All gay experience is on view in the Mexican film 4 Moons. It began its brief engagement last October but vanished from theaters in less than a week—so fast I never got a chance to write about it. Now’s the time because Sergio Tovar Velarde’s unforgettable 4 Moons is the finest, most universal and most moving gay film of the past year.
Almost perfectly timed for the centennial of D.W. Griffith’s 1916 Intolerance (which some critics, including myself, consider the greatest film ever made). 4 Moons is a comparable masterpiece in the way Velarde similarly interweaves four separate stories linked by emotional richness and a spiritual overview that dissolves time:
First, a youngster’s gradschool affectionate urge for a classmate; then an aged professor’s yearning for a young hustler he eyes at a spa; next, a young man’s deepening feelings for an old friend enhances his family relations; and a couple’s mismatch changes each man’s sense of self. Velarde dramatizes nothing less than of the four ages of gay male life—the riddle of the Sphinx unriddled but shuffled, enfolded, contrasted, and combined. Fresh emotions play off familiar ones. Dreaded conflicts go alongside romantic hopes. Mellowed longings are illuminated by innocent risks. Lust made radiant next to purity.
Four Moons is an ideal film in many ways. Its stories capture the feelings and interests that used to be denied to gay filmgoers or else would hide gay experiences in the margins, pleats or wrinkles of mainstream movies. Velarde’s conceptual design is runway bold and out-front; sexually discreet and emotionally explicit as needed. His mini-epics lay claim to the mainstream simply by touching on universal truths about human affinities. Each man in 4 Moons is all men.
Here’s the rest of 2014’s Gay Best:
Pride by Matthew Warchus: This ultimate British working-class comedy-musical-drama captured the solidarity among urban gays and Northern miners fighting and dancing for their humanity.
Me & You by Bernardo Bertolucci: Lorenzo’s (Jacopo Olmo Antinori) coming-of-age is a coming-out shown with depth, tenderness and using Bowie’s “Space Oddity” as a ravishing tearjerker.
The Way He Looks by Daniel Ribeiros: The story of a gay Brazilian teen (Ghilherme Lobo) who, despite blindness, sees himself without guilt. After 4 Moons, the year’s most charming film.
Young & Beautiful by François Ozon: A girl (Marine Vacth) awakens to the mysteries of sex as seen by Europe’s most open-minded gay auteur.
I Am Happiness on Earth by Julian Hernández: Another epic exploration of desire and male portraiture by Mexico’s master. Our amigo, still awaiting his Stateside close-up.
Burning Blue by D.M.W. Greer: Don’t Ask and Do Tell (between Trent Ford, Rob Mayes and Morgan Spector) that is also about courage with a devastating finale teaching forgiveness and love as personal history.
Maladies by Carter: 1960s gay repression made poignant and poetic through career-high performances by James Franco, Catherine Keener, and David Strathairn.
White Bird in a Blizzard by Gregg Araki: Jokey, flirty, and Sirkian, Araki still fights gay guilt while basking in hypermasculine sensuality and female empathy.
Last Summer by Mark Thiedeman: An unapologetic art movie that dares identify the natural and spiritual textures of rural boys (a photographer and a jock) in love, in the South, in all-American memory.
If any of these films are unfamiliar to you—or seem to lack Oscar potential—ask yourself: Do you still depend on mainstream acceptance, approval, or promotion for the pleasure and edification you get from movies? Is a film as great as 4 Moons "too gay" for our still-restricted mainstream? Maybe our notion of gay mainstream cinema that needs to change and this 10 best list is the place to start.
Four Moons is available on Breaking Glass DVD and VOD. Watch the trailer below: