Starring Nicholas Jacob and Michael Aloni
Directed by Michael Meyer
A gay Palestinian walks into a gay bar and finds his friends as well as someone new to the bar, a gay Israeli lawyer. There is no punch line. This will end well. Out in the Dark is one of those stories where the impossible happens. We almost question it but that only means that people like the gay Palestinian – his name is Nimr (Jacob) – who, despite of oppression, will find avenues of freedom. It’s surprising to know that this is Jacob’s debut performance because he and his co-star, Aloni, who plays the gay Israeli lawyer Roy, have great chemistry.
Their love, both in the bars and during privacy, is idealized and sweet, characteristics that may be attributed to a cultural expectation towards gay people to sanitize the depictions of their love. They’re the force of good in this movie, which they are. So evil, then, exists through close relatives who treat Nimr like he’s a stain in the family who has to be offed, or the bureaucratic and xenophobic Israeli officials. They’re one-dimensional characters, but that doesn’t make the two leads more efficiently human-like.
The way Nimr is written is also flawed, especially after he’s being hunted by both Palestinian and Israeli characters. If he doesn’t want to be found, why is he using his cellphone, or why are he and Roy making themselves look more conspicuous despite trying to hide? I suppose their slightly and arguably lax attitude towards these urgent matters make the movie less overwrought but this still doesn’t feel like a good compromise.
Starring Rin Takanashi
Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
In Kiarostami’s most accessible work yet, we the audience are hearing a conflict-heavy, one-sided conversation while watching an escort named Nagisa, who looks happy while hanging out in a restaurant. Did this happen to her before the movie’s time line has begun? No, it’s happening across her, behind the camera, to her best friend and fellow escort Akiko, who is talking to her possessively weird boyfriend while also being strong-armed to ‘work’ tonight.
The camera captures this cagey situation and claustrophobic environment. This is Tokyo. We cannot move the walls back, Michael Cimino, despite wanting these characters to have some breathing room. This restaurant scene also shows how Kiarostami greatly uses both foreground and background, this exploitation happening in a public place where the background characters are indifferent to what’s so obvious to us.
After delving into a few of Kiarostami’s works I thought that his colleagues are better, his work seemingly too cerebral, almanac-y and mysterious for me. Yes, the intellectual fabric within this movie is clearer after pondering over it, but this movie hits more on the psychological front and it delivers that blow subtly. There’s a scene where Akiko listens to her voicemails, part of a performance decided on being passive and receptive like her character always is, but Takanashi’s awareness of her sense and surroundings throughout the movie make her performance one of the best of the year. The rest of the movie shows us what would happen if she, her boyfriend and her client are cramped together in a car – a Kiarostami motif – the three of them participating in one of the quietest yet most shocking cluster fucks ever recorded in the history of cinema.
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