LGBT Movies: The Sea (1962)

The Sea (Il Mare) follows a troubled actor who visits Capri. He finds himself pursued by a naïve young man and a jaded older woman. He welcomes the attention but refuses to commit to either. Giuseppe Patroni Griffi’s directing debut mines comedy from their sadness. His efficient screenplay puts atmosphere before plot or dialogue. Capri in winter is lonely but also beautiful. The homo-eroticism is so blatant that one wonders how he got away with it in 1962.

(Bi)curious? Then read my spoiler filled recap.  

Act One: The Boy

Scene One: A Bar in Capri
BARTENDER: Capri’s empty in the winter. Why are you here alone?
ACTOR: My date cancelled.
BOY (19. Seated nearby.): I said no ice in my drink! (Throws ice on the floor).

Scene Two: The Streets
(The Boy is carrying a bottle of whisky. The Actor pursues him.)
ACTOR: You shouldn’t drink at your age.
BOY: Try and stop me.
(They sexy wrestle for the bottle. Then share a drink.)
ACTOR: What’s your name?
BOY: The Boy. We don’t get names in this script.

Scene Three: The Actor’s Hotel Room
ACTOR: I want the bottle.
BOY: Come and get it.
(They wrestle on the bed.)
ACTOR: Will the censors let us do anything else?
(The Boy pours a bottle of cologne down the Actor’s throat. The Actor stumbles into the bathtub. The Boy fills the tub with water and leaves.)
ACTOR: Well… I guess you’ve made your point.

Act Two: The Woman

Scene Four: The Streets
(Actor chases the Boy and crashes into the Woman.)
ACTOR: It’s you! (Hugs her.) I’m so sorry. I thought you were my girlfriend.
WOMAN: Sure you did.
(She exits. The Boy whips the Actor with his scarf. The Actor sexy wrestles the Boy to the ground.)
BOY: Can we have an actual conversation?  

Scene Five: A Restaurant
BOY: Do you like acting?
ACTOR: Sometimes. Why did you come to Capri?
BOY: Well I…
WOMAN: What a surprise running into you again! (Sits at their table.)
BOY: Dang it. (Leaves.)
ACTOR: Don’t go! There’s enough of me to go around!
(The Woman and Actor follow the Boy. She corners a Street Musician and pretends to cut his throat.)
MUSICIAN: Fricking tourists.

Scene Six: The Woman’s House
WOMAN: My husband left me so I’m selling the house. I no longer believe in love.
(She gives The Boy a paintbrush. He paints a mural on the wall.)
ACTOR: Forget your ex-husband. Be with me!
WOMAN: The three of us are in a comedy.
BOY: I can’t believe you said that out loud. All I get is subtext.

Act Three: The Chill

Scene Seven: A Rainy Night
BOY: You want her! I should spit in your face!
ACTOR: What do you want from me! Why are you even here!
BOY: I broke the window and ran away! They heard me but they didn’t care!
ACTOR: What are you talking about?
BOY: I’ll say no more. My backstory is as ambiguous as your sexuality!
(The Boy tries to tackle him but falls to the ground, hitting his head.)

Scene Eight: The Woman’s House
(The Boy wakes up with a bandaged forehead.)
ACTOR: Here’s a bottle of wine. Phone someone and tell them you’re going back to Naples.
BOY: (Phones someone.) I’m going back to Naples.
(The Boy takes the bottle and leaves. The Actor sees that the phone is disconnected.)
WOMAN: I’m still not sure if I want you
(The Actor and Woman sleep together. It goes poorly. The Actor sneaks out.)

Scene Nine: The Morning After
HOTEL CLERK: Sir, a Boy left this bottle for you.
(The Boy has written ‘CIAO’ on the bottle. The Actor races to the wharf to catch him. The boat has left.)
WOMAN: You ran all this way to catch me?
ACTOR: … Sure.
WOMAN: You’re too late. I’m leaving Capri.
(The Woman boards a second boat and sails away. The Actor is left alone.)


Still my heart’s on the Isle of Capri

The characters of Patroni Griffi, often ahead of their time, are always transgressive.

Francesco Gnerre , Cultura Gay

Giuseppe Patroni Griffi was a gay man who featured LGBTQ characters in many of his books, plays and films. His 1969 film, Love Circle, included a male couple seduced by a married woman. His 1975 novel, Scende giù per Toledo, followed the life of a trans woman in Naples. His 1987 novel, The Death of Beauty, was a gay romance set during WW2. He would retire from film directing in 1985 but remain a force in the Italian theater world till his death in 2005.

I enjoyed The Sea. The film is stylish, sad and hopeful. The slight plot avoids homophobic tropes giving it a contemporary feel. It shares DNA with brooding m/m romances like Cibrail (2011), Esteros (2016), and Un Rubio (2019). Information on the film is scarce. It resurfaced on the Italian channel Rai Movie but is not currently available on DVD or Blu Ray. A comment on imdb claims the film was booed at the Venice Film Festival. What were they booing? The homoerotic wine bottles?

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