By Liam Lacey
The debut feature from Toronto director Drew Lint comes to the cinema straight from the Inside/Out film festival. An ambitious erotic thriller, M/M (a fan-fiction acronym referring to male pairings) is set in the kind of hyper-masculine Berlin gay scene of techno and hook-ups reminiscent of the paintings of Vancouver artist Attila Richard Lukacs, albeit with a post-millennial beat.
Antoine LaHaie plays Matthew, a young Montrealer in Berlin. One day at an indoor pool he sees a skin-headed man, Matthias (Nicolas Maxim Endlicher), posing and pouting at the poolside. Matthew manages a nervous hello. The other man stares through him and Matthew is a goner.
Matthew begins stalking the young German, peeking through his window into his chic apartment, and after shaving his head to look like the object of his desire, manages a hook-up. But Matthew doesn’t just want to possess Matthias; he wants to possess his life, a complex web of self-abnegation and will to dominate.
The template here would seem to be Edgar Alan Poe’s doppelgänger story, William Wilson, about a man stalked by his double. (Or, in the modern version, Single White Female.) It’s formally daring: the total dialogue in the film — mostly Matthew’s long-distance phone conversations with his doting mother— amounts to little more than a handful of script pages.
The repetition of the machine-like music, serial hook-ups and cinematographer Ann Tipper’s cyclic images (geometric apartment blocks, subway tunnels, nightclubs) become too successfully alienating. The second or third time you return to nightclub scenes of dancers’ bouncing chests you might find yourself checking your watch. Occasional forays into animation, while mostly confusing, underscore the theme of humans as objects.
Some relief comes from flashes of macabre humour — a witty image of the two men, with canes, hobbling down a set of concrete steps — and the “twist” ending offers some concession to conventional thrill. Overall though, the dearth of emotional connection to the protagonist, even any fear of him getting caught, seems like a narrative dead spot. We’re left with a perspective not unlike watching insects couple and devour each other in a terrarium.
M/M. Directed and written by Drew Lint. Starring Antoine LaHaie and Nicolas Maxim Endlicher. Opens June 2 at Toronto’s Carlton Cinema.