Perry’s Flix Picks: Head On

Ari in a rare goofy momentNot to be confused with the German-Turkish movie of the same name, this little known Australian gem is a tour de force of the chaotic place where Greek immigrant life collides with gay culture, and creates a complicated masculinity that rushes head on into nowhere.

Ari is 19 years old, and the movie star handsome son of a politically progressive but socially regressive immigrant Greek father and Australian/ Greek mother. He eats, speaks and lives Greek: there are only a handful of encounters of with non-Greeks throughout the movie. Ari doesn’t have a job, but he has enough money to go out and get wasted with his friends, relying on small time dealing and some poker skills to get by. He wants to move out from under his parents x-ray vision and their attempts to control his life, but he also doesn’t want to give in to the stale compromise of getting a job and being told what to do.

Ari's friend ToulaTo complicate matters, Ari is clearly gay, fiercely attracted to men and masculinity and developing a perverse pride in being both a man’s man and a “faggot who takes it up the arse”. His worlds start to collide when Ari meets Shaun, a different sort of gay man who thinks about politics, racism, and who may or may not be openly gay. Ari confuses himself and his world by fucking men completely different from him, by being overly macho towards his sister “you’re worse than Dad!” she exclaims at one point, by challenging his friends aspirations towards marriage and mortgage, and by viciously repelling the only man who shows real affection towards him in a brutal scene towards the end of the movie. Everyone and everything Ari runs to—drugs, sex, men, women, Greek culture, racism against other immigrants, crime, even the piers-are dead end streets he barges along, only to run head on, as the title says, into a wall. A heartthrob with an identity crisis? A young gay man in denial? A coward that cannot defend his transsexual friend against homophobic police violence? A good for nothing drug addict and pusher? A “stereotypical Greek”? Who is Ari, and where is Ari going? In the kaleidoscope of events that unfolds, Ari struggles to find his place in the world. By the time the final credits roll, he hasn’t succeeded, but he has taken some, timid steps towards changing his path and his destiny.

This little known Australian film is, in my opinion, vastly in need of more exposure. Gritty to the core, and borrowing shamelessly from Trainspotting (the opening monologue), as well as the films of Gregg Araki, it is nevertheless a milestone of modern Australian independent cinema, as well as being one of the more innovative and three dimensional “gay coming of age” movies that exist today. Despite its flaws, such as its tendency to overdramatize and its heavy insistence on flashy cuts and camerawork, it’s nonetheless a moving and interesting film I recommend to anyone interested in independent gay cinema.


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