A convoluted story of gay sexual intrigue with more twists than a designer pretzel, this low-budget first-time-out effort by scripter Aaron Brown and helmer Susan Turley may be a bit too clever for its own good.

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THE M.O. OF M.I. (THE MODUS OPERANDI OF MALE INTIMACY)

An Incubator, Ink film production. Produced by Lane West, Susan Turley, Cynthia Rush. Executive producer, Aaron Brown.

Directed, edited by Susan Turley. Screenplay, Aaron Brown, from his play; story by Brown, Turley. Camera (color), Mark Woods; original music, 2 Below; music designer, Serio Samayoa; art director, Joey Quinlan; sound, Michael Bratkowski; casting, Lane West. Reviewed at New York Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, June 13, 2002. (Also in Independent Feature Film Market, Advocate, Canned by Southwest, Austin Gay & Lesbian and Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Film Festivals.) Running time: 90 MIN.

Jonathon Tori David Christopher

Michael Bradley David Stokey

Tom Graham Cory Schneider

Brace Titos Menchaca

Juno Luis Olmeda

Charlie Lane West

Bernard Stephen Clifton

By RONNIE SCHEIB

A convoluted story of gay sexual intrigue with more twists than a designer pretzel, this low-budget first-time-out effort by scripter Aaron Brown and helmer Susan Turley may be a bit too clever for its own good. Like the Argentinean “9 Queens” or Mamet’s “The Heist,” “M.O.” flaunts its generally nifty con-within-con-within-con structure, where everyone is ultimately revealed to be blackmailing, cheating or cheating-on everyone else, and hopes it will somehow constitute a worldview. The surprise-twist mechanism works surprisingly well, taking on a life of its own that threatens to continue ad infinitem (indeed, the rug-pullers persist well into the end credits), but elements never truly come together. Pic should do well on the festival and gay circuit, but wider distribution, outside possible cable play, seems iffy.

Uneven thesping results in players registering as different than advertised. The central couple, a 35-year-old established businessman (David Stokey) and, we’re told, his much younger “husband” (Cory Schneider), look to be roughly the same age. Thus the sexual cachet of youth constantly referred to in the script is signally absent from the screen, unless one considers whiny emotional immaturity a turn-on in itself.

On the other hand, the dark spoiler to this idyllic couple, a poet/drifter/drug dealer (David Christopher), who apparently latches onto them for his own sinister purposes, has enough sexual charisma for all three. But nothing is as it seems and who loves who, and who is using whom, undergoes countless permutations before the final curtain.

Originally a three-character stage play, the triangulated action unfolds as a series of talky, often shrill confrontations intercut with each other and with a derivative subplot involving dope peddlers and a stolen suitcase. Pic is so concerned with setting up its smoke-and-mirrors illusions and priming its set piece traps, that it never quite settles on any point of view or, more essentially, any focal point, relying on a succession of dazzling quick-changes to substitute for orchestration.

Film, though shot in 35mm, was edited and projected in video, which made the mostly adequate-looking lensing and technical credits difficult to fully assess.

The M.O. of M.I. (The Modus Operandi of Male Intimacy)

Production

An Incubator, Ink film production. Produced by Lane West, Susan Turley, Cynthia Rush. Executive producer, Aaron Brown. Directed, edited by Susan Turley. Screenplay, Aaron Brown, from his play; story by Brown, Turley.

Crew

Camera (color), Mark Woods; original music, 2 Below; music designer, Serio Samayoa; art director, Joey Quinlan; sound, Michael Bratkowski; casting, Lane West. Reviewed at New York Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, June 13, 2002. (Also in Independent Feature Film Market, Advocate, Canned by Southwest, Austin Gay & Lesbian and Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Film Festivals.) Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Jonathon Tori - David Christopher Michael Bradley - David Stokey Tom Graham - Cory Schneider Brace - Titos Menchaca Juno - Luis Olmeda Charlie - Lane West Bernard - Stephen Clifton
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