“AFTER LOUIE”— AIDS and Generational Changes

“After Louie”
AIDS and Generational Changes
Amos Lassen

Director Vincent Gagliostro’s “After Louie” is about Sam (Alan Cumming), an artist who is working on a documentary about his friend, William who died during the AIDS crisis. However, it was heartbreaking for him to learn that there are not many people interested in this project. Then he meets young Braeden (Zachary Booth) and thinks that he is probably a hustler and Sam pays him for a sexual escapade. What he did not know was that Braeden has a boyfriend yet he and Sam continue to get together on a fairly regular basis. This causes them to challenge what each thought about the other and Sam becomes quite angry that the younger generation doesn’t seem to care about the AIDS crisis and the battle against straight society that culture he and his friends are so wrapped up in. Braeden shows him that his generation has a very different experience in the world and regarding HIV and that while Sam’s generation’s battles helped change things for gay people, they cannot understand what it was like to watch so many people die in a society that didn’t care and in many cases attacked them.


All of the characters have flaws but the film (that could easily have become a “preactfest”) is really interested in more complex ideas than just the impact of AIDS on the generation that survived how it is difficult it is to compromise the tremendous number of gay men that died with the way young people think about AIDS today. “After Louie” tries to be fair to the lives of younger gay people, for whom AIDS/HIV never completely went away, but who have a very different relationship to it.

Because LGBT history is not fully taught in schools, gay people who grew up in the 90s and beyond see the AIDS epidemic as a slightly tangential issue. They do not feel it is about them or that it affects their lives. They do not understand that the freedoms that they have today, in many cases, have come into being because of the number of people that died and that the disease was a unifying factor for both LGBT people but for the greater society as well. This is a film that is very aware of the generational changes and that we are now living in and it now a very different world for gay people.


Sam is not just angry about his— he is also very angry about how he felt he was fighting for queer culture and against the heterosexual norms, but that culture is now something very different. With same sex marriage and the many LGBT freedoms, queer life is much more heteronormative. In a sense, the LGBT community had conformed to the very society that it once fought against. Was that fight for LGBT rights about finding a new LGBT lifestyle or was it that our community simply gave straight society “the bird”? Perhaps, it was both.
Braeden, to a certain degree is living the life Sam was fighting for. He has a boyfriend and he is able to have sex with whoever he wants, whenever he wants, and without society trying to stop him. However, Sam has difficulty understanding this because he still feels the anger and confrontation that his generation had. Ultimately he’s now alone and cannot accept that a younger man would be interested in him (or any older male) if money were not involved (even though there is a hint that this is just a defense mechanism). Perhaps Sam understands that his generation did an important job that is now finished and/or at least drastically changed and he cannot move on from that. Maybe the gay world has just become satisfied and complacent as it ignores the lessons from the past as it is pulled a heteronormative lifestyle. We reach no conclusions in the film but we are given a great deal to think about. It well could be that both sides are probably at least partly true.


Alan Cumming is excellent as Sam who is world-weary and going back to that time when his life was horrific but also vivid and vital; starkly different from the way he lives today. Zachary Booth is wonderful as the young man who challenges Sam’s assumptions. In him we see that what may seem shallow on the surface can often be more complex than it seems.
I know that I often get angry about the way the younger generation thinks about AIDS and for that I am thankful that someone finally made an entertaining and thoughtful movie about it. Through Louie we get a very thoughtful look at this.

“HEAVY WEIGHT” — Lust in the Ring

“Heavy Weight”

Lust in the Ring

Amos Lassen

When a talented new arrival begins using the local boxing club, Paris, a skilled fighter, is forced into an unexpected struggle with himself. Jonny Ruff’s short film deals with vulnerability in a hyper-masculine world that doesn’t allow for it.

The film stars Chuku Modu, Dean Christie, Karl Reay, and Eddy Elsey.

 

“An Asian Minor: The True Story of Ganymede” by Felice Picano— Meet Ganymede Anew

Picano, Felice. “An Asian Minor: The True Story of Ganymede”, Lethe Reprint, 2017, originally published 1981.

Meet Ganymede Anew

Amos Lassen

Felice Picano’s novella about Ganymede was originally published in 1981 and has long been out-of-print. It tells the life story of Ganymede unapologetically and with the in its ribald details of Greek gods in disguise as they try to seduce “the most beautiful youth in the Ancient world”. thirteen-year-old boy who discovers that he is “the most beautiful mortal ever born.”

