Movie Review: Hombre Kabuki
There’s a lot of things I don’t know about the world and one of them is the fascination with fetishes. I recently saw a show on TV where a woman had a guy dress up in a full latex horse suit and she would whip him and lead him around in a field as if he was a real horse. I mean, I’m not a prude or anything and I’m cool with live and let live. If you like dressing up like a horse and being whipped then so be it. Go forth and be happy! But personally … I don’t get it.
In Hombre Kabuki, a short film directed by Leo Age, some dude tries to convince his significant other that her wearing a Mexican wrestling mask may spice up their dull sex life. She is understandably resistant since the couple never refer to ever trying anything weird or kinky in their past and she can’t seem to fathom what it is about wearing a mask that will a) turn him on; or b) make her feel sexy. She eventually relents and while some sex does occur, the film is mostly a verbal dance between these two characters in which power flows back and forth between them.
The most interesting thing about the film — which is shot in a beautiful black & white and features two tremendous performances by Virginia Hamilton and Sky Soleil — is actually what isn’t said onscreen. The film, of course, can be taken for face value and what I wrote above is actually what is going on between these two characters. But I don’t think it is.
The script is rather craftily concocted by screenwriter Julianne Ortale. The fetish here isn’t the wearing of a literal mask, but the shifting back and forth of the personality masks of the two main characters, Vivvy and Thomas. While they act as though the Lucha Libre mask has been just introduced into the relationship as soon as the film starts, this is probably a ritualistic game these two have played several times over and what the audience is seeing is just the game’s latest iteration.
Nothing that Vivvy and Thomas say to each other onscreen is probably true. They ask each other questions about things that either never happened or that they already know the answers to. Fetishes are all about domination and submission with one partner always holding the power over the other. Hombre Kabuki subverts the notion of fetish sex by shifting the power from one partner to the other. And although the action onscreen makes it seem as though that shift hasn’t been pre-ordained, these two lovers have probably acted out this routine numerous times in the exact same manner with the same exact outcome because that’s how fetishes work themselves out. The character who winds up with the most power already had it at the start even if that may not be apparent in the dialogue.
Hombre Kabuki is a short film (about 10 mins.), performed on a sparse set and on the surface doesn’t go beyond the immediacy of the moment of the two main characters, but the script is very rich and complex beyond what we see, which is pretty much true of how relationships work in general — whether couples engage in fetish behavior or not.