Category Archives: Film

“SLACK BAY”— A Dark Comedy

“Slack Bay” (“Ma Loute”)

A Dark Comedy

Amos Lassen

In the summer of 1010, several tourists disappeared while at the beaches on the French coast near Calais. Inspectors Machin (Didier Després) and his assistant Malfoy (Cyril Rigaux) are investigating these strange happenings. They think these the vanishings are centered at Slack Bay, a unique site where the Slack river and the sea come together only at high tide. Living in Slack Bay are fisherman and oyster farmers and a vey strange family, the Bréforts, who have been the ferrymen of the Slack Bay. The head of the family, is nicknamed “The Eternal” (Thierry Lavieville), because of having saved a hundred people from the sea. He and his family enjoy cannibalism.

The Van Peteghems’ mansion stands high above the bay. Every summer, the Van Peterghems who all degenerate and decadent from inbreeding, come to their villa and mix with the residents.

The film’s focus is on the clash between the impoverished locals trying to make ends meet by fishing and ferrying visitors across the shallow inlets and the upper class vacationers who wear fine clothing and possess airs of importance. The Van Peteghem family consists of André (Fabrice Luchini) and Isabelle (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), husband and wife, and their two daughters (Lauréna Thellier and Manon Royère) who run all over the place and scamper about and their niece Billie (Raph) who falls for the young local Ma Loute (Brandon Lavieville), son of The Eternal. Billie mother is Aude (Juliette Binoche), André’s sister. The family manor, The Typhonium, has wonderful views over the coast.

The detectives come on the scene to investigate some strange disappearances and provide a connection between the two classes.

Their inquiry seems doomed with no method but plenty of madness, while a family of bourgeois holidaymakers arrive for their annual vacation. Machin is obese and Andre is a hunchback.

The film is a visual fest with beautiful costumes and gorgeous seascapes. It opens with the Breforts scraping mussels off the rocks at low tide. The men combine their bivalve gathering with the ferrying well-off visitors across the river inlet or around the headland.

There is something strange going on amid the sand dunes. What brings the Breforts with the Van Peteghems together is the young romance between Ma Loute and Billy (who dresses as a boy but says she a girl in disguise). The film is a lot of fun as the circumstances are set up.

As I mentioned earlier the Brefort family are cannibals who kidnap, kill, and eat some of the bourgeois tourists whom they row across the bay. “Slack Bay” is a burlesque of passion and rage, a comedy of manners and of carefully constructed appearances that are warped by the constant and hidden force of cannibalism. This is a society that depends on radically maintained differences and distinctions that don’t hold up against relentless natural forces.

The isolation of the Brefort clan has come about due to official contempt and social invisibility and we see this in the father and the son. (Neither are actors; they were picked from the location and are actually father and son). Director Bruno Dumont’s attention to light, form, and motion is graceful but with an off-kilter spontaneity that matches their emotional fullness. The comedy is loud and its repetitive antics adhere to a quiet transcendent tenderness and, a geographical devotion to earth that united with irrational sublimity. Dumont blends genres as we see the coming together of slapstick and horror and realism and fantasy. (Would anyone care for anymore of this foot?).

“ALL OF ME”— The Love and Solidarity of the Patrona

“All of Me” ( “Llévate mis amores”)

The Love and Solidarity of the Patronas

Amos Lassen

Arturo Gonzalez Villasenor’s “All of Me” is a documentary that look at the Patronas, a group of Mexican women who, every day since 1995, make food and toss it (still warm) to the migrants who travel atop the freight train “The Beast” as it makes it way to the U.S. This is a personal diary that shows these woman face a border between the life they were given, and the life they chose. It is an example of love and solidarity that contrasts with the violence of one of the cruelest stretches in the world for undocumented travelers.

The issue of migration has been constant throughout cinema, documentary and fiction, during the last twenty years and this film reminds us to explore the question even more. The women get up with the sun to prepare food in great pots on the fire and they understand that the immigrants they feed love them even though the two groups have never met. The women have established the simple but overwhelming idea of tossing food to migrants whom they don’t know, in plastic bags, accompanied by bottles of water.

