‘El Sexo de los ángeles’ (Angels of Sex) by director Xavier Villaverde from Spain and ‘Joven y alocada’ (Young and Wild) by director Marialy Rivas from Chile should be on the recommended watch list for bisexuals. Both films depict bisexuality in a matter-of-fact approach rarely seen in movies. But at the center of both films are fascinating female characters faced with a choice to make, and the choices they make will surprise you.
In ‘El Sexo de los ángeles’ Carla (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) and Bruno (Llorenç González) are young lovers whose relationship takes a turn when Bruno meets the handsome and enigmatic Rai (Álvaro Cervantes). Bruno and Rai quickly become friends. Rai makes an advance at Bruno during one playful afternoon. Bruno’s initial rebuff turns into curiosity to sexual exploration to a genuine bond between the two men. Carla has liberal views. We know this because she works as a photographer for an independent fashion magazine struggling to stay solvent. She also despises her philandering father and criticizes her mother for silently tolerating his infidelity. Her liberal views are tested when she discovers Bruno’s relationship with Rai. To reveal the rest of the plot would spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it.
The symbolism in this film is quite stunning: Bruno is a student of architecture. Rai is a karate instructor and is also part of a troupe that stages kinetic and mesmerizing break dance performances on the streets of Barcelona. When Rai dances his way into Bruno’s heart it’s as if the architecture of Bruno’s beliefs is shaken at the foundation. Carla, the photographer, seems to go blind with anger when she first finds out about Bruno and Rai but toward the end this shutterbug comes alive when she finds inspiration from an unexpected subject.
The film convincingly explores how even the most carefree and liberal youth can become rigid with fear when faced with alternate sexuality. When Carla confronts him, all that Bruno can say is that he is not gay and that he loves her but also needs Rai. She asks, “Are you bi?” to which Bruno answers, “I don’t know.” The film stays true to this rejection of labels all the way to the end and makes us wish for a sequel.
Young director Villaverde comes from a music video background and that visual flourish carries over into this film. Rhythm and movement seem to be key ingredients to his directing style, which suits ‘El Sexo de los ángeles’ as, ultimately, the film is about fluidity, about characters in motion. The three principal actors give solid performances. It is crucial to the story that Rai be someone who is magnetic and irresistible. The casting of Álvaro Cervantes in this role is perfect as he makes Rai an alluring and seductive character.
If there is one flaw in the film it is that the female character is left with the difficult choice to make as if suggesting that boys will go on having their fun but the woman has to decide whether to accept it or assert a different path for herself. If she chooses the latter then she is accountable for breaking off her relationship with her boyfriend. This leads ‘El Sexo de los ángeles’ to come across as a film directed from a very male dominant perspective.
In contrast, the central character of ‘Joven y alocada’ – a teenager named Daniela – seems to be in complete command of her sexuality and decisions that lead to her liberation. Daniela lives in a strict Evangelical family in Santiago, Chile. She is quiet and tries hard not to make waves because she is hiding a secret. Her secret is an explicitly sexual blog that she writes under the pseudonym ‘Young & Wild’, a blog that has many fans and followers. We become a part of this fan base as we watch Daniela’s sexual coming of age and how she decides to lead her own way to spiritual harmony.
Winner of the World Cinema Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival last year, ‘Joven y alocada’ is in parts quite candid, always amusing, but never makes a mockery of Daniela nor depicts her religious family as a bunch of pitiable fools. To call this film shocking is to expose our own puritanism, our ignorance about how raw and vivid a teenager’s sexual fantasies and exploits can be. This is a post-coming-out film in which Daniela simply is bisexual and we don’t have to sit through tedious scenes of a family trying to come to terms with it. Instead, her family is more offended by how unimpressed she is by their religious intensity. The ending may come as a surprise to some but it is as natural and organic as Daniela’s sexuality and, like ‘El Sexo de los ángeles’, it leaves us begging for a sequel.