Though there is much that is pretty standard in the Chilean movie “En la gama de los grises,” translated as “In the Grayscale,” directed by Claudio Marcone, I was confused by some major facets. The gratuitous male nudity of Francisco Celhay, which begins almost as soon as the movie starts, I understand: marketing to international gay audiences. The viewer has no idea who this man changing from one pair of shorts to another and then lying down on a narrow bed in a squalid room is.
He is Bruno, an award-winning architect in his mid-30s, who has just got carte blanche to design a monument in Santiago, Chile. I can suspend my disbelief about the commission. More difficult to credit is that the very commercial builder, Germán (Marcial Tagle) has arranged for Fernando (Emilio Edwards) who is a tour guide not working on a graduate thesis to show Bruno around the city.
Soon, we see that Bruno lives in Santiago already, has a wife of eleven years, Soledad (Daniela Ramírez), and a son aged nine or ten, Daniel (Matías Torres). Bruno has moved out “to think” in the space in which his grandfather (a very sympathetic Sergio Hernández) had made furniture. Daniel tells his father there must be a reason why he is not living at home any more. Bruno agrees, but says he does not know what the reason is.
It doesn’t take a graduate degree to infer that Bruno has some long-suppressed desires — or at least curiosity — about sex/love with males. Conveniently, his diminutive and sparkling guide to his native city is gay. Fer[nando] says he is a “maricón” (a faggot), though he uses “gay” to talk about relationships. I’m not sure (though I have my suspicions) about which is black and which is white in a black-white dichotomy of sexual orientations. What is frustrating and leads to heartbreaks, Fer says, is falling love for those of various shades of gray (the Spanish grise does not rhyme with “gay” as “gray” does).
Bruno enjoys being with Fer and being fucked by him, but is torn between his established family and the fresh air of a playful partner with a dick. He is also very, very slow to get started on his commission. I wonder how Fer pays the rent, since he is not working, and I can’t conceive that Germán is paying him for more than three months to show Bruno around Santiago.
There is no music behind many scenes, including a heart-to-heart conversation between Bruno and Soledad in a tent. Although Bruno eventually researches a no-longer-standing colonial construction, the Calicanto Bridge, none of the icons of Santiago — the Metropolitan Cathedral, the church and convent of San Francisco, the palace of La Moneda, the Incan sanctuary of El Plomo, or the statue of the Virgin on San Cristobal Hill — is shown as Fer and and Bruno bicycle around (the successful architect doesn’t have a car?). BTW, the full frontal nudity is all of Celhay; neither of the leads has a bubble butt. (Edwards looks like a young, bearded Sean Penn.)
The Wolfe DVD of the movie, which was named the best first feature at the San Francisco LGBTQ Film Festival has no bonus features except for trailers for this movie and five other recent releases. English subtitles are burned in.
© 9 November 2015, Stephen O. Murray