Movie Night – Dry Wind (2020)

Marketing a movie in the midst of a pandemic is a tough job. Doubly so when it’s a piece of esoteric queer cinema. At least one clever person has figured out a work-around though: simply upload the whole thing to a gay porn site and let the medium be the message.

The bear
He destroyed his cage
The bear is out

Meet Daniel Nolasco’s Dry Wind, aka Vento Seco, released February 2020.

It’s a Brazilian art house movie centering on the gay sex life of Sandro, who works in a fertilizer factory. It stars the apparently fearless Leandro Faria Lelo and co, playing the complete antithesis of a typical queer protagonist: middle aged, somewhat pudgy and quiet. Though with an immaculate beard. It knows its target audience very well.

The script revolves around a developing love triangle with two younger co-workers and proceeds mostly along predictable lines. The storytelling is fragmented, often skipping the large lines to focus on the small experiences. At times it can even feel like a porn plot, except passably written and actually fleshed out against a real background. This is merely a result of what its true focus is.

As a piece of cinema it’s an oddball mix, with aspects of Brokeback Mountain, offering numerous slow shots of the Brazilian outback (and bareback). This is combined with the neon-lit leather and spikes of a gay fetish club, extending into Tom of Finland-tinged scenes and dreams. The movie plays eagerly with the contrast between the two worlds, often splitting the difference, and somehow manages to get away with it.

If it’s your thing, it will either turn you on or make you laugh, and quite possibly both, for its sheer audacity. When it actually wants to, it leaves nothing to the imagination, with two acts of wholly unsimulated fellatio. In fact, the only reason it doesn’t qualify as porn is because it actually has incredibly tasteful lighting. Screencaps have been cropped.

So why talk about a movie that is, by all accounts, the gay bear-and-otter equivalent of a cat girl anime? And why should anyone else care? Especially with our readership, where—just being honest here—the conservative part will most likely not want to see any of it?

There’s a few reasons.

First, there’s the protagonist. As a stoic union guy, he doesn’t fit the LGBT mold. It’s difficult to imagine him at the head of any pride parade. His experience of being LGBT does not revolve around seeking social affirmation or fighting back against oppression. The world he lives in is presented mostly on its own terms, without a drastic need to change it.

Personally I find this queer in queer cinema, and it gives the whole movie a wonderfully subversive feel: to embrace the banality of existence with this man in particular. The male emotions it shows are simple yet endearing, universal, and so rarely seen.

Second is due to the much-discussed fact that this movie recreates the “gay male gaze”: the camera lingers freely on hairy skin and dangly bits. It peeks at men in parks, swimming pools, showers, and so on. All the village people are there.

But the funny thing is, this takes place in a setting that exudes peak traditional manhood, with only one woman in the entire script. As a result, this movie is one of the biggest, gayest ads for trad men and masculinity I’ve seen in ages. You could use it as a documentary for aliens to teach them what makes human men both admirable and attractive.

To me, our contemporary notion of men and masculinity seems incredibly confused. It’s the result of a few decades of gender studies departments focusing on their preconceived notions of how they would like the world to be. But their utopian vision of humanistic gender equality chafes up against the fact that men are often defined not as human beings but human doings.

While often attributed to patriarchy, the reality is that this is simply what their partners select them for. The competence and confidence of the man are equally part of the package, and must derive from legitimate accomplishments. Vento Seco’s men embody this in spades. At this factory, the most pressing concerns revolve around workplace safety.

It’s a complete contrast with, say, the iconic gay steel mill from the Simpsons. Back then, they could only broach the idea of blue collar homos by turning it into a complete joke. Which, it must be said, landed excellently at the time.

These days, when Hollywood serves up men to be admired, we usually get caped superheroes, sculpted in gyms, with extra muscles drawn on the costume… as if the trick is to just make men prettier. When we do see a man’s naked chest, it’s usually shaven and bronzed. The reality of what most of us look like tends to be scrubbed as unpalatable. Not here.

One funny line of commentary I saw, in another review, was incredulity that a relatively “unattractive” protagonist could score the top-notch man candy he does: it supposedly diminished the believability of the movie. I assure you dear reader, nothing about this should be mysterious. A simple glance at the categories on offer on even the most vanilla gay porn site will resolve this: revealed preference is inescapable, and Daddy and Twink is a genre.

So ladies and confirmed bachelors, if this sounds like a subject that could use some more detailed observation, then Vento Seco is a definite recommendation. For everyone else, you should at least be aware that it exists, and that it succeeds magnificently at what it set out to do.

Personally I think sex-ed would have been a lot more useful and less bewildering if, in the part about LGBTs, there was more attention paid to the reality on the ground. With the caveat that for some things, there is wisdom in waiting until you’re older. Providing a vision of gay sex and kinks well beyond adolescence, in non-porn form, is actually a good way to do that, when you think about it.

This movie is a rare instance where on-screen representation is a fair and notable point, rather than just a hashtag in a marketing campaign. The sex on display might seem gauche, but coming from a country headed by far right president Bolsonaro, it even takes on a legitimate political dimension.

In a time when the LGBT movement seems focused almost exclusively on the Trans, it’s nice to see a different kind of T take precedence. Even if it is served with some surprise condiments.

5/5 stars.

About samuelthefifth

Iconoclasm as a service. It's not only all true, it's extremely possible.
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