›› Aleksandr's Price
a film by Pau Masó.
2013 | 108 mins | US.
principal players: Pau Masó / Aleksandr, Anatoli Grek / Dr Mary, Josh Berresford / Keith, Samantha Glovin / Emma, Keith Dougherty / Tom, Olivier Canovas / Nathan, Roland Max / John, Terrence Hewitt / the Host, Marc I Daniels / the Cop, Roy Pollack / Kyle and with Aleksandra Myrna as Aleksandr's mother and Hona Gordon as Nikolay.
Adapted Synopsis: "Aleksandr is an illegal Russian immigrant living alone in New York City. Traumatized by the death of his mother and with money in short supply, Aleksandr reluctantly takes a job as a go-go dancer to make ends meet, only to discover that it is a slippery slope that for him leads to turning tricks for the night, as a seemingly straight man is forced to come to terms with who he sexually is and moreover, who he wants to be."
The descent into a downward spiral of drink, drugs and prostitution is a grim narrative that cinematically has been played many times before, yet rarely with the profound despondency seen here, given this is an anguish laden account of a man pushed to the edge of his own sanity, by the ugly underbelly of the sex trade.
Not that I have any issues with the subject; a sadly all too true to life tale. Rather it's the delivery of the story that I have bother with. Told in flashback, Masó's lines to camera, more often than not with his psychologist, are but narrative links to his next sexual encounter, of which there are one too many, (more were edited out), each more predatory than what went before and which add nothing to character development. All of which makes for a feature that has the look and feel of a collection of simulated sex scenes; rather than a compelling insight into the mind of a lost soul, of which this is clearly not. Oddly however and in a film that revolves around sex and masturbation, (here as stress relief), Masó is remarkably coy when it comes to such, given male nudity, certainly from below the waist, is not on show.
On a slippery slope in Aleksandr's Price.
What is on show however is far more disturbing. Abandoned by his father and later by his sister, mentally scarred by his mother's suicide and seemingly with no other option but to sell his body to survive in a city with few friends to call, such is the downbeat picture that writer, director, editor, producer and star of the show Pau Masó paints of his protagonist, that just when you think that things cannot get any worse for Aleksandr, you can bet your last bottom dollar, they do. And here cut to a closing scene that should have been as emotional, as rightly shocking. Unfortunately Masó silences the key dialogue during the closing act with a horrendous machine-like soundtrack, one that killed both the scene and the climax of the film itself, (reflected in the rating), forcing you to rush for the mute switch, that is if you haven't already reached out to call the Samaritans.
Things can only get worse in Aleksandr's Price.
On a positive note, the "alone in a city" aspect of the piece is nicely captured in a series of haunting images of The Big Apple, whilst Josh Berresford is on fine form as a client who Aleksandr falls for, but who is already taken - the "straight" way. Yet Masó overplays the "used and abused" commentary, (oh, did I mention date rape), opting to make a bleak picture worse by a series of blurring effects, together with a number of surreal inserts. That this is equally an acute meditation on loneliness; that of the yearning for company of a young man who cannot accept help from those that lovingly offer him the hand of friendship, is not in doubt. Yet what you are left with is a raw depiction of the self-loathing of a lost soul who hates himself for having sex for money, yet is either unable or unwilling to leave the male-for-sale world behind. And if all this sounds depressing to you, then frankly - it is.
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - from the waist up.
Overall - file under ... 1 star.