Polari (aGLIFF) 2012
By Don Simpson | November 13, 2012
Director: Bavo Defurne
Writers: Bavo Defurne, Yves Verbraeken, André Sollie (novel Nooit gaat dit over)
Starring: Ben Van den Heuvel, Eva van der Gucht, Thomas Coumans, Katelijne Damen, Nathan Naenen, Noor Ben Taouet, Mickey, Patricia Goemaere, Daniel Sikora, Victor Zaidi, Jelle Florizoone, Nina Marie Kortekaas, Mathias Vergels, Luk Wyns, Ella-June Henrard
Early on in Belgian writer-director Bavo Defurne’s North Sea Texas, we watch as Yvette (Eva Van der Gucht) walks in on her effeminate young son — Pim (Ben Van den Heuvel) — as he fantasizes about being a beauty pageant contestant while wearing a tiara. Perhaps due to her nonchalant approach to parenting, Yvette barely bats an eye at the sight of her son dressed up as a girl; and though Pim never really officially “comes out,” we can sense an overall indifference towards sexuality in this quaint Flemish town on the coast of the North Sea.
North Sea Texas has nothing to do with “coming out” or navigating one’s own sexuality; this is a story about a 16-year-old Pim’s (Jelle Florizoone) first love, albeit a clandestine affair with a slightly older boy, Gino (Mathias Vergels). Their relationship is only kept secret because that is what the Gino requests; otherwise, we can only assume that Pim would have no qualms with making his love for Gino public. Of course this is all just a fleeting fling for Gino, who eventually leaves Flanders for a relationship with Francoise (Ella-June Henrard), a French-speaking girl from across the border. All the while, Pim is left behind in Flanders with a broken heart and unquenchable desires. Like Bullhead, Defurne cleverly uses the Flanders-Wallonia border as a metaphor for sexuality. When Gino is on the Flanders side of the border, he hooks up with Pim; but while he is on the Wallonia side of the border, he is with Francoise.
North Sea Texas is a hyper-real fantasy world represented by the colorful vibrancy of fond memories of long-gone childhood. Pim’s a dreamer, which Defurne stresses by romanticizing the world around him. The images drip with nostalgia as we can practically smell the French fries, cigarettes and beer. Yvette’s friend, Etienne (Luk Wyns), is practically a caricature of a greasy, pudgy slime ball who will do practically anything for Yvette’s affection. From Pim’s perspective, Etienne is one of the most despicable and revolting human beings on earth. Yvette does not fare so well either; she is a plump, ex-beauty queen with the air of an accordion-playing carny who spends most of her free time flirting with the locals at the Texas bar. This would all be a nightmare for Pim, if he did not have Gino’s triumphant return to Flanders to daydream about.