A gay affair between an aging writer and a streetwise hustler who exploits him, Men In The Nude is a midlife crisis drama that seems tailored for the gay market but is not quite certain how comfortably it will fit in this niche.
Old-fashioned storytelling, a plot which, had the seducer been female instead of male, would have rated it a hopeless potboiler, and misguided performances all make this a letdown from veteran film-maker Karoly Esztergalyos.
The distinction of probably being the first Hungarian mainstream picture to openly tackle homosexuality may help it grab more festival bookings after appearances at Hungarian Film Week and in Panorama at Berlin: careful handling may lead to a modest commercial career. But the approach feels outdated, melodramatic and innocent for the modern day.
Tibor (Galffi), a fiftysomething writer whose career and married life are at a low point, is left home alone while his wife, Edit (Kerekes) a fading actress, is on tour. Failing to pick up a young waitress, he ends up in a bookstore where he signs one of his books for Zsolt (David Szabo), a handsome young admirer.
He is lured into taking the boy home and, after one night of passionately intensive activity, Tibor is smitten - despite every indication that Zsolt is a male prostitute out for a fast buck.
Once Edit comes home, her career in shambles and desperate for comfort, the affair takes another twist. Tibor, not about to admit his homosexuality, borrows the flat of his editor for a midday fling, suggesting to his boss later he might write a novel about what he insinuates is a heterosexual affair. Instead his boss suggests a gay affair might make for a better read.
Zsolt seduces Edit as well to defuse any notion that Tibor's infatuation is reciprocated; she discovers her husband's secret by reading his manuscript, conveniently left on the table. After having been fed countless humiliations, Tibor accepts how he has been ruthlessly exploited.
Esztergalyos seems only too willing to apply old melodramatic heterosexual cliches to a love story he obviously considers more risque than his audience will, but he never generates the necessary commitment to convince us of his passion.
Laszlo Galffi's Tibor is too passive and world-weary to elicit any sympathy while David Szabo's excessive conduct turns Zsolt into a male vamp parody. References to Wagner's Tristan And Isolde and Death In Venice only underline the shortcomings. Technical credits are adequate.