Fantaspoa 2021 Review: PLAYDURIZM, Escaping Darkness Into The Neon
Demir wakes up and finds himself in a new reality with no memories of how he got there or anything before that. He discovers he is sharing a flat with his onscreen male idol, Andrew, star of the erotic melodramas Demir loves so much. Demir explores this new reality, seeking to intensify his relationship with Andrew. If Andrew's current flame Drew, and her brother Jeremy, continue to get in the way someone may have to die.
Turkish director Gem Deger plays Demir, a meek and mousey twink, in awe and enthralled by Andrew's presence, if not a bit intimidated by his raw masculinity. Andrew is an art dealer with questionable morality, as we see with a curious obsession about a belt buckle of all things. He is also that kind of guy at the club who gets any girl he wants. Of course we hate this kind of guy and Austin Chunn plays the role very well, all abs and passive male aggression. He teeters on whether to keep fucking bombshell Drew or dump her on the side of the road. Demir will try to ‘soften’ Andrew of course, try to use that alpha male power for his benefit while winning him over. He is going to do whatever he can to be possessed by this man, ignoring the violent clues of how he got there.
All of this takes place in a glitchy-glitzy reality that looks like it was pulled from a season of Miami Vice. Clearly I'm dating myself here. Even if I said Scarface as well I’m screaming Old Man to you but you’ll get the idea of what Deger and his production designer Jitka Sivrova were working towards by way of decor. In an interview Deger cites the influence of Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers on the color palette of his film. It is not stylish to the point that your eyes will melt in their sockets but is definitely interesting to look at.
So, how to describe Playdurizm. It's certainly an unconventional feature film debut, written, directed and starring Deger. Officially it's been called in some places a neon-colored fantasy/romance/drama. Deger blends violence, romance, sex and wry moments of comedy into his compact tale. Small in concept and bold in color and style Deger made his movie the way he wanted to, not to appease anyone but himself.
He has said in an interview that his film was plagiarized from his own life, from experiences in his young life. It takes a certain level of courage to pull a story from your own life and to put it up on the screen. Your audience will then question what events in the story are drawn from real life and what are really just fantasy fulfillment.
A lot of events in Playdurizm are played with a little more intensity. For example, at the end of his film when we finally discover the act of violence that set this story in motion, sets Demir to escape to the fantasy world of the erotic melodramas Demir loves so much, do we then presume that such a thing happened to Deger in real life? Perish the thought, though his native Turkey has seen a rise in anti-gay rhetoric of late. Is that why he now lives in the Czech Republic, one of most progressive former Eastern Bloc countries in regards to LGBT rights? I digress.
Triggering though this part of the film may be, it does lead us in Berger's final act, and there is a twinge of guilt you get for geeking out about it because it has to be a nod to Cronenberg's techno and body horror. Beger has said that he saw Videodrome when he was a child. A child!!! Not asking to know what else shaped Playdurizm's narrative but it's obvious that Videodrome left its mark. It leads to a final act that for all its tenderness, sacrifice and emotion is still physically distressing to watch but should not be missed.
Things like it's unconventional structure, sexual equivocalness, and unbiased violence mean that Playdurizm may not be for general consumption but it will find its place among the boutique labels and LGBTQ festivals looking to add some genre diversity to their lineups. LGBTQ genre cinema happens seldomly and those festivals should seek it out. Hell, any film festival looking for a film that shirks convetional story telling with surrealism and puts danger and violence into romance and sex should consider it too.
Deger has spoken, and we have heard. Is this the same voice of which he will speak in his future films? Does he have bigger ideas that go beyond a handful of small locations and a small cast? If he decides to mine his life experiences for more storytelling what else is left to say? I am definitely curious to see what this young filmmaker comes up with next.