Remember Addams Family Values (Sonnenfeld, 1993)? Wednesday’s (Christina Ricci) scathing critique of the summer camp’s Thanksgiving-themed play goes something like this: “Your work is puerile and under-dramatized. You lack any sense of structure, character and the Aristotelian unities.” Well, the same could be said of Robert Hasfogel’s Men to Kiss; it lacks anything resembling depth or insight, instead it pitches itself to become the most vacuous, trashy, bizarre, and campest comedy it can possibly be, which, when your expectations of seeing any intelligence have been completely obliterated (after approximately 20 minutes), becomes strangely, and masochistically, enjoyable.
I say this at the risk of losing any credibility I may have gained as a film critic, and it feels entirely absurd (and arrogant) to write a review that contains instructions of how to watch a film, but the only way any film aficionado will ever be able to appreciate this film is to entirely suspend all disbelief and completely remove themselves from any preconceptions as to what makes a film valid in terms of construct, artistry, ethos, etc, because basically, Men to Kiss has none; however it is entirely joyous in that it revels in it’s ludicrous shallowness, and has no pretence of being anything other than it is: completely and totally frivolous.
The ‘story’ is of lovers Ernst (Frank Christian Marx) and Tobi (Udo Lutz), who are torn apart when Ernst’s best friend Uta (Alexandra Starnitzky) comes to town with the sole intention of breaking them up. There is no apparent motive. Tobi and friends decide it’s time to put a stop to Uta’s reign of tyranny, and so they plot her downfall (at one stage enlisting the help of an assassin). Soon Ernst discovers his so-called friend’s duplicity, but is it too late to save his relationship with Tobi? That’s really all there is to say. The plotting of a downfall, and hiring of an assassin may mislead the casual reader in to thinking that this is a comedy of the darkest order, let me assure you, it’s as light and frothy as they come; it may be helpful to consider this as having a style more a kin to a cartoon than a live-action comedy, where you know that once Wile E. Coyote has hit the bottom of the canyon, he’ll be fine again in the next scene, which of course obliterates any sense of dramatic urgency.
Humour is, of course, entirely subjective. I can’t claim to have found the content of this film particularly funny; but I have to admit, it’s certainly memorable. In the milieu of gay-themed screwball comedies this certainly stands out; Although technically far less successful than its contemporaries, such as the ludicrous but hugely entertaining sex comedy Longhorns (Lewis, 2011), it certainly sets its own set of criteria for ‘madcap’, making it one of the most individual pieces I’ve seen to come out of LGBT Cinema. I applaud it for its sheer audacity, and how vehemently it shuns any device that could make it a ‘quality’ film.
Men to Kiss is extremely hard to quantify; my knowledge of filmmaking is screaming at me to write this off as a truly deplorable waste of everything (time, money etc), but there again, there is something that fascinates me about it. Perhaps it’s the questions it inadvertently raises: Is it purposefully bad? If so, why? What inspired (if inspired is the correct word) the writers and director to make the stylistic choices they made?
This film has certainly piqued my curiosity; it’s poorly written, it’s poorly constructed, and it’s poorly executed, but it also refuses to be cast aside. It effectively stands as an insult to quality filmmaking; but there again, let’s not forget, so did The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Sharman, 1975). I fully recommend you see Men to Kiss and decide for yourself. Let me know how you get on!
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