Wednesday, June 12, 2024

‘Dino at the Beach’ A Wistful Summer Fling

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I’ve had the pleasure of watching Josh Cox grow more and more confident as a filmmaker since his debut feature, Summer of Mesa. Impressive considering his first feature Cox already exuded a mature confidence lacking in most debuts. With each passing movie, Cox shows himself as a director able to blend impressionistic and observational instincts into evocative odes of yearning.

Dino at the Beach, his latest, is no different. It is a short film, ten minutes, that evokes a sense of desire, tenderness, and sex. The film plays like an intimate memory. Like a visual postcard with “Thinking of you” scrawled on the back. 

dino at the beach
Sebastian (Mateo Correa) and Dino (Devon McDowell) finally introduce each other

Per usual, Cox has done everything from the writing to the camerawork and the editing. Both a burden and luxury of the low-budget films, it allows Cox to make his movies his own.

Cox frames every scene with deliberation yet somehow manages to feel like he’s just caught his characters living their lives. Likewise, his actors Devon McDowell as Dino and Mateo Correa as Sebastian have a way of inhabiting and being present in the moment. Combine this with how Cox has lit his film, awash with saturated brightness. I am not sure if Cox shot on film or digital in a way to mimic film, either way, Dino at the Beach has a feeling of a movie starring Marie Dubois.

Indeed, Cox’s camera treats Correa and McDowell in much the same way. One shot has Correa’s crotch in the frame, giving Dino at the Beach a voyeuristic vibe as it’s not the camera ogling Sebastian but Dino. However, Cox gives us a coy scene of the two men lying beside each other on the beach, with clear erections.

Another scene has Dino unsure and hesitant as Sebastian begins undressing, only to give in. Correa and McDowell have a simmering chemistry with one another. They feel each other out through glances and words before finally giving in to the moment.

It’s the dance of two gay men on a beach trying to feel the other one out. The coy Dino is flustered and taken with the brash and outgoing Dino. Dino at the Beach is about two men meeting, having sex, and saying goodbye. The yearning in the film doesn’t come from a carnality. Instead, it is a longing for emotional intimacy.

dino at the beach
Dino (McDowell) and Sebastian (Correa) say goodbye

Cox tinges Dino at the Beach with a sad fondness, luxuriating in tiny moments and physical touches. The actual sex scene is held in a single shot, with Cox choosing to focus on McDowell’s face as he writhes on the blanket from Dino’s oral ministrations. All the while, Asher Fulero’s score gently underpins the sensuality of the moment.

Fulero’s music helps add the sense of memory that pulsates throughout Dino at the Beach. Gives the film a sense of Sebastian remembering the time he met a cute boy and the beach and perhaps wishing they did more than have sex. Though perhaps not. 

The final shot of Correa’s Sebastian, as he watches Dino ride off, speaks of a desire and wistfulness. But Cox, unlike many directors today, is comfortable with ambiguity, leaving it up to us what that smirk means. 

Images courtesy of Americana Pictures

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