Feb 18, 2013

Angel

 


Greece is not exactly known for its film industry, especially of the ostensibly homicidal homoerotic sort, so when Angel (1982) aka Angelos directed by Giorgos Katakouzinos (Apousies, Zoe) – a fierce fag flick featuring a Hellenic homo Norman Bates of sorts who has no qualms about sporting a dress in public – was released, it was quite a big deal and strangely one of the country’s biggest commercial successes, being “seen by almost one Greek in twenty” (according to American DVD distributor Water Bearer Films), and was played at a number of Gay Film Festivals and even swept the awards at the Salonika Film Festival and was also well received at Cannes, but not everyone was happy, especially due to its less than flattering portrayal of proletarian Greek gaydom. Described by Raymond Murray in Images in the Dark: An Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Film and Video (1994) as being, “From the ‘Tis a pity he’s a homosexual’ school of filmmaking,” as if William Friedkin had time in between directing mostly 2nd-rate thrillers to teach Greeks the proper way to portray perplexed poofs, Angel is the sort of somber and seedy sort of harrowingly hysterical melodrama that has the potential to drive certain viewers to suicide, especially those whose fathers rather be dead than have a debauched son who downs dicks and/or plays wide receiver on the pink team. Sometimes seen as the Greek equivalent of German New Cinema master of melodrama Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s highly personal auteur piece In a Year of 13 Moons (1978) aka In einem Jahr mit 13 Monden – a painfully penetrating film inspired by the director’s lover’s suicide – Angel is no more of a merry, but certainly an equally metaphysically malignant work, albeit an innately inferior one. Like In a Year of 13 Moons, Angel centers around a lonely, low-spirited lad from an irreparably broken background who finds himself cross-dressing (although the character of Katakouzinos' film does not go as far as mutilating his meat) so as to please his sadistic love interest, only to discover that love does not always conquer all, especially when the callous corruption of the soul is involved. For those that even wondered why the slasher sodomite of William Friedkin’s homo-hated homicidal homo work Cruising (1980) was driven to drive more than just his phallus into fellow members of the flaming fag club, Angel might offer some memorable, if not mostly miserable and melancholy, answers. 



 Athenian aberrosexual Angel (Michalis Maniatis) leads a rather pathetic and increasingly perturbing life and his only source of solace – being buggered by ugly bum-like bozos in public parks in the dark – is a totally illegal one, so naturally the young Mediterranean man is best friends with misery and even misanthropy, even if his blank stare hides his most dark and daunting thoughts. Having a belligerent bindle boozer for a father (Vasilis Tsaglos), a hardworking masochist for a mother (Katerina Helmy) who guts chickens for a living, a retarded sister with cerebral palsy, and an ex-prostitute grandmother who nostalgically remembers the good old days when, “our daughters spread their legs for a cup of olive oil,” Angel has a lot more problems than just being a hapless homo who hopelessly longs to find a fatherly Mr. Right as poverty is especially unkind to the pathologically perverse poofter. Things only get all the more dreadful for exceedingly effeminate Angel when he is drafted into the Greek army; a place where patent pansies do not fare well. When Angel finally meets and starts a relationship with a macho, mustachioed sailor who could have easily been a character in fag frog novelist Jean Genet’s novel Querelle of Brest (1947) named Mikhalis (Dionysis Xanthos) who acts as a hunky husband to the bashful gay boy, things start looking up for the fairy fellow. Determined to make Angel his 24/7 bitch boy, martially manipulative Mikhalis makes his sensitive sweetheart dress in frisky female drag and sell his body as a flaming tranny flesh peddler. Needless to say, Angel has a bit of trouble juggling his damning and daunting dual career as a secret sodomite soldier and a chick with a dick who reluctantly turns tricks for the depraved dudes into dudes with dicks. When Angel is busted giving a blowjob while working his naughty night job, his contradictory life as a poorly paid cocksucker and military man is finally exposed, thereupon leading to his inevitable expulsion from the army, and hostility and heartbreak from his family at home. While Angel is less than happy when an unpleasant policeman tells him, “I spit on you…A soldier and a fag,” his depression and degradation reaches an all time low when his deadbeat drunk of a dad hysterically cries, “My son is a fag!...How can I face the neighbors?!” and “I’ll kill myself.” Indeed, while Angel’s dad is certainly an alcoholic asshole, he is also a man of his words because not only does he beat his own head into a bloody pulp, but he also commits self-slaughter by passionate penetrating his own large gut with a pair of scissors in front of his wife, disabled daughter, and sack-less sacrilegious son. Needless to say, life as he knows it becomes less and less fun for the fragile flamer Angel and he starts to get stranger and stranger to the point of total debasement and deadly derangement. 


 Near the conclusion of Angel, Angel – who was ruthlessly raped the night before by an eco-unfriendly garbageman who delights in anally traumatizing young twinks – wakes to find himself with his mascara smeared and his wig gone, surrounded by mountains of trash in a junkyard. Like many of the characters featured in Angel, the poofer protagonist – due to his devastating upbringing and undignified lot in life – is ultimately no more valuable than the garbage dump he eventually ends up in or so the film insinuates, hence why it seems that the majority of (mostly gay) reviewers of the strikingly sullied cinematic work regard it as, ‘homophobic.’ More than a tragic, albeit trashy, film about the protagonist’s sexual persuasion, Angel is a film about a totally degenerated nation where public fudge-packing is the least of its more overwhelming problems, which are more likely the result of some less than humble but certainly horny Turk raping their great-great-great-great-great grandmother, especially considering that Greek kultur was at its height when it was all too common for elder men to bugger young boys in a manner that would give Oscar Wilde joy, albeit with one of the men (like Angel of the film) taking on the role of the passive partner. Of course, with the legalization of male prostitution in Greece in 2006, men like Angel no longer have to worry about being busted by the police for literally busting their asses. If Angel and the legalization of salaried streetwalking are any real indication of Greece’s seemingly metaphysically greasy soul, it is no wonder that ‘far-right’ nationalist political parties like Golden Dawn, which currently has 18 seats in the Hellenic Parliament, are growing quite popular in the EU’s most impoverished nation.  Call me crazy, but I do not think a country is on the road to success when men are better at passively bending over while wearing a dress than they are at climbing walls in boot camp.




-Ty E

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