Pim lives in a run-down house in a dead-end street somewhere at the Belgian coast, together with his mother Yvette Bulteel (better known as Yvette Mimosa, local accordion starlet). Life here smells of cold French fries, cheap cigarettes, vermouth and stale beer. Mother Yvette uses her fat Etienne with his lousy grey Fiat as a driver for the nights she has to “perform”.
As a kid Pim dreams of a better life, imagining princesses and beauty queens. But when Pim turns 16 he dreams of Gino, the boy next door, instead. Ever since they were children there has been this tension between them. Now Gino is Pim’s motorcycling hero. Cold mockery, little humiliations and tiny bits of hope make up Pim’s life. No wonder he sometimes flees to his dream world.
Then one day Yvette leaves with young, hunky Zoltan, the boy from the fair. When Yvette leaves her son alone in the empty house, Pim seizes the opportunity and his dreams become half-truths. Pim moves to the neighbours’ house to live with Marcella, his “second mum”. And with Sabrina, Gino’s sister, who circles longingly around Pim. He even sleeps in Gino’s bed. But Gino’s off romancing & living with a girl from across the border. Dreams never come true. Or do they?
North Sea Texas’ strength lies in its powerful cinematography and director Defurne’s ability to render bodies with epicurean beauty. His infatuation with the male form is enhanced splendidly with his play with light and shadow on bare skin and extensive use of close-up shots of faces. The result is that Defurne indulges an audience’s lingering prurient gazes, while wordlessly drawing from the characters the subtlest of emotions.
Perhaps the most admirable trait of North Sea Texas is that the actors are the age their characters are meant to be. Defurne claims he faced considerable difficulty when it came to this: "Most teenage boys are afraid of playing a gay character and make a fuss of doing things with a boy that would not be problematic if their partner were a girl. Many candidates did not show up to the audition. Some parents forbade their kids from attending the auditions."
Frank discussion of childhood and to some extent teenage sexuality is taboo, and this is undoubtedly heightened when the attraction is same-sex and there is an age differential involved. Defurne accordingly dedicates the film to "all those kids whose parents wouldn’t let them take part in this film." It might be more appropriate to dedicate it to gay teenage love – it’s a film that provides texture, empathy & humanity to one of the most ridiculed, shameful kinds of love we know.
North Sea Texas is showing at the LLGFF’s Closing Night Gala on Sunday 1 April.
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