Movie review: The Charm of Others isn’t very charming

My task is to review the queer films. I love my task but…

This film features two men forced to kiss (briefly) at a party game and ends with a man spanking the bare bottom of another man in a junk yard.  In between there is little for those looking for a gay movie.

I have been told that writers should not write themselves into the review with a lot of “I” statements. But at the same time “I” don’t want my ignorance to prevent you from seeing an award nominated and recent accolade winning film from Japan. Maybe “I” just don’t understand Asian and South Asian films.

Based on this film and Parts Of The Heart – the latest thing on that side of the planet appears to be static master shots with no cutaways, morose character staring into the middle distance, banal conversations about shrimp tails or nightclubs or some such thing and shots that linger for a good minute or two after the main characters have left the frame, preferably in blanched out colour or black and white.

The Charm of Others is about some working class men who sit in an office talking about stuff. They are odd and one of them nicknamed Yoda irks another, likely because he shuffles his feet when he walks, which we get to see a lot; sometimes the static master shot is him shuffling his feet scuff scuff scuff towards the camera, or away from camera and one time we got a dolly shot as we follow him along at night scuff scuff scuff.

A scene from Ninomiya Ryutaro's filme The Charm of Others.
A scene from Ninomiya Ryutaro’s filme The Charm of Others screening at the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival.

The men talk about girls they like and want to have sex with. We see them tease one on the phone “what color are your nipples?”, another man and his girlfriend canoodle on the couch (surprise … in a static master shot – this film must have been a dream to edit as there appears to be no need for matching coverage) and Yoda picks up a girl he knew from high school and morosely, silently and awkwardly screws her before shuffling away.

When they aren’t talking and pursuing women, they play soccer or bully each other.

Ironically the film ends abruptly with one character asking “why are we watching this?” I concur.  My task is to review queer films, but I want films with a story, or energy, or stakes, or nudity, or kittens and in this case, something gay.

The Charm of Others

Ninomiya Ryutaro | Japan | 89 minutes | Mon. Oct 1, 4:00 pm, Pacific Cinémathèque

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