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“THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW: IN COLOR— Unreleased Episodes

“The Jackie Gleason Show: In Color”

Unreleased Episodes

Amos Lassen

From 1966 to 1970, “THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW” was taped in color in Miami Beach, Florida. Jackie entertained the audience with his classic characters, celebrity guest stars, and hilarious sketches – including the beloved Honeymooners.

This DVD contains 4 never-before-released episodes unseen for almost 50 years including 3 unreleased “Honeymooners” sketches. Gleason’s show delivered an hour of entertainment every week consisting of singing, dancing, and lots of comedy and guest stars (Milton Berle, Red Buttons, George Carlin, Nipsey Russell, Phil Silvers, Florence Henderson and Frankie Avalon among others).

It featured the comedian’s most indelible and legendary creation — Ralph Kramden — as well as a gallery of characters he himself created and fine-tuned. But most memorably, Gleason and Art Carney revived their “Honeymooners” roles, with Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean added as the new Alice and Trixie. The chemistry between Gleason and Carney was as wonderful as it was back in the 50s, but Ms. MacRae and Ms. Kean lacked the earthiness and warmth of their predecessors.

Since variety TV shows are a rare commodity nowadays, it is fun to look back at Gleason and the weekly show built around him. The show became a casualty when CBS decided to modernize its programming and many shows and the Gleasons, Skeltons, and “Beverly Hillbillies” were eventually replaced with Archie Bunker, Maude and hipper programs.

Three of the four episodes featured are fairly mediocre and Gleason is fun to watch. But the shows are all incomplete, each 50-minute episode hacked to around 42 minutes and this is never explained.

The show was done in Miami Beach y so that Gleason could play golf year-round. Gleason played his many various characters.

The first episode featuring Phil Silvers in wonderful. Gleason’s introduces Silvers as one of the all-time great comedians, and star of television’s all-time funniest comedy, obviously referring to Sgt. Bilko. Unfortunately the episodes are not well chosen. Red Buttons appears on two shows, doing virtually the same thing. Edie Adams does a kind of half-baked nightclub act, complete with celebrity impersonations that are embarrassing and a very young George Carlin is featured but his standup is far from his best since he had to adapt to the family show-like atmosphere.

The Honeymooners segments are okay, but they’re all slight variations of sketches done better in the past and feel tacked on. Gleason chain-smokes his way through hosting duties and really seems to be enjoying himself most of the time, and that enjoyment is passed along to the viewing audience.

 

“THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRE”— A Life Devoted to Fashion

“The Gospel According to André”

A Life Devoted to Fashion

Amos Lassen

André Leon Talley stands out  as a 6’ 6” African American man. He has a deep booming voice and has spent his life breaking down barriers. He was raised in Durham, North Carolina in the segregated south. He remembers the degradation of Jim Crow laws and watching the Civil Rights Movement play out. As a child, Talley had rocks thrown at him on a college campus as he was walking across town to pick up the latest copy of Vogue magazine at a news stand. Talley sought and found solace and refuge in fashion magazines and books. He read about fashion icons as he watched the pulse of modern fashion. In an interview with one of his high school teachers he recalls a grey Dior-inspired skirt she had some forty-plus years ago. Anna Wintour, a close friend of Talley’s and colleague at Vogue, admitted that her fashion history wasn’t strong when she started at Vogue and she relied on Talley for that knowledge.

Talley is something of a news junky and he tracks the progress of the 2016 presidential election throughout the filming of the documentary. The film ends in November 2016 with Talley and the rest of the world coming to terms with the results of that election. In most of the film Talley speaks about the way he was raised and the necessity of braking barriers in a matter of fact way. When he speaks about his grandmother, however, his tone and mannerisms change. She worked as a domestic maid in a dorm to support them and she gave him the freedom and courage to be what he is today. He and his friends talk about how there was a lot of pressure on the African American population to be the best and this was the only way that there would be upward mobility.

the greatest strength of director Kate Novack’s documentary is Talley himself, who when on screen performs wonderfully at whatever we see him doing. his own master of ceremonies, whether at dinner with friends, sitting on his front porch in White Plains, observing a fitting, or revealing some of the more painful details of his past. He possesses great ability to contextualize his experiences both past and present that makes Novack’s frequent shifts to other voices seem distracting. There are exceptions, such as Fran Lebowitz, who explains her time at “Interview” magazine with Talley through anecdotes but Novack keeps dragging her focus back to the industry perspective as a whole.

