Article Title:Mambo Italiano
Category:Movies
Author or Credit:Chris Banks
Published on:4th March 2004 - 12:00 pm
Published by:GayNZ.com
Story ID:159
Text:Is it a sign of our more accepting times that Mambo Italiano is the first gay-themed movie to receive a wide cinema release in New Zealand in a very long time? After all, this is a romantic comedy involving a male couple, not a lurid lesbian fantasy or a hard-hitting drama involving gay-bashing. Well, the answer is yes and no. There are many concessions made to a heterosexual audience in Mambo Italiano, and in the year 2004 – particularly for an independent film – the phenomenon is getting tiring. Mambo Italiano follows the story of Angelo, a young Italian/Canadian who still lives with his parents and sister. Moving out of home to escape his smothering family and gain some independence, he is reunited with his childhood best friend Nino when his flat is burgled and Nino is the police officer sent to investigate. A heavily-closeted romance ensues, but tension mounts as Angelo decides to come out and a terrified and insecure Nino decides to – here we go – experiment with heterosexuality. In many ways, the film is light, fluffy and charming, playing on Italian racial stereotypes in an almost-endearing manner, and Luke Kirby puts in a wonderful performance as Angelo - but how much longer do we have to wait for a gay romantic comedy in which one of the leads doesn't go running off with a woman? Once upon a time, plots like this were to be expected, particularly from anything coming out of a major studio, and it was the independent low-budget mavericks who had to tell it like it really was. “Mambo Italiano” is one of a string of recent independent “gay” movies – including the knuckle-suckingly awful “Camp” and last year's Out Takes fizzer “Friends And Family” - that wind the clock back, relying on old gags and silly stereotypes to keep up the “bubbly” energy, while trying to make the movie as straight as possible. There is more screen time devoted to the mechanics of Nino's confused heterosexual trysts than the ins and outs (sexual or otherwise) of Nino and Angelo's relationship. Just as there is a hint of getting physical, we cut to the next scene. By contrast, heterosexual tongue pashes abound throughout the film, whether its Nino's desperate attempts to prove his manhood or random passers-by who have no connection to the story. There's nothing wrong with a character struggling with his sexuality, but the presentation of Nino's struggle is insulting to a gay audience. A large part of a revelatory scene where Angelo finds Nino has been cheating on him with a woman – in front of both their families – is played for laughs, at the expense of Angelo. Most reviews have admitted that "the film is nothing too great, but if you're after some good light entertainment, it'll do." I don't believe this is good enough. Because there are proportionally far fewer queer films, we tend to jump on anything that comes along and assign praise to it simply because it is there. No-one was expecting something worthy of the Academy Awards, but if you're looking for a gay romantic comedy that is upbeat, colourful, explores things from our perspective without making concessions, while also being moving, it has been done far better – save yourself the price of admission and go rent The Broken Hearts Club, Big Eden or Jeffrey. Chris Banks - 4th March 2004    
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