Now I have read all the press on Powder, and I went to go see it, completely forgetting about the director’s spotty personal past. I want to say at the outset that at no time did I find Powder to be homoerotic–the scene many reviewers describe as the camera lingering over the hot body of one of Powder’s fellow students I had interpreted, sitting in the theatre, as a very Elephant-Man-like moment of envy on Jeremy (Powder)’s part–he wanted to have hair on his body and head and skin colored skin and be normal and to be accepted, as we all do, even if only at some point. The camera looks at the student lovingly but also enviously–who among us has not at some point, particularly in adolescence, seen something in someone and wished to have that effortless beauty or to fit in. I did find the scene to be a tad sexy, but no more sexy than any shot of an attractive young man. There are so many comparably lingering shots of women in film these days, I wonder that this take in particular was so dissected.
What all the sources I have read have neglected to point out is that Sean Patrick Flannery (formerly TV’s Young Indiana Jones, and he reflects the talents of the late River Phoenix, also a young Indiana Jones) is really very good in this film. The hoopla has been all about how personal a vision this was for Victor Salva and how homoerotic it all was–I actually found Batman Forever to be far more homoerotic than this film. I don’t believe that a man (Jeff Goldblum, playing a remarkably intuitive teacher) reaching out to a young man like Jeremy, who is clearly so isolated and tortured and who no one touches and everyone fears, is particularly sexual in any way. Powder’s character is very unreal and different and he is isolated in experience and in phsyical conact. Only three people in the film touch him with any degree of care or tenderness and only one is male. All the other men treat him generally with cruely or at least disgust.
The film, as a cinematic work, is flawed, certainly; I felt there were scenes and motivations excised that would have made the entire work more coherent and interesting, but the moments were all very genuine and the performances were overall consistent and real. An extremely touching moment was when Powder uses his abilities for Lance Henriksen and is greeted with good feelings instead of fear and hatred. I wanted people to at least catch this film in a matinee or to rent it later to appreciate the work that was done, rather than the crimes its director once committed. If you don’t know what they were, I won’t detail them here as the purpose of this review is to turn away the prejudice. It is a fair film, but it has exceptionally strong work coming from Sean Patrick Flannery in particular. I encourage people to give it a chance.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 1995
Time in minutes 111
Director Victor Salva
Studio Buena Vista