We see numerous narratives and aesthetic skills that show the specific kind of love that, at times, is offered to unknown people with a force that is inexplicable but very necessary today. We see human faces, Mexican and Central American, who after grabbing the parcels of food offered by Las Patronas, shout out a message of “Thanks” that dissolves along the tracks, through time and space.

The film combines interviews with action shots to construct a moving and meaningful story. The documentary often returns to images of the fleeing train as the leitmotif that pushes the movie forward with vigor. We learn a good deal about immigration and see the dedication and love with which the women carry out their work.

Las Patronas are a group of 10 to 13 women; the number varies depending on the season. While some appear in the film more than others. When asked them who they are, they describe themselves by highlighting their flaws and they do not glorify themselves. They have selfless love and just care about the simple fact of helping people out.

The confide many things to the camera that they had never before shared with each other. As a matter of fact, their confessions brought about frictions among the group. They show the love that they put in cooking the food, the love they put into words of encouragement they give to the migrants, motherly love, the love of a son, the love one of them feels for the migrant they fell in love with.

An estimated two million migrants cross the border from Mexico into the US each year. Since 1995, the women have been attempting to feed the hundreds of stowaways onboard by throwing bags of cooked food and bottles of water onto the moving train. They offer a lifeline for those migrants.

The women, themselves, live hand-to-mouth existences in an area with low wages and limited employment opportunities. Each has had their own potential curtailed by circumstances beyond their control and all hope for better for their children. They understand first-hand why the migrants take the risk that they do. As the women to talk about their lives and personalities in their own words, they create portraits of female resilience (the absence of men is a common factor in many of the women’s lives) in the face of hardship and tragedy. They describe themselves in humble terms but their warmth and sincerity are part of both their actions and the film itself – these are admirable women who have dedicated themselves to a particular task with tenacity and a heartfelt empathy for those fleetingly passing through their village.

This is a dangerous situation for all concerned. The migrants risk death or mutilation as they travel on a high-speed train with little safety. Falling asleep can be fatal – and there are several stories within the that deal with the aftermath of people falling off the train. At the same time, the women risk physical injury either by being pulled towards the train as those onboard grab the bags of food or when scores at a time jump off the train in order to ensure they get a share of the supplies.

But the danger for the women is also a legal one. In 1995 (the same year that they started) it was made a crime to assist illegal immigrants. There originally were women but now there are only 14 (most of whom are related to one another) as people dropped out for fear of arrest. In investigating their own legal position, Las Patronas came into direct contact with the authorities and have effectively become advocates for the migrants. Even though the women observe the legalities, they also argue that the authorities should treat everyone with respect.

While the local community contributes what they can in the form of food and clothing donations, the responsibility and credit for what they have achieved rests with Las Patronas. Their efforts seem to have had a reciprocal effect in their lives – many of them have received a confidence boost and an emerging sense of self-fulfillment in knowing that their actions make a difference to the lives of hundreds of strangers on a regular basis. González Villaseñor has give these women a voice of their own.

“PHAEDRA”— Anthony Perkins and Melina Mercouri Finally Together on DVD and Blu Ray

“Phaedra”

Finally on DVD and Blu Ray

Amos Lassen

All of us have our favorite movies and “Phaedra” has always been one of mine. However, it has never been available on VHS or DVD and to see it, I would have to comb the papers to see when it was being shown on television. That is over now with Olive Films release of the modern version of a Greek tragedy. Now set in modern Greece, wealthy Greek shipping magnate Thanos Kyrilis (Raf Vallone), his second wife Phaedra (Melina Mercouri) and Alexis (son of Thanos from a previous marriage) become involved in a very strange love triangle. After christening a new boat with the name of his wife, Phaedra is urged to go to London to convince Alexis to come home to Greece or the summer. There is an instant attraction between the two and they become involved in a very steamy love affair and they return to Greece together yet Alexis is suffering from severe guilt pangs. Thanos realizes nothing and is excessively happy to see his son again and arranges for him to come into the family business and to marry Ercy, his rival’s daughter and bring the two companies together.

