film note: O Fantasma

Creature of the night

O Fantasma
Directed by João Pedro Rodrigues
87 min, Portugal, 2000

This kinky & wicked wet dream within a BDSM fantasy within a comic book doesn’t have much of a plot but it pulled me along easily with one hilarious erotic vignette after another as a cute, brazenly horny young garbageman in Lisbon stalks some hairy dude, gets fucked by his boss (probably faked), licks a lot of stuff, seduces his female fellow worker, gets a blow job from a man in a public toilet (real), jacks off a cop who for some reason is tied up in the back of a car (mostly real), drinks water from a muddy puddle, etc. Dogs and doglike behavior are common motifs but one of the things the film made me think about is, What exactly is simulated sex in this context?

The black latex catsuit recalls Irma Vep but the way the director uses his fully committed lead reminded me of the paces that underground filmmakers put their stars through, such as John Waters getting Divine to eat shit in Pink Flamingos, and Todd Verow directing Philly to lick urinals in public toilets in Berlin. Ricardo Meneses as Sérgio inhabits his obsessed character with a remarkable lack of self-consciousness and not a trace of a smirk, which makes it all the funnier, of course. Having mentioned those directors, I will say that the tone is more dry, more European than that of either of those Americans.

I’m probably over-rating this a bit because Meneses is pretty much just-my-type and because I believe in documenting one’s obsessions, but whatever. Despite the extremes of behavior, this isn’t sex-negative and that’s a relief after the praise heaped recently on the reactionary Stranger By the Lake.

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O Fantasma
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