Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2012 5:32 pm 
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Boy meets boy by the seashore

In the nostalgic Belgian gay coming-of-age movie North Sea Texas, two teen boys have regular sex for a while. The blond younger Pim (Jelle Florizoone), AKA Pimmie or Pimchik, who's fifteen, is the "gayer" one and the dark Gino, eighteen (Mathias Vergels), with scene-stealing flopppy black hair, runs off to be with a French girl and leaves Pim pining. Scenes of Pim (Ben Van den Heuvel) and Gino (Nathan Naenen) in their younger days had prepared us by showing Pim playing girlie dressup games by himself using lipstick, spray perfume, and beauty contest regalia from the salad days of his now overweight, accordion-playing mom Yvette (Eva Van Der Gucht). Yvette's neglect of Pim in favor of partying with her sleazy-looking boyfriend Etienne (Luk Wyns) is what led Pim to become virtually a member of Gino's little family, which includes Gino's ill single mom Marcella (Katelijne Damen) and his slightly scrawny younger sister Sabrina (Nina Marie Kortekaas).

Predictably Sabrina is smitten with the cute, perfect-looking Pim. But her love, unlike Pim's has not led to physical gratification. Mostly Pim keeps to himself, stealing a sock or an empty cigarette pack from the young men he admires and keeping them as totems in a shoe box with his mom's tiara and beauty contest ribbon, along with a sexy drawing he once made of Gino. He spends much of his time drawing.

The other young man who fascinates Pim is the "gypsy" Zoltan (Thomas Coumans), an itinerant carnie and sometime renter of Yvette's spare room. Yvette likes to go to a nearby roadhouse called "Texas" and flirt with the men, who are mostly fat. This is decidedly the boonies, and once Gino has a motorcycle and turns his ten-speed over to Pim, it's no surprise he flees to livelier and more urban venues.

The various peripheral characters don't quite make up for a certain blankness at the core: Pim. He is a mysterious one. He hardly ever speaks more than a few words, if that, and reveals little of himself to anyone. Still we know who he longs for, and eventually so do Sabrina, Yvette and Marcella. Underneath Pim's reserve, the actor Florizoone has a sly confidence he cannot quite conceal. And so when as is common in such stories the "straghter" Gino comes running back, there's a sense that the passive stay-at-home Pim had a greater inner strength all along because he knew himself better, after all.

North Sea Texas as a whole reveals little more to us than the shut-down protagonist, its stereotypical adult characters seeming thin borrowings from another movie, by Aki Kaurismäki perhaps, or Emir Kusturica. But still it may offer enough to those segments of the gay audience looking for this kind of tale. There are a couple of hot scenes between Pim and Gino, even if they only last a few moments. As Pim, Jelle Florizoone is a blooming fuzzy-cheeked blond boy, Mathias Vergels' Gino a Scott Baio-style Tiger Beat hottie whose nervous energy contrasts nicely with Pim's stillness. (We know there's going to be a surprise from Gino eventually, even if it's a predictable one.)

There is some clumsiness in the writing, perhaps trouble in the screenplay adaptation by Defurne and Yves Verbraeken from André Sollie's novel Nooit gaat dit over (What Is This About?. The passage of time during Gino's absence isn't quite clear, Marcella's and Yvette's lives are a bit vague, and questions about Gino's and Sabrina's father pop up a little too pointlessly in the latter part of the movie. And then, while it's been clearly established that with Gino gone Pim has started to fantasize running off with Zoltan, but the latter's relationship with his mother isn't prepared for.

A lot of the time there is just not that much happening here. After a while Pim's smug stonewalling becomes too much of a tease, and his feelings remain insufficiently complex. Some compensation comes in the age-specific authenticity of the younger actors, and as Zoltan, Coumans is a slick, sexy young charmer himself, even with little to do but shave and take his shirt off. He and the boys and Van Der Gucht all show off their bodies freely, and that too may compensate (for the target audience) for the non-communication of the dialogue. The images, in this northern nowhere-land (actually Ostende), which seems to be cast back decades in time, are sharp and bright and pleasing, but given the underwhelming-ness of many of the scenes, the memorability factor doesn't seem super-high, except for that special audience that wants just this kind of milkboy story.

Noordzee, Texas, in Dutch, 96 mins., opened in Belgium 16 March 2012, in the UK 6 April, showed at various festivals, with a limited US release beginning 2 Nov. 2012. It was released in France 5 Dec. (as Sur le chemin des dunes) to polite but mediocre reviews (Allociné press rating: 2.7).

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