What do you get when you put together a ravenously promiscuous young man, a latex suit, explicit sex, kidnapping, a mental breakdown and a live rabbit? O Fantasma! It’s still one of the strangest and sexiest gay films we’ve ever seen (and we’re saying that a whole eighteen years later).
Co-written and directed by João Pedro Rodrigues, who went on to helm the films Two Drifters, To Die Like a Man and the recent mind-fuck The Ornithologist, O Fantasma centers around twenty-something Sergio (Ricardo Meneses), a Lisbon trash collector on the graveyard shift who is a societal “phantom” – one who collects the rubbish of others and eradicates it under a darkened sky.
Sergio is promiscuous both on and off the job. When he’s not working, he is consumed by an insatiable uncontrollable desire. His sexual escapades are furtive, intense and out of the ordinary. Although his good looks usually get him the objects of his desire, one day Sergio approaches someone who isn’t interested, and from there he grows more and more obsessed, going to extreme lengths – including a fetishistic embrace of the young man’s thrown-out underwear and motorcycle gloves – to claim his prey.
Originally released in 2000, O Fantasma still has the power to shock. It’s really one of those “you have to see it to believe it” propositions. It culminates in one of the oddest mental breakdowns ever depicted in a queer film. Restrained yet uncompromising, beautifully shot, neo-realist in style and pace, and utilizing a cast of professionals and non-professionals, this feature film debut offers up an unflinching look at the dark side of passion. At the time, Rodrigues proved himself a filmmaker to watch – and that continues to be true. While it didn’t make much of a splash outside of the gay community, some critics at the time caught onto it’s insane wavelength. Film Comment and The Los Angeles Times both praised it as one of that year’s ten best films.
After a long time out of print, Strand Releasing is bringing this classic piece of transgressive LGBTQ cinema back to home video. We’re thrilled to see it again. Check out the original trailer below and click here to order your copy. It’s out on DVD starting this week.