Talley’s youth in a lower-class African-American family is a “black superhero” story and his legacy helps redefine perceptions of black masculinity and power. Talley’s idea of fashion as an “escape from reality” is treated by Novack as a flight of fancy and not as the freeing of one’s mind from the constraints that separate upper and lower classes of wealth.

This is a straightforward documentary mostly composed of straight-to-camera interviews, historical footage, or on the street footage. But it is fascinating to watch because Talley and his life is fascinating. The clothes in the film are wonderful and we see many clips from fashion shows throughout the years along with fashion spreads from magazines full of beautiful clothes.

Talley admits to a few of his fashion mistakes over the years and most of the time we see him in draped in expensive coats or his colorful caftans and large jewelry (that have become his signature dress). He is nearly seventy years old now and the film takes a look at fashion throughout the decades and some the key signature pieces and designers. We see black women in the 1940s who used their weekly church trips to express themselves with their clothes and hats and go through the disco seventies and through 2016 when the film was shot. The interviews are made up “who’s who” of the fashion world, including Marc Jacobs, Manolo Blahnik and Isabella Rossellini.

Talley struggled to get to the top of the fashion world. After leaving the segregated south he had to work hard to get himself to a position of power. He used his intelligence, sense of style, and charisma to get him there. He tells us that he is offended when people say he slept his way to the top or did anything other than what he did to get his level of success. We see his strength and how he used it to get to where he is and that some of those cruel memories still are for him.

This is the story of one man breaking down racial barriers and becoming a success in a time when African Americans had few opportunities in the fashion world. Talley brought a new perspective to fashion and never backed down when people questioned it. He is loud, boisterous, colorful, intelligent, and funny. Beyond being a documentary about a fashion icon, “The Gospel Accord to André” is a look at how strong people dealt with great odds at a time of great division and racial tension in America. We get a whole new meaning on the expression ‘larger-than-life’. He is one of a kind and there will probably never be anyone like him in the future.

“ELIS”— A Life Cut Short

“Elis”

A Life Cut Short

Amos Lassen

Elis Regina was one of the best loved singers in the history of Brazil. She only had 36 years but in that was a 25 year career and she was celebrated around the world. The new biopic, “Elis”, barely mentions her time as a child star and instead begins with into her late teenage years, when she was singing in bars to make ends meet while dreaming of much bigger things. Andréia Horta, who has a remarkable physical resemblance to the singer in her later years wonderfully portrays Elis who was known for her voice yet struggled with a lack of stage presence.

Director Hugo Prata brings us the mood of Brazil in the Sixties, Seventies and early Eighties, when social values were becoming increasingly liberal but the right wing military government was moving in the opposite direction. It was a dangerous time for artists, and though this is not overplayed in the film, there is a single scene that is chilling to watch. An interrogator makes reference to Elis’ infant son illustrating the kind of pressure many found themselves under. At that time, it was also a highly creative period despite this. Elis is warned that she must keep up with the times when she’s barely into her twenties. In the latter half of the film, Horta presents us with a fiery character, moving between relationships, producing children, growing increasingly frustrated with the music business and the fickleness of a public that was all too ready to believe she was selling out. She gets harsh criticism from those who consider her moodiness self-indulgent and egotistical and this helps to keep events in proportion. It also looks at how society treats its creative talents; whether wanting Elis to be exuberant and happy or achingly soulful, people seem to pay no attention to the impact of all this emotion, and there’s a sense that they may simply not have recognized the toll it was taking.

RGB tiff image by MetisIP

Born Elis Regina Carvalho Costa, she went by just plain Elis and released several confusingly eponymously single-named albums. She had the misfortune of coming on the scene shortly after the military putsch put a freeze on recordings sessions, but her talent would not be denied. Initially, she was a country naïf from the south, who sure could sing, but under the tutelage of producer/impresario Ronaldo Bôscoli, she incorporated seductive elements into her stage presentation. This worked so well that he became her first husband. Jazz musician-arranger César Camargo Mariano would be her second husband.

Elis was proud of her success. She sang samba, bossa, BPM, and even rock. It was her popularity that kept her out of prison, but the increasingly radicalized singer would be ironically slammed by the left when she agreed to perform at a ceremony for the military junta. The climax of the film comes with her attempts to re-establish her dissident credentials. We also see about twenty-minutes of a grouchy, self-destructive Elis, who isn’t much fun and we might consider this to be one of the problems with biography-based films that are often locked into not especially cinematic conclusions because of the historical reality.

