film note: Refugee’s Welcome

Bruce LaBruce grows up and directs the hottest sex scenes of his career. He also lets us think about the meanings behind what we do in bed and the kind of healing that sex can provide.

Last updated on September 11th, 2019 at 08:44 pm

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Refugee’s Welcome
Directed by Bruce La Bruce
Germany, 2017

Has Bruce La Bruce finally grown up?

If not for the credit at the beginning of this 22-minute short produced for XConfessions, I would never have been able to tell who directed it. Sure, there are skinheads and real, not-simulated sex — the hottest he’s ever directed — but where are the zombies? The cheap shock tactics? The outsider pretensions? The wink-wink cinephile jokes?

Nowhere to be found.

OK, there’s a little of all that, particularly in the twist at the end; but mostly what’s here is tender and humanist, proposing sex as a bridge between political, social, and personal worlds, as a specifically gay pool of affinities to draw strength from.

A cute, kinda twinky Syrian refugee (played by a very good Jesse Charif) wanders Berlin exploring his new home. He happens upon a cafe where a muscular, tattooed punk is reading poetry. (A Guns ‘n’ Roses logo is among the tats) I recognized that the language he was speaking was Czech. We find out later that he’s from CR. (“I’m a foreigner, too,” he tells the Refugee.) Standing in the doorway listening, the Syrian boy gets noticed immediately by the Punk. They lock eyes, but the Refugee leaves quickly, a little unnerved. (We never learn their names, by the way.)

Back wandering, he gets jumped by a gang of skinheads, what else. The Punk intervenes like an action hero and saves him — providing some comic moments — then takes him back home to patch him up.

The Punk’s ministrations include a foot washing, which leads, of course, to foot worship, and then a hot sex scene and two cum shots. For me though, the care, attention, and humility in the Punk’s washing of the Refugee’s feet, evokes a sense of religious ritual and an invitation to fellowship.

That a satisfying sex scene logically follows makes the gesture radical. It’s not the sort of revelation we usually get in real-sex, gay movies, such as in I Want Your LoveEloi & Biel, or Wrecked. It’s a welcome move forward from a director not known for advancing any but the most pedestrian, if nominally underground ideas about the meanings behind what we do in bed, and why.

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