You know the standard formula for gay romantic comedy: guy meets guy, sparks fly, something goes wrong, obstacles are barely overcome before protagonists live openly and happily ever after. Everybody wins in the end.
But the politics of love are rarely simple, never a simple two-way street, rarely just a two-player game. One of the things I like best about the work of Italian-Turkish director Ferzan Özpetek is the way he conveys that teeming complexity of interpersonal – romantic and familial – relationships in his films. Inside Out audiences will likely best remember Özpetek’s 2007 Saturn in Opposition (Saturno Contro) and his 2001 The Ignorant Fairies (Le fate ignoranti) as former festival selections.
His latest film Loose Cannons (Mine Vaganti), is the Opening Gala selection at the 2011 Toronto LGBT Film and Video Festival.
In it, handsome and brooding Tommaso Cantone, played by the gorgeous Riccardo Scamarcio, returns to his family home in Puglia after studying in Rome. He and his brother Antonio (Alessandro Preziosi) are about to take over the family pasta factory. But Tommaso has a secret: he hasn’t been studying economics and chasing women in Rome, he’s been studying literature, writing a novel, and living with his boyfriend, Marco (Carmine Recano).
Tommaso tells Antonio that he plans to come out to his family as both – sin of sins – writer and gay man, but before he can do it, Antonio steals his thunder, telling the family that he himself is gay. Their father Vincenzo (Ennio Fantastichini) kicks Antonio out of the family, an impulsive bluff called, before keeling over with a heart attack. Fantastichini gives a great comedic performance as the recovering Vincenzo who, in one scene, goes a bit wobbly in a public café with giggly tears of paranoid despair.
Tommaso, afraid revelation of his own truths will kill Vincenzo, is left to deal with the absurd aftermath. His friends and boyfriend, all clearly gayer than the royal wedding, show up unannounced for a visit with the family. Sexuality, rather homosexuality, is the rather touchy pink elephant in the room. Hijinks ensue.
Loose Cannons is variously described as a comedy, romance and drama, but like most good films, it defies pigeonholing. It is sometimes silly, and sometimes tragic, but always beautiful. Each member of the quite-large ensemble cast of characters has depth and richness, and the relationships among them seem masterfully hand-crafted. The film is an always-engaging stylish and clean-cut tale of humanity. And if you like mature and sophisticated depictions of gay people in art-house cinema, this film is for you.