Saturday, April 21, 2012

Judas Kiss (It’s Fringe meets Queer as Folk)

Gone are the days when LGBTQ films only go in coming-out-story flavor.

Just last week, when I was searching for foreign independent films after an officemate recommended an Italian movie with a gay protagonist (Mine Vaganti), I stumbled upon J.T. Tepnapa’s Judas Kiss.  I’m initially skeptical but I knew better than to label it “just another gay flick,” especially after knowing it’s science fiction-ish in nature. (Yup, I’m that much of a sucker for sci-fi—sorry for the bias! Haha).

JUDAS KISS dvd

Here’s the blurb from IMDB:
Failed filmmaker Zachary Wells is convinced by his best friend and hotshot director Topher into replacing him as a judge in their film school's annual festival. Zach's one-night stand with a student backfires when that student walks into an interview the next morning calling himself Danny Reyes, the name Zach went by when he attended the school. And Danny's film, "Judas Kiss," is a finalist in the competition Zach is judging. Zach's film, also "Judas Kiss," won the festival years before. 
As Zach scrambles for answers, a mysterious, chain-smoking campus tour guide, counsels him: "Change the kid's past, change your future." But how? Zach comes to believe he can mend his life by disqualifying Danny from competition, putting him on a different path than Zach followed. But will Zach's plan work?
Sounds pretty trite, eh? The classic “regret” time-travel theme has been around ever since I can remember. I bet most adults have been asked at least once in their life what they would tell their younger selves if they could go back in time. And everybody knows its counterpart question that young ones usually face: how do they see themselves fifteen years from the present? Judas Kiss took these two questions and put a literal spin on them.

However, the film does not rely heavily on its central sci-fi element; the mechanics of the little quirk in time and space isn’t even explained. There are completely no answers to the technical “how’s” and “why’s,” and all those rules about Grandfather Paradox and the prohibited tinkering with the past are dismantled. I wasn’t disappointed in any way, though. The focus is obviously on the characters, and this approach brings the storyline closer to the audience, establishing an instant rapport through relatable experiences couched in the language of love, decisions, and second chances.

Danny
Danny meets Danny.
Bringing “introspection” to a whole new level.'

Most of the characters are well-rounded. Danny Reyes (Richard Harmon) is an ambitious sophomore filmmaker who will stop at nothing just to reach his dream of becoming a famous Hollywood director.  He has the necessary flair, but bad decisions and a dark past reduced him to a washed-out filmmaker who calls himself Zachary Wells (Charlie David). Zach’s life can be summed up into partying, going to rehabs, and working as a part-time waiter who shoots wedding videos on the weekends for some millionaire’s spoiled daughter.

I love how Harmon portrayed smug young Danny; to me, he successfully managed to be the epitome of teenagers’ off-kilter thinking that they are invincible. David is equally commendable in depicting “that guy you don’t want to be when you grow up,” although he still has a dapper swag that I think shouldn’t be apparent in a character like Zach.  I guess there’s a little bit of  miscasting too, but other than that, the actors delivered well.

CW and Danny
Filmmaker Boys in Stealth Mode. "Look, Shane is amazing...but you? 
You know about Aspheron lenses and 36 F.P.S.”

One of the things I really liked about Judas Kiss is that while it’s a gay film, it’s not a film about being gay. It’s only gay in a sense that the main characters are homosexual. The society where  the characters move is not exactly an LGBTQ utopia, but the usual concepts of coming out, homophobia, inequality, etc. are not addressed heavily unlike in  other gay films. There are a few mentions about these, but they are completely untethered to the main point of the story.

Moving on to other characters: Chris Wachowsky (Sean Paul Lockhart/ Brent Corrigan) is the sweet,  doe-eyed heartthrob who won the previous Keystone Film Fest. He takes an immediate liking to Danny when they meet. However, all he can afford to establish with the younger boy are wasted kisses and secret rendezvouses, because Shane Lyons (Timo Descamps), son of Hollywood’s wealthy film financiers, openly tells him that “[Danny] is mine.” Shane has Chris wrapped around his little finger for some reason, too…

And there, ladies and gentlemen, is your love triangle.

dontfuckupSean Paul Lockhart: Proving he’s not just all about the physical'

Chris is no different from all the Nice Guy stereotypes completing fictional love triangles polygons I’ve encountered in a lot of other movies. That said, do forgive me for jumping on the bandwagon and flailing imaginary pom-poms when he’s on! :p  Lockhart is a pretty good actor—that’s not saying much, I admit, since he played a not-so-demanding role here.

He’s a new face to me, and I didn’t need to go farther than YouTube comments to find more about him.  Imagine my astonishment when I discovered he came from the pornographic film industry! (Call me prude, but I still can’t bring myself to Google decent pictures of him for fear of stumbling upon something traumatic).

When the shock subsided, I became a little sad about the fact that his past would continually follow him everywhere, magnetizing judgmental remarks from people who know him. I just wish him luck; the boy is not afraid to get out his comfort zone, which means he’s determined to grow up. :) Come on, who knows? He can succeed if he’ll work for it. Sylvester Stallone himself started with adult film projects.

(Whoops. Sorry for digressing.)

DannyandAbbyAbbey the Best Girlfriend: “You and I are Dorothy and her friend!”

I don’t know if anyone else finds her significant and beautiful (what with the eye-candies everywhere), but I completely adore Abbey Park (Julia Morizawa). Snarky, talented, and feisty, Abbey is the kind of girl that offers friendship like no other. She’s always there for Danny no matter what; she’s cynical at times, but she can always cheer him up. Morizawa nailed the role to perfection and she managed to stand out acting-wise. I look forward to seeing more of her in other movies.

DannyandZachThat heart-pinching moment. Fixing your past, fixing his future.

Aside from time travel, romance, friendship, and redemption, the film also features dark daddy issues, epiphanies that at times seem a tad too mundane to be considered major twists, and a film-within-a-film concept that the director seems to love so much. Miniature Inception’s are awesome, I realize. :p Fortunately, the whole film did not end up like a patchwork of many things. The cohesion and continuity is superbly solid, from scenes to character habits to dialogues. Work of a genius.

Plot holes and unanswered questions do abound, however, and I’m not even going to count the time travel thing because that’s unfair. For one, I think Zach should have at least recognized his younger self. There are also a few vague spoilery issues with Danny’s father; existence of characters like Mrs.Blossom—who for some weird reason knows what Zach is going through the whole time—begs for a thorough explanation. I also can't help but to ask, how many parallel universes are there exactly? How many alternate realities? My cranium hurts.

All in all, Judas Kiss is an engrossing albeit confounding movie. Many elements were borrowed from existing stories, but the creators managed to execute the narrative from a different angle that grabs hold of the audience’s mind and heart.

2 comments:

  1. This sounds like a good movie! And I agree there are lots of eyecandies right there, especially the guy from the COUGH porn industry. I'm not a Zac Efron fan, but I kind of see the actor in that Sean guy. Like, he's a cuter version LOLOL.

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    1. LOL! Zac Efron! Now that mentioned it, I think I'm kinda seeing some Efron-ish angles. Omg. Haha! Cuter version? You can say it again! Hahaha! Do try to watch this movie. Like I said, there are very familiar themes, but the execution is excellent. :)

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