Jules Dassin, the husband of Mercouri and blacklisted American filmmaker, directed and wrote the screenplay with Margarita Liberaki. Knowing that it is based on a Green tragedy, we know that it will not end well. Phaedra cannot let go of Alexis and she tells her husband about the affair and the rest is left for you to see yourself.

I remember my reaction when I saw this film and I was mesmerized by Anthony Perkins as Alexis. He played the part with angst and came across as a melancholy young man in love with his stepmother. When he and Mercouri share the screen it is magic and their love scene (see video below) was something to see especially remembering that the film was first screened in 1962. Melina Mercouri exudes sex and she is alluring and wonderfully exotic.

The music score is fantastic and fits the screenplay perfectly. Thinking back on the actors, both Perkins and Mercouri are no longer with us but they gave amazing performances here. When the movie came out, the critics did not care for it possibly because they thought it resembled the lives of Onassis and Callas. The remastering and transfer are wonderful and the picture is crystal clear. The music seems to be more sumptuous than ever.

“PSYCHIC MURDER”— A Comic with Three Fingers

“Psychic Murder”

A Comic with Three Fingers

Amos Lassen

There is something about the “Faust” legend that has made it an important theme in the arts for many years. From the original story, we have seen it in musical theatre in “Damn Yankees”, in literature in Oscar Wilde’s “Dorian Gray” and in straight drama. This time it is about Billy, a young comic who jokes about his birth defect of being born with just three fingers on each hand. Brandon Block’s new film twists the Faust story and we suspect from the very beginning that this will not end well.

Mickey Goldsmith (Timothy J. Cox) is a ruthless agent meets Billy (Will Bernish) and offers to represent him. Billy’s career is not succeeding but he begins to do a bit better when he speaks about his birth defect. People begin to laugh but we get the feeling that they are laughing at him and not with him. We also get a sense of something being just “not right” with this and this sense of uneasiness increases as the movie moves forward. The audience is not entertained by what they see and hear, their laughter comes from a sense of “freakiness”. The movie becomes quite dark at this point. Mickey is the devil’s advocate who takes Billy’s attempt at comedy and Cox as Mickey with a stare and snide way of speaking invites Billy into his agency. He even tells Billy that he will not help advance his faltering career. Billy, surprisingly, wants to join Mickey even though he is an unpleasant person and against being warned by Puma (Tatiana Ford). Mickey even shares something about Adrian Mann, another client that he managed and whose career he destroyed just because Puma fell in love with him. But then there is something else about Puma and who she is and whether or not she is used as a lure to get Billy to sigh with Mickey. It seems that the agent focuses on those with less talent than others.

We cannot really hear the first words that Mickey says to Billy the background music to drowns out what was being said. We cannot help but wonder why Billy is pursuing something that he is clearly not good at and we get the impression that he is trying to save himself because he knows that his hands will not allow him to get employment someplace else. Being a stand-up comic is not an easy job and the stress that one who does not get laughs can be overwhelming. He needs to have an audience that is on his side and that finds him funny. If not, the comedy crowd audience can be brutal and ruin him in an instant. This is a sad but realistic look at live entertainment. Mickey is the seminal representation of what is wrong here and he is quite cruel.

So is this film what we might call entertainment? That is a rough question. Everything here works and the actors turn in excellent performances but what we see is upsetting. Cox turns in a brilliant performance and I am sure that as Mickey, he is not a person that I would care to know.

“A VERY SORDID WEDDING”— Back to Texas with the Gang

“A Very Sordid Wedding”

Back to Texas With the Gang

Amos Lassen

I have been a huge fan of Del Shores ever since I first saw “Sordid Lives” which now finally has a sequel with some of the original cast. The people who live in Winters, Texas are still as loony as ever even though age has made them a bit more tender.

