Polari (aGLIFF) 2012
By Don Simpson | October 9, 2012
Director: Kyle Henry
Writers: Carlos Trevino, Jessica Hedrick
Starring: Sara Sevigny, Danielle Rene, Jose Villarreal, Paul Soileau, Amy Jean Johnson, Paul Dunckel, Atticus Rowe, Lynn Burnor, Stanley Roy, Cyndi Williams, Gary Chason
An anthology of four short films by Kyle Henry, Fourplay serves as a provocative thesis on human sexuality and intimacy. Set in four seemingly random cities — Skokie, Austin, Tampa, and San Francisco — Fourplay alternates between the comically absurd and brutally dramatic. There is nothing simple or easy about Fourplay; it is purposefully shocking at times, though the film always maintains a kind and empathetic core. First and foremost, however, Henry always allows his lead characters to reach their climax, each during very unique situations. It takes different strokes to move the world and Fourplay is all about the diversity of orgasms.
While “Skokie” and “Austin” both offer some really great performances, those stories are not nearly as complex and engrossing as “San Francisco” and “Tampa.” So, for the sake of time, I am just going to focus on those two segments…
“Tampa” features Louis (Jose Villarreal), a late-twenties man who haplessly attempts to discover intimacy in a Tampa mall’s public restroom. When reality fails to quench his sexual desires, Louis’ wildly homoerotic imagination takes over. The restroom mutates into a surreal orgy of fictional characters and historical figures — everyone from Hitler to Christeene gets down and dirty. But, even in his sexually charged fantasy world, Louis is left humiliated and unsatisfied…that is until his own personal savior arrives and gives him a blow job from heaven.
Certainly most devout Christians and conservative Republicans are going to be grossly offended by this segment; and, sure, Henry definitely takes advantage of the pure shock value of showcasing some very polarizing characters in questionable positions — but that is precisely the point. “Tampa” is punk as fuck. Henry is flipping the bird to the puritanical establishment and I love every single frame of it! But then this flagrantly agitating tale is cleverly juxtaposed with Villareal’s sweet and mushy performance as Louis. No matter how sick and twisted Louis’ fantasies become, it is impossibly not to feel sorry for him. He is just another lost soul looking for love in all the wrong places.
“San Francisco” makes the entire 80-minute experience worth its weight in dramatic gold. Aliya (Paul Soileau), a stunningly styled transvestite prostitute, is hired by Anne (Cyndi Williams) for her dying husband, Tom (Gary Chason). Tom is bedridden and permanently attached to a respirator. He can only communicate via blinking his eyes (one for “no,” two for “yes”) and only has feeling in his extremities; but, luckily for Tom, he can feel his toes because Aliya certainly can work wonders with her clients’ toes!
Essentially a two-character one-act play, Paul Soileau’s onscreen chemistry with Gary Chason is pitch-perfect and together they give two of the best performances you will see all year. Soileau plays Aliya with tenderness and delicacy; occasionally revealing subtle glimpses of apprehension and fear while Aliya navigates her client, obviously not wanting to cause any damage to his fragile being.
“San Francisco” offers a positively heart-wrenching perspective of a transvestite prostitute. A tranquil yet humorous meditation on the healing and relating parts of relationships, Henry goes well beyond sexual transgressions, delving deep into the human condition.
Henry is a filmmaker who is obviously not afraid to push the limits of cinema, but I suspect that Fourplay is far too subversive and shocking for most mainstream audiences. That is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I think Henry deserves a hell of a lot of credit for having the cojones to make Fourplay (as do executive producers Jim McKay and Michael Stipe and producer Jason Wehling).