The hypnotic gay romance “End of the Century” is the best film of the year. Opening Oct. 4 at Landmark’s Ritz at the Bourse, it begins when Ocho (Juan Barberini) arrives in Barcelona, eventually hooking up with the irresistible Javi (Ramon Pujol). Their tryst is erotic but becomes more complicated when Javi says, “We’ve met before.” Cut to 20 years earlier when Ocho and Javi (still played by Barberini and Pujol) first meet. A third part of the film considers a possible future for the characters.
Out gay writer-director Lucio Castro’s film unfolds deliberately, wrestling with time, memory and imagination in ways that will seduce viewers. Via Skype, openly gay Ramon Pujol talked about the film and how he approached playing Javi.
“My performance was about creating how my character feels about Ocho in each segment of the film. What I focused on was how I related to him. That may be the chemistry I had with Juan — how do you feel in each part of a relationship with someone? In the first part, it’s relating to a stranger. In the second part, it’s more friendship, and easygoing, but he turns you on … The third part, you’ve been with someone for 20 years …”
The chemistry between the leads is incredible as Javi and Ocho fall in love on screen. The way Pujol’s Javi looks at Ocho in certain scenes shows the depth of his fascination and attraction. A scene of the men dancing is absolutely enchanting. Pujol, however, revealed no secrets as to how he accomplished this. He demurred, “We did nothing in particular. Juan and I met the day before we started shooting. Though we are different people and actors, we had something in common in the way we both work. Sometimes you have that chemistry and sometimes you have to pretend or build it. Juan is a very good actor; you look at him and there are things happening in his eyes. When we looked at each other, it worked. It just happened. You can’t force it, but when you feel it, you have to use it.”
Part of the film’s charm is seeing the couple’s relationship develop across time, first by cruising and sex, and then in their initial encounter, and beyond. This narrative appealed to Pujol, who said, “It’s about relationships and time, and how we relate to others. The film gives you options and you choose what you think it reflects. It talks about gay relationships and hookups, and how we relate to each other. [In] the first section Ocho uses Grindr, and in the second, he bumps into Javi, who is the boyfriend of the girl he’s staying with. The film shows how, [before technology], we did things differently in terms of relationships and hookups. Now we are more connected through the internet.”
“End of the Century” also investigates the possibilities of life. Pujol observed, “If you pay too much attention to what you love, or want, life takes you in a different direction. Enjoy what happens and be happy with what you get. Try to get what you want, but don’t get mad if you don’t. Be honest with where you are and what you feel.”
Judging by the critical and commercial success of the film, “End of the Century” has many admirers. Pujol is also bolstered by Javi being his first co-starring screen role. Having performed mainly on television and in theatre, he hopes it will lead to more leading parts in films. The actor wants to make work that sends a positive message to the LGBTQ-plus community. He declared, “I want to do things that are useful for us, and that I enjoy, or trust or believe in.”
And while Pujol does not reveal much from his personal life, he does admit to having some experiences that reflect the relationship between Javi and Ocho. He confessed, “Sometimes you want someone, and they leave; sometimes they want you to be there and you leave. I’ve been in both situations, and I’ve been in other situations that are more complicated. There’s something to that in the way all of us live.”
“End of the Century” depicts the complexities of relationships beautifully and with heart. Pujol’s breakout performance, as well as the craft of the film, will make viewers melt.