Picano sees Ganymede as a young man who was given immortality at age fourteen, who has aged mentally with the earth and sees and knows the world. Ganymede relates the true story of his life because he sees that others are intent on making him “a symbolic victim of an old pervert’s lust; and contrarily, by others saying that the perversion is fine.” He wants everyone to know the truth that t his human rights had not been violated and that he is not an unwilling victim who was raped and abducted without his permission. Ganymede, being the nice guy that he is also tells us in the prologue that he wants to give us modern guys some ideas on how to find the right kind of sugar daddy.

We see that Ganymede is sneaky and cheeky but he has good reason for that; he is the most beautiful young man to ever have lived. He learns that being so beautiful is both a blessing and a curse. His father shows proudly exhibits him off as one of the wonders of Troy but Ganymede is exiled because his father does not want the gods misbehaving as they try to win him over. This is where his adventures begin and he rejects both Apollo and Hermes because he does not want to settle for a minor god when he knows that he can do better. It took humbling him so that he could fulfill his dreams. humbled that he gets the chance to fulfill his destiny.

Ganymede tells his story as if he was living in the world of today. His language is contemporary and filled with idioms. He tells us what really went on in his life and corrects the “mistakes” that others have made telling his story. Here he claims that he knew nothing about the powers that were given to him at birth. He also is not aware of his perfect beauty until others tell him about it and he realizes that he can use it for his own advantage. We see that he is searching for his destiny and that it was just not handed to him. He is a very smart kid who is unwilling to settle for anything or anyone when he can have the very best. This is a read that is just fun. Ganymede goes wit to wit against the biggest gods remaining always convinced that there is always one better than the god he is with. You will never read mythology the same way again.

“THE SON OF JOSEPH”— Looking for Father

“The Son of Joseph” (“Le fils de Joseph”)

Looking for Father

Amos Lassen

Eugene Green’s “Son of Joseph” is about the world of a troubled teen, Victor (Victor Ezenfis) who is not happy living with his single mother, Marie, (Natacha Régnier) and her insistence that he has no father. One afternoon, home alone, Vincent goes through the cabinets at home and he finds a document that connects him Oscar Pormenor (Mathieu Amalric), a hotshot book publisher who left Marie for the sake of philandering in the literary world.

Vincent has been intensively studying the violent father-son gesture in Italian master Caravaggio’s 1603 painting “Sacrifice of Abraham”, of which a wall-sized replica of which hangs in the teen’s bedroom thus letting us know that he will use what he has learned to find his father.

Vincent manages to copy the key to Pormenor’s office in a chic Parisian hotel and hides under the sofa to eavesdrop on him. He soon realizes that Oscar isn’t the father any boy would dream of. This discovery together with Vincent’s odd obsession with the Caravaggio in which Abraham holds a knife against his son Isaac’s throat, results in the boy doing the opposite and handcuffing and gagging his father (who still doesn’t know his identity). However, Vincent’s indecisiveness involves choices between good and bad and when he finally puts the blade against Oscar’s neck, he runs away from what he’s done without fully achieving his goal.

 

In one of the first scenes, Vincent and a buddy talk about a profitable sperm-selling operation, we see that is not a comedy. The film’s main exchange of ideas and emotions comes between Vincent and the adult Joseph (Fabrizio Rongione) who is Oscar’s ne’er-do-well brother. They meet by chance and become friends by looking at the world together in the parks, streets and museums of summertime Paris. A visit to the Louvre acquaints Vincent with two religious masterpieces: Philippe de Champaigne’s “The Dead Christ” and “Joseph the Carpenter” by Georges de la Tour. The latter painting makes the entire meaning of the film clear especially when Vincent casually remarks that Joseph isn’t little Jesus’ real father but Joseph (the movie character) suggests that he became a real father through the presence of his son.

“The Son of Joseph” is filled with talk about God, Biblical art, life, parenthood, filialness and relationships, but this is not handled seriously and there are more serious ideas at center of the film. There’s a reason the two main adult characters are called Joseph and Marie, and it seems that director Green gently plays around with the expectations of the viewers. In the film’s Biblically inspired chapters that have names such as The Sacrifice of Abraham, The Flight to Egypt and The Golden Calf, we get a (satirical look at the ridiculously self-obsessed publishing world. There is the combination of highbrow and lowbrow elements all through the film.

In one scene, Oscar shows up for some afternoon fun with his assistant and as illicit deeds take place above the camera (with the sound communicating everything we need to know) all we can do is see and admire the decorative construction of the furniture.

