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Twin Town


Why do so many gays desire to see twins getting it on or, for that matter, find love and sex with their own mirror image? Evidence "Dopplebangers" (in urban dictionary terms), couples who do themselves up like twins, from hairstyle to wardrobe to even (shudder) manscaping. And then there's the popular Czech gay porn that a friend recently pointed out featuring bona fide twink twins indulging in illicit acts with each other (surely those lads urgently needed the money for their mother's life-saving surgery... right?).

I'm discussing the issue/phenomenon outside Raidd, a gay bar in Paris's tres-gay Le Marais district, with film director Pascal-Alex Vincent, whose feature debut, Give Me Your Hand, dips into said territory. Following a pair of handsome, young French twins as they travel across the countryside and explore their sexuality -- and the resulting conflicts -- Vincent injects explicit queerness and plays up the homoerotic aspect. Mind you, Hand doesn't push the incest envelope as far as the aforementioned Czech porn, but those into brotherly love fantasies will find themselves titillated.

The twins in question are Alexandre and Victor Carril, born and bred Le Marais locals famed for their public, and frequent, violent brawls with each other. Real crowd-getters. "They don't have sex together, that's for sure," Vincent volunteers. "They don't like to be asked that question, either. But whenever we go to film festivals, and sometimes I go to vacation with them, they never want to sleep in different bedrooms. They want to sleep in the same bedroom all the time. They have a very merged way of being."

Raised in a rural town, the Le Marais-based Vincent spent his first 10 years in the film business working in distribution. Encouragement from Gallic auteur Francois Ozon that he should flex his own creative muscles on celluloid unleashed a beast. A crop of shorts followed, peppered with animation (notably the Japanimation tribute Candy Boy), dance numbers, fantastical imagery, and young, cute gay characters.

Obsessed with the Carrils from afar and hoping to feature them in his 2005 short film Baby Shark, an admitted Larry Clark homage marked by infrequently clothed pretty young things and spasms of lust and violence, Vincent and his producer plastered the neighborhood with casting flyers to draw them out. The scheme worked.

"We got on well together and became friends," Vincent recalls, "and I was thinking they deserve a whole feature film because outside of their immediate physical impact they carry a very powerful, strong story. The first thing I did for Hand was to interview them for hours, but I interviewed them separately because when together they always fight." After listening to their stories, a semi-improvised film outline emerged and the gang hit the road.

A month or so prior to meeting Vincent in Paris, I sat down for a chat with the twins in a Manhattan hotel and casually mentioned their resemblance to Daniel Day Lewis. "You're not the first person to say so!" Alexandre responded to my observation, adding, "We not only love him, but he happens to be our mother's favorite actor, so it's an excellent compliment to both us and our mother."

Physically, they're identical. They share a single driver's license and Paris Metro card. Superficially, their appearances are distinguished by flourishes rather than grand gestures. Necklaces crowd Victor's neck, dangling a cascade of trinkets -- a small seashell, a key -- collected during travels. Alexandre opts for a black-and-white polka-dot bandanna. Their footwear is a similar story. Both pairs of shoes are fashioned from a smoky latte leather smudged with charcoal-like staining, yet Alexandre's lacks laces or eyeholes, the unrestrained tongues flapped upward, while Victor's are laced, the surface decorated with intricate, embroidered patterns.

Other differences run deeper. In Hand, the Carrils' respective characters, Antoine (Alexandre) and Quentin (Victor), take sexual turns with a woman, which sparks a row between them (a similar incident occurs in Baby Shark). But the turning point and a fracture in their shared identity arises when Quentin is caught having sex with Hakim (Samir Harrag), a handsome fellow they meet while on the road.

"My idea was that the two brothers in the beginning are merged, sharing everything including girls and sex," Vincent says. "And everything's going well until the character of Antoine finds out his brother has a different sexuality than he has. It causes a rupture, a split."

Victor had no qualms shooting the gay sex scene, nor did his Muslim costar (although a bit involving spit-swapping was an issue for the latter -- it was during Ramadan and due to fasting he refused to take anything in his mouth). But Victor was reticent to discuss his own same-sex experiences or attractions in front of his brother. "Not only is it something I don't discuss with my brother, it's not something I would discuss in an interview either," Victor responded, his twin observing coolly. "Intimacy and sexuality are not something we discuss or share so much."

Vincent isn't surprised to hear about Victor's reaction, but does point out that when away from his twin, Victor happily opens up about the topic and is, in Vincent's opinion, "more or less gay."

What about the twins-as-incestuous lovers aspect, the eroticized mirror image? Incest between twins and siblings has occasionally been explored in fiction and films like 2005's Brothers of the Head (those were Siamese twins to boot) and Brazilian director Aluisio Abranches's upcoming From Beginning to End. Yet for all the gay men who search for a carbon copy, and the touchy-feely nature of the Carrils' own relationship (even the famed fighting, a confused vehicle for expressing love), the reality of twins getting it on sexually isn't attractive to them.

Victor dubbed it "absurd, and can only be a fantasy of people who do not have a twin in their lives." As for Alexandre? "It's an interesting question," he replied, "because today's young people are obsessed with their own image. It's a very narcissistic society and a lot of people we meet admit to having a fantasy of having their own twin because they want to have sex with themselves. But at the end of the Narcissus myth he dies by drowning in his own image."

After Hand was completed, the Carrils quit their well-known brawling -- their parents proffer endless thanks to Vincent -- perhaps due to reconciling their inherent differences, sexual and otherwise, through and along with their on-screen alter egos. Currently at work on a documentary about Japan's iconic transvestite entertainer Akihiro Miwa, and a sophomore narrative feature about a French exchange student in Ireland (based on his own experiences studying abroad at 16), Vincent sees the Carrils as his "little brothers" and sexual involvement with either or both as incest. Although, getting back to that twins fantasy, he didn't always feel so averse to the idea -- to say the least.

"The main reason I wanted to make a film about them is I think they're so damn hot!" he confesses with a grin. "If there were only one of them, I would have made a film about him anyway. The bonus is there are two. And after the film I was more in love with them than ever. Whenever I meet them on the street nowadays I go, 'those are my lovely twins.'"

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