Biographical dramas about musicians usually follow a familiar trajectory and that is true here as well. “There is the early explosion of success, the mid-career struggle with inner demons, and finally the redemptive third act that is eventually cut short by physical or emotional baggage rooted in the second stage.” The redemptive part here is shorter than usual but that was her life.

Andréia Horta is absolutely wonderful as Elis and the music I wonderful. Truthfully, I had never heard of Elis until I saw this film and I am now quite a fan. It is sad that there is no more music coming from her.

“MY LETTER TO THE WORLD”— The Seasons of Her Life

“MY LETTER TO THE WORLD”

“The Seasons of Her Life

Amos Lassen

“My Letter to the World” is an examination of the life and work of one of America’s greatest  poets, with world experts and renowned scholars helping to unravel the enigma of Emily Dickinson, who has spent the 130 years since her death being pigeonholed as a mysterious recluse.

Directed and co-produced by Solon Papadopoulos, this documentary takes us on a journey through the seasons of Emily Dickinson’s life in mid-1800s New England. The film explores her experiences and relationships via her impassioned letters and poems. As new theories come to light about both Dickinson’s life and poetry, experts bring their often conflicting opinions to the screen.

“MOSAIC— “Her Story Begins When Her Life Ends”

“MOSAIC”

‘Her Story Begins When Her Life Ends’

Amos Lassen

“Mosaic” follows two timelines; the relationships between a successful children’s author (Sharon Stone) and two different men (Garrett Hedlund, Frederick Weller) in her life, and the attempt four years later to find out who murdered her. This mini-series seems to have everything going for it from a fine cast to the excellent direction of Steven Soderbergh and the secrecy surrounding the plot. well before the show has even premiered. Then there is the accompanying app that allows viewers to see the story from multiple character perspectives. as it unfolds. All of these things piqued my interest to the point where I was completely sold on the show before I even saw the first episode.

The plot centers around the character of Olivia Lake (Sharon Stone), who is a famous children’s book author that lives on a large property in Summit, Utah. Her land is potentially worth millions based on geological findings and has now become the focal point of rival businessmen in the area although she dos not know this. They set out to force her to sell her property through deception and subterfuge, but before that can happen she goes missing and is presumed dead. What follows is a murder mystery That spans four years and involves a con-man fianceé, a hopeful artist who is living with her, the local sheriff and the aforementioned businessmen.

Everyone is a suspect as the pieces begin to slowly fall into place episode by episode and while that might sound intriguing it is all pretty slow. The story is interesting at times but a lot of the development was is quite boring and slow. Each episode excels at revealing a small piece of the conspiracy a little at a time which made me want to keep going in order to get to the end but once the result arrived, it just did not work. I was left me with many questions because so many threads were left unresolved. It was, as if, the viewer is supposed to be confused. The potential to be an intriguing murder mystery that keeps the audience guessing with each new episode is there but as it is now it doesn’t work.

The series main distinction is the way in which its story is told. Director Soderbergh’s whodunit introduces us to Olivia Lake, the author of a classic children’s book and a celebrity in her small, snowy town of Summit, Utah, but she’s lonely and looking for love. She thinks she’s found it when she meets handsome newcomer and aspiring artist Joel (Hedlund) but just as their relationship sours, she meets another handsome newcomer: Eric (Weller) who has hidden financial motivations behind his charm offensive. When Olivia turns up dead, it’s up to detective Nate Henry (Devin Ratray who steals the entire series) and Eric’s sister, Petra (Jennifer Ferrin) to unravel the mystery that’s tearing Summit apart. 

Something is missing when looking at the central mystery. Sharon Stone is still a star and effortlessly holds focus and Paul Reubens who plays her best friend is excellent. But the male foils set up to make us wonder which of the two bumped Olivia off are colorless and underwritten.

“IT’S NOT YET DARK”— Living with ALS

“It’s Not Yet Dark”

Living With ALS

Amos Lassen

Colin Farrell narrates “It’s Not  Yet Dark”, the story of Simon Fitzmaurice, a talented young Irish filmmaker with ALS (MND), as he starts directing his first feature film “My Name is Emily” through the use of his eyes and eye gaze technology. Farrell reads the director’s own words from his memoir. Because Fitzmaurice is a writer at heart, the film has a poignancy and truth. Director Frankie Fenton did not have to rely on someone else’s words. Fenton beautifully captures Simon’s saga, which isn’t always easy with human inspirational stories like this, but he has done so.