It is now2015 and Ty (Kirk Geiger), who was coming to terms with his sexuality in the first film, is now legally married to a man. His mother, Latrelle (Bedelia), is still living in Winters, but she is not the same difficult a person as she once was, although she’s still got an edge when pushed. However, when she learns that she’s going to become a grandmother, she realizes that she has not fully opened up as she should.

Latrelle’s sisters are in their own worlds. Sissy (Dale Dickey) is still chain smoking and LaVonda (Ann Walker) is flirting with love. Then there is Brother Boy (Leslie Jordan) who is now out of the mental institution but still plagued by visions of the psychiatrist who tried to turn him straight. He’s working on a new drag act where he’ll play three queens of country music. However he gets fired and ends up on a road trip with a serial killer.

There is a problem in Winters. The US Supreme Court has just decreed that same sex marriage should be legal across the United States, but the new Baptist preacher there has decided to organize an ‘anti-equality’ drive, in the hope of making sure that no gay marriage will ever happen in their county. Some of the residents of the town back this prejudice and begin using bible verses to support it while but others come together to try and put a stop to the bigotry.

I believe that one of the reasons that “Sordid Lives” has always been fun is because the female characters often insult one another in wonderful ways. We again have that here with the new actors hurling insults wonderfully. Ion fact, we become so involved with them that the plot fades away for a while.

If you have not seen either “Sordid Lives” or the series based on it, you might feel a little lost in the beginning but that passes and you will soon be rolling with the cast. When things speed up, you will be smiling with the rest of us. Bonnie Bedelia and Dale Dickey give a good deal of heart to the film and we laugh at the adventures of Jordan as Brother Boy. However, there is a note of sadness as we realize how some of us are affected by aging (that does NOT include me, however). We also see the evils of homophobia and as absurd and silly as this film gets, there is a sweetness to it. I am not going to disclose who is getting married because that is part of the fun.

I loved seeing Sissy Hickey reading the Bible from cover to cover, trying to make some kind of sense out of what it really says about gay people.  Her niece Latrelle has finally divorced her husband Wilson (Michael MacRae) who has taken up with a hot young gold digger (Katherine Bailess).  Latrelle’s now out and proud gay son Ty is on his way back to town with his black lover (T. Ashanti Mozelle) and news of their own.  Her sister LaVonda is being blackmailed to sit with the sick and afflicted. LaVonda’s best friend Noleta (Caroline Rhea) meets a hot younger man (Aleks Paunovic) while visiting her awful mama (Carole Cook) in the hospital.  G.W. (David Steen) has new fiberglass legs after Noleta burned his old ones is still feeling guilty and mourning Peggy.  Nearly incoherent barfly Juanita (Sarah Hunley) has moved from her obsession with Vacation Bible School roosters to the royal family while Wardell (Newell Alexander) and Odell (David Cowgill) still fight at the bar Brother Boy hasn’t been back to Winters since Peggy’s funeral, and he’s working at a tragic little gay bar in Longview, having added Loretta and Dolly to his new medley act “We Three Queens of Oper-y Are” till a chance meeting with a dangerous criminal (Emerson Collins) forces him out on the run.  

 An anniversary memorial service is being planned in honor of Peggy at Bubba’s Bar while the Southside Baptist Church is planning an “Anti-Equality Rally” to protest the advancement of same-sex marriage, spearheaded by Vera Lisso (Lorna Scott) and Mrs. Barnes (Sharon Garrison.)  Both events are to take place on the same night, so the cast of colorful characters are all on a collision course for shenanigans and fireworks!  Along the way a host of new faces arrive in Winters including Ty’s man, Latrelle’s ex-husband and his gold digger, the new fire and brimstone preacher (Levi Kreis), Noleta’s mother, several drag queens and a bisexual serial killer, all swept into the adventure on the way to the surprise wedding. Could we possibly want things to be any crazier?

