 20 to 22 at the Eaton Hotel, 1201 K St. NW, in Washington, D.C.
Reel Affirmations 2023 includes the Virtual Film Festival providing online access to 43 films for those film lovers who cannot attend the festival in person, with a viewing window from Oct. 23 to 29. Of the 43 films, 26 are available only online.
For a full schedule of films, including retrospective showings, all pricing and pass options, and party information, visit www.thedccenter.org/reelaffirmations.
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