Madagascar Skin: Chris Newby’s Erotic Tale

Madagascar Skin, Chris Newby’s movie, begins in a raunchy gay bar, in which every man is handsome. Except for Harry, an outcast with a huge birthmark (the shape of Madagascar) on his face. He joins some sex play in the dark, but when the lights go up he’s rejected.

Harry takes off to the sea, intending to begin a new life away from urban alienation. Walking on the beach, he rescues Flint, a badly beaten man buried up to his neck in the sand. Harry and the much older, seemingly heterosexual Flint have nothing in common, but slowly they get to know each–and fall in love.

This may sound as an earnest saga but make no mistakes, the film has a light comic touch. It’s certainly not as schematic as Kiss of the Spider Woman, nor agenda-driven as Strawberries and Chocolate, two recent films that celebrated camaraderie between gays and straights.

An intimate chamber piece for two, with minimal dialogue but rich visual imagery, the movie has its share of slow moments. But give it a try, see how Newby depicts with glances and gestures how the initial distrust changes into passionate love.

Exotic and often erotic, Madagascar Skin is a small subversive film running against the grain of mainstream cinema.