O Fantasma Movie Review
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.