Hard Paint (review)


Hard Paint is now available to buy.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Slipping under the radar in a summer full of popcorn fodder is a melancholic Brazilian gem exploring the internal and social isolation of Brazil’s LGBTQ community. Winner of the C.I.C.A.E. Award at the Berlinale Film Festival in 2018, Hard Paint finally receives a limited UK cinema release through Curzon. Directors Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon explore themes of gay identity and belonging in a country of political and social extremes, taking us on a journey of self-discovery and isolation through the world of online sex.

Pedro (Shico Menegat) is a lonely, gay young man whose life is thrown off course after assaulting a boy who bullied him in college. Unemployed and judged by the community surrounding him, Pedro earns money through erotic online performances. He covers his body in fluorescent paint while dancing in front of the webcam for the pleasure of a remote community. Pedro’s world may seem like a mix of online bravery, eroticism and colour, but his anxiety, isolation and fear sit behind this facade. His alter ego, ‘Neon Boy,’ provides a vent of self-expression in a claustrophobic city of judgement and limited opportunities.

When Pedro discovers that another online amateur is using his trademark neon paint while stealing his hard-earned viewers, he decides to arrange a meeting with the mystery man. Enter Leo (Bruno Fernandes), a local dance student striving for success and the money to move out of Porto Alegre. Unlike Pedro, Leo is confident in his sexual orientation offline and online while surrounded by close friends. But as the two become more intimate, a decision to perform together will forge a relationship beyond the webcam world of neon paint.

Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon deliver an unapologetically erotic film by combining grainy webcam footage with the vivid reality of inner-city life. Porto Alegre’s buildings act as cages for both young men, with the online world their only escape from the claustrophobic community of secrets surrounding them. Both young men search for escape, Leo through dance and Pedro through self-acceptance and a newfound esteem in Leo’s arms. However, this journey is wrapped in a blanket of melancholy as the avenues open to both boys differ due to past events.

There are no easy answers offered in the journey both young men take, and for Pedro, this is further highlighted by the oncoming trial and repercussions he may face. For some, Hard Paint may lack the answers they feel they deserve in its conclusion. However, as a portrait of the internal and external turmoil of self-identity and escape, it delivers a fascinating and hypnotic exploration of sexuality, desire and belonging.

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