Unafraid of the Body

Unafraid of the Body

“Cola de Mono” is out gay writer/ director Alberto Fuguet’s sensational and sexually explicit genre film about two brothers in Chile in 1986. It is Christmas Eve, and Borja (Cristóbal Rodríguez-Costabal) and Vicente (Santiago Rodríguez-Costabal, Cristóbal’s real-life brother) each discover their queer sexuality in separate storylines. After dinner with their mother, Vicente heads out to go cruising in a park. Meanwhile, Borja gets drunk and breaks into his brother’s bedroom, where he puts on a jockstrap and looks at dirty magazines. Things come to a head when Vicente returns.

“Cola de Mono” then jumps to 13 years later, with an erotic episode in a bathhouse that echoes themes of sexuality and violence from earlier in the film.

Fuguet, a Chilean author turned filmmaker, chatted via Skype with Gay City News about his stunning film that pushes boundaries and stretches the genre’s limits.

GARY M. KRAMER: You feature American movie posters, books, and objects from the 1980s throughout “Cola de Mono.” Can you discuss your inspirations for this film?

ALBERTO FUGUET: My memory and my movie-going habits. When I was 14, 15, 16, 17, I was let in to movies like “Carrie,” where I had fun. I was scared and enjoyed them fully. They were cinema. De Palma was better than Richard Attenborough. Stephen King resonated in a repressed Catholic society, because under the dictatorship in Chile in the 1980s, things went bump in the night here without devils or ghosts. Even though I saw genre films, they were talking to me. I could relate to Keith Gordon or Carrie — the weirdo or misfit. And whenever there was a naked guy… But let’s not get too intellectual. It was pure pleasure.

KRAMER: What can you say about the casting of real-life brothers as brothers?

FUGUET: I never thought I’d use two brothers, but I got them. I cast Santiago and I said we need to find someone you know to play Borja. I thought he’d recommend someone he knew, and he suggested his brother, who is very exhibitionistic. Once I saw them together, I knew that they would deliver. They are from a new generation that have no problem being gazed upon. They feel awkward when they are not on camera.

KRAMER: Can you talk about the sexual tension in the film?

FUGUET: “Cola de Mono” is about male intimacy. I always felt that when you see men like Rusty-James in “Rumble Fish,” the guys in “The Outsiders,” or the brothers in “East of Eden,” that you can get a lot of intimacy. “Papillon” is very homoerotic. Fights between males involve skin contact — especially guys fighting in their underwear or in the shower. For a gay guy like me, who has only sisters, I lost that possibility of borrowing a brother’s T-shirt and the homoeroticism and intimacy of that. Gay doesn’t only mean having sex with guys. Like you, Gary, I’m more romantic. But part of the turn-on of films about men who are friends was that the guys could cry and speak from the heart.

KRAMER: Borja is constantly told to grow up. What prompted you to make this a coming of age story about an age where “everything is scary?”

FUGUET: I set it in the time when you are starving for information and stimulation and that was hard to get. Sexuality was forbidden, scary, and risky. No one came out as gay then. Everything is known, but not spoken, which is a good premise for horror films. It’s a ghost story in a way. There are a lot of ghosts. The mother wants sweet sons; she really wants her sons to wear revealing shorts but never touch themselves.

KRAMER: “Cola de Mono” features extended nudity and sexual expression. Are you using sex and skin to comment on repression?

FUGUET: Going back to De Palma’s films, he enjoyed women, their bodies, and showed them empowered. I wanted to make a film where the actors, myself as the director, and the public were not afraid of their bodies. I think a lot of movies that you see — even those catered to a gay audience or festivals — are repressed. Actors can only be seen naked from the waist up. With my film, some viewers get nervous, some get horny, and some have never seen so many naked guys.

KRAMER: The film also features at least four knives, which are used for various purposes. Can you talk about the violence in the film?

FUGUET: It’s a genre movie. I’ve never done a knife film. But if we make a film that deals with the slasher genre — which began with “Halloween” in 1978 — we have to respect the laws and clichés of the genre. Otherwise, it’s like making a Western without horses and guns, or guys. The film is about repression — but the two main characters are very free — but they are in a repressed world.

KRAMER: I don’t see the film as homophobic, but some might. How do you respond to that criticism?

FUGUET: The film is not homophobic. I’m not conveying sex is dangerous or that you get punished if you’re horny. In this genre, those things happened. Even “Call Me by Your Name” says love is dangerous and you could get hurt. There’s a scene in “Cola de Mono” where a character has a cute boyfriend, and they have an intimate scene when he’s comforted by him.

KRAMER: You play with time in the film — not just in setting the two interconnected stories 13 years apart, but also in your editing. Can you discuss this approach to your storytelling?

FUGUET: If viewers are confused — don’t worry about it. That comes out of “Dressed to Kill.” This is a mix of an art film and a genre film. I wanted to make a mystery and reveal things, so it’s like solving a puzzle. Not knowing everything is sexy. It’s like learning about a guy. A little mystery is not bad. You can even keep an air of mystery about yourself even when you are fully naked.

COLA DE MONO | Directed by Alberto Fuguet | Distributed by TLA Releasing | Available Nov. 27 on DVD and streaming on Amazon, iTunes, Dekkoo, YouTube