This principle of elimination informs every scene here, from a literary cocktail party that Vincent crashes to a dinner date between Marie and Joseph, that shows a blatant disregard for naturalistic ambiance. Green outlines his character’s feelings and motivations in dialogue and makes sure that there is no interruption of sentiments. Yet, a sense of psychological complexity and mystery remains.

Green shares his views on parenthood and the evolution of the family construct. He has a wry sense of humor and although the film is concerned with Biblical art and filial relations, this is handled lightheartedly. When Vincent discovers that his father is a vile egomaniac, he decides to get his revenge and cultivates a plan heavily influenced by Caravaggio’s painting.

Green combines formal precision with garrulous personalities to give a dreamlike impression of reality. Each character talks directly to the soul of the viewer making it impossible to escape the romance and joy on the screen. Green’s thoughts about life, love and misplaced paternity are great fun. Victor’s plan to covertly observe his dad is complicated when he’s mistaken for a prodigious young novelist by a pretentious book critic Violette (Maria de Medeiros), who ushers him awkwardly into the champagne gossip circuit of the Parisian literary scene, a great target for satire.

“B&B”— A Weekend of Mischief

“B&B”

A Weekend of Mischief

Amos Lassen

Gay married Londoners Mike (Tom Bateman) and Fred (Sean Teale) plan on having a weekend of mischief by returning to bait the prosecuted owner of a remote Christian B&B. The previous year, they had sued the owner for not allowing them to share a bed and won the case. They have no reason for going to the B&B aside from taunting the homophobic owner Josh (Paul McGann).

Things do not go as planned and what the guys thought would be a lot of fun turned out to be something else altogether. Events take a deadly turn when another guest arrives, who they think might have something sinister in mind and their weekend of fun turns into a bloody battle for survival in this smart, brutally comedy and dark thriller.

It all started with dinner at the B&B when the only other guest was a mysterious Russian (James Tratas), a very hunky man who could not speak a word of English. Yet that did not stop him from hitting on Josh’s 16-year-old closeted gay son Paul (Callum Woodhouse). Fred and Marc learned of their plans were to go to a local park that is a notorious gay cruising area, they became jealous. Fred and Marc nosed around and found out that the Russian had a jammer that blocked all the cell-phone signals and therefore had cut them off from the outside world. They began to worry for the Paul’s safety.

Fred set out after the Russian and Paul and located them at tracked them at the park but it did not take long before he regretted his actions when he became part of a drama that was soon out of control. He managed to get a scared Paul back to the B&B and now he has to deal with his father knowing that he is gay and that he was to blame for a serious crime for which he was now trying hard to push the blame for onto Fred.  It was soon a situation as to who could outwit who and whether Josh could finally get his own revenge on the gay couple for almost ruining his income by getting them to take the rap for this and clear Paul at the same time.

We do not get many LGBT thrillers and when we get a good one, we must appreciate it. Director and screenplay writer, Joe Ahearne, based this on a partially true story. There had been gay people who sued guesthouse owners. The horror part, however, is invented and keeps us on the edge of our seats as we watch. The cast is excellent all around, especially Paul McGann who plays Josh, a man we love to hate.

“Trunky (Transgender Junky): A Memoir of Institutionalization and Southern Hospitality” by Samuel Peterson— A Modern Tragi-Comedy

Peterson, Samuel. “Trunky (Transgender Junky): A Memoir of Institutionalization and Southern Hospitality”, Transgress Press, 2016.

A Modern Tragi-comedy

Amos Lassen

After being sober and spending a good deal of time preparing to become a writer, Trunky is on the threshold of success. However, fate enters his life and he is soon spiraling downward into a state of depression and begins again to use heroin. He ends up in an institution in the South with a very diverse group of “thugs, criminals, white supremacists, professional athletes and business men”. All of then are looking for something they’re afraid of finding. As Trunky journeys from addition to recovery and female to manhood, he finds himself on an unexpected trip into the depths of the human soul and this is where he discovers its fundamental flaws and the redemption that we experience from honest vulnerability that comes when we have the courage to take the deal with it.

Writer Samuel Paterson wonderfully captures the anguish and turmoil that comes with addiction and he gives wise insight into his struggle for redemption and visibility as a man among men. To really understand the devastation of addiction, the struggle for gender authenticity and the culture fostered within a Federal Bureau of Prisons Residential Drug Abuse Program, this is a must-read.

“Nights in Berlin” by Janice Law— Love in Weimar Berlin

Law, Janice. “Nights in Berlin”, (The Francis Bacon Mysteries), Mysterious Press, 2016.

