Saturday, October 15, 2011

Loverboy
















LOVERBOY – video               B                     
Romania  Sweden  (94 mi)  2011  d:  Catalin Mitulescu             Official Facebook

This starts out as perhaps the ugliest looking film seen in years, dirty, brownish, washed out video, where it appears they used the cheapest film stock available, as the focus is slightly blurred throughout, creating what amounts to a horrible-to-look-at film.  Other Romanian films have a similar washed out color palette, but they depict a certain Eastern European realism, a throwback to the days of the Soviets when the entrenched Kafkaesque bureaucracy reflected bland and soulless times.  But this isn’t like that, as this movie quickly displays a French New Wave sensibility in terms of a breakout, free wheeling film style, hot looking guys and sexy women on motorcycles drinking and hanging out at the beach, cavorting like there’s no tomorrow, but set in a grim Eastern European miserablism, as we soon learn the guys are brutes, treating women like scum, reflecting the Serbian or Russian gangster sensibility where these men are thugs.  Actually, as it turns out, the style this most closely resembles is that of Emir Kusterica in his more low key moments of humiliating devastation, as this expresses a kind of outlaw Eastern European art, where these violent criminals are all outside the law and the original Balkan music by Pablo Malaurie is simply outstanding, perhaps the best thing in the film, as it perfectly describes the essential lowlife character of these men who like to drink, have sex, and party all night long with girls for sale who work for them, whose lives are defined by being treated like shit, while the guys sit around on the beach and rake in all the money they earn. 

No matter what films you see, nowhere is there an economic abyss on display like the former Soviet Bloc black market reality, where they thrive on sex trafficking of teenage girls, kept in line by the excessive use of violence, where lies, deceit, rape, drugs and murder are an everyday reality.  Once hooked these girls don’t stand a chance.  This movie is a kind of behind the scenes exposé of the methods they use to find the girls, the broken promises they make pretending to be something they’re not with macho behavior, sunglasses, fast cars, and sex, where those girls that stick around pay the price while those that choose initially to leave by their own accord, often quite by chance, are surprisingly saved from this debasement.  The hook is the use of cute guys who express an air of indifference, like Luca (George Pistereanu), a Brando or James Dean like figure who is all sexual presence, a kind of prized stable boy owned by the bosses whose job is to lure in the girls, where they know these are bad boys, but they can’t help themselves, and by the time they figure out what’s happening it’s too late.  Luca even works on motorbikes, like a Romanian THE WILD ONE (1953), used to impress the women with his cool demeanor and sexually liberated lifestyle where he’s quick to seduce them.  The twist here is when he meets Veli (Ada Condeescu), a cute country girl that Luca appears to protect from the more edgy and raucous behavior of the lowlife brutes on display, whose thoroughly noxious treatment of women should tell anyone all they need to know, but Veli finds Luca as a kind of chivalrous thug, a guy who will stand up to the others, making her feel safe in his arms.  This apparently works, as Veli’s feelings are inexplicably reciprocated by the kindness of Luca, actually penetrating that emotional armor, but just barely, as he remains ambivalent and standoffish, but loath to release her to the bosses. 

The rest of the film plays out like a couple on the run, even though they inhabit Luca’s own private domain, a small family owned café by the side of the road and a garage where he can work on bikes.  Their sexual chemistry onscreen sizzles and is potent medicine, as they grow increasingly affectionate, though Luca continues to struggle with what this is costing him.  He and Veli become an item, where the others come by to visit and party and check out the merchandise, making little snide comments about the lovebirds in the making, suggesting Luca has finally met his match, but all they are really doing is reporting back to the boss what’s going on with the girl, because Luca keeping the girl to himself is costing the business money.  Keeping her around is only increasing his debt, like interest on a loan, until eventually he can’t afford to keep her.  She volunteers to work off his debt, believing in him so strongly that she would do anything.  He knows just exactly what would happen to her, as these guys wear women out quick, crushing their confidence and destroying all that is beautiful about them, continually having to replenish the business with new girls.  While the movie highlights the actions and behavior of the young attractive couple, the real story behind it all is the harsh realism of the criminal thugs running the operation, whose nightmarish sex slave ring defies comprehension, but provides a perfect backdrop for the current mafia-style business model developing in Eastern Europe. 

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