“Sordid Lives” was (among other things) about coming out in a conservative southern world, A Very “A Very Sordid Wedding” looks at  bigotry and what happens when gay marriage comes to communities and families that are not quite ready to accept it.   Del Shores’ trademark comedy and his much-beloved Sordid Lives characters to deal with these important current social issues is everywhere as is the very real process of accepting family for who they are instead of who we might want them to be. For the dysfunctional folks of the small suburban town of Winters in Texas, it looks like time stands still.  This time we have a contemporary issue in the story to get all the Town’s homophobes worked up about when the handsome but bigoted new Church pastor  wants to have an Anti-Equality Rally. There is a surprise cameo by one of our favorite actresses but what really makes this film so much fun is seeing the cast having a great time making this film and then sharing it with us.

“DONNIE DARKO”— The Man in the Rabbit Suit

“Donnie Darko”

The Man in the Rabbit Suit

Amos Lassen

After narrowly escaping a strange accident, a troubled teenager, Donnie Darko, is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes, after he narrowly escapes a bizarre accident. Donnie is introverted, medicated and dreams that he is being stalked by a tall rabbit who warns him of the oncoming Apocalypse. Set in suburbia in 1988 on the eve of Halloween, we meet Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) who captivates us as the titular anti-hero of the plot. The film has become a cult classic with an endless amount of lines to quote and several images that remain in the memories of the viewers.

This is director Richard Kelly’s debut and it is a tale of adolescent angst ripe with enigmatic sci-fi underpinnings. Regardless of whether Donnie is seemingly deranged or merely on the brink of saving humanity from itself, his time-warping fantasies are metaphors for confused teenage male development. By film’s end, Kelly has expertly transformed his comfortable ’80s milieu into a look at moral complacency and heartbreak.

This is director Kelly’s idea of what life was like in the ’80s. After Frank saves Donnie from the plane engine that crashes into his bedroom, Donnie comes to believe Frank’s prophecy that the world will end in 28 days. Halloween’s arrival and the Bush/Dukakis race pitch-perfectly compliment the film’s apocalyptic wind-down. With doomsday nearing, Donnie becomes a messianic character who rids the town of self-righteous false prophets, while also finding time to have a romance with Gretchen (Jena Malone). Donnie is determined to get to the new-age gym teacher who makes little emotional allowances outside her fear/love lifeline. Her downfall is followed by and linked to the fiery demise of a self-help guru played by Patrick Swayze, whose motivational shenanigans Donnie hysterically shoots to the ground.

In search for enlightenment, Donnie does away with the town’s false prophet, whose participation in a kiddie porn ring seems to shatter the entire town’s sense of complacency. The film is an affront to ’80s naiveté that is mindful of strange events that seemingly happen for a reason though not always for the better good.

Special features include:

– Brand new 4K restorations of both the Theatrical Cut and the Director’s Cut from the original camera negatives produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release, supervised and approved by director Richard Kelly and cinematographer Steven Poster

– High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of both cuts

– Original 5.1 audio

– Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

– Audio commentary by writer-director Richard Kelly and actor Jake Gyllenhaal on the Theatrical Cut

– Audio commentary by Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick and actors Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Beth Grant, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross and James Duval on the Theatrical Cut

– Audio commentary by Kelly and filmmaker Kevin Smith on the Director’s Cut

– Brand-new interviews with Richard Kelly and others

The Goodbye Place, Kelly’s 1996 short film, which anticipates some of the themes and ideas of his feature films

The Donnie Darko Production Diary, an archival documentary charting the film’s production with optional commentary by cinematographer Steven Poster

– Twenty deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary by Kelly

– Archive interviews with Kelly, actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, James Duval, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Noah Wyle and Katharine Ross, producers Sean McKittrick, Nancy Juvonen, Hunt Lowry and Casey La Scala, and cinematographer Steven Poster

– Three archive featurettes: They Made Me Do It, They Made Me Do It Too and #1 Fan: A Darkomentary

– Storyboard comparisons

– B-roll footage

– Cunning Visions infomercials

– Music Video: Mad World by Gary Jules

– Galleries

– Trailers

– TV spots

– Illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing by Nathan Rabin

– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp

“DJANGO, PREPARE A COFFIN”— Revenge

“Django, Prepare a Coffin” (“Preparati la bara!”)

