Men to Kiss serves as a reminder that (unlike in real life) the gays have it relatively easy when it comes to foreign-language cinema making the leap to the U.S. After the run in their home countries has concluded, many films have a good chance of playing America's Gay & Lesbian film festival circuit. That exposure comes with inevitable interest from queer-friendly home video distributors like Wolfe, Ariztical, and TLA Releasing - who packaged the American DVD edition of this 2012 German comedy. The system gives exposure to a lot of films that wouldn't normally happen, which is a great thing - but it also makes me wonder if other films are getting shut out in the process. Putting it simply, had the plot of Men to Kiss been about straight people, a fun yet deeply flawed trifle like this likely would have never left its home country.
When it comes to gayness, Men to Kiss (a.k.a. Männer Zum Knutschen) ladles it on thick with a frantic, farcical plot reminiscent of the dumb/enjoyable Eating Out franchise. The story concentrates on a couple of thirtyish guys living in Berlin. Conservative, serious Ernst (Frank Christian Marx) and flamboyant, frivolous Tobi (Udo Lutz) have apparently been together for a few years, still in the fun stage but willing to take their relationship further. Their first scene together sets up the film's too-cute mood, with Tobi delivering a meal to Ernst's debt collecting office while pretending to be a client in front of Ernst's appalled co-workers. The easygoing Ernst is immediately accepted into Tobi's clique of outgoing friends, which include Steffi (Sascia Haj), a straight gal-pal with a much younger boyfriend, and Leopold (Marcel Schutt), a man whose only function appears to be standing around, grinning, and looking cute. The group's dynamic is upset, however, with the arrival in town of Ernst's childhood friend Uta (Alexandra Starnitzky). While Ernst is happy to reconnect with Uta after she left Germany to work in Washington DC, Tobi and his friends are taken aback by her pretentious dress, quirky manners, and condescending behavior. When Uta threatens Tobi with bodily harm and worms her way into becoming Ernst's roommate, Tobi and his friends (along with his manly mom) stake out an intricate plan to out-sass the sassy interloper - and get Ernst back where he belongs.
Men to Kiss suffers from a weird dissonance in tone, which only emphasizes how amateurishly made it is. The grab-bag attempts at cartoony, over-the-top farce fail because they don't push nearly hard enough for extreme, low-brow laughs. Other scenes have a more straightforward, romantic angle, which comes across as wimpy and half-assed. Even more upsetting is how the film portrays Tobi and his clique as a bitchy, shallow group completely intolerant of outsiders (not very gay of them, is it?). Instead of having Tobi experience a change of heart and some redemption for his closed-mindedness, the film makes Ernst out as the guilty party for daring to share a meaningful part of his past with his partner (even if it does take on the form of a psycho harpy from hell).
The actors who played the leads in Men to Kiss, Frank Christian Marx and Udo Lutz, also co-produced this film (along with Andre Scheider, who plays the smaller role of Tobi's pal Alexander). Marx and Lutz both did a decent enough job with their onscreen roles. As producers, however, they needed to reign it in and find ways to make this admittedly intriguing story more cohesive and believable. The film has the loose, unstructured feel of buddies just making a movie and improvising as it goes along - which is its main problem. That's especially true when it comes to Ernst's attempts to win back Tobi, a climactic back-and-forth drawn out to interminable length. Just get it over with and be done, guys.
Men to Kiss was digitally photographed, then processed to appear celluloid-like. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image has a warm, clean appearance. The only issues I saw was that the lighter levels appear blown-out at times, otherwise it looks fine.
The film's subtitled stereo 5.1 German language soundtrack is the only audio option here. A few scenes use incidental sound effects that come out of a side speaker, but by and large the surround is sparingly used.
An American trailer for the film is included, along with a 24-minute Making-Of Featurette which couldn't play on my Blu Ray player (it did work on the computer's DVD-ROM drive, however). A few trailers for other TLA Releasing products auto-play at disc insert.
The existence of trying-too-hard German comedy Men to Kiss proves that shoddily made indie gay comedies aren't just an American thing. A kernel of a good idea - what happens when an eccentric interloper intrudes on a couple's relationship? - gets thoroughly screwed up with bad acting, a nonsensical plot, jarring shifts in tone, and more padding than a RuPaul's Drag Race contestant. This one should have never left Berlin, folks. Skip It.
Matt Hinrichs is a designer, artist and sometime writer who lives in sunny (and usually too hot) Phoenix, Arizona. Among his loves are oranges, going barefoot and blonde 1930s movie comedienne Joyce Compton. Since 2000, he has been scribbling away at Pop Culture weblog Scrubbles.net. One can also follow him on Twitter @4colorcowboy.