Category Archives: Film

“HANDS OF GOD”— To Become Olympic Champions

“HANDS OF GOD”

To Become Olympic Champions

Amos Lassen

Riccardo Romani’s “Hands of God” is a beautiful documentary about the Iraqi boxing teams who suffered through thirteen years of war, dozens of bombings each and every month, but who remain focused on their goal of becoming Olympic champions. Here is theirjourney from desperation to the edge of an historic qualification. We follow a group of young men — Waheed, Jafaar, and Saadi are determined to fight for their Nation while they defend their lives on the battlefields. When their gym is devastated by a bomb attack, they continue to train outside.   Even with living under the constant threat of ISIS, the men redefine commitment and sacrifice as they strive to fulfill their dreams.

They face other problems as well— is there enough time to train while on army duty? Can they maintain their focus while living in dangerous areas during the time of war? Will those on the front lines return home? Their story is one of hope and redemption.

“STARFISH”— A Funeral

“STARFISH”

A Funeral

Amos Lassen

Aubrey Parker (Virginia Gardner) has come home for the funeral of her best friend, Grace, whose death makes her feel tremendously guilty for her. She has many regrets and wallows in her misery. When she breaks into Grace’s apartment, her descent into depression is interrupted by something monstrous.

Without giving away spoilers about what happens, this is almost an impossible film to summarize. “Starfish” is filled with uncertainty and it works very well  works surprisingly well in this case. It seems there is some kind of signal occurring from a source beyond our comprehension. Grace though that a signal had been recorded and played back in a corrupted form causing caused her hideous state of things.

She was well aware of whatever theories regarding the signal. It seems that Grace had stashed recordings of it in seven locations that held tremendous personal significance for her and Parker. Collecting and compiling those mixtapes could be the key to everything, but the process will sends Parker spiraling down into her memory and subconscious.

Director AT White keeps us disoriented, but completely locked in every step of the way. His command of mood and texture, along with the otherworldly cinematography keep us involved with what we see. Christina Masterson  who only appears briefly as Grace, is also acutely felt throughout the film.

Much of the film involves intangibles in this melancholy film moves between the genres of science fiction and horror. We have ideas around signaling and communication between dimensions yet this remains an under-explored area of science fiction. “Starfish” mixes this with the experience of grief and, while we can see the entire film as Aubrey’s hallucinatory response to loss, her attempt to make sense of the innately unreasonable business of death. There are images of starfish throughout that remind us of the strangeness of the world and causes us to think about what else might be possible.

Focus is kept on Aubrey’s emotional response to what’s happening around her. Aubrey’s conscious efforts to manage her emotional experience reflect her journey through grief. We feel Grace’s presence as a character and as an influence Aubrey cannot escape. Grace had discovered something, says the voice on the radio. It’s up to Aubrey to try and make sense of it.

Aubrey has her own legacy of guilt to deal with and we are kept guessing and cheering her on. When she enters Grace’s apartment, she promptly retreats from the world and immerses herself in what’s left of Grace’s by going through her property and listening to her music.

Then extra-dimensional creatures invade Earth and Aubrey is surprised to discover that her childhood pal’s ephemera might contain the clues to help her save humanity … if she can get over her grief long enough to get up and so something.

Not everything in “Starfish” works. The many frequent flashbacks and dream sequences seem arbitrary and the way the long shots of Aubrey looking sad often seem bothersome. Nonetheless, Gardner is excellent throughout; and perhaps the best thing about “Starfish” is that it’s so hard to figure out what kind of film it really is.

This Deluxe Blu-ray Edition contains nearly 3 hours of brand new bonus features, 2 commentary tracks, and a CD of STARFISH’s beautiful score.
 