Revenge!!

Amos Lassen

Django defends obviously corrupt politician David Barry (Horst Frank), against an attack, and he is paid back for his good deed with grave injuries and the murder of his wife in an ambush organized by Barry while Django is transporting a shipment of gold from a bank to the central depository in Atlanta. Five years later, Django has reestablished himself as a hangman on the other side of the country, and he’s got a lot of business what with the many innocently condemned for the string of gold hijacks organized by Barry and executed by Lucas (George Eastman) and his gang. Using a harness device to fake the hangings, Django builds up an army of wronged men to expose the Lucas gang and whoever is behind them.

When he learns that Mercedes (Barbara Simon), the wife of Garcia (José Torres), another condemned man he has rescued – is also going to be hanged as an accomplice, Django sends his men to capture the Lucas gang during their next gold transport ambush while he rescues the woman. Garcia, however, convinces the men that they would be better off with the gold than in attaining justice; and Django soon finds himself at the mercy of Lucas and Barry who want him to lead them to men and the gold.

The international success of the original spaghetti western “Django” was a major boost for the Italian film industry in the late ’60s, with filmmakers made as many westerns as possible. Many adopted the name Django in their titles, though most had nothing to do with the first. One of the few films that actually does work as a genuine sequel is “Django, Prepare a Coffin” and it was an early western star role for Terence Hill.

Special features include:

– New High Definition digital transfer of the film in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio

– Optional English and Italian audio tracks

– Newly translated English subtitles for Italian audio and English SDH for the deaf and hard of hearing on the English audio

Django Explained, a new interview with Spaghetti Western expert and author Kevin Grant

Original Trailer

Those who re lucky enough to get a first pressing will also receive an nllustrated collector’s booklet by critic and Spaghetti Western expert Howard Hughes

“AMERICAN CONSCIENCE: THE REINHOLF NIEHBUR STORY”— Theologian, Writer, Political Activist

“American Conscience: The Reinhold Niehbur Story”

Theologian, Writer, Political Activist

Amos Lassen

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) was an influential theologian, political activist and writer. Martin Doblemeir looks at Niehbur’s life and writings through interviews and the man’s own written legacy. We hear from former president Jimmy Carter, civil rights activist Andrew Young, columnist David Brooks,  author Susannah Heschel, and author Cornel West and others. Actor Hal Holbrook is the voice of Niebuhr.

The film recently debuted as part of Union Theological Seminary’s “Faith in America” series. The documentary brings Niebuhr’s story to a new audience and generation and leads us to a new discussion on the role of religion and theology in the 21st century as we see a faithful perspective on power and justice. I promise these events will be spirited and helpful to anyone who hopes to practice their faith in America today.

 Although he may be best remembered today as the author of the famed “Serenity Prayer,” Reinhold Niebuhr was also an outspoken American-born pastor, writer, and political activist and still remains one of the most influential public theologians of our time.  Presidents from Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter have credited his impact on their thinking, as well as John McCain, countless historians, theologians, political thinkers, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who cited Niebuhr in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”.

Niebuhr’s career spanned some of the most tumultuous and troublesome decades in American history, from World War I through Vietnam, from the Great Depression through the Civil Rights Movement. He was an early pacifist and socialist; closely monitored by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI throughout his life and would later serve as a consultant to the State Department during the Cold War

Niebuhr rose from having been active on a small Midwest church pulpit to become the nation’s moral voice, an American conscience; like the title of this film during some of the most defining moments in recent history. His books (“Moral Man and Immoral Society”, “The Nature and Destiny of Man” and “The Irony of American History”) still influence theological and political thinking. He was an American original who held unique insights into human nature and its relationship to political movements and social justice and there propelled him to speak openly and often critically, to an America consumed by moral certainty.  Niebuhr saw justice as the priority and his guiding principle was hope in a redeemer God. His weapon was an extraordinary gift for clarity of thought and these made him a leading voice of conscience for his time.

