This is a big week for gay movies—both overt ( Testosterone ) , coincidental ( Callas Forever ) and disguised ( Alexander ) —though none of them are likely to make the queer top ten anytime soon.
The much anticipated, overheated Alexander, director Oliver Stone's rambling, unfocused take on the life of the gay warrior, is finally here. The question of how graphically Stone gets into the gay stuff can be answered this way: the movie's a prick tease. Why would a studio green light a project about a historical figure as widely known for his sexuality as for his amazing exploits and not expect to deal with it head on in our age of heightened 'gay awareness?' And knowing that the core audience for a picture like this would be the make-or-break 20-something heterosexual 'dude don't touch me you big fag' demographic it seems disingenuous, to say the least, to not realize that the issue of Alexander's gay preferences would need to be addressed from the outset.
Regardless of whether or not Stone fought for a more explicit view of Alexander's sexuality ( and a Director's Cut DVD may answer that question ) , the end result decides to pander to the 'sensitive' straight boys and play coy with it. Therefore, scene after scene between Colin Farrell ( in the title role ) and Jared Leto ( as Hephaestion, Alexander's 'special friend' ) lead up to the bedroom ( in fact, most of them take place IN the bedroom ) but we never get more than smoldering looks and 'meaningful' hugs between them. Alexander's relationship with Bagoas the eunuch, the infamous Persian boy, also suffers from cinematic coitus interruptus—at one point we see a naked Farrell hop beneath the goat skins and give a come hither look to Bagoas ( played by Francisco Bosch, who never speaks ) before Stone blushingly cuts away.
We do get a supposed-to-be steamy wedding copulation between Alexander and his Asian 'Barbarian' wife Roxanne ( Rosario Dawson ) , who he marries to 'begat' a son. But Roxanne's as much of a hellcat as Alex's mother ( the snake-obsessed Angelina Jolie ) and looks like a cover girl for the next issue of Chicks With Dicks. It doesn't take Alexander long, we are told by Old Ptolemy the narrator ( Anthony Hopkins ) , to stop visiting her tent and head back to the arms of Bagoas and Hephastion.
Hopkins as the narrator is the framing device for the movie and though he intones on and on about Alexander's campaigns and how great he was for 173 minutes, unless you're a historian it's pretty confusing stuff and the movie ends up giving the impression that Alexander's conquests were the result of his trying to get away from his mad-as-a-hatter mother. The film has occasional set pieces that show Stone's verve, like the final battle scene with the blood-stained film and Alexander and his men wandering through the palace at Babylon and discovering the harem like kids in a candy store. On the plus side are also excellent performances from Farrell and Jolie, Val Kilmer as Alexander's father, and Leto looking fetchingly pumped up and sporting more eye liner than Michael Jackson. True to all these sword-and-sandal epics, the actors speak with a variety of accents, with Irish getting the preference here, nice for comic relief.
In the end, this messy picture, dripping with a retro '80s music score courtesy of Vangelis, isn't going to really satisfy any audience completely, though confirmed heterosexual Farrell does get honorary membership into the gay movie hall of fame for playing Alexander and Bobby earlier this year in A Home At The End Of The World ( just out on DVD ) . But Oliver Stone is going to have to submit another application. Sorry.
Pablo ( Antonio Sabato, Jr. ) goes out for cigarettes one night and doesn't return, leaving his comic book artist lover Dean ( David Sutcliffe ) in the lurch. Dean is bereft and can't focus on the deadline that his agent, Louise ( the foul-mouthed Jennifer Coolidge ) keeps reminding him of. A chance encounter with Pablo's mother ( the exquisite, fiery Sonia Braga ) convinces him that Pablo has returned to Argentina. Without another thought, Dean hops on a plane and heads for Buenos Aries to bring back his true love.
This is the set-up for Testosterone, which begins as a sorta screwball comedy but abruptly shifts into Fatal Attraction territory when Dean's heartbreak turns into anger and a desire for revenge. It sounds much more plausible written down than it does on the screen and the picture suffers from attention deficit disorder—constantly switching tones from scene to scene. One idea that does resonate: the thought ( reinforced by Dean's memories of making love with Pablo ) that someone would go through hell to have another go with the eerie physical beauty that is Sabato, Jr.
It might even make sitting through Testosterone a second time worth it.
Opens Friday at the Music Box. www.musicboxtheatre.com
Jeremy Irons plays the gay Larry Kelly, a concert producer in Franco Zeffirelli's Callas Forever, which opens this Friday at the Century. It's 1977 and Larry's in Paris to produce a concert but he's still got time for a little romance with the much younger Michael ( Jay Rodan ) , a cute abstract painter, and to try to convince old friend Maria Callas ( Fanny Ardant ) to make a film lip-synching to her old recordings. After an artistic tussle, the voice-ravaged Callas agrees to Carmen, which she recorded but never played. Ardant, the essence of French sensuality ( witness her performances in Elizabeth and 8 Women ) , looks smashing in the Chanel clothes but doesn't have the crazed intensity of the legendarily difficult opera singer who brought new meaning to the word 'diva.' Still, like Zeffirelli's previous film outing, Tea With Mussolini, there's an agreeable assemblage of talent, sumptuous photography and sets and lots of male eye candy on display. This fictional, amiable paean to diva worship and its consequences is easily the best of this lot of semi-queer films and offers the reward of ample doses of That Voice—and this from someone who's not an Opera Queen. www.landmarktheatres.com