Palette Magazine

In Tune: Reviews of Difficult Women, Jesús and Xiu Xiu

By Gregg Shapiro

Xiu Xiu;
Xiu Xiu;

Outsiders can be a strange bunch. Sometimes perplexing, often alluring, the characters that populate these selections, give us license to step outside our own comfort zones and explore.


Complex Creatures

There is no shortage of characters worthy of the title in Difficult Women (Grove Press, 2017), the short story collection by award-winning bisexual Haitian-American novelist, essayist and memoirist Roxane Gay.

Set in a gated community, the dishy and dark “Florida” features one of the married female residents exploring erotic same-sex pleasures at the brothel being run out of the community spa. In the multi-section “How,” we learn just how Hanna became involved with Laura. In “Baby Arm,” a woman’s relationship with a female co-worker takes an entirely unexpected turn.

Gay is as skilled at short-short story writing, as she is at creating longer pieces that leave readers shaken, including the devastating “Break All The Way Down.”


Broken Boys

In Fernando Guzzoni’s Jesús (Breaking Glass), bored bisexual Chilean high school student Jesús (Nicolás Durán) prefers performing dance-routines to studying or thinking about his future. He also enjoys drinking in excess, huffing and watching violent videos.

With his mother dead, he lives with his father, Héctor (Alejandro Goic), with whom he has a strained relationship. It doesn’t help much that Jesús lies to his father on a regular basis, but Héctor is not exactly parent of the year either. He can be violent and doesn’t approve of his son’s friends, including Beto and Pizzaro. He’d be even more disapproving of Pizzaro if he knew that he and Jesús were once lovers.

On one especially drunken night, after being kicked out of a club, Jesús and his buddies beat a drunk gay teen so badly the boy ends up in a coma. Friends turn on each other and, as it turns out, family may not be all that dependable either.

Sexually graphic and violent, Jesús excels at capturing the destructive ennui that takes hold of teenagers who lack supervision or a sense of direction. But writer/director Guzzoni’s self-indulgence and inability to bring a scene to an effective and timely close works against whatever message he is trying to convey. Even at a scant 85 minutes, Jesús feels entirely too long.

Jesús is one of the LGBTQ titles being screened at the Miami Film Festival this March.


Musical Souls

You could never accuse Xiu Xiu of being accessible. Daringly experimental? Yes. Always.

Formed and still led by queer musician Jamie Stewart, Xiu Xiu has challenged and rewarded listeners with every album, sometimes even within the same song. Featuring a stellar line-up of guest artists, including drag legend Vaginal Davis, Forget (Polyvinyl) may actually be the band’s most broadly appealing release to date.

“Get Up” is practically a pop song, and the adult language of the EDM/hip-hop hybrid, “The Call,” might earn Xiu Xiu a whole new audience. Dance beats rule on the wondrous “Wondering” and the unforgettable title cut. “Jenny Gogo” plays like a tribute to the late Alan Vega and synth-minimalists Suicide, while “Queen of the Losers” pays homage to Low and Lodger-era Bowie.