The film is filled with wonderful archival material and includes interviews with internationally recognized historians and theologians.

“GARY NUMAN: ANDROID IN LA LA LAND— An Intriguing Look

“Gary Numan: Android In La La Land”

An Intriguing Look

Amos Lassen

In case you don’t remember, Gary Numan is an English musician and producer who appeared on the scene in the late 70s/early 80s and had huge hits between 1979 to 1980 that have stood the test of time and cult classics. His use of synthesizers on a commercial scale make Numan one of the pioneers of modern electronic music and “Cars” broke down those barriers when it became a worldwide hit.

“Gary Numan: Android in La La Land” follows Numan, his wife Gemma and three daughters as they relocate from the England to America and looks at his past, highlighting his struggles with fame and fortune and then moves forward to the release of this it also turns a positive eye towards the future as 20th studio album “Splinter” back in 2013. Numan was always considered a distinct kind of character and Steve Read and Rob Alexander’s documentary really opens up his life and gives insight into his deeply focused hopes even during the bad times and Numan’s fears of the creative unknown.

The film begin with the origins and the success of Numan’s mega-singles and against this background, he explains how his move into electronica was just a coincidence at the time. His original intent was to produce a punk album but another musician had left a synthesizer on a particular sound. When Numan played a note, the sound instantaneously changed his perceptions of what he wanted to do. From there everything moved forward and two early albums came out. It’s both fascinating and extraordinary that from a single, unintended moment, unique music became part of the scene. such unique sounds would eventually explode across the music scene.

In those early days, no one really saw Numan coming and because of this he was somewhat apart from the punk scene and especially by music journalists. While punk emerged, Numan who had previously been diagnosed with Aspersers was creating his on-stage persona and was considered to be creation because he had previously been more anti-social than the media wanted him to be. This caused the music press dug into his life and eventually started to rip him apart unfairly and very personally without ever really acknowledging any truth. As a man who was already dealing with the anxieties that come with instant success and wealth, he was hit hard and freely and admits that “the bottom fell out” of his career.

The documentary lets us meet the man behind the persona that we thought we knew. We see Numan as someone still pushing to be original. Even though the documentary does takes a look back it doesn’t really feel like it’s about the past. It is really about the future and although he’s still overly self-aware or fearful of anything new he’s working on, Numan tells is that he loves what he is doing.

This portrait doesn’t give much of a career overview and it does not explain what Numan has been doing for the last three decades and at times it seems to sometimes seems too transparently and can be seen as a d promo for a recent album/tour. However, looking a bit deeper, we see that it is a far cry from Numan’s cold, “android”-like original persona.

The focus here is primarily on his preparing to make 2013’s “Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind),” an album he sees as crucial to extending his career that turns out to be his bestselling and best-reviewed effort in decades. Creating it is filled with anxiety particularly since he simultaneously moves with wife Gemma and their three young daughters from England to an imposing residential castle in Los Angeles.

Gemma is delightful, a bustling, many-hair-colored husband wrangler in the Sharon Osbourne mold, who is used to minding the store for her grateful and somewhat neurotic spouse. The most endearing character here is Numan himself, who these days performs in simple T-shirt and jeans and is unpretentious and seems to have a very sweet temperament. We see his surprise that latter-day stars like Trent Raznor cite him as an influence and invite him on stage. The film is perceptive, honest and intriguing.

“FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK”— A Son’s Tribute

“For the Love of Spock”

A Son’s Tribute

Amos Lassen

Director Adam Nimoy had originally intended to examine his father’s iconic character in “Star Trek”, Mr. Spock for that franchise’s 50th anniversary. But in February 2015 Leonard Nimoy died and the documentary began to movie in a different direction. Now the film moves back and forth between biography and a love tribute to the series. More surprisingly, it also looks at the ties between father and son.

