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01Oct24c LIE film

Film Reviews

Peter Herman
NAMBLA Bulletin, June 2001
First part of this article

New York Citys Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA) New Directors/New Films program occasionally provides us with a window into alternate sexualities and tolerance for such. The Canadian film Leolo and the Belgian/French film My Life in Pink (reviewed in Bulletin 19.?) are two that come to mind. Many of these productions are foreign, and few reach mainstream theaters. Many gain wider distribution through videotapes and DVDs.


Of particular interest is the recently shown L.I.E. This film is remarkable for its sympathetic portrayal of a boy-lover. Howie Blitzer, an intelligent and sensitive fourteen-year-old has recently lost his mother in a car accident on the Long Island Expressway (L.I.E.). His father, a wealthy contractor, is oblivious to Howies profound sense of bereavement and deals with his own loss in sexual gymnastics with a woman Howie considers a bimbo.

Howie, suicidal, emotionally adrift and quite vulnerable, looks for comfort from boys far inferior to him in intellect and economic status. One of them, Gary Terrio, entices Howie with promises of running away to California. He also leads him into burglarizing local homes of the well to do.

In one escapade, stumbling in a dark basement, the two are nearly caught by Big John, a gruff retired marine. As the two boys run away with guns they have just stolen, the wily gent nearly grabs Gary but only manages to rip out his rear jeans pocket. Big Johns keen sense of smell recognizes it as belonging to one of his tricks (we find out later). He quickly tracks down Gary who doesn't lose time betraying Howie. It is when Big John finds Howie that we become aware of the ex-marines orientation.

The BJ on the license plate of his flashy car has another meaning. Howie presents an allure far surpassing pedestrian tricks performed behind a sign on the L.I.E. or that of Johns live-in former boy who, to the latter's dismay, is invited to make himself temporarily scarce. Big Johns interest in recovering his stolen guns now becomes secondary to its value as a pretext to have Howie work off his debt.

A heterosexual porno video doesn't seem to give Howie the hint Big John has in mind. Howie desperately searches for the stolen guns in Garys unkempt house while simultaneously Gary walks in on the sumptuous mansion where Howie lives. No one is around so Gary steals a substantial sum from the fathers bedroom and runs off alone to California. The devastation of this abandonment is not helped by the arrest a little earlier of the hapless father for business crimes for which it is plain the elder Blitzer is not responsible.

At this point anyone familiar with the calumny usually heaped on boy-lovers cant help but imagine that Big John is poised to exploit Howies vulnerability to the hilt. Though the former marine makes his lust for Howie quite obvious, he does not unduly press the boy. Despite his rough exterior, Big John is quite sophisticated and possesses an underpinning of culture and education. He shares with Howie a number of interests including knowledge of French and an appreciation for music and literature. Lust for Howies body gradually evolves into love for the boy as a person. Big John becomes the emotional anchor Howie desperately needs.

Such a sympathetic portrayal of what many would call a pedophile usually requires an ending that expiates the transgression portrayed, and the director does choose this path. If you have not guessed, you will have to see the movie. The film however leaves us with a definite sense that Howie, thanks to Big John, will mend emotionally.

One advantage of seeing films presented at MoMAs New Directors/New Films is the opportunity to see the directors and principal actors in person and to ask them questions. So was the case with L.I.E. At this presentation both the director Michael Cuesta and the boy who plays Howie, Paul Franklin Dano were in attendance. Judging from the applause, many of the directors fans were in the audience. An extra showing had to be scheduled to accommodate those wanting to see this particularly popular film.

Paul Dano was asked how he prepared for portraying the emotion of losing a mother. The power of his performance was helped by having his own mother playing that role in a dream sequence that the character Howie experiences. Michael Cuestas response to a question inquiring to the extent of his own experience in creating the film was interesting in its ambiguity. He certainly knew how to push the buttons for any boy-lover viewing the film. One of the first scenes in the movie teasingly shows Howie bare-chested. A later scene of Howie in his briefs is no less tantalizing. Whatever the reasons for Cuestas sympathetic portrayal, the emotional truth in this film cannot be denied.

Readers wishing to learn more about films are encouraged to visit www.imdb.com (imdb stands for Internet Movie Data Base) on the Internet. This site will alert you when these movies are available in VHS, DVD or other formats. It will also give you more detailed information about directors and actors and lead you to other reviews.

(More information about L.I. E. can be found at www.lot47.com )


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