Category Archives: Film


hardcore devo

Hardcore Devo Live!

Filmed on June 28, 2014

Amos Lassen

DEVO has partnered with direct-to-fan platform PledgeMusic for their upcoming live album release. The American rock band, who broke onto the scene in the 1980′s with a string of hits such as “Whip It,” will be making a live album and DVD from their June 28th performance at the Fox Theater in Oakland, CA during their recent “Hardcore DEVO Tour.” DEVO will be involving fans in the process through their PledgeMusic campaign.

 During the tour, the band played seminal, experimental songs created before the band released any music on a label and rose to fame. The tour honors original band member and longtime DEVO guitarist/keyboardist Bob Casale who passed away earlier this year – a portion of the tour’s proceeds will go to his family. The “Hardcore DEVO Tour” resurrected the early creative efforts that first brought the band together. DEVO Hardcore LIVE will document this once-in-a-lifetime experience and be released as a CD, DVD, vinyl and Blu-ray deluxe disc with bonus features.


Pre-orders of the CD/DVD will allow fans to engage with the band during the album making process, providing exclusive access to behind-the-scenes photos, videos, tour artifacts and more (update as confirmed). Pledge your support at

 ”We can’t believe that we are working with DEVO on this amazing campaign!” said Benji Rogers, President and founder of PledgeMusic. “This project is truly about the music and the hardcore fans. By going beyond just the radio favorites this makes the whole thing an incredible journey for those super fans who have been following the group since their early days.”

 Gerald V. Casale of DEVO said, “I’m not noted for being optimistic but the Hardcore DEVO Live horn ‘o’ plenty (DVD, Blu-Ray, CD, Vinyl LP) has me genuinely high hopin’ as we mix and edit a truly DEVOlved show. One for the ages!”

 PledgeMusic is the world’s leading online, direct-to-fan music community, offering artists a unique way to engage their fans in the music making experience whilst interacting with PledgeMusic’s global community of music fans. 

“SAME SAME BUT DIFFERENT”— Based on a True Story

same same but different correct

“Same Same But Different”

Based on a True Story

Amos Lassen

“Same Same But Different” is based on the true story of Benjamin Pruefer, a German student and Sreykeo Solvan. The unexpected and uncertain love story of Sreykeo, a 21 year old bar girl in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Ben was traveling to Cambodia on a post graduation summer trip. When he returned home to Germany he discovered that Sreykeo was HIV positive and sick so he took on the responsibility to save her. On the way he discovered a world where not everyone is not equal and that motivations are not always good.

A film like this could easily become a melodrama but it never preaches or allows the characters to feel sorry for themselves. The story is simple—the two had sex, fell in love, she became ill and they then continued their life together. We learn of the HIV status early on when Sreykeo Soluan (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk), Skypes from Phnom Penh to Hamburg and tells Benjamin Pruefer (David Kross) the bad news. Here begins the flashback to when and how they met. We see Ben and his pal Ed (Stefan Konarske) backpacking through Asia and having a wild night of sex and drugs in Phnom Penh. This was set up by Alex (Michael Ostrowski, who co-wrote the screenplay). Sreykeo willingly spends the night with Ben for $30.

From the start we see Sreykeo as a very grounded young woman. She genuinely loves Ben but she also sees that love as carrying financial responsibilities (like supporting her mom’s gambling habit) which Ben sometimes sees as exploitation of a “rich” Westerner. Since Sreykeo is not seen as a victim, the film avoids the usual East-West clichés, and even bustling Phnom Penh is portrayed in an offhand, everyday way. After Ben works out his internship in a publishing company back in Hamburg, he returns to Cambodia to get Sreykeo proper treatment and the film focuses more on the practical side of their relationship.

You will probably recognize Kross from the wonderful film “The Reader” where he played opposite Kate Winslet who won the Oscar as Best Actress for her performance. Here he seems to be a blank page waiting for someone to write this life. He is wonderful as the love struck Ben. Sakuljaroensuk is a Thai actress and she just looks the part of Sreykeo.

There is something classic in the story of star-crossed lovers who come together by chance and then find love and stay together. Because the story takes place on two continents it is something of an epic. The film is a visual feast with breathtaking cinematography, costume design, and art direction. While I saw the film on DVD, I can only imagine how gorgeous it would be to see it on the big screen because of the wonderful shots we get here.

