Here is a gem of a movie from 2000 that I haven't seen yet, but am considering either buying or renting. I've read mixed reviews, but I am intrigued by the main character's 'devolution' and transformation into a savage, other-worldly, sub-human individual. Has anyone seen this? Any suggestions?
From Film Critic:
A film review by Don Willmott - Copyright © 2004 filmcritic.com
Let me pitch a movie idea. There’s this gay garbageman, see, and he lives in Portugal, see, and he’s a pervert who roams the city at night in a black rubber catsuit and searches out dangerous anonymous sexual encounters. Would you care to invest?
Amazingly enough, someone did, and the result is O Fantasma, a naughty and strangely compelling slice of Lisbon life that proposes, somewhat fuzzily, that without grounding in a healthy loving relationship, we humans quickly devolve into the savage beasts that we truly are.
The beast in this case is Sergio (Ricardo Meneses), a young garbageman whose pouty good looks – he looks ripped from a Calvin Klein cologne ad – have yet win him a girlfriend, or a boyfriend for that matter. He seems to relate best to the garbage crew’s pet mascot, a mutt named Lorde. Though his co-worker Fátima (Beatriz Torcata) is interested in him, his erotic advances consist of licking her face (like a dog) rather than kissing her.
Sergio doesn’t talk much, but he communicates well from the waist down, seeking out bathroom trysts, spur-of-the-moment bondage scenes, and even autoerotic adventures with a shower hose wrapped tightly enough around his neck to leave harsh welts.
Things start to get out of hand when on his garbage route, Sergio encounters the handsome João (André Barbosa), who has a beautiful Suzuki motorcycle. Instantly obsessed, Sergio becomes his stalker, pawing through the guy’s trash (like a dog) to find a sexy souvenir. He’s in luck. João’s torn Speedo soon becomes Sergio’s favorite article of clothing.
Over the next few days, Sergio spies on João at the local pool, licks the shower stall where João has just bathed, dry humps João’s motorcycle in full view of two cops, urinates on João’s bed (marking his territory), and, once he slips into his rubber catsuit, sets out to kidnap the poor guy.
There’s little dialogue in O Fantasma. The heavy-handed dog symbolism is augmented by a soundtrack that consists of little more than howling and barking dogs. Sure enough, Sergio devolves into full animal mode, skulking through the Lisbon garbage dump in the dark (in his catsuit), lapping up water out of puddles and eating trash. By day’s light he’s still there, covered in mud, looking like a morning-after-Halloween nightmare, staggering through the muck. Framed in a doorway like John Wayne at the end of The Searchers, Sergio is heading off to a very uncertain future. It’s quite an image.
Writer/director João Pedro Rodrigues never makes it clear whether he thinks that Sergio is an aberrant case or that we’re all really just low down dirty dogs just waiting for our chance to hump whatever comes along next, be it a man, a woman, or a motorcycle. Nevertheless, Sergio’s dangerous nocturnal ramblings are exciting to watch. Who knew that Portuguese garbagemen had so much going on?
DVD Note: The O Fantasma DVD contains a section called “Eye Candy” that’s nothing more than a highlight reel of all the film’s sex scenes. If Rodrigues agreed to its inclusion on the disc, he must be saying that we are, in fact, just dogs looking to get our rocks off. Heck, why bother watching the whole movie when all the money shots are right here? If Rodrigues didn’t know about it, then the DVD distributors should be ashamed of themselves. Either way, it’s demeaning and an insult both to the film and to its audience.
From The Movie Chicks:
© PICTURE THIS! ENTERTAINMENT - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
(Director: João Pedro Rodrigues, English subtitles, 90 min, Rating: not rated)
When Sérgio (Richardo Meneses) isn't working as a trash collector in Lisbon, he's busy having anonymous sex with men, playing with the junkyard dog, and ignoring the advances from his coworker, Fátima (Beatriz Torcato), and his boss (Eurico Vieira). One night Sérgio sees a motorcycle man, João (André Barbosa), is smitten, and starts stalking him. Sérgio follows him to the pool, digs through his trash, even breaks into his home. When Sérgio finally comes face to face with João and is rejected, he resorts to his basest instincts, but this further isolates Sérgio until he's left all alone.
Sérgio is "the phantom" of the film, both in his job roaming the city streets by night and in his latex suite that he wears for masked sex. He starts out as a loner, only getting involved when he wants - he sees Fátima being abused but does nothing; he see a cop bound and gagged and instead of helping, simply takes advantage of the situation.
He's very animalistic - he's into sniffing, face licking, and he even marks his territory when he breaks into João's home (and yes, this does mean exactly what you think it does). He spends the last 13 minutes of the film totally cut off from the world, surviving like some new-age latex caveman - 13 minutes may not sound that long, but it seems longer when you have no dialog, no narration, no nothing, just Sérgio suffering alone, behaving more and more like his junkyard dog.
What makes the film so provocative? Has the buzz going? It could be the hunky young star that doesn't mind exposing his body. Or the explicit nature of some of the sex scenes: there's autoerotic asphyxiation, bondage, masturbation, and a rather graphic oral sex scene with a stranger in the men's room. But all this sex and isolation has to be for a reason and there never is an explanation given for his actions. In the end, the audience is left with a great big WHY?