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Bag Boy Lover Boy
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by Jay Seaver

"Art against art's sake."
3 stars

SCREENED AT BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL 17: There are times when it almost seems as if "Bag Boy Lover Boy" is making an argument against its own existence - that weird and difficult art is dangerous in the wrong hands, and not just in the usual way in which that means "disruptive". It's an odd sort of stance to take, and results in a weird sort of snobbery that makes a movie designed to be unpleasant even more so.

The first bit of unpleasantness encountered is the hot dog stand where Albert (Jon Watcher) works - it is, at least during his overnight shifts, not close to sanitary, although this isn't a problem for Albert or Lexy (Adrienne Gori), a woman in the same state of near-homelessness he does, when they want something to eat at the end of the shift. One customer stands up for the place against some yuppies acting outraged, and it turns out that Ivan (Theodore Bouloukos) is a photographer of some renown. He asks Albert to model for a series of photographs, but Albert demands Ivan also teach him to be a photographer.

It's tempting to say that Albert recognizes that it's the guy taking the pictures who gets the money and fame, but to describe him as really not being that bright rather understates the case; he's almost certainly developmentally disabled. There's a point where this becomes frustrating for the audience; when Albert makes the jump from being sadly delusional to violent, it can seem completely random. It blunts the horror somewhat; what he does has neither a horrifying inevitability nor the sort of sudden shock that delivers jolts. We just don't get this guy, so it's hard to have strong feelings about what he does.

Even if Albert is kind of a cipher, Jon Watcher's acting job is impressive enough. Albert may not be terribly predictable, but even if his reactions often seem kind of inverted, Watcher never seems to be exaggerating, and it's completely clear which moments are coming from him naturally and which ones are imitation. It's a performance that seems natural and authentic, and the same goes for the rest of the cast, most obviously Adrienne Gori as a woman who has seemingly sunk a fair amount and Theodore Bouloukos as the egotistical photographer. The entire cast beyond that certainly seems to have lived their roles.

One hopes not; director Andres Torres and his co-writer Toni Comas are capturing one of the angles from which New York looks like a complete cesspool, not just because nearly every scene but those in Ivan's studio takes place in a decidedly low-rent environment, but because even the places that look nice are generally populated by people who have given in to their worse impulses - or, like the models Ivan hires, are in the process of doing so. It's a mire that envelops the whole cast, with Albert arguably least affected because he isn't aware of it in the same way.

So what to make of this? Torres directs with a fairly sure hand - the low budget never seems like something he has to work around, and there's not much in the way of waste or bloat. And yet, there's something about it which just doesn't work as well as it should - the plot stretching too far or a lack of self-reflection in how it wallows in the same sort of material that pushed its main character over the edge. For all that "Bag Boy Lover Boy" doesn't shy from being lurid, it seems just a bit too timid in terms of owning the implications of its story.

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originally posted: 04/20/15 14:27:05
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Boston Underground Film Festival For more in the 2015 Boston Underground Film Festival series, click here.

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  DVD: 25-Jul-2017



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