Special Features:

  • Bonus CD with STARFISH’s Score.
  • Reversible Cover Art
  • 2 Audio Commentaries:
  • – Director A.T. White and Director of Photography Alberto Bañares.
  • – Director A.T. White and ‘We Are Geeks’
  • Making-Of Featurette. (59 minutes)
  • Deleted Scenes (22 minutes).
  • 2 Q&As at the Alamo Drafthouse (69 minutes).
  • ‘The Tortoises’ Featurette.
  • Music Video: Ghostlight – “Racehorse”.
  • Starfish Test Sizzle.
  • Aminated Comparison
  • Director Introduction.
  • Blu-ray Trailer.
  • Festival Teaser Trailer.
  • Other Trailers.

“THE WILD GOOSE LAKE”— Societal Ills in China

“THE WILD GOOSE LAKE”

Societal Ills in China

Amos Lassen

Diao Yinan’s “The Wild Goose Lake” is a prime example of the new generation of Chinese films that are concerned with both a sociopolitical and aesthetic context. The film opens with pouring rain and neon lights, shadowy figures meeting at a rendezvous point, a man checking his watch, and a woman sashaying into position, whispering, “Hey, got a light?” Right away, we know that this is a noir film. The man, Zhou Zenong (Hu Ge), had been waiting for his estranged wife, but instead, the mysterious Liu Aiai (Gwei Lun-mei) appears, a sex worker who demands that Zenong prove that he is who he says he is. In a long flashback beginning two nights earlier, it’s revealed that Zenong is a recently released convict involved with a gang that steals and resells motorbikes. He’s put in charge of a group of men, one of whom has problems with another high-ranking mobster. A contest is set up to resolve the matter, but the outcome is rigged, and soon Zenong is the target of a massive manhunt.

Zenong and two comrades who he brings with him on the run negotiate discreet meet-ups, call in favors with their few remaining friends, and find a way around the cops, while, Aiai lingers in the periphery, her motivations and intentions keep us guessing right up until the end. Dynamic camera movement, suspense-building close-ups, and beautiful choreography fill the film.

Diao uses sprawling geography of what’s essentially a chase film to enter into the sordid underbelly of a Chinese society where lawlessness rules over order. The fugitive antiheroes are framed by an environment that reflects their criminal lives back at them wherever they turn.

One of the film’s major themes is a critical attitude toward ruthless and incompetent Chinese police. In one scene, Zenong’s comrade (Zhang Yicong) is accidentally killed by police fire, after he raises his hands in surrender. In another scene, a team of eager cops pose over the body of a man they just killed and they take selfies. We also see that when the police inspector asks who in his squad doesn’t know how to use their guns, almost every hand goes up. This is a very rare depiction of police on mainland China.

The film’s best moments are the chase scenes by the police showing China to still be a police state in need of further reform. The film is beautiful to watch and the actors’ performances are excellent all around.


BONUS FEATURES 

  • Diao Yinan Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
  • Interview with stars Hu Ge and Gwei Lun Mei
  • Bonus Short Film— The Goddess (Directed by Renkai Tan | United States, China | Chinese with English subtitles| 7 minutes) — A young woman decides to take justice into her own hands after a traumatic assault. Based on a true story. 

 About Film Movement

Founded in 2002, Film Movement is a North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films based in New York City. It has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide including the Oscar-nominated films Theeb (2016) and Corpus Christi (2020). Film Movement’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries, and foreign art house titles. Its catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. In 2015, Film Movement launched its reissue label Film Movement Classics, featuring new restorations released theatrically as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, including films by such noted directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, Arturo Ripstein, King Hu, Sergio Corbucci, Ettore Scola and Luchino Visconti. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com. Visit www.filmmovementplus.com for more information about Film Movement Plus, the new subscription streaming service from Film Movement.

“TESLA”— An Unconventional Biopic

“TESLA”

An Unconventional Biopic

Amos Lassen

Nikola Tesla is the subject of Michael Almereyda’s unconventional biopic of the inventor. It is concretely based on Tesla’s life, but there conventionality ends. Almereyda covers all the major parts of Tesla’s life including his early years in Croatia, his brief tenure at Edison’s workshop, his success in developing alternating current, his difficult relationships with the Morgan family, and his experiments in Colorado Springs and at Wardenclyffe Tower. Almereyda leaves behind all narrative restraints and instead uses surreal stylization.

