In Justin Kelly’s King Cobra, Christian Slater and James Franco play gay pornographers who struggle with their stars/lovers. Based on a true story, the movie is lurid and sensational. Keegan Allen is the film’s standout, offering up a complex performance, portraying a bruised hustler who refuses to be a victim. James Franco, on the other hand, has trouble disappearing into his role and is a distraction. At times, as if to reflect the subject matter of the film, the electronic score sounds like it’s out of a porn film, though the finale is scored perfectly with “Love Me Forever,” a sublime amalgamation of Tim Kvasnosky and Franz Schubert. As for sex, there’s lots of it. And given how so many movies, straight and gay, hold back on sex scenes, King Cobra, by not holding back, seems more authentic.
Being 17 doesn’t hold back on the sex, either, but it offers a lot more emotional foreplay. This French movie, directed by André Téchiné, is a coming-out narrative about two French teenagers: one is white, effeminate, and extroverted; the other is Algerian, guarded, and repressed. Subtle and soulful, Being 17 can also be somewhat dull. Its editing is remarkable, though, while its camerawork, if not distinctive, is impressive, especially the shots that seemed to have been achieved through hand-held camerawork. Being 17 is also a family drama, and one standout character is the effeminate teen’s mother (Sandrine Kiberlain), a generous and thoughtful woman who does not judge; for example, when her son finally comes out to her and then sits expectantly, waiting for her reaction, she basically shrugs and says, What else is there to say? Later, she speaks of grief and memory, saying that forgetting a loss brings happiness, while remembering it once more brings sadness. C’est la vie.