Hard Paint (2018)

Review #1,596

Director:  Filipe Matzembacher & Marcio Reolon
Cast:  Shico Menegat, Bruno Fernandes, Guega Peixot
Plot:  Set in Brazil's southern city of Porto Alegre, the film focuses on a socially repressed young man who only comes out of his shell during chatroom performances, when he strips and smears neon paints on his lithe body.

Genre:  Drama
Awards:  Won Teddy Award & C.I.C.A.E. Award (Berlin)
Runtime:  118 mins
Rating:  Not rated (unlikely to pass clean at R21)
International Sales:  m-appeal

This is one of the standout LGBT films of the year, but it is unlikely to reach Singapore uncut, barring a sudden liberalisation of our censorship board.  A sophomore feature by the writer-director duo, Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon, who made Seashore (2015), Hard Paint is set in the South Brazilian town of Porto Alegre, a locale that doesn’t offer much to those who reside there, and those who stay seem to live unfulfilling, stagnant lives.  

The film is as much a character study of a young gay social recluse as it is about the desire to leave for greener pastures.  It is a hard, emotional thing to do, to leave family and friends in pursuit of one’s ambition overseas.  Pedro (Shico Menegat) doesn’t have any ambition.  He spends his days indoors in a rented flat whilst waiting for the results of a trial (he is accused of having inflicted violence on someone else...).  But he’s no sociopath, just a misunderstood young man caught up in bad scenarios.  

His hobby, a courageous one in spite of his crippling antisocial personality, sees him perform sensual dances with neon paint for anonymous clients on the webcam.  Sometimes he would masturbate when someone pays good money.  The film starts with a webcam shot of him, and throughout we see many of these sequences, some rather explicit with full nudity.  These are stunning set-pieces, lit by the glow of neon paint on a bare body, sometimes bodies.  

Menegat’s performance, raw and bold, makes us empathise with his predicament—he needs social validation as much as anybody else, yet he doesn’t have in himself the capacity to socialise, other than with another man in a private space.  There’s however nothing private performing for a live audience in front of the webcam.  It is surprising to learn that this is Menegat’s acting debut, and this is the same for some of the cast.  

The fresh vitality of seeing these young unknown actors, unfazed by the taboo subject matter, portray their characters with authenticity is one of the film’s winning aspects.  Hard Paint shares the spirit of aesthetic immediacy with many other films that rely on a low-fi visual style, and because of it, this realist work really pulsates in the moment of a young gay recluse struggling to find his place in the world.  

Verdict:  This Berlin Teddy winner is a remarkable sophomore feature that pulsates in the moment of a young gay recluse struggling to find his place in the world. 




Popular Posts