Gianni Amelio was in his late sixties when he came out as gay a few years ago. The announcement preceded the release of his documentary “Happy to Be Different,” which worked toward an overriding sunniness in contemplating the trials and challenges of being gay in Italy at various points in the 20th century. In turning to a gay-themed narrative project, Amelio narrows the focus and dims the mood: “Lord of the Ants” takes as its subject the gay Italian author Aldo Braibanti, and the social and legal opposition he faced over his sexuality in mid-1960s Rome. Solemn, stately and perhaps a little stifled, it’s the kind of queer statement you might expect from a veteran filmmaker who wasn’t until relatively recently out and proud, and is rather poignant for that.
In a key scene, the middle-aged Braibanti (played with urbane grace by Luigi Lo Cascio) takes his twentysomething lover and protege Ettore (Leonardo Maltese) to a private party hosted by an elder statesman of Rome’s gay glitterati. “Why all that excess?” asks the young man, professing himself baffled by guests’ brashly flamboyant dress and behavior. “Homosexuals lose all their inhibitions when free from the judgment of other people,” answers his soft-spoken mentor. “I am not like them, but I am like them.”…
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