Madagascar Skin | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Madagascar Skin 

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This quirky lyrical pastorale about the growing love between two men paints a portrait of an idyllic private world of gentle banter and surreal fantasies. In his second feature, British director Chris Newby is careful not to turn his main characters into blatantly sexual or pitiful misfits: Harry, a shy, gawky young gay man with a facial birthmark in the shape of Madagascar, and Flint, his older, swaggering, ostensibly heterosexual companion, are eccentric loners, but they win us over by being honest if at first reticent about their emotions. Their unlikely romance blossoms amid the lush flora and fauna of the southern Wales coast, where Harry (John Hannah) has fled after a cruel rejection in a gay disco. He meets the paunchy, vaguely unsavory Flint (Bernard Hill), and though opposite in temperament the two become so at ease with each other (in sharply flavorful dialogue from the script written by Newby) that the eventual consummation of their relationship is almost an afterthought. (Also a bit on the gratuitous side are cutesy touches like Flint's penchant for eating mice and the puzzling scene in which a sexy siren visits Flint in his room.) As they settle into their menage it's hard to imagine these two otherwise hapless daydreamers ever returning from the fringe. Perhaps that's the point. The ravishing, natural-light photography by Oliver Curtis conveys nicely the isolated splendors of their refuge, a visceral beauty that oddly suggests the irrelevance of the cosmetics of civilized society. Music Box next Friday through Thursday, January 3 through 9.

--Ted Shen

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): movie still.

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