Pub date June 12, 2007
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

Violent Femmes and wrestling boys. The same boys watching TV, huffing glue, jerking off, playing soccer, dodging water balloons, sharing headphones, and dancing, singing, and drumming at punk rock shows. Listed in this manner, the basic ingredients of Alexis Dos Santos’s Glue don’t sound that different from those of a dozen other teen films. But the way Dos Santos views such material is something else entirely. Glue is that rare kind of filmmaking so attuned to pleasure and spontaneity that it tickles your palate, opening up new possibilities about how to live. The film’s chief subject matter — bisexuality that takes exhilarating form before the constraints of adulthood can arrive — is ideally realized through Dos Santos’s sensual and whim-driven approach.

"If my parents made love before I was conceived, would it be me being born or another boy?" skinny, wild-haired, and sleepy-eyed Lucas (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) wonders to himself at the beginning of Glue, before his jock friend Nacho (Nahuel Viale) and their mutual crush, the gawky yet beautiful Andrea (Inés Efron), arrive on screen. When Andrea is eventually introduced, it’s via a poolside scene in which polite kisses through a steel fence provide one typically fleet example of Dos Santos’s ability to land on the right use of foreground, background, and happenstance scenic detail to convey a shot or scene’s emotional temperature.

This symbiosis between director and actors — and perhaps even more important, between actors — results in some extraordinary passages. Glue meanders near its end, when, in true teen spirit, it doesn’t want a good time to end. But in its best moments, Dos Santos’s debut feature is an important and exciting addition to Latin American cinema’s evolving views of masculinity. (Sergio de la Mora’s recent book Cinemachismo is an excellent source for historical background on the subject.) Glue‘s ménage à trois is more radical than the ones in both Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También and Fernando Eimbcke’s chaste Duck Season, though one suspects those more commercial movies helped pave the way for the spaces that Dos Santos and his actors discover. Like Julián Hernández’s Broken Sky, in which a trio of young lovers meet and kiss repeatedly in public, Dos Santos’s insular and gutsy film charts territory where people don’t repress their desires.

Thus it’s a shame that, unlike all of the Mexican features mentioned in the previous paragraph, Glue doesn’t have a distributor. Dos Santos’s movie is yet another example of how new Argentine cinema (thanks to talents as varied as Lisandro Alonso, Lucrecia Martel, Verónica Chen, and Pablo Trapero) continues to stretch the time and space dimensions of the word new. Unfortunately, it’s far from the first film from Argentina in the past few years to be neglected by commercial forces. A French feature such as Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr’s One to Another treats the same elements found in Glue — teen life, bisexual trysts, rock music — in a manner that results in overheated garbage (yes, it stinks), yet it’s been given exactly the type of eminent, if small, US theatrical run that Dos Santos’s movie deserves. That means now is the time to see Glue. (Johnny Ray Huston) *

GLUE (Alexis Dos Santos, Argentina, 2006) June 20, 9:15 p.m., Parkway; June 22, 7 p.m., Victoria