Taekwondo (2016)

MARCO BERGER, MARTIN FARINA

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.  Argentina, 2016.  .  Screenplay by Marco Berger.  Cinematography by Martín Farina.  Produced by Verónica Argencio, Marco Berger, Martín Farina.  Music by Pedro Irusta.  Production Design by Marco Berger.  Film Editing by Marco Berger.

Marco Berger, co-directing with Martin Farina, once again takes us into the cinematic realm of gorgeous young men suspended in a sense of longing.  Fer (Lucas Papa) invites his school buddies to his parents’ giant estate in rural Argentina to enjoy a relaxing vacation, the group of them hanging about the grounds in various states of skimpy dress and passing the time talking about girls and playing football.  Fer has also invited a new friend who doesn’t know the rest of the gang, Germán (Gabriel Epstein), whom he met in his taekwondo class and whose integration with the other guys meets with varying levels of success.  What we find out from Germán’s private phone calls to his friend is that he is there because of his attraction to Fer and doesn’t know if the feeling is mutual.  Berger’s films never feel like exploitation thanks to a genuine sense of classy artistry that is also never pretentious, he is as turned on by these guys sexually as he is genuinely interested in who they are, exploring their vulnerabilities without taking advantage of them.  A few of them have issues with gay sexuality that probably point to conflicts they are struggling with, but even the most negative among them is a real human being and not an excuse to explore a grand theme about the dark side of homosocial activity.  While the plot never goes anywhere ridiculous, Berger’s best movies usually draw the viewer in with a tangible sense of repression; this one loses something in its having a great deal of indulgence early in the game (frontal nudity, admissions of desire), that make it no less interesting but far less enchanting than Hawaii or Plan B.  That said, it is rare to have a great artist also be so good at indulging in gay desire, and as part of his overall body of work it is not a misfire.

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