Monday, January 7, 2013

Movie Review: North Sea, Texas

     (As followers of this political blog know, I usually don’t do film reviews. Yet, sometimes when I see a movie that permanently alters me emotionally, such as North Sea, Texas, I’m moved to write one.)

     Imagine if Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain had taken place in Belguim, with protagonists about 10 years younger, and you might have Flemish cult director Bavo Defurne’s North Sea, Texas. In this undeclared period, coming-of-age movie, heart-breakingly handsome Flemish actor Jelle Florizoone plays the moody and shy Pim (or Pimmy to his few intimates), a teenaged introvert with a dysfunctional home life. He’s being more or less raised on the Belgian coast by an irresponsible mother named Yvette, a frustrated, smalltime accordion player who drifts from one affair to another while Pim grows up a latchkey kid.
     As a small boy, Pim is unofficially adopted by another fatherless family, this one not as dysfunctional. From the beginning, Pim feels a powerful attraction to Gino, a handsome, slightly older boy. Gino also has a sister named Sabrina, a willowy dreamer like Pim who’s reminiscent of Anne Frank. As these three children mature, the classic love triangle develops. However, it’s not until they’re all teenagers when Sabrina sneaks into Pim’s room on false pretenses (to rent the room vacated by a womanizing carnie named Zoltan) and finds drawings Pim had sketched, with Gino’s name written over and over, that she discovers where Pim’s true affections lie.
     Gino’s and Sabrina’s gravely ill single mother suspects the love between the two boys and gently accepts it, being all too painfully aware of how lonely and rough life must be for Pim, a boy also growing up without a father. There are no dominant male role models in his life and Pim, called a “dreamer” several times in this bittersweet movie, spends his hours drawing and dreaming of Gino.
     Gino is plainly more conflicted than Pim, who’s obviously gay and smitten by the older boy. Just before Pim’s 15th birthday, the two boys masturbate before each other in the shed, resulting in the gift to Pim of the sock into which Gino had ejaculated. Pim is a pack rat who keeps such disparate items such as a sash and cheap plastic tiara once owned by his beauty queen mother, an empty cigarette pack from the prodigal Zoltan’s trash, drawings of Gino on coasters at the Texas bar frequented by his mother and other bits of nostalgia.
     Then, after the boys conduct a brief sexual relationship, Gino’s mother tells Pim that her son has been seeing a French girl named Françoise. Understandably sick with jealousy, Pim cycles to Gino’s house and sees the two kissing from his bedroom window. Out of retaliation, Pim vandalizes Gino’s beloved new motorcycle, tying around the muffler pipe the gifted sock.
     Pim’s lonely life on the Belgian coast near France is exacerbated by his isolation. Zoltan comes back to rent his old room and Pim begins an infatuation with him. Zoltan, for his part, seems suspicious of Pim’s furtive looks. The carnival worker, meanwhile, has taken off with Pim’s mother, who left him a note and nothing more. Gino and Sabrina’s mother agrees to take in the heart-broken child just before her early death of kidney disease. Gino comes back from Dunkirk after having lived with Françoise and tells Pim on the beach that almost plays the part of a character that he needs to move on, start a love affair with his equally lonely sister Sabrina. The older boy says to the vulnerable Pim that he never loved him, which, of course, is the last thing he needs to hear. Pim knocks him flat on the sand before running off.
     Fans of romances (which I am not but I never could resist a gay-themed romance movie) will be heartened by the ending and the conflicts leading to the denouement are legitimate and plausible ones. What’s missing from the movie is the virulent strain of homophobia that characterized Brokeback Mountain. The one thing, it seems, that Pim doesn’t have to endure is anything more than suspicious looks and gentle ribbing from the grown men who frequent Texas.
     It’s a brilliantly- and delicately-acted and directed art house movie that’s been well-received and reviewed and it’d won two awards when it debuted in Rome in 2011. It’s filmed and edited in a typically European style perplexing to American audiences. It won’t win any Oscars (perhaps not even for Best Foreign Film) or break box office records but it’s not for lack of execution. North Sea, Texas deserves to be put in the pantheon of other classic coming-of-age films such as The Summer of ’42, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, The Breakfast Club and Japan’s Boys Love (which has a much more tragic ending).
     There’s much to this film that goes unexplained but these little mysteries are presented in such an understated way, we don’t mind that we’re not told why things keep falling out of closets and pantries, why Pim recites the alphabet before engaging in certain habitual acts or why the color yellow is so prominent. We’re respected through director Defurne’s deft touch and sensitive acting by the cast by being left to our own devices why these things happen.
     North Sea, Texas will be available for sale on DVD on February 19th and if you’re a fan of gay romance or even just romance in general, you could do a lot worse than spend 96 minutes of your time watching this necessarily painful yet life- and love-affirming tale of growing up on a lonely stretch of coast in an isolated part of the world.


At January 8, 2013 at 5:30 AM, Blogger Saad Hashmi said...

Becoming a slave follower of Jelle Floorizone just after recently watching the one and only 'North Sea Texas', i was dutifully scanning his tweets for anything new, that I found yours re-tweeted by his majesty.
Honestly,there is one thing i'd obviously agree with you that this dude is a 'dangerously beautiful creature'(not my words), but apart from that, the film itself is not that special.i see there is a language barrier in that the characters are speaking in dutch? and that i know all but nothing about European culture,but see if there was any uglier and/or older guy playing the character of Pim, i'd been skeptical that this film had been getting acclamations and stirring people in any relation to this film.
But I admire the Director to successfully deliver a film with such a young cast and still be able to beautifully present the idea that love and the will to fight for a loved one transcends age or gender.
Any ways i have my eyes on this beau,but sadly he's not re-tweeting my tweets later :( i guess he's too busy trying to become a star,which he already is in eyes of you and me and many others...but...

