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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Reeling Review #8: Burning Blue and Free Fall at Chicago's LGBT Film Festival

The new dramas, Burning Blue and Free Fall, are both set in testosterone-heavy environments - the Navy and a police academy, respectively - and they also each feature attractive young hunks who are having a difficult time dealing with their sexuality. However, one film presents its story with only a single kiss, while the other is quite explicit with its hot sex and full frontal nudity. But they are both equally good in telling their tales of closeted men in love.

Burning Blue, which has been accurately described as a "gay Top Gun with heart and soul", is based on writer/director DMW Greer's 1995 play about his own experiences as a Naval aviator during the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" years of the Clinton administration. The close friendship between two young aircraft pilots, Dan and Will, is dramatically changed forever when the former goes out to a NYC gay club with another fighter pilot, the handsome Matt, for a wild night of shirtless dancing. And although nothing much happens between them except some looks of lust, their evening together leads to an investigative witch hunt that sadly destroys lives. Burning Blue is definitely not a feel-good film, but it tells an important story that should never have happened in our military. The performances are all excellent, including Trent Ford as Dan, Morgan Spector as Will, Rob Mayes as Matt, Tammy Blanchard as Will's wife Susan, and William Lee Scott as Dan and Will's pilot friend Trumbo. And although Burning Blue has no homoerotic beach volleyball scene (ala Top Gun), its long-awaited gay kiss provides an emotional and joyous release that I found much more satisfying.

Director Stephan Lacant takes a far more in-your-face approach with his characters' sexuality in Free Fall, his first feature film that has been called "the German Brokeback Mountain". It's not nearly as sad as that Academy Award-winning movie, but it still packs an emotional punch with its familiar story of forbidden love. Free Fall is about Marc, a police cadet who seems quite happy with his pregnant girlfriend until he becomes friends with another male cadet named Kay. Their innocent jogs together quickly turn into a passionate affair that leaves Marc reeling in confusion about the direction of his life. The steamy chemistry between actors Max Reimelt (Marc) and Hanno Koffler (Kay) kept my interest from beginning to end, and - like Burning Blue - Free Fall effectively shows us the mental anguish of living behind a closet door. But at least its characters get to enjoy themselves with more than just a kiss.

Burning Blue
I wasn't able to see the film in advance of its screening on November 8, but you should definitely check it out whenever it's released on DVD and Blu-ray.
Running time: 95 minutes

Free Fall
Show time: 9:30 pm, Monday, November 11, at the Logan Theatre (2646 N. Milwaukee)
Running time: 100 minutes

For a complete schedule of films at Reeling31: The Chicago LGBT International Film Festival (which runs November 7 - 14), go to You can purchase tickets online (click here) or in person at Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark) Monday - Friday 10:30 am - 6 pm. You can also get the latest festival news by following Reeling on Twitter and Facebook. And click here to read all my reviews.


Mark in DE said...

I saw "Free Fall" this past weekend and reviewed it on my blog. I liked the film a lot.

Marc said...

I'm glad we both have good taste in films, Mark! :)

MovieJunkie said...

I've seen both; Free Fall is hands down a much better film. It's one of the best gay films I've seen in quite some time. I was so disappointed with Burning Blue. The trailer was the best part of the movie. There was practically no character development between the two men who were supposedly in love. And, the ending where you were supposed to be so moved felt so forced!

Marc Harshbarger said...

Thanks for the comment, MovieJunkie! Although I liked Burning Blue, I would agree that Free Fall is a better film.