Ask me to dwell on the concept of homosexual Germans, and you shouldn't be surprised to find me sorely conflicted. Were those frisky Huns to be a strictly non-breeding race, I can think of two things off the top of my head that would be blatantly absent from this world: a) Hitler; b) me. So how about we chalk this one up as a draw?
Such concerns were obviously ancillary to the makers of Summer Storm, a hot-blooded imported teen drama in which a bunch of nubile young Bavarians head for a lake to win some sort of crew competition but spend at least as much time figuring out who'd prefer to put what in where. It's a coming-of-age story in which the added complication of possibly coveting your own tentmate makes the usual pubescent fumbling even more traumatic.
Living on the cusp between naivetÃ© and worldliness, the kids on the main crew club get more than they bargained for when they meet the strangers they're going to be competing with. It takes a few comically slackened wrists and overstressed innuendos for our heroes and heroines to realize that their adversaries' nom de row, the Queerstrokes, denotes more than an unconventional approach to displacing water. They're gay, every last one of them ' a revelation that inspires some half-hearted shows of 'acceptanceâ?� and a simultaneous straining of trust, even among these supposedly freethinking Europeans.
It's an even more significant bombshell to Tobi (Robert Stadlober), a lanky team member who secretly knows that his long-standing attraction to pal Achim (Kostja Ullmann) is more than strictly platonic. Having the Queerstrokes close at hand (so to speak) only reminds Tobi of the painful futility of his pet crush. For his own part, poor, trusting Achim apparently finds nothing suspicious in the erection his pal pops when they wrestle playfully, or of their habit of masturbating together, shoulder-to-shoulder. (Had he seen Y tu mamÃ¡ tambiÃ©n, he'd know where that kind of behavior inevitably leads.)
Caught in the crossfire are Sandra (Miriam Morgenstern) and Anke (Alicja Bachleda-Curus), a couple of hard-rowing frÃ¤uleins with the hots for Achim and Tobi, respectively. Anke especially gets the short end of the oar, repeatedly thrusting her already-ample bosom in Tobi's direction and wondering why the reaction she gets is limited to pecks on the cheek and endless cold dismissals.
The horny melodrama is borderline silly and often uncomfortably exploitative ' one scene of naked deflowering veers awfully close to kiddie porn. But the movie's strength lies in showing how people in lust, either straight or gay, can behave like real morons toward each other. The more that a particularly homophobic kid shuns the Queerstrokes, the more their team Adonis is determined to trick him into jumping the fence ' the latest in a long line of hetero 'conquests.â?� And the script remembers to feel sorry for Anke, remedying a common failing of gay cinema, in which innocent girlfriends and spouses are too often treated as dumb-bunny distractions.
Still, movies like Summer Storm are good for reminding you that you're more conservative than you'd like to think. No matter how supportive you are of gay teens ' and you should be ' you have to be a little shocked watching adult coaches do almost nothing to discourage their youthful charges from jumping each other's bones in broad daylight. Either behavioral mores are even more relaxed on that side of the ocean than I thought, or director/co-writer Marco Kreuzpaintner is utterly uninterested in having honest-to-goodness authority figures slow the progress of his story. Meanwhile, you're left feeling like Michael Medved, shaking your head and clucking, 'Where are the parents?â?� Mein Gott.
(Opens Friday, May 12, at Touchstar Cinemas Sand Lake 7; 407-888-9956)