At January 8, 2013 at 11:23 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

I didn't know whether or not to approve this post. Indeed, it has some creepy overtones that seems to suggest you're stalking this 17 y/o on Twitter. Yes, Jelle retweeted my post about this review and then I moved on. I'd advise you not to do that. Like anyone else, the kid will pay attention to whomever he pleases. Don't forget, he's in Belgium and there's a certain time difference, plus he's a student and has a social life. He tends to follow other actors so people like you he probably wouldn't find interesting. But I decided to post your comment so people would know what I was talking about when I responded to you.

As for the movie itself, everything's subjective. It moved me beyond words and I think it has much more to recommend itself than the beauty of its star.

At January 8, 2013 at 12:14 PM, Blogger Saad Hashmi said...

surely i am not stalking,lol, i just follow him...and some parts of my post were intended to be taken on a lighter note(its like what every fan wants)..moreover i personally don't believe its him re-tweeting all of his fans' tweets and i have some gud reasons for tht..and i'll move on like everyone just depends from person to person..honestly..

At January 8, 2013 at 12:27 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Saad, listen up:

You've gone from admirer and fan to full-blown stalker. Obviously, you do not see it that way but here's some objective observations:

You began by unconditionally admiring this child and his one movie to outright hostility. You're now disparaging a movie you'd previously called "epic" in a tweet that was written in Belgian, which I assume is not your mother tongue. And your attitude toward this kid is getting nastier by the day and you're already accusing him of playing the movie star.

I've been following your Twitter account and the last half of your 14 tweets have been devoted entirely to him. In one of them, you announced you'd put in a friend request on Facebook and you seem to be angered both here and elsewhere that he's not paying attention to you.

In many movies and in real life, we've seen this kind of escalating behavior. Personally, I don't think you present a physical danger to the boy since he lives in Belgium but who knows how dedicated your growing obsession with Jelle is.

Since I don't do things behind peoples backs, I'll tell you here and now that I've taken steps to warn Jelle that he has an online stalker and I've even contacted the movie's producer Yves Verbraeken ‏(@yvesverbraeken) to tell Jelle about you in case he doesn't see my tweet to him today.

You seriously need counseling, my friend. You've described him as "a dangerously beautiful creature", which right there is one of the creepiest descriptions I've ever heard of a teenaged boy. Yeah, he paid attention to me yesterday just long enough to RT me in the interests of publicizing his film. Then I'm sure he'd immediately forgotten about me, someone who has made no other impact on his life. And that's OK. We've both moved on.

I suggest you do the same.

At January 8, 2013 at 1:09 PM, Blogger Saad Hashmi said...

i think its you getting me wrong..first i'm not a STALKER and please believe me.. i have my own life too..its right that you'd see a majority of my tweets listed that are for Jelle Florizoone, but its like a two days story i guess after i watched the movie..i never put up a friend request for him although i know his fan page on facebook...u think i have something vicious against him!i don't know what made you think that..i am a student my self and i'm currently pursuing my bachelors degree on CS..i don't know how would you come to such a conclusion..about the dutch language.. ya i used google translator to translate from english to dutch just for fun..the words " a dangerously beautiful creature" are not mine. they are from some one's comment on youtube (which was actually intended for jelle) can take what ever steps you want to make yourself feel just...i know i should not have posted rather (what shuld i say)blunt?offensive? comments on his twitter and i regret that..some of them were desperate and again i regret i'd posted them...i respect him but i think its up to him to decide.. he can block me or report me on twitter if he wanted or wants...i would not like any other person report about me to other people on his/her out of business conscience/social responsiblity,what ever.

At January 8, 2013 at 1:23 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

These are just objective observations and this is what I've concluded: In a short period of time, you've unnaturally fixated on a boy you will never meet and who will (hopefully) never meet you. You're trying to contact him in Flemish in a desperate bid to get him to briefly recognize you.

And even if you didn't originate the phrase, "dangerously beautiful creature", it's still one you think worthy of quoting. Let's just hope this kid's physical beauty doesn't prove to be a danger to him now or in the future.

Please just leave this kid alone and let him grow up as a normal kid. No one needs a stalker, especially one as young as Jelle. I know what it feels like to have a stalker since I'm stalked on a constant basis by a former Navy SEAL named Don Shipley who seriously needs a life and another who's a very lonely man self-named after a cartoon character who knows his comments are neither posted nor read yet writes them, anyway. And I wouldn't wish that creepy feeling on anyone, let alone a young kid. I'm not going to engage you or broach this subject again since my not-brief-communication communication with you makes me want to jump in the shower.

At January 11, 2013 at 3:50 PM, Blogger Leon Dennis said...

Regretful that such beautiful movie was so sullied by these comments. I enjoyed it very much and even more when I watched it without subtitles (I certainly don´t speak flemish), the photography, music, acting and directing were phenomenal. Of course mainly the directing, to be able to show so poetically and positively a gay coming of age story is to me incredible. At a time when tolerance seems scarce it helps people to understand human feelings, loved your review.

At January 11, 2013 at 4:40 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Thanks, Leon. It got me a follow on Twitter from the director and a mention from the star and producer, which is nice.


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