Love in Weimar Berlin

Amos Lassen

When Francis Bacon’s father sends him to Berlin because of his flirting with other boys at his school, he is very happy. Going to school in the country had been a bore for him and in Berlin there are many opportunities to enjoy. Francis begins enjoying them all. He loves the cabarets that are outrageous and he fits right into his uncle Lasting’s bed. After the First World War, Berlin enjoyed a good deal of growth and openness even as Hitler began his rise to power.

As the atmosphere becomes more and more tense, Francis’s uncle welcomes all kinds of men to share his bed. Some of these men are there just for sexual pleasure while others have been invited to help fight the rising tide of Bolshevism. Then when the Nazis send Lastings running for his life, Francis remains in Berlin alone with only his sense of hedonism to distract him from a city that becomes more dangerous every night.

We meet Francis Bacon when he is aiding his uncle in a political shooting, after which he is forced into hiding as a hatcheck “girl” in a Berlin drag bar under the auspices of the British embassy.

There’s intrigue, peril, politics, history, humor and romance in the story. Having been repressed by his father, Francis finds Weimar-era Berlin to be a wonderland of fun. There is a snag, however, and that is that his uncle is not what he seems, and seems and appears to be involved in either spying or some criminal intrigue with the right-wing. Francis has a series of dangerous encounters as he works in a gay nightclub while dodging his uncle’s creditors and enemies. He finds help from unexpected friends.

Francis uses his natural resources to survive in a place that is filled with danger, especially for gay men. Even though Bacon is a flamboyantly and sexually active, there is no explicit sex.

Based on British artist Francis Bacon, author Janice Law—like many current authors—has recreated a real person into a fictional amateur sleuth with her Francis Bacon Mysteries. “Nights In Berlin” is the fourth in the series, yet is a prequel to the others as it deals with the 17-year-old Bacon’s adventures in gay Berlin.

This is writer Janice Law’s fourth book in the Francis Bacon series and while it is not necessary to have read the others, it might help to understand Bacon. We do know that while still a teen, he was thrown out of his home when he was found admiring himself while wearing his mother’s underwear. Bacon said that his father sent him to a friend who was known for his “manliness” with the idea that this friend would make a man out of him. This friend was his Bacon’s so-called “uncle” who bedded him in Berlin.

 

“Adulting 101” by Lisa Henry— A Real Struggle

Henry, Lisa. “Adulting 101”, Riptide Publishing, 2016.

A Very Real Struggle

Amos Lassen

Set in Franklin Ohio, we meet Nick Stahlnecker, an eighteen-year-old guy who he is not yet ready to grow up. At his summer job, he works with Jai Hazenbrook and has quite a crush on him. Jai is twenty-five and has come home just long enough to make enough money so that he can leave. back in his hometown of Franklin, Ohio, just long enough to earn the money to get the hell out again. He figures it will be worth being home and living in his mother’s basement so that he can see the rest of the world. Nick, however, is not a part of his plans yet he discovers that it is not necessary to travel to have adventure when someone like Nick is in his sights. Yes, readers, this is a romance.

Jai tries to convince himself that Nick is only a temporary attraction and that he has no feelings for him. However, that is not true. This is the story of Nick’s summer before he goes to college. Nick is impulsive and very honest but he also lacks direction regarding what he wants to do in life. His parents have pushed him to go to college and have chosen his major for him— criminology.

Jai loves to travel. His plan was to work the three summer months and then travel the rest of the year. When he met Nick, he was immediately drawn to him and they slowly get to know each other and have great sex. He has really never had so much fun before and this was so unexpected. At first, each saw the other as a friend with benefits and even when they became “boyfriends” neither would admit that this was the case. It is fun to read how their lust became love but it happened very slowly. In the beginning each thought of what they were doing as a hookups but as they spent more and more time together and got to know each other, they realized that it was so much more than just sex.

It is not easy becoming an adult and we see both guys struggling with it. Jai is much more of an adult than Nick and he does not want to live a life without adventure. He seems not to believe in relationships, especially since there is so much to see and do. A relationship could hold him back. Basically Jai is an introvert and really functions well alone even though he has had affairs for years. However, he really likes Nick and his unbounded energy.

This is a very funny story yet it has a deep message about becoming an adult. Nick learns that becoming an adult does not follow ten easy steps while Jai sees that sometimes the greatest adventure you can have requires no travel and could be standing right next to you.

 

 

“Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-Spirit Memory” by Qwo-Li Driskill— Gender and Sexuality in Indigenous Traditions

Driskill, Qwo-Li. “Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-Spirit Memory”, University of Arizona Press, 2016.