What makes “its Not Yet Dark” so powerful is the honesty of Fitzmaurice and those he loves. His wife, Ruth is such an honest, well-spoken, interesting woman. Many people will walk out of the film praising Simon, but this is Ruth’s story as well. And this is a story we can all relate to. When Simon says “I dance for the last time,” remembering the moments before he lost control of his muscles, that’s something that connects with the heart. I do not think that we can imagine hugging someone for the last time or telling your partner that you love her/him for the last time. Neither can we imagine being trapped in a body that feels everything and retains all the same mental capacity but we are unable to express any of it.

This is NOT a tragedy. Fenton and Fitzmaurice look at the inspirational aspect of the material completely and unapologetically. It is, however, painful to watch and uncomfortably intimate at times and it seems to me that this is by design. The film could have been very dark as we are taken us into the mind and body of a young Irish filmmaker who wakes each morning closer to total paralysis.

Farrell narrates in the first person Speaking in the first person as he tells of the Fitzmaurice’s struggles to pursue his career while losing his body to the neurodegenerative disease of A.L.S., or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. I found the rapidity of Fitzmaurice’s decline to be shocking.. Once his diagnosis becomes clear, when he is 34, doctors predict Mr. Fitzmaurice will live three to four years, but he flies by that (he is now 42) and remains amazingly productive, working painstakingly on his first feature film.

By the time shooting begins on that film, Mr. Fitzmaurice is using a ventilator to breathe. He directs the actors through his only means of communication: eye-gaze technology. His computer decodes his gaze and speaks for him in a robotic voice, which his wife refers to as “American.”

Fitzmaurice has and shows a powerful will to live, and he and his wife make the most of it so every day is memorable for their five children who steer the film, and their lives, from what might be unrelenting sadness toward inspiration.

Just as Fitzmaurice was at the cusp of his filmmaking career, his body turned on him. He developed a foot impediment, which, though exasperating, did not seem to be life-threatening. Yet slowly his physical condition regresses and subsequent medical testing concludes that he is stricken with the horrible and fatal illness of ALS.

Never losing a fighting-Irish spirit, nor his sense of humor, Fitzmaurice is buoyed and fortified by his loving wife and their kids as well as his parents, siblings and friends. This is a story of uncommon emotional fortitude, yet our filmmaker never wallows in self-pity. After all, he has much to live for: his family, his writing and his dream of filmmaking.

Even when he is confined to a wheelchair with his body kept alive by an array of tubes, Fitzmaurice cannot move, but he still communicates, writes and makes jokes. He expresses himself with the help of a remarkable computer program; instead of finger-tapping on a keyboard, his eye-gaze stimulates the keys. Immobile and dependent totally on others to maintain his daily physical functions, Fitzmaurice perseveres. He works on a novel, which as goodbye letters to each of his children, and continues writing a screenplay. His daily regimen is grueling his health is constantly declining health, he never leaves his ultimate dream of directing films.

Filmmaker Frankie Fenton begins with childhood photos and home-movie-style snippets and retracing Fitzmaurice from there. Fitzmaurice grows into a dashing, charismatic young man and is popular with the ladies and a friend to many, he seemed to be headed toward a charmed life. His short film was selected for the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, and he seemed to be on the fast track to making filmmaking his career. But, the disease ultimately robs him of his body.

Under Fenton’s tender direction, the technical team shines and composer Stephen Rennicks’ baleful but lively score resonates with the subject’s inner strength. Narrator Farrell’s warm voice captures Fitzmaurice’s life-affirming gusto.

The once-vigorous Fitzmaurice now cannot breathe, swallow or speak without mechanical aid. In archival footage (mostly home movies), we see him serially lose physical abilities; the last time he walked, ran, or danced all having been captured on video.

Asking himself what the “best part of living with MND is,” he says, simply, “It’s the ‘living’ part.” Fitzmaurice declined doctors’ offers to “pull the plug” as his physical life narrowed to a degree that would be unbearable to many others. “I love being alive,” he insists. Technology has made it possible for him to remain artistically active — speaking, writing and directing via eye-gaze-operated computer programs — and his devoted family has kept his life spiritually fulfilling. Much of “It’s Not Yet Dark ” is a love story, portraying a marriage so perfectly matched that overwhelming hardship could never seem to seriously put it in danger (though Ruth admits it was a boon when nursing assistance let her be less of a caregiver and more of a spouse again).

The climax comes with Simon’s against-all-odds completion of the well-received drama “Emily,” a task he manages because of extensive advance storyboarding and a supportive crew. That movie is a bittersweet celebration of life that “doesn’t shrink from sweeping poetical gestures.”