Rear-screen projections disorient effect and torch-carrying Anne Morgan (Eve Hewson)  is the narrator. The film freely skips around the Tesla timeline and often gives us long hoped-for incidents that never happened in life, much like a fantasy film..

Almereyda achieves a hyper-real effect throughout “Tesla” and this becomes the kind of film that we have to roll with. The film is a visual feat even when it is crazy at times. The film works well because of the performances of Ethan Hawke as Tesla and Kyle MacLachlan as Einstein. They are perfect in the ways that they contrast their differences. Hawke’s Tesla is a brooders who feels contempt for the success he chases. He introverted man and uncomfortable in his own skin. In contrast, Edison is a brash striver and even with this quality, MacLachlan conveys all his insecurities and fears of failure. He is Tesla’s rival.

This is a director’s film rather which makes it interesting that the characters are memorable in positive ways. Rebecca Dayan is sultry and magnetic as Sarah Bernhardt and Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s brief but poignant work as Tesla’s aspiring inventor friend Szigeti encapsulates the spirit of the film.

The director is a consistently daring filmmaker and he consistently spurs all the tried and true clichés of biographical narratives. If you are curious to see the boundaries of filmmaking become stretched, it is suggested that you must watch Almereyda’s films and his work with indie-cinematographer Sean Price Williams. “Tesla” is sometimes eccentric, occasionally over-the-top, but it always amazing. 

Nikola Tesla  was an enigmatic visionary Eastern European Serbian immigrant (born in 1856 in Smiljan, Croatia) who was ignored during his lifetime but it was proven over time to be correct over his one-time employer and rival Thomas Edison when he came up with his breakthrough practical application for delivering an ‘alternating current’ electrical. Tesla was ignored and the more business-minded Edison used his model. The Tesla died in 1943 in a New York hotel after a long penniless life and was unrecognized by the public. 

Michael Almereyda now gives him his due with this idiosyncratic character study that tells the misunderstood genius’ story in a peculiar way that might displease some viewers as much as delight others.

Anne Morgan is the philanthropist daughter of one of Tesla’s  sponsors, JP Morgan (Donnie Keshawarz) and she is a woman whose perceptive take on the inventor is right-on as far as his great accomplishments and desire for self-destruction.  She remains true to him as a longtime friend even though she is disappointed that he cannot return her love. 

We get a picture of Tesla as too idealistic and ambitious for his own good. He foolishly gives up a royalty deal for his genius invention for a relatively small price to greedy corporate entrepreneurs who do not have his humanistic concerns and i he begins work on a wireless power system with a huge potential for everything aside from making a profit. As his radical ideas frighten investors who see him as as weird, his fortunes dwindle and he dies as a lonely old man who never saw his visions used.

We do not learn about finer technical details of the inventor’s work, but we enjoy the film and are okay with  what makes Tesla such an important inventor  and why he should not be forgotten.

“HOME FROM HOME: CHRONICLE OF A VISION”— In the Village

“HOME FROM HOME: CHRONICLE OF A VISION”

In the Village

Amos Lassen

 In mid-19th century Germany, Jakob (Jan Dieter Schneide) lives in the village of Schabbach with his father, Johann (Ruediger Kriese), his mother, Margarethe (Marita Breuer) and his brother, Gustav (Maximilian Scheidt). He and his  family’s hope to escape their poverty by emigrating to Brazil which they see as the land of opportunity. As Jakob teaches himself by reading about life in the South American jungles by reading, he flirts with Henriette (Antonia Bill), a local girl who catches his attention. The events that transpire after Gustav returns home from the war and Jakob gets sent to prison for sedition deeply affect the dynamics between Jakob and his family. 

 Writer/director Edgar Reitz and co-writer Gert Heidenreich brings us the plot in a leisurely pace with plenty of powerful quiet moments and the use of symbolism. It takes patience to watch “Home from Home” but there is great rewards with a spellbinding character-driven that gets us emotionally invested in the characters’ lives from start to finish as we tensely wait to learn whatever happens to them next.

