film note: Pit Stop

A little love maintenance

Pit Stop
Directed by Yen Tan
80 mins, USA, 2013

I liked the density and realism of the characters and their backstories in this study of a group of gay men and their friends and families in a contemporary Texas town. All the actors were more than up to the naturalistic demands of director and co-writer Yen Tan. A subtle if powerful tension dominated the narrative as I realized that two of the men, who didn’t know each other at the outset, were inevitably headed for a meeting of one kind or another; and that when they met, it would be something. And it was.

We get a lot of fucking and blowjobs in gay movies but intense mutual masturbation, not so much. It’s important here so that the characters can look each other in the eye and find what they’ve been looking for. Also it’s a testing of intimacy. I would not expect these two wary men — one out, one closeted — to go straight to penetration, and that’s good writing.

The couple spend the night together and in the morning go to breakfast. Before we see that, however, editor and co-writer David Lowery, who worked with Shane Carruth on Upstream Color, inserts a shot of their empty, messy bed. It’s completely unnecessary in terms of mechanics but the film’s subtle, poetic impact depends a great deal on simple shots and simple shot set-ups like that.

Although the character’s lives are tinged with grief and loss, the tone verges on the weepy and sentimental too often for my tastes. But it’s still a sincere and genuine effort and more than worth a look.

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Pit Stop
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