One of the criticisms levelled at Call Me By Your Name last year was how the main characters were “almost aggressively isolated from gay culture and politics”. Despite being an insular love story, Hard Paint successfully weaves together swooning romance with social engagement.
The film captures the experience of being young, queer, and in a financially precarious situation, as Pedro (Menegat) and Leo (Fernandes) meet through a camming site where they both perform with neon paint. The sex work gradually takes a back seat to their relationship, though it remains an important theme of the film overall.
Through Pedro, Hard Paint explores both the economic realities of camming, as well as more abstract aspects. The camming scenes switch perspectives between the grainy lens of the webcam and the cinematic gaze of the professional film camera. This technique draws attention to the use of perspective, but also highlights the difference between cinematic and online eroticism, laying bare the interplay between authenticity and artifice in both formats.
Like Inferninho, Hard Paint is a Brazilian film produced against the wave of rising anti-LGBT violence in the country. It’s difficult not to think of this during scenes that highlight Pedro’s social anxiety. Silhouetted figures watch him ominously from balconies, and lingering glances from ordinary people carry a veiled threat.
Their mercenary and vaguely hostile circumstances only serve to emphasise the genuine tenderness between Pedro and Leo. Fernandes exudes genuine kindness and vulnerability as Leo, making for an appropriate contrast to Pedro’s appropriately stiff performance.
With an inevitably bittersweet ending that rings true, Hard Paint is a phenomenal film about being young and queer. It’s proof that romance need not be the sole preserve of escapist fantasy and can in fact be rooted to social reality. The final moments left this writer an emotional wreck.
CAST: Shico Menegat, Bruno Fernandes, Guega Peixoto
DIRECTORS: Filipe Matzembacher, Marcio Reolon
WRITERS: Filipe Matzembacher, Marcio Reolon
SYNOPSIS: Set in Brazil’s southern city of Porto Alegre, the film focuses on a socially repressed young man who only comes out of his shell during chatroom performances, when he strips and smears neon paints on his lithe body .