The black-and-white cinematography (with occasional glimpses of color) is stunning. Many shots are simply breathtaking in their beauty and lyricism. Nature together with human nature serve as important roles in the film, and Reitz wonderfully captures the essence of both. The essence of human nature is seen through the smart casting of talented actors, many of whom have no prior acting experience, yet everyone onscreen gives a very natural performance that pulls us in because of the humanism that we see. The film feels epic in scope while intimate in its humanism and even though it has a nearly 4-hour running,  I could  easily watched it for a longer time.

This is Edgar Reitz’s nearly four-hour envisioning of mid-19th-century Germany’s widespread poverty and national disillusionment. This is a prequel to Reitz’s series of exceedingly “Heimat” films. Through Jakob, we see a postmodern literary tradition where a psychopathic or abnormal male protagonist endures a series of allegorical trials as evidence of damning qualities of German society that have rendered him as such. The film mythologizes the time period as one of familial bond forged through regressive nationalism. When Jakob claims he can “close [his] eyes and go anywhere,” this is a full-blown allusion to the “no place like home” we so often see in which isolationist inclinations affirm one’s native country as a place of solace and refuge.

I found the film to be devastating in its emotional and intellectual impact. The film is gorgeous to watch and it puts in the spirit of the time and place and we suffer along with the villagers. The characters gradually come alive and take hold like real people do. It takes a while to get to know the characters but they get right into us and, we become completely involved in their fates.

 About Corinth Films

 Since 1977, Corinth Films has been distributing foreign and independent arthouse cinema to audiences in the US & Canada. Beginning with such classics as David Lynch’s Eraserhead and Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2, Corinth’s more recent releases have included films by up-and-coming international directors such as Nadav Lapid and Mika Kaurismaki, as well as acclaimed longstanding auteurs such as Mohsen Makhmalbaf , Edgar Reitz and Andrei Konchalovsky. As the film-viewing landscape changes, the desire for intellectually stimulating and entertaining films will not, and Corinth continues its mission to acquire and release undiscovered, international watch-worthy content. To discover and enjoy Corinth’s film releases, visit www.corinthfilms.com.

“THE CARER”—The Irascible Sir Michael Gifford

“THE CARER”

The Irascible Sir Michael Gifford

Amos Lassen

Sir Michael Gifford (Brian Cox) is a giant of the theatre who is now being taking care of by Dorottya (Coco Konig). Sir Michael is retired, not ageing well, and in need of a carer. Gifford has been diagnosed with a rare form of Parkinson’s Disease and is terminally ill. He is also foul-mouthed and totally irascible. However, he’s determined not to let his affliction stand in the way of what could well be his final on-stage appearance — a ceremony by the Critic’s Guild of Great Britain honoring him with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Standing in his way instead is his overbearing daughter, Sophia (Emilia Fox), who’s determined to prevent him from attending the ceremony in his delicate condition and insistent on hiring a caretaker to see him through his final days.

Highly resistant to the concept of a full time caregiver, Sir Michael reluctantly allows Dorottya into his home. An aspiring Hungarian stage actress, she secretly hopes that caring for Sir Michael will help her own career onstage, so she deals with his unbearable temperament. Their relationship gradually improves as her warmth and knowledge of theatre begins to grow on Gifford. As Sir Michael mellows, however, Dorottya’s underlying ambitions become more transparent and the staff, including the estate manager and former lover, Milly (Anna Chancellor), become suspicious of her true purpose. The real drama unfolds when Sir Michael learns of his scheming daughter’s plans to remove Dorottya from his life. 

Hungarian director Janos Edelenyi showcases Brian Cox who owns the film. As the maddeningly self-absorbed but shrewdly observant actor, he is brilliant. His rage at the deterioration of his body is convincingly rendered, and yet his mental faculties remain sharp as ever. We care about his character who never softens his portrayal. The final scene, in which Michael gives a kind of valedictory speech at a critics’ awards dinner is a strong “ending to a slight but likeable tribute to an aging lion of the theater.”

