Judge Brett Cullum knows that beauty is a beast.
When desire becomes obsession.
Beauty is a neat, slow-burn drama that works well on several levels to make it a fascinating mix and a superior gay drama. It is a psychosexual thriller that meditates on what it means to suddenly confront sexual secrets later in life. It is also an unhurried, meandering examination of a country that is slow to change its stance on homophobia and racism. Old-school family man Francois (Deon Lotz) is a duty-bound husband who is going through the motions in his loveless marriage. The lies hold up well until a handsome family friend (Charlie Keegan) sparks hidden desires. Soon Francois is heading into dark territory as his urges unleash obsessions that prove unhealthy for him and those around him. After a slow boil, lies are revealed and secrets shattered in violent and excessive ways.
The film was made in South Africa and we get the dialogue occasionally in English but mostly in the odd-sounding Afrikaans. There is a distinctly cultural divide going on here with Francois representing the older, twisted generation that is not very free or forgiving, and then the innocent young man who has to pay for the older gentleman's sins. There are cultural nuances that may get lost in the translation, but it remains an interesting story with quite a few frank and shocking scenes. It won a special merit prize at the Cannes film festival, and it was South Africa's entry for the foreign language Oscar at the 84th Academy Awards. It's a haunting and disturbing flick that should appeal to the art house crowd.
TLA Releasing provides a bare-bones DVD that provides subtitles only for the Afrikaans sections. The transfer is good, even though the colors are purposefully washed out at times to convey a mood. There are two audio options with the surround just bringing a little extra separation in sound effects. Everything looks and sounds fine, but the lack of extras seems like a crime, given the uniqueness of the culture the film came out of.
Beauty is an ugly story about a man who cannot let go of his guilt, and it's an interesting title worth checking out. The performances are strong, and the production values are handsome. It's a unique treat to see the South African countryside, and there's plenty here to meditate on even if one is unfamiliar with the cultural struggles unique to the country. Should a man cling to his old values, or should he be free enough to evolve at any stage in his life?
Guilty of clinging to the old ways even in the face of beauty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: TLA Releasing
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