‘After Louie’ subverts narrative significance, promising first feature for director Vincent Gagliostro

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Editor’s Note: The arts and entertainment department is adjusting its grading scale from a letter-grade system to a numeric score out of 5. This change is intended to increase accuracy and consistency between reviews.

There’s an intrinsic undertone paired to the adjective “directionless.” It somehow brings to mind a critique of purpose, as if a directionless film is synonymous with a purposeless one. But directionless films, films that don’t flaunt a cramped linear narrative, are sometimes the most subtle; they can achieve a floating quality because they are not pinned down to a certain takeaway or process. Directionless films compel each viewer to find a conclusion for themselves and so are sometimes the most powerful in their breadth of communication. “After Louie” felt directionless.

As the debut feature of director Vincent Gagliostro starring Alan Cumming (2017 Frameline Award recipient), David Drake and Zachary Booth, among other prominent LGBTQ actors, “After Louie” substituted a concise and captivating narrative thread for a consolidation of moments.

Sam (Cumming) is a New York artist stalling as he reaches for his sixties. He fills his minutes with cigarettes and folds the clothes of the 30-year-olds he takes home at night. When Sam meets Braeden (Booth) in a bar, the singular physical intimacy of their relationship morphs to an emotional one as Sam begins to see Braeden as a muse for his prolonged video project about ACT UP and the death of his lover William (Drake) from AIDS.

Generational differences within the gay community are represented through the changes and conversations that define Sam and Braeden’s relationship, but there are no filmic transitions to solidify the significance of these generational differences, only their existence. In the absence of a clear thematic construct, each scene can feel somewhat like an isolated portrait, and the pace of “After Louie” can sometimes tip to lethargic. But the lack of driving narrative momentum in the film to the point of lethargy is simultaneously what makes it beautiful.

There’s a closing scene — a point in the movie when a more complete final statement would usually surface — in which Sam hosts a birthday party for himself. Instead of using that time when all the central characters are present to unfold some more pointed interactions, Gagliostro lets Sam drift around the the loft space among refracting disco ball light, solidifying nothing. Sam says goodbye to Braeden as he leaves the party, but there is no way to tell definitively whether it’s a goodbye for now or for forever — much like how Sam’s own video project “After Louie” is left feeling unfinished.

Olivia Jerram covers music. Contact her at [email protected].