Dorottya just wants to make it on the English stage, and Sir Michael just wants to be left alone. Naturally, only one of them is going to have their hope fulfilled. It’s the classic formula and for a long while the film concentrates on their developing relations, before revealing its true hand, to focus on the actor and his last moment in the spotlight, his need for one more bow before the final curtain.

“SUBMISSION POSSIBLE”— Kink and Sex Positive Communities

“SUBMISSION POSSIBLE”

Kink and Sex Positive Communities

Amos Lassen

Hosted by the enchanting ‘Queen of Kink” Madison Young, “Submission Possible”  premieres on Revry on June 19th. Written, directed and produced by Young

 feminist porn icon, author, and sexual revolutionary, it is an hour long docuseries world that explores the queer sexual underground worlds of kink, fetish, and BDSM around the world through the lens of the queer experience.

In the premiere episode, Young visits the hauntingly sensual city of New Orleans and delves deep into sex magic rituals, cemeteries and sexy seances, and even spectrophilia. Madison’s explorations lead her to ecosexual sex magician, Sura Hertzberg; herbal alchemist, Gypsi Sandiego; kinky witch and tarot reader, Ashton Young; and queer leather title holder, Elyse the Beast. Each unique guest shares a different aspect of their queer, sacred, kinky journey as Young unfolds another layer of her own sexual self; connecting in bold and intimate ways with refreshingly new cultures, communities, and perspectives.

Submission Possible is a dare.  A challenge for us to shift the narrative.  For us to celebrate our differences and our sameness, our connections,” proclaims Madison Young. “It is a culmination of my deep desire to gather women, POC, queers, trans folk, non-binary community, femmes, butches, sex workers, kinksters around the kitchen table, around the fire, to share our stories, of who we are as sexual beings.  Because our desires matter.  Our stories matter.  We are claiming our space.  This is the time.  It is time for us to talk loudly and boldly about our orgasms, our pleasure, our kinks, our fetishes, our desires, our relationships.”

“Madison’s work is so ground-breaking because she’s having conversations that, even within the queer community, can be taboo: fetish pride, embracing sexual quirks, challenging traditional standards of beauty,” says Christopher J. Rodriguez, Revry Co-founder and CBO. “This is exactly what Revry is about and we’re thrilled to offer a space for these conversations on our network–especially now when people are craving human connection. Love & Sex in the Time of COVID.”

What people are saying about Submission Possible and Madison Young:

“Madison Young’s work is some of the most radical I have seen in a long time. She stretched my boundaries.”  – Maggie Gyllenhaal, Producer & Star of THE DUECE 

Madison Young goes deep and brings some universal truths to light.” – Diablo Cody, Academy Award Winner of JUNO

“Madison Young has the ability to blend both eroticism and intellect.” – Dave Navarro, musician and television host and producer

“Madison Young is an incredible and singular force in the world of art, and her talent, spirit and energy never fail to impress me.  We need her voice now more than ever.” –  Margaret Cho, writer, producer, comedian

Subscribers of Revry Premium (Revry’s subscription on-demand offering) can watch the series premiere of Submission Possible starting June 19th on the Revry network (available on iOS, tvOS, Android, Fire TV, Roku, Samsung and the web at www.revry.tv). Due to COVID-related production delays, new episodes will premiere in 2021. 

