IIFF 2010: Dirty Mind


To help you narrow down the Indy Film Fest selection, we've chosen five films in the international category to recommend. Here's one of those five...

Dirty Mind: The Rise and Fall of Tony T.

Director: Pieter Van Hees

Cast: Wim Helsen, Robby Cleiren, Peter van den Begin, Kristine van Pellicom

Belgium, 102 mins.

(Flemish with English sub-titles)

When a film stunt leaves him with a head injury, mild-mannered Diego is transformed into his dynamite alter ego Tony T. (TNT). But the accident transforms more than Diego's behavior - it also affects relationships with everyone in his life.

As the film begins, a pathetic Diego is yearning for the means to be a man. Or at least a different kind of man. While attending a new age masculinity workshop, he's encouraged to find opportunities to release his inner tiger. The advice (and its accompanying homoerotic massage) is interrupted by a phone call from brother/business partner Cisse who needs Diego's assistance with a stunt. When Diego falls from a window and misses the landing pad, voila! - Tony T., Diego's inner tiger, is let loose.

In this case, Tony the tiger is an egomaniac incapable of empathy. Which is why it doesn't take long for his swagger and confidence to transform from magnetic to repulsive. You can only be an asshole so long, it turns out, before the new wears off and you're alone - just like the shy guy who annoys everyone with his constant apologies.

From the moment he wakes up in the hospital following his injury, the doctors are trying to convince Tony to consent to an experimental operation and go back to being Diego. It's not an easy sell, particularly when the pleas to make medical history are interrupted by Tony's efforts to apparently make sexual history by scoring with every female in sight. Beyond the obvious humor provided by a female doctor and obnoxious Tony's romantic/sexual tension, the film raises larger questions about the role of science and need to medicate and mediate impulses and behavior deemed unacceptable or undesirable.

The cast is pitch-perfect, particularly Wim Helsen's balanced portrayal of the unbalanced Diego and Tony. He hilariously moves the character between the two extremes of his personality without resorting to extreme acting. And even when Tony is at his most unbelievably arrogant and insensitive, he's disconcertingly believable.

There's enough romance, comedy, sex and car crashes to keep just about everyone interested here, and the Big Questions posed by the film's underlying themes are relevant and unresolved enough to spark lively conversation. Mild warning, however, this one heavily relies on sub-titles. Not a distraction for those who don't mind them, but could be a major hurdle to those who do.

Bottom line: A quirky farce exploring masculine stereotypes and desires in the guise of a brain injury. Irony abounds.


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