Filmed simultaneously with "Two Minutes After Midnight," "The Judas Kiss" picks up a background element of that film - a lover's quarrel that we saw in the background of that comic short.
A handsome raven-haired stud kisses his boyfriend and goes off for beers. On his way back, he spots his blond, cute lover kissing a barechested, muscular black stud. What follows is a 10-minute sonic and visual meditation on betrayal.
As the "Scherza Infida" aria from Handel's opera, "Ariodante," plays (sung by countertenor David Daniels), the film attempts to portray the betrayal this kiss entails. Tongues are shown slipping in and out of mouths. The lovers' previous life together had its danger-signs (one was an intellectual and reader; the other a materialistic narcissist). The betrayed lover's eyes brim with tears. The betrayed lover reminisces about his beloved father, and how his father's death made him feel.
Over and over, melancholy images are shown - rain, grey-granite buildings, meditative or longing looks. In slow motion, the lover confronts his cuckold. They break up in the club. The film ends in silence as the betrayed lover smokes a cigarette in bed, only the glowing ember on the tip remaining visible as the film fades to black.
It is a real tour-de-force of film-making. So often, sound film attempts to use musical cues to tell the audience how to feel. Over-cuing a film can be just as bad as having bad or no sound. "Forcing" the audience to feel through manipulative music can also destroy a film's impact.
But "The Judas Kiss" is different. It is a purely cinematic film, in that its use of music is upfront and intentional. Music is no background here; it is not intended to augment the visual. Rather, there are only two elements here -- the aural and the visual. And the aural is an integral part of the storytelling. Indeed, the film goes so far as to provide a subtitle translation of the Italian opera. In many ways, this film is almost an advertisement for opera, and the way that opera and operatic stories contain powerful emotions truths that are reflected even in non-operatic incidents, such as the break-up of two lovers in an Australian discotheque.
The visual elements in the film are also excellent. While eyes brimming with tears and longing looks out over rain-swept vistas are typical heartbreak images, there are other strong, inventive visuals here that provide new insight into the urban heart. I was particularly impressed with the use of cityscapes (notably, the courthouse building) to provide emotional cues about hardness of heart, justice, cold-heartedness and desolation that I've never seen before. The comparison of the lover's break-up to that of death is not new, but comparing it to the father-figure is. I'm not quite sure what to make of that, but it elicited a host of unique emotions from the audience (since it aroused different feelings in different viewers).
While not narratively effective, "The Judas Kiss" is a superb bit of film-making that deserves watching.
I feel compelled to remark on these shorts. I really enjoyed Two minutes after Midnight - spot on with the humour and really sweet ending if a little sad - and the follow-up The Judas Kiss which I loved, really moving. My friend thought it was nothing more than an extended promo for the song and the singer featured, right up to his picture and CD cover appearing in the credits, but I disagree. I found it so moving. The Visitor also I thought was excellent. Tops!
These three British shorts -- one from a past festival and two new interlinked films -- were all produced by Cheek2Cheek Productions and directed by Seamus Rea. Shown at the British Film Institute's 17th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival 2-16 April 2003.
REVIEWS BY RICH CLINE
leslie and palfour GINGER BEER
dir Seamus Rea; scr Andy Seale; with Michael Leslie, Marcus Palfour, Karen DaSilva, Noreen Berry, Shersden Miller, Bryan Bale, Ruth Kavanagh • 00/UK 17m 4 out of 5 stars
This genuinely engaging romantic comedy centres on a nebbish teacher (Leslie) at an agricultural college who studies ballroom dancing by night. His students taunt him for being gay (the film's title refers to Cockney rhyming slang), but he quietly continues his studies, all the while hoping for a dance with the hunk he followed to the class to begin with. Obviously inspired by the Japanese hit Shall We Dance, this short is extremely well written, filmed and acted, maintaining the comic tone without ever becoming silly (well, until the inspired post-credits clip!). Nice music and dance too, including a sweet black and white fantasy segment. [Originally screened at the 2000 LLGFF]
TWO MINUTES AFTER MIDNIGHT
dir-scr Seamus Rea; with Andrew Hinton Brown, Mark Wakeling, Adrian Bouchet, Nigel Shipp, Alex King • 03/UK 12m 31⁄2 out of 5 stars
A companion piece with The Judas Kiss, this magical comedy takes place over one evening in a gay nightclub, where a guy (Brown) fails to chat up a hunk and runs off to the toilet to wallow in self pity. There he meets an angel (Wakeling) who grants him the ability to be the person of anyone's dreams ... but their dreams aren't exactly what he expects. Genuinely witty and funny, the film keeps us laughing while it gently makes its point. Sometimes a bit broad and goofy, sometimes a little too obvious--but it's also extremely well directed, edited and performed; it looks like a proper mini-feature. And it even has a clever Twilight Zone sting in its tail. 14.Mar.03 llgff
THE JUDAS KISS
dir-scr Seamus Rea; with Dominic Power • 03/UK 12m 4 out of 5 stars
This emotive short film takes place during a few seconds on the same night in the same London nightclub as Two Minutes After Midnight, but thematically it's much more grounded in the human heart as a man (Power) watches his boyfriend snogging a stranger. Handel's aria 'Sherza Infida' takes over the soundtrack as we spiral through this young man's mind, focussing on his relationship with his partner as well as his father. There's no dialog, just thoughts and feelings--and it's extremely effective, especially since, again, Rea shoots it with the highest production values available. It looks terrific! And it really gets under the skin emotionally. 14.Mar.03 llgff.