About Revry

Watch Queer TV 24/7 with the first LGBTQ+ virtual cable network. Revry offers free live TV channels and On-Demand viewing of its global library featuring LGBTQ+ movies, shows, music, podcasts, news, and exclusive originals all in one place! Revry is currently available in over 225+ million households and devices, and available globally on over nine OTT, Mobile, Connected TV and Desktop platforms. Revry can also be found on Comcast Xfinity X1, XUMO TV, Zapping TV, STIRR (Sinclair Broadcast Group) and TiVo+. The company–an inaugural member of the Goldman Sachs Black and LatinX Cohort–is headquartered in Los Angeles and led by a diverse founding team who bring decades of experience in the fields of tech, digital media, and LGBTQ+ advocacy.  Follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @revrytv. Revry.tv

 

“AD MELIORA”— Looking at Young Women

“AD MELIORA”

Looking at Young Women

Amos Lassen

 “Ad Meliora” (“Towards Better Things”) is a short and powerful experimental film that looks at the many struggles that young women face throughout their adolescent lives. As I watched this nine minute film, I was amazed by the effect that it had on me. Director Rebekah Burrows presents the struggles of female youth straightforwardly and we see what it means for girls to grow up in a society dominated by men. What we see are parts of everyday life and we realize just how hard it can be to be a girl. While we already know this, it is difficult to watch. To say I felt uncomfortable just looking at life as it is, is an understatement. We see everyday life depicted in ways we have either never really thought about or seldom considered and it is heartbreaking. Basically a silent look at our world, there is so much emotion in the faces we see that it is impossible not to be unsettled. Yet, everything we see is so obvious.

As a male, I do not know how to react to this film aside from feeling devastated and for that alone this is a very important film that must be seen. I recently read an article about Burrows in which she said, “As I grew up and began to understand how sexism was built into our history and society, it became more and more apparent that chasing my dreams was going to be a lot harder as a girl.”  However, it was not until she went to college that she realized how many other girls felt the same way and had stories from their teen years in which they were pressured to be feminine. She began to do research and decided to make a film that accurately depicts

the struggles girls go through growing up in a male dominated society. Her is the result and it is a powerful experience (and so much more than just a film).

“CORPUS CHRISTI”— Religion, Faith and Redemption

“CORPUS CHRISTI”

Religion, Faith and Redemption

Amos Lassen

From Film Movement comes Jan Komasa’s “Corpus Christi” is a powerful drama that was nominated for the 2020 Academy Award as best international film. It is disturbing and thought provoking as it looks at religion, faith and redemption.

Twenty-year old Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) has spent years in a Warsaw prison, having been convicted of a violent crime. When he is released, he is sent to a remote village where he is to work as a manual laborer at a job that is designed to keep him busy and away from crime. Daniel, however, has other ideas. While incarcerated, he found Christ and has aspirations for a higher calling. He wants to join the clergy but because of his criminal record, no seminary will accept him.

When Daniel gets to the town, he lies and this causes the people of the village believe that he is the new priest and he begins to minister to his congregants. He has had no formal training in the priesthood but his charisma and charm win the community over. Yet there are those who find his unconventional sermons and behavior to be suspect especially when he gets close to a dark town secret.

Bielenia is a marvel as Daniel/Father Thomasz and it is easy to see why the townspeople are so drawn to him.

Bonus Features include:

The Making of “Corpus Christi”

Bonus short film— “Nice to See You”

“AVIVA”— Dance, Surrealism and Gender

“AVIVA”

Dance, Surrealism and Gender

Amos Lassen

“Aviva” blends dance and surrealist interrogations of gender identity. It is an amazing visual feat that is “often mind-bending, breaking down assumptions and putting things back together in ways that are illuminating and expansive.”  With themes of romance and dance, “Aviva” is sexy. It is set in a world of gender-fluid, frequently unclothed bodies. Directed by Boaz Yakin, this is an impressionistic film that “takes a timeless, universal love story and makes it an up-to-the-moment exploration of gender dynamics by incorporating exuberant dance sequences choreographed by former Batsheva Dance Company dancer Bobbi Jene Smith”.

“Aviva is a young Parisian who has an online romance with a New Yorker named Eden. After a long-distance courtship they meet in person, fall in love, and eventually marry. The two lovers are played by four different dancer/actors simultaneously. As the young relationship grows, the lovers struggle as their shifting masculine and feminine sides battle for primacy—both inside and outside their bodies, as expressed through movement and dialogue.”

The film captures today’s restless, frenzied and fluid time and breaks open the demystification of the male-female dynamic.