It is important not to get fooled by what you read about the film—it is a love story and it is not depressing as HIV stories can be. Detlev Buck directed it with sophistication and style and he was able to present us with characters who while small are actually quite big. Ben is forced into individual actions that he is unwilling to take – most of the time, he just allows everything to happen, and it is this passivity that fits Kross more than anything else. He is the real star of the film. Sakuljaroensuk succeeds wonderfully with a minimalist performance and we see that there is something absolutely commanding about her from the very first moment she appears on screen. It is as if she forces us to look at her intensely something that forces you to gaze at her as intensely as she exudes beauty from the inside out.

The fact that this is based on a true story makes it truly relevant and important as we are reminded that the path of true love is rocky. Here is a story of love that survives despite the odds.

“ABUSE OF WEAKNESS”— A Semi-Autobiographical Film

abuse of weakness“Abuse of Weakness” (“Abus de faiblesse”)

A Semi-Autobiographical Film

Amos Lassen

 Maud Schoenberg (Isabelle Huppert), a controversial director of note, suffers a stroke that limits the mobility on one side of her body, but tenaciously maintains an independent lifestyle, deciding to cast conman Vilko Paran (Kool Shen) in her latest movie after seeing him on TV during her recovery period. When he meets her, he admits that he cons money from people of fame and does this by flattering them to get them to collaborate with him. Schoenberg admits that this was indeed the case with her but she feels pleased that she has the ability to demand the man of her choosing into her home and in a position of subjugation. Paran’s disposition, being a male of limited grace and candor, and obvious physical dominance, is, as it seems, the auteur’s muse. The sheer roughness of character and the simultaneous emotional and physical threat he represents contrast with her inability to get her body to react the way she wants.


This is director Catherine Breillat’s unsentimental depiction of bodily struggles, with Schoenberg fighting to put on clothes and feed herself, is, as a visual representation, a psychological deconstruction. Despite being an esteemed artist, few people demonstrate much concern or interest in her plight, leaving Paran, ostensibly an employee that perpetually flatters her ego and helps her with basic mobility issues. When he asks to borrow money, it makes sense to her because it means that he will stay around. It also gives her a sense of power and usefulness in a dynamic where her passivity, despite her inner desires, has no real sexual component.

 “Abuse of Weakness” deals with Breillat’s power play with gender politics. The monstrosity of the female body is again the subject of male exploitation, only with an intense psychological component driven by physical frailty as a hyperbolized mode of victimization at the hands of male entitlement and detachment.  The detachment here is not  in the form of physical gratification and the terror of, and need to violate, the female form. There is a lack of emotional engagement on the part of Paran, mentally raping a woman in a prone position, isn’t overly different from Schoenberg’s loss of virginity.

 There’s a constant imbalance conscious of the role the victim plays in a game of cerebral and physical dominance with a predator they’ve engaged. Catherine Breillat greatly depicts women in danger in her films and at the same time she gives them special character traits. Here Maud Schoenberg is a woman who walks the line between manipulation and victimhood. And since Maud is also a filmmaker, Breillat raises questions not only of personal nature, but of control and dominance in the artistic process.


Maud suffers uncontrollable movements in one hand and has difficulty walking and carrying out basic chores after a brain hemorrhage. Her fierce survivalist ethos is underscored by the opening shot of Maud’s body convulsed, followed by paralysis and excruciating therapy, which the diminutive Huppert plays with eviscerating attention to detail, turning her body into a human wreckage. The camera mercilessly focuses on each physical defect. After the opening sequence, Breillat cuts to Maud improved, seemingly adjusted to her condition, and in control: Watching a late-night talk-show, she spots the con artist, Vilko Paran whose book has made him a minor celebrity, and decides to cast him as the lead in her next movie. Here is where their story begins.

I understand that illness and the swindle portrayed are rooted in Breillat’s personal experiences but this does not have much bearing on the film.  Maud knew Paran to be a scoundrel, and it’s this sense of playing with fire, of living out her whim without being able to control it, that prompts her. We do not know or understand her motivations. She is scripted as fatally distant from her family, willfully independent, but more believably abandoned, is haunting, and Paran’s flamboyant, flashy presence, the void it appears to fill in Maud’s life, hints at a more mundane distress. In imbuing Maud with great pride, a love for risqué adventure and a need to test the boundaries between life and fantasy, Huppert delivers a wonderful and stunning performance “though her charged charisma is such that we’re at times precluded from grasping Maud’s more prosaic emotional hang-ups, left to coolly marvel at her, as if she weren’t our kin but some rare and marvelous species”.

“NOAH” (on Blu-ray)— Another View

“Noah”  (on Blu-ray )

Another View

For years Darren Aronofsky tried to get his epic version of Noah off the ground, but it never seemed likely to really happen. His only previous foray into big budget filmmaking, The Fountain, turned into a bit of a disaster, with only part of the movie actually made (due to studio intervention) and what was left being confusing and making little money at the box office.