Gender and Sexuality in Indigenous Traditions

Amos Lassen

In the Cherokee language “Asegi udanto” refers to people who do not fit into men’s and women’s roles or who mix men’s and women’s roles. The word “Asegi” is translated as “strange” and is also used by some Cherokees as a term similar to “queer.”

In “Asegi Stories”, author Qwo-Li Driskill give us a way to reread Cherokee history in order to listen for those stories that was considered “strange” by the colonial heterosexual patriarchy.

I understand that this is first full-length that develops a tribally specific indigenous queer or Two-Spirit critique. It examines gender and sexuality in Cherokee cultural memory and shows how they shape the present, and how they can influence the future.

Looking at activist, artistic, and intellectual genealogies (referred to as “dissent lines” by Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith), Driskill enmeshes Cherokee and other indigenous traditions including “women of color feminisms, grassroots activisms, queer and trans studies and politics, rhetoric, Native studies, and decolonial politics”. These are the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the stories that are derived from drawings, oral histories and archival documents and are used to articulate Cherokee-centered Two-Spirit critiques. In doing so Driskill is able to contribute to the larger intertribal movements for social justice.

This is both corrective and selective history as well as a memoir and a critique. Driskill argues that existing categories and genre divisions do not serve Native/Aboriginal/Two Spirit Studies.

“Bitter Legacy” by Dal Maclean— No Ordinary Policeman

Maclean, Dal. “Bitter Legacy”, Blind Eye Books, 2016.

No Ordinary Policeman

Amos Lassen

Detective Sergeant James Henderson (Jamie) of London’s Metropolitan Police Murder Investigation Team is no ordinary cop. He has amazing gut instincts and is a non-stop detective and this what got him on a three-year fast track to becoming an inspector.

When he was assigned to the murder case of barrister Maria Curzon-Whyte lands in his lap, Henderson is taken back into world of London’s privileged elite. This is the world he came out of. His father was wonderfully wealthy and had so much power that he was able to hold the law in contempt. As James moves among the promiscuous, secretive and corrupt spheres of the rich, the murderer strikes once again. James fears that these crimes lead very close to his own home and he risks losing everything he’s made of his life unless he can expose the truths that have brought about this “bitter legacy”.

Jamie knows that he is gay even though he has never been with a man. That changes when he meets Ben who is extremely handsome and very flirtatious. It seems that other men are incredibly drawn to him and once he’s entrapped them they are powerless to resist. Jamie is like the others in this regard. Jamie’s investigation takes him to the apartments Ben lives in and there Jamie is instantly captivated by Ben. He learns that Ben is looking for a flatmate and since Jamie is looking for a new apartment so they soon find themselves living together. However, Ben is very promiscuous and is very open about it. The more Jamie is around Ben his common sense leaves him and he is lost to resist Ben. When they become an item Jamie expects monogamy even though he knows exactly what Ben is like.

Ben was totally upfront about his sexuality and never made any promises about being exclusive, but when he cheated on Jamie, my heart went out to him. This is not just a mystery but also a look at the two men’s relationship.

I am really not much of a mystery reader but I must say that I found myself deeply involved in the story here; so much so that I read the book in one sitting. The plot is complex and involves a series of murders in London investigated by Jamie whose personal life takes place alongside the investigation. He deals with his first relationship as a gay male as well as the first time he has sex with another guy. As for the investigation, I can’t tell you more about it except to say that it leaves the reader feeling positive that you know what is transpiring at times and then stunned that you don’t know at other times.

The mystery is solid and the investigation drags on, through false leads and twists, and maybe another linked death. But while his professional life is frustrating and murky, James thinks he finally has a shot at a real personal life with Ben. Unfortunately, Ben has different ideas about what is going on between them, and what a gay man’s life should look like. Thus forces Janie’s dreams to collide and when he finally understands how it all comes together, he realizes that not everything is as it appears to be.

 As we watch Jamie as the lead investigator on the case, we see  who he is and that is more than just a bright young detective on the fast-track to promotion. We see that he is a man whose uncompromising instincts on the job run at complete odds with the compromises he is willing to make in his personal life (keeping Ben Morgan in his bed—even if it means sharing Ben with other men). We see Jamie operate and as he does, he is grappling with a lifeline that begins to drag him under. His relationship with Ben is in opposition to his professional life. He suffers a conflict of lust and principles when his investigation when he meets Ben. The reality of Jamie’s losing his heart is somewhat depressing especially when he realizes that he is just a convenient sex object. Ben is both possessive and contemptuous of James’s feelings. Both Jamie and the reader have to figure out who this enigma named Ben really is.