The Pass

25 Jan

The Pass—directed by Ben A. Williams. Drama. 88 minutes Color 2016.
The Story: In a crucial game, a young professional soccer-player chooses not to pass the ball to his teammate to make the goal, and the story of his solo success influences his love for that teammate and his subsequent life.
Abandonment is a remarkable word.

In one sense, abandon means to disown and depart from, as in “seduce-and-abandon.”

In another sense, abandon it means the reverse: to incorporate oneself with.

The first requires walking away. The second means to stand still, exercise, and at the same time surrender fully to power.

In the film Bohemian Rhapsody we see the two sorts at odds with each other. One is is the abandonment of the artist, in which case the artist paradoxically is in full control, and the audience is brought into the Dionysian spectacle of volatile calm in full spate, and thousands cheer. It is a giving back to the gods the gift of the gods.

The second sort of abandonment in Bohemian Rhapsody is sexual. Though sexual abandonment does not really resemble the first, it has the same word attached.

But in sexual abandonment, control leaves at the point that addiction to abandonment begins, and, in sex, the line between abandonment to pleasure and to addiction to pleasure is invisible.

Boredom is Rami Malik’s marked state whenever his Freddie Mercury is not performing or preparing to. So, in his utter boredom with everything that is not abandonment to music, Freddie Mercury seeks the false or Duessa duplicate of the public abandonment to the act and gods of his art, in sexual abandonment.

But the god of sex, in fact, does not exist. So not having a god means sexual abandonment has no inbred controls. And the folly of his sexual abandon becomes a compulsion, a disease from which Freddie Mercury contracts disease. From the explosive performance of a song Freddie Mercury can escape, because its orgasm is chronic for since it always comes it never comes, and by the simple virtue of the song’s end. But from the performance of sex Freddie Mercury can never escape because orgasm ends it, but the search for its resumption must stagger on and on and on.

Freddy Mercury’s fault was not to confront his boredom. The film about him and Queen is larger than the content of sex or song or Freddie or Queen. For the film Bohemian Rhapsody is itself an abandonment into its own art, that of film-making.

Here in The Pass we have similar matters.

In this case, the protagonist Jason abandons human love for athletic dominance. The kicker is he does it through betrayal.

So an enormously successful soccer player ekes out his celebrity with homosexual encounters which leak into rumors that he fears and has always feared. No one is frightened of love. But we all sense love’s consequences, and these may be fearsome indeed. Jason fears them: The thorn of rumor is stronger than the blimp of Image.

Is Jason going to abandon himself not to what he is (homosexually endowed—which is the version of his fear), or is he going to abandon himself to love the person he loves, male or not.

That is the question that overhangs the story.

The treatment of it in this film is no small matter because of the brilliance of the film itself. The story starts with two young men, just before the start of their careers as professional soccer players, as they hang out in their hotel room in their skivvies. They present themselves to us and to one another as rowdy, straight, nineteen-year-olds.

A great deal of pornography exists depicting the really easy seduction of straight males into homosexual acts.

Easy, why?

Because male sexuality has no particular gender attached to it—it responds to whatever hand touches it. And these two young men jest violently about sex, although never about sex with one another. Rather, sex is mocked. That enables both of them in their romps to throw the subject of homosexuality up into the air—although the only option available to them then is to raise their shoguns and shoot it down.

We have no sense in this tomfoolery that behind the clay pigeons fly doves.

Nope. What we see is two young fellows horsing around and nothing more.

It comes as a surprise to me then when, out of the blue they kiss one another, and mean it.

This it seems to me the one defect of an execution which in other respects is fascinating.

I don’t know where the fault lies. It seems that the story needs to be told from Jason’s point of view. Instead it is told from the camera’s point of view. It becomes a story about Jason, rather than a story of what is going on inside him at any given time. Tell it, not from the outside-in, but instead from the inside out. However, perhaps the play itself dictates otherwise.

But it is hard to linger any further on this matter when what the film offers overrides it. It is superbly performed by the four actors in it, Arinze Kene, Lisa McGrillis, and Nico Miraleggro. It is brilliantly written. It is perfectly filmed. Its settings, properties, and costumes are tops.

I would like to talk on and on about these excellencies. For they are two-fold.

The first fold would include everything named just above and would include the acting, which I will talk about, if I have sufficient wit.

The second fold is the one I won’t talk about, for that fold is the film’s power to give us so much to talk about, so much to mull, to come back to. It opens up questions never opened up so honorably before. And that is its goal, task, virtue, and cunning. It does not propose to answer such questions. It simply spreads them before us to partake.

The acting of The Pass is immensely interesting to me. I wonder if this material wasn’t at one time a stage play for four actors. I wonder how these actors all of whom are strangers to me got to be cast in parts in which they are beyond perfect. I am baffled by each of them. The story their acting tells us is so engrossing that I sit back in wonderment at the same time that I sit forward in wonderment.

The actor who plays Jason, offers a smile so dazzlingly beautiful and natural to him that one cannot but almost overlook that this smile invites one in, at the same time that it declares I-do-not-mean-it. He is the landlord of a terrible charm. His smile is a master of seduce-and-abandon.

Each act of the film is years on from the one before. And one sees in each the heart of this actor playing Jason wither as his fear for his success in the big business of soccer is met by his need to risk the act that will ruin it.

The actor is so good looking I wonder as I watch why he should feel any other male’s superiority—and perhaps he is drawn to it only to ruin it. Why does a character do this?

Because an actor exists capable of playing it. You witness the character’s cathedral of manipulations because the actor is willing to abandon his eyes to them. Just to watch him is to wonder!

The actor fools his face in fun, he wells with the truth of a lost value, he prances and threatens and laughs off everything. It is as though the playwright dictated every response and move. It is as though the actor writes the script as it goes. The character is beyond belief, beyond one’s own deserts, alive!

I watch each move as the actor abandons himself to the strictures of the role. There is no hero in this story, but The Daring To Love. And the suspense is: will he miss out? The strength of the actor’s performance is to abandon itself to a weakness which alerts us to the possibility of its very opposite.

My praise of Russel Tovey’s performance after only one viewing can only be clumsy, so I cease. I have seen very good acting in films this year—Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, and Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy, for one—but Russell Tovey’s acting in The Pass is also acting on the highest level—fresh, apt, secure, and abandoned to the rubric of the acting craft—with this difference: the stakes of the story are for me closer to home.

The life-question asked here is: if work is the calling, a calling which requires abandonment to it, can, in the same life, abandonment to love also be the calling?

Perhaps that’s not fair. Perhaps that an imposition of my personal code on the subject of The Pass, whose truth may lie elsewhere.

But then, that is the virtue of this film. It promotes such questions. It bestirs one with its relevancy. It is two-fold.

See for yourself.

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