For a depiction of two men in the midst of sexual pleasure, the first scene of Spanish film Cachorro (Bear Cub) is wonderfully restrained.
Director Miguel Albadalejo draws on the power of understatement, deploying blurry shots and suggestive music as the bedfellows approach climax.
Then, suddenly, the restraint is gone. A full-frontal grab of one partner as he prepares to put on protection is a prelude to some rather energetic bedroom activity.
Only the entry of protagonist Pedro (Jos?uis Garc?P?z) -“ whose house the men are having sex in -“ with a matter-of-fact demand that the couple hurry up, dampens their vigour.
It’s an unexpected opening since, by the director’s own admission, the rest of Cachorro tries to pick apart the idea of gay men as selfish, oversexed hedonists, which its first scene introduces so effectively.
Albadalejo hit on the idea of exposing one of the gay community’s serious sides after observing some of its more hirsute members.
When I started to write the film four or five years ago, the bar on the corner near where I live began to become very popular with bears, Albadalejo told Sydney Star Observer by phone from Madrid.
And so Cachorro centres on Pedro and his bear friends, who enjoy a robust social life in central Madrid. But the film soon moves beyond parties and promiscuity with the arrival of Pedro’s nine-year-old nephew, Bernardo (David Castillo).
Bernardo is staying with his uncle while his flaky mother Violeta (Elvira Lindo) heads off on the well-worn hippy trail to India.
Two weeks as a parent shouldn’t detract too much from Pedro’s hedonistic lifestyle. A fortnight stretches into months, however, when Bernardo’s mother is arrested carrying drugs in India and fails to return, putting Pedro in the unexpected position of de facto dad.
I tried to deal with gay parenthood outside of the stereotypes, Albadalejo said of the plot twist.
I wanted to go a little bit further and basically deal with a person who doesn’t need to be in a relationship to raise the kid.
The character (Pedro) can have a promiscuous relationship and be completely free with his life, but still be capable of raising a kid.
Matters are complicated further when Bernardo’s grandmother arrives on the scene with a disapproving take on Pedro’s parenting arrangements.
The questions Cachorro raises are timely, with Spain’s plans for same-sex marriage and adoption law recently attracting the ire of the Vatican.
But it is the film’s opening scene, not its treatment of gay parenthood, that has proved most divisive so far.
In Spain the film screened with no problem at all -“ only a
few people were offended by the first scene, mainly cinema workers, Albadalejo said.
But in the US they cut a few shots, including one where you see a guy’s penis and when a guy is putting a condom on.
With Cachorro to screen in its original version in Sydney, Albadalejo is confident local audiences will look beyond its flesh-heavy opener. I’m hoping that the film attracts a gay audience but also a wider one as well.
Cachorro screens as part of the 2005 Spanish Film Festival at the Academy Twin cinema on 12 May at 6:30pm. For bookings visit www.spanishfilmfestival.com