Queer frames #3: Contracorriente

I gave a talk recently in which I discussed this film briefly. I ended up feeling like it was less of a talk and more of a rant. Contracorriente / Undertow is a 2009 film from Peru by Javier Fuentes-León. It has done very well on the international distribution circuits and has won several audience awards at film festivals. It’s what they call a crowd-pleaser,  a name that has a certain institutional weight as a generic marker. So it interests me that I hate it so much. I am very much not the crowd who is hailed in this term. This image perfectly illustrates what was unpleasing to me in the film. The two lovers can never be together in their fantasmatic Peruvian fishing village because Miguel is married to a woman and closeted. The film solves this problem by drowning Santiago early on. He returns as a ghost – on the right here – and haunts Miguel. The two can now go for the public walk that they never could before, almost, but still not quite, holding hands. This frame seems like the very image of narrative cowardice and I spent the movie wishing Santiago would haunt Miguel right out of his complacent heteronormative world. Sadly, it didn’t happen…