“The Attachment Effect: Exploring the Powerful Ways Our Earliest Bond Shapes Our Relationships and Lives” by Peter Lovenheim— Attachment Theory in Practice

Lovenheim, Peter. “The Attachment Effect: Exploring the Powerful Ways Our Earliest Bond Shapes Our Relationships and Lives”, Tarcher Perigee, 2018.

Attachment Theory in Practice

Amos Lassen

Peter Lovenheim reveals how attachment is so much a part of our lives and shows us how it manifests itself in almost everything we do. We see here how our early childhood experiences create a blueprint for all our relationships that come after. While attachment theory came into being some fifty years ago and was widely accepted in psychological circles, it is really popular now. We can understand that this is because we are discovering how powerfully it sheds light on who we love–and how.

Award-winning journalist and author Peter Lovenheim wanted to understand it from the inside out and began interviewing researchers, professors, counselors, and other experts, as well as individuals and couples whose attachment stories illuminate and embody the theory’s key concepts. From that journey comes this engaging and revealing book, which is part journalism, part memoir, part psychological guide as well as a fascinating read for anyone who wants to better understand the needs and dynamics that make up and drive the complex relationships in our lives.

We look at the following topics:

  *  What it means to be securely and insecurely attached

  *  How our early childhood experiences create a blueprint for future relationships–and how to use those insights to gain self-awareness and growth

  *  Why anxious and avoidant attachment types tend to attract each other, and how to break the negative cycle

  • How anyone can work to become “earned secure” regardless of their upbringing and past relationships.

There is something here to enlighten every person and because the author takes a personal approach, you feel that he is right here speaking with you. As we learn about the new science of attachment, we become able to learn more about ourselves. Reading this overview of the research and social psychological theory gives us the tools we need to not only understand ourselves but to better attach to others. as a source of improved understanding of ourselves–and to better attach to others. We not only look at the meaning and uses of attachment theory but also see the

hows and whys of our connections with each other. I never thought about the term attachment as applying to people before but I see how useful it is. We gain insights into what makes a relationship fail or succeed,  and how a better understanding of our attachment style can help save a relationship that for whatever reason is not working. We also see how different styles of attachment shape behavior in different settings and people and why some people seem to be “unattachable”. If that is not enough, this is also a fun read.

 

“Rebel Publisher: Grove Press and the Revolution of the Word” by Loren Glass— “How Grove Press Ended Censorship of the Printed Word in America”

Glass, Loren. “Rebel Publisher: Grove Press and the Revolution of the Word”, Seven Stories, 2018.

“How Grove Press Ended Censorship of the Printed Word in America”

Amos Lassen

My generation moved into adulthood with the help of Grove Press and “The Evergreen Review” and we watched as they revolutionized the publishing industry and totally changed our reading habits. “Rebel Publisher” looks at the 60s but first goes back to 1951 when Barney Rosset bought Grove Press for just $3000. In 1970, the press was a corporation and was dealing with a feminist takeover and a strike. We cannot ever forget that Grove Press was not only one of the entities responsible for ending censorship of the printed word in the United States but also for bringing avant-garde literature, especially drama, into the culture of this country. It was the charismatic Rosset, who led Grove’s success. Some of the topics covered by Loren Glass include world literature and the Latin American boom; experimental drama such as the Theater of the Absurd, the Living Theater, and the political epics of Bertolt Brecht; pornography and obscenity, including the landmark publication of the complete work of the Marquis de Sade; revolutionary writing, featuring Rosset’s daring pursuit of the Bolivian journals of Che Guevara; and underground film, and the development of the pocket film script.

Grove Press was a communications center for the counterculture and played a key role in bringing the late modernist avant-garde into the mainstream postwar US culture. Here we see that history is both the past, present and future and we see what it means for Rosset to have been a committed publisher who dared to speak out about what he believe in and in doing so, changed the way that many of us read. His mission was to democratize the avant-garde by bringing European experimental literature to this country and in doing so, we get an expanded world canon entering the American mainstream early on. We see the difference between modernism and avant garde just as we see ‘cultural elitism and cultural pluralism’.

We meet personalities who changed literature ands literature that changed personalities. For the first time we could openly read about “dangerously sexy ideas.” This is a unique book in that it appeals to scholars and the man on the street and will not likely be forgotten by either.

“Paul Simon: The Life” by Robert Hilburn— The Definitive Biography

Hilburn, Robert. “Paul Simon: The Life”, Simon and Schuster, 2018.

