There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
When writing the story of a dumb but sort of sweet boy who has a thing for anonymous sex, it’s probably a bad idea to give the boy a job in a chocolate factory. It means you don’t trust anyone to pick up on the “sort of sweet” part—which suggests you might have gone a little overboard on the “dumb” part. Or maybe on the “anonymous sex” part—which is exactly what Swiss director and co-writer Lionel Baier has done with Garçon Stupide. Working overtime to capture a sense of urban-queer alienation, he ends up with what’s mostly a thoroughly alienating film. Its chief asset is Pierre Chatagny, a charismatically inert novice actor who plays Loïc, the “stupid boy” of the title, a 20-year-old who spends his post-chocolate-factory nights trolling for sex in the dark streets of Lausanne and the darker alleys of the Web. He’s at once voraciously curious and appallingly blank; caught constantly in conversations he can’t quite grasp, he consults dictionaries for the meaning of words such as “impressionist” and “Hitler.” He seems less interested in connection than in sensation, in discovering people and things and experiences he can shape himself against. Loïc’s boldly sexual, utterly unsexy adventures—choppily intercut with halting encounters involving an older man who, a little neatly, is more curious about Loïc’s personality than his body—range from garden-variety hookups to three-ways to an up-close photographic encounter with sex toys and genital piercings. When he’s not fucking around, he’s fucking with the head of his long-suffering roommate/surrogate big sister (Natacha Koutchoumov), whose supportive interest he repays with what looks unnervingly like pathological jealousy when she meets a man she likes. A soccer star gets stalked, a suicide or a murder takes place, and an early scene setting up Loïc’s inability to drive pays off in the inevitable way; at last he flees Lausanne for a bigger city (Paris? Who cares?), where he decides not what he wants to make of his life but that he does, in fact, want to make something out-of-the-ordinary of it. And we all say hallelujah. Baier plays tricks, some groaningly obvious, others startlingly eloquent, with digital video, but ’round about the 60-minute mark, it becomes apparent that Garçon Stupide is going nowhere—and going there slowly. When it arrives, a long half-hour later on a Ferris wheel in that big city, it does so suddenly and unconvincingly. But at least there’s an end. —Trey Graham