Culturally and historically, there are few actors that are as recognized as Leonard Nimoy. As Spock on “Star Trek,” Nimoy’s three-year-long role on primetime television turned into a lifetime of professional opportunities but that is only part of his story. “For the Love of Spock” doesn’t try to dissect Nimoy’s life in full, but it does give a fascinating overview of Nimoy’s rise to stardom and his struggles to keep his career interesting. Adam Nimoy shows his father as a man and an icon and along with help from family and friends, we become aware of Nimoy as we have never been before.

Adam Nimoy interviews stars of the original TV ‘Star Trek” series, as well the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and principals in J. J. Abrams’s big-screen reboot. We learn about Leonard’s profound contributions to the show including the phrase “Live long and prosper”; its attendant hand gesture (inspired by a move he saw as a child at synagogue services); the Vulcan Love Pitch and how he saw his character as half-human battling and his emotions, ensuring an intrinsic tension. We hear of Leonard’s work onstage (including a Broadway run in “Equus”) and his directing (“Three Men and a Baby,” two “Trek” movies) and of his legal and artistic (and triumphant) battles with Paramount.

Adam shares the drawbacks of having a famous father and speaks of his own problems with substance abuse and how his father’s alcoholism caused a long estrangement that ultimately ended in a sober reconciliation. As interesting as these revelations are, they are also distracting. What we really see is Leonard’s formidable charisma. Adam may be a successful director, but Leonard Nimoy was an artist who defined a timeless character.

The documentary returns to the early years to establish Nimoy’s sharp work ethic and interest in the performing arts. His parents refused to support his dream and Nimoy risked a lot and moved to Los Angeles in 1949, with no idea what Hollywood could provide. He began by taking on a series of small roles in television and film and as he did, he developed an awareness of work and how few opportunities in the industry were. The movie emphasizes this point, showing Nimoy as someone who wouldn’t turn down a job out of fear that another wouldn’t follow. He kept his career going while, at home, he was building a family with a wife and two children (daughter Julie also participates in the picture).

Nimoy found himself pursued for the very first time by producer Gene Roddenberry, flattering the actor with an offer to star in a strange sci-fi project titled “Star Trek.” The rest is history and the film gives us an overview of the production years, focusing on Nimoy’s challenge to shape the Vulcan into a more layered presence thus helping to define the character’s physical presence. Adam places specific emphasis on his father’s home life, recalling an absentee parent who worked around the clock, agreeing to all publicity efforts and personal appearances, laboring to sustain visibility during his time on the show. We see the early explosion of fame with Nimoy personally answering fan letters and building a sense of style for the first time in his life. But there was also alcoholism creeping into his routine. While “Star Trek” only lasted for three seasons, for Leonard Nimoy, it transformed his entire existence.

We hear from some famous friends and co-workers William Shatner, George Takei, and Walter Koenig from “Star Trek: The Original Series,” Chris Pine and most of the cast from the new “Star Trek” big screen adventures, and diverse assembly of loved ones and admirers, finding Jason Alexander, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jim Parsons, and Nimoy’s brother Melvin adding to the conversation. The documentary is more about influence and puts the spotlight on how television viewers were drawn to aspects of science after watching Spock problem solve as well as finding Spock’s war with logic as inspiration around the world. There is a lot of adoration of Nimoy but . instead of piling on layers of flattery, the production strives to understand Nimoy’s quest of self, including his work in theater acting, movie direction and photography.

What is missing in the film is that in the 1970’s, the character of Spock was rejected but rather than deal with the negative, Adam looks at Spock’s rise and domination and touches on convention appearances and his return to the role for J.J. Abrams’s take on “Star Trek.” We gain an understanding of his father’s personality and their troubled relationship and Adam is not afraid to identify tensions and lapses in communication as both men periodically went their separate ways. “For the Love of Spock” occasionally threatens to become an overly glossy offering of hero worship, but there is a great degree of honesty, making sure to identify the man before the Vulcan and creating a portrait of an actor and father having the kind of life that he never imagined that he could have.