“THE ACROBAT” (L’Acrobate)
A Hook Up
Canadian writer-director Rodrique Jean’s “Acrobat (L’Acrobate)” shocks us with scenes of graphic sex and BDSM. Set in Montreal amid the endless construction of a hi-rise apartment, depressed businessman Christophe (Sébastien Ricard) meets an angst-filled, disabled squatter Micha (Yury Paulau). They hook up but they never exchange names even when former acrobat Micha moves in. Both men are keeping secrets, and both let go of their dark anguish/despair on one another via sado-masochistic sex.
I am quite sure that those unaccustomed to so much sex will not like this film but it is quite an elegant, visceral film that is quite brave. We see erections, fellatio, masturbation and penetration. It is the particular approach of a filmmaker, that makes this so interesting.
In this ghostly space of a multi-story building still under construction, towers of a cold, distant downtown Montreal, bring together a humanity that seeks and never finds itself. Prevailing morality totally disappears and this is the vision of a Rodrigue Jean. It is radical and its exacerbated jeopardy in terms of male homosexuality in Quebec cinema is finally on display.
Sébastien Ricard with a white ghost-face at first transforms his facial appearance into something more assertive and warmly human once sex takes place. Yuri Paulau walks in through the front door and submits his athletic-acrobat body even when he is on crutches. Between too much or not enough, Rodrigue Jean offers his own moral about urban solitude.
Every 20 or so minutes, there is sex and not love. This is about the differences between being out-of-control and in-control in an in-and-out-of-control situation…”where the dominated is in the dominion of the dominator…but, not at his mercy…indeed, the complexity of the situation is far from clear…it’s the submissive who’s righting the wrongs and re-writing the rules. Having lost everything, he’s calling all the shots…self-esteem may be the only things he has left and that’s about to go tits up…or, is it?”
For some, [sexual] humiliation is the ultimate expression of self-worth yet we wonder why some people want to be humiliated. Who really has the power in these situations? We see a fascinating power struggle that is artful and pornographic. It is uncomfortable to watch because we are aroused by what we see.
There are two interesting stories (although neither are fully fleshed) and time seems to be wasted on unnecessary cityscapes and acrobatic sequences that do nothing to propel their stories forward. Still, this disconnection may have been the director’s intention…these men connect [only] physically.
Th e film is beautifully shot film and it is challenging but it takes a while to become involved. There are many gaps in the plot for us to possibly work out what is going through the minds of these two very complicated men where sex is merely a release for all their internalized rage.
The sexual explicitness doesn’t mean “The Acrobat” should be dismissed as pornography since this is a tale of anger and resentment that must find some outlet.