I am sad to leave it halfway through, but I know it almost by heart, and I’m lured away by a new Belgian movie, “Beyond the Walls,” which would once upon a long-ago time been part of the New Queer Cinema but now is just another well-acted movie. It concerns a textbook twinkie (forgive me, but he’s callow, slight, and blond, with, he’s told, “the face of an angel”) who is the locus of two subsequent triangles: one when he leaves his live-in girlfriend for a bartender/musician, and the second when he abandons the musician, now in jail for drugs, for a sadomasochistic relationship with a sex-shop owner. The musician is played by the charismatic and handsome Guillame Gouix, who I’ve seen all over the place in festivals lately: in “The Day I Saw Your Heart” at the SF Jewish Film Festival, and “Aliyah” and “Mobile Home” in the SF Film Society’s “French Cinema Now” program. I’m not sorry to have seen “Beyond the Walls,” but I’m sorry, it’s no “Magnificent Obsession.”
I intend to go straight back to the hotel, really I do, but I’m powerless against the lure of Mark Cousins’ “What is This Film Called Love?”, which I first saw in June at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, in a strange inflated theater cooled in the heat by an improvised spray from high-powered hoses that sounded inside like a sudden downpour. It’s a curious, enthralling, poetic film-diary, ostensibly shot in three days on a walking tour of Mexico City while addressing a photo of Sergei Eisenstein, but encompassing much additional footage, shot on Cousins’ many travels.
I stole out of “Magnificent Obsession” like a thief in the night; this time I’m stealing into the second half. I enter just as he’s lying on his back somewhere in the Bay Area on the San Andreas fault, and then magically, it seems, his subsequent shots replicate my own recent travels: he’s in Mill Valley showing “The Story of Film,” and then in Morelia, last year. Shots taken on the street right outside the theater we’re currently sitting in elicit fewer murmurs of delight and shock of recognition than I think they should.
“What is This Film Called Love?” is one continual arc of delight and shock of recognition for me. I look forward to seeing the entire film again someday. I’m sorry that Mark isn’t in Morelia this year – we shared meals and movies last year, when he was here with his epic, essential, 15-hour “The Story of Film: An Odyssey.” But he was tempted away by an invitation to work in Albania with The Albanian Film Project. Maybe we’ll be seeing the results next year, in Morelia or elsewhere.