The Definitive Biography

Amos Lassen

Robert Hilburn brings us the intimate, candid, and definitive biography written with Simon’s full participation (but without his editorial control). Simon has been a major figure in the world of music for more than fifty years and his songs speak to us about alienation, doubt, resilience, and empathy. Many of his songs have become part of our cultural consciousness. Paul Simon is a deeply private person who has resisted speaking about anything but his music and has stated that he will not write an autobiography or memoir, and he has refused to talk to biographers before Hilburn. But now Simon has opened up to Robert Hilburn and this is to become the definitive biography of Paul Simon.

Simon’s story begins in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens, where, raised by a bandleader father and schoolteacher mother, Simon grew up loving baseball and music. When he was 12, he and his best friend, Art Garfunkle fell in love with doo-wop and thus began a career that made the two into international icons, and then Simon went on to even greater artistic heights on his own. It was not always easy and beneath the fame and success were tumultuous personal and professional ups and downs. From his remarkable early success with Garfunkel to their painful split and Simon’s early hits as a solo artist and his commercial failures and the historic comeback success of Graceland and The Rhythm of the Saints to his entry into theater with The Capeman and a late-career creative resurgence, Simon has had quite a career.

During the past three years, Hilburn has conducted in-depth interviews with many of Paul Simon’s friends, family, colleagues, and others—including ex-wives Carrie Fisher and Peggy Harper, who spoke for the first time—and even penetrated the inner circle of Simon’s long-reclusive muse, Kathy Chitty. We get a deeply human account of the challenges and sacrifices of a life in music. Hilburn chronicles and documents Simon’s search for artistry and his struggle to protect that artistry against the distractions of life (fame, marriage, divorce, drugs, record company interference, rejection, and insecurity).

With this book, we are given the chance to finally understand both the man and the artist. Robert Hilburn gives us quite a story of the evolution of a kid from Queens into an international musical sensation. Here is a look into the mind and writing process of one of the finest craftsman of the American popular song.

“SWUNG”— Sex in the Modern World

“SWUNG”

Sex in the Modern World

Amos Lassen

Director Colin Kennedy’s debut feature takes us to swinging Glasgow where we meet Alice (Elena Anaya) and David (Owen McDonnell), a 30-something couple whose dysfunction in the bedroom takes them into the hidden world of sex chat rooms and partner-swapping.

David’s crisis begins when he is unemployed following the collapse of his company and in the midst of finalizing a divorce. His wife, Alice is frustrated knowing that his impotence isn’t merely symbolic since David suffers from erectile dysfunction. When Alice discovers that he has been spending time in swinging chat rooms, she recognizes an opportunity to breathe life into their relationship and bring it back to life. Alice and David are bound together by obvious emotional and intellectual bonds and search for physical healing in the hilarious, absurd and – at times – sublime sexual underworld they uncover in Scotland.

The movie is filled black humor and emotional exploration A ex therapy session is awkward as is an all-male swinging ice-breaker but the best way to approach the film is to become art of and care about the relationship between Alice and David. The actors are excellent all around and give their characters a fragility and sense of desperation that lurks beneath their charming exteriors. We immediately see why they are attracted to one another and the reason for their desperation comes out as the film moves forward and back stories are exposed. We sense a genuine, flawed relationship that couldn’t exist without chemistry. There is graphic sex but it is not gratuitous. David’s impotency causes strain in their relationship, one which Alice hopes may be solved with a detour into the world of swinging. There is the potential to play this for laughs, and occasionally the film does.

When it explores the awkward swinging encounters, the vulnerable intimacy captured in the looks between David and Alice, the film is quit strong. Each looks at the other and wonders how far will they take this? David is unemployed and has a soon-to-be ex-wife and young daughter to consider, while Alice’s job is also under threat and she wonders how serious David is about commitment. Visually the film gives us x-rated moments and “Swung” is less successful in capturing the everyday moments, however, with conversations between David and Alice often feels flat.

The film is based on the Ewan Morrison’s acclaimed novel of the same name and is a no-holds-barred look at sex in the modern world. It is anchored around an excellently acted and believable central pairing. Above and beyond between-the-sheets intimacy and pillow talk, there is a closeness between the two leads and this can only be achieved through two actors who are very much at ease.

Representations of sex are handled with style and grace, framed in between shadows and darkened spaces or with a blurred lens. The inability to come together physically means that David and Alice’s relationship is more significant here than the act itself.