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'Summer Storm'

Gays and straights alike must have had it by now with coming-out movies, which, however well-intentioned, follow a familiar trajectory from torment to celebration. Marco Kreuzpaintner's quasi-autobiographical Summer Storm is a double surprise—a coming-out movie with brains and flair, from Germany, where gays in recent mainstream films have been rent boys, drag queens, or drug addicts, and mostly the subject of bad jokes. Best-friend teens Tobi (Robert Stadlober) and Achim (Kostja Ullmann), members of a successful Bavarian rowing team, arrive for the big yearly regatta and learn that the competitive Berlin women's team has been replaced by an athletic all-gay male team called "the Queerstrokes." (QueerSchlag does in fact exist—the actors trained with the gay team to develop their rowing skills.) After an uneasy beginning marked by traded insults—for the Berlin "fairies," the Bavarians are "hillbillies"—Tobi and his teammates begin to grapple with their prejudices and hidden longings. One of the film's major assets is Stadlober's winningly natural performance—his moody charisma is irresistible.


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