Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What's up with Gay (-themed) Movies? Part 2: Food of Love

Food of Love
This one starts out quite well. An aspiring young pianist, Paul Porterfield, is asked to be a page turner for Richard Kennington, a major name, in a concert in San Francisco, near where the young man lives. Before the concert, Kennington’s manager, Joseph Mansurian, who, we discover later, is also his lover, tries to put the make on Paul. There is obvious attraction between Paul and Kennington (who is approaching 40) but nothing happens and each goes his separate way.

Some time later, just as Paul and his parents are due to leave for vacation in Europe, the boy’s rather hysterical mother discovers that her husband has been having an affair. Mother and son end up traveling to Spain alone, and in Barcelona, Paul discovers that Kennington has just given a concert there. He manages to locate the pianist’s hotel and pays a visit, which leads to Paul being seduced and quickly falling in love with Kennington. There is a brief fling in Barcelona under the nose of the unsuspecting mother, until Kennington gets guilt pangs and heads back to New York.

Mansurian, in the meantime, has hired a male hustler to have sex with him while his lover is away.

Six months later, Paul is in his first year at Julliard and living in a very posh apartment with his new lover, an older artist. The apartment happens to be in the same building in which Kennington’s manager/lover, Joseph Mansurian, lives. A classmate of Paul’s is signed by Mansurian and Paul is asked to be the young pianist’s page turner at a party given by the impresario. Paul agrees, recognizing that his hope of becoming a concert pianist has just been extinguished. After the party Mansurian, clearly a calculating predator, seduces Paul, with Scarlatti playing in the background.

At Christmas back in California, his teacher confirms his fears; she suggests that he pursue another career, as an accompanist perhaps, if he can bear to stay in the world of music. On this same visit, Paul’s mother discovers that he is gay and that there is something between her son and Richard Kennington. She keeps this information to herself but there is almost unbearable tension between her and Paul over his desire to quit Julliard and the piano altogether, her paranoid suspicion that Kennington has exerted some pernicious influence over her Paul, and her continued depression and hysteria. Paul’s attitude toward and treatment of his mother lead one to suspect that he may be a reflection of his father.

After Paul returns to New York, his mother attends a PFLAG meeting, which only manages to fuel her rage at Kennington for his “negative influence” on Paul. After the meeting she decided to fly to New York; she ends up in Kenington’s apartment in the middle of a surprise 40th birthday party for the pianist, who is on his way from Chicago. After Kenington’s arrival she confronts him and Mansurian, demanding to know the whereabouts of her son and accusing Kennington of lying when he claims that he has not seen Paul since Barcelona.

Paul is finally located in the apartment of his lover and he and his mother meet. He is horrified that she found her way to Kennington’s place and is enraged at her seemingly ridiculous accusations against Kennington. He treats her very badly.

But in the midst of her pain and her hysteria, Paul’s mother has intuited the truth about Kennington and Mansurian: that they are lovers and that they have both deceived Paul. Paul is chastened by this revelation and realizes that his mother is not a fool, after all. They are reconciled and the viewer suspects that Paul will be that much wiser in his relationships in the future.

Damn again! There is more to this movie than I saw when I watched it the first time. It does have a kind of logical structure and a kind of theme to it. And I have to say that Juliet Stevenson (loved her in Truly, Madly, Deeply, with Alan Rickman) is absolutely brilliant as Paul’s mother.


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