WHAT DOES IT say about American homosexuals when two of the best gay movies in recent memory have been Israeli? After last years phenomenal The Bubble, comes Antarctica, which manages to combine sizzling sex scenes with an actual heart, putting all of the low-budget gay trash that American audiences must suffer through to shame.
No doubt part of the appeal of both The Bubble and Antarctica is that theyre free of American romantic comedy tropes. Free of an impossibly glossy Manhattan, wacky best friends and the third-act misunderstanding that have grown progressively less original over the years, Israeli movies try and reinvent the wheel to an extent. Of course, theres also the mens exotic appeal and amazingly high comfort levels with nudity.
But Antarctica isnt completely clichéfree. Featuring one of those Robert Altman plots that revolve around a group of characters interacting with one another all over town, the movie still manages to cleverly introduce all of the main male characters in a lengthy opening montage of sex scenes with the gorgeous dancer Boaz (Ofer Regirer, who happily has no qualms about shucking his clothes).
Theres the serious and intense journalist Ronen (Guy Zoartez), the sweet dancer Danny (Yiftach Mizrahi), flamboyant Miki (Yuval Raz) and bookish Omer (Tomer Ilan). Each encounter is a perfect snapshot of the characters personalities, from Omer leaving when Boaz offers to kick his cat out to have a quick fuck, to Miki complaining about using a condom.
Eventually, part of the movies fun stems from piecing together the various relationships between these men, which is a puzzle that doesnt come completely together until the second half. But as steamy as the sex scenes are (and make no doubt about it, they are some of the sexiest ever captured on film), theyre an afterthought.Writer-director Yair Hochners reluctance to make a gay movie focused solely on sex, coupled with the superb acting from his cast, helps to elevate his film above most gay movies, turning the characters into something more than The Slut or The Good Guy. Omer
and Ronen are both searching for true love, but neither is above settling for sex when the search gets hard. And the relationship between ex-boyfriends and current roommates Danny and Ronen is a minimalist study in jealousy and still flickering desire. And though Miki comes closest to being a stereotype, Raz sands off the clichés edges and invests him with an actual, recognizable personality.
All of which makes Hochners occasional lapses all the more painful, particularly Noam Hubermans dual roles as Omers mother Shoshana and an older man seemingly obsessed with Omer. Resembling a cross between Divine and Dom DeLuise in drag, Hubermans strange performances edge a moving and funny look at gay life in Tel Aviv toward camp territory. Another scene involving Boaz talking about what sexual positions he should try would have been more welcome.
Directed by Yair Hochner at the Quad Cinema, Running Time: 110 min.