However after the success of Black Swan and with biblical epics looking like they might be coming back into fashion, Paramount decided to take a punt on the movie. However this is Darren Aronofsky, the man behind the likes of Requiem For A Dream and Pi, so it was always clear this wasn’t going to be your typical $125 million studio movie. That said, it appears even Paramount was surprised by how strange and intense it turned out. After viewing Darren’s preferred version they made their own, more traditional cut, but it turned out audiences liked Aronofsky’s take better and so that’s what we have.

The movie takes the biblical story of Noah and expands upon it – although interestingly a lot of the things people have complained about, saying that they’re not from The Bible, are actually based on things that are part of the Old Testament that few people know (such as the fact it appears Noah did get drunk soon after the Ark found land), while much of what is completely made up there’s been less fuss about.

Noah (Russell Crowe) is the last of his line, with the rest of the world taken over by the wicked sons of Cain, who murder, rape, pillage and destroy everything they come into contact with. After having a vision of drowning men and visiting his ancient grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), he’s convinced he’s been given a mission to the save the innocent – the animals. He therefore sets about building an enormous ark.

However with the threat of a deluge destroying humanity, the rest of mankind – led by the brutal Tubal Cain (Ray Winstone) – isn’t prepared to allow Noah to rescue animals and allow him and his people to die.  Noah is determined to continue his mission, which he believes isn’t just to save the animals, but that he and his family, along with adoptive daughter Ila (Emma Watson), will be the last ever humans on Earth. His single-minded determination about his mission soon begins to rip his family apart, but nothing anyone says will sway him from what he thinks he has to do.

All the basics of the story are there, but many will be surprised about the tone and ‘additions’. For example many may wonder where the stone giants, the Watchers, came from. While some have railed against them as a stupid, made-up addition, these former angels are from biblical lore. While not specifically mentioned in the Noah story, they’re logical to include even though few have heard of them.

The real difference is that when the Noah story is normally told, the focus is on saving the fluffy animals, however Aronofsky takes the other tack – that this is the story of a man who follows his orders from God, knowing that he is condemning millions to death while doing so. He’s goes about it without questioning it, and the film suggests that necessarily makes him a rather hard, sometime callous and often unlikable man. It’s a movie that’s often dark and intense, and once Noah and his family are on the ark, it goes to some pretty disturbing places.

Instead of the jolly bearded boat builder from Sunday School, we get a Noah who’s dead set on infanticide. Indeed there are moments that wouldn’t be out of place in a Greek tragedy. While all this could have come across as overly melodramatic, it’s surprisingly engrossing and thought provoking.

There are some very blockbuster type moments but it’s clear Aronofsky is actually more interesting in the familial drama and, as is his tendency, he doesn’t want to tell a happy, jolly tale. In fact while the ending has hope and an interest in the idea of mercy, it leaves open the distinct possibility that it really thinks the world would have been better off if humanity had been wiped off it. That’s certainly not a typical theme for a mega-budget movie.

Parts of the film are strange and somewhat ethereal and in many respects it comes across as an incredibly expensive art movie – but a very good one. Even after reading this review I suspect few people will find Noah to be what they expected – that’s not to say they won’t like it, but this is a very different type of biblical epic and not quite like anything else out there. Indeed reading some other reviews, most of the negative ones seem to come from people who decided what the film was going to be before they saw it, and purely judged it against that, rather than looking at the actual movie they got.

It’s also worth watching on Blu-ray if possible, as it looks absolutely gorgeous. Along with some cool special effects, it’s full of incredible landscapes (much of it was shot in Iceland), memorable images and it’s generally a bit of a visual feast. The disc also features a good ‘making of…’ documentary, which is split into three parts and gives an excellent overview of the creation of the film, both in practical terms of what was a massive undertaking, and also talking about exactly what the filmmakers were trying to explore with their idiosyncratic take on the famed story.

I did wonder how on Earth someone like Russell Crowe was supposed to have managed to have kids as gorgeous as Logan Lerman and Douglas Booth, but that’s a relatively minor complaint.

Overall Verdict: Sometimes odd and often surprisingly dark, Noah certainly isn’t your typical biblical epic, but it’s an impressive and engrossing singular vision with some big ideas that may linger in your head long after the credits roll.

Special Features: ‘Iceland: Extreme Beauty’ Featurette,  ‘The Ark Exterior: A Battle For 300 Cubits’ Featurette,  ‘The Ark Interior: Animal Two By Two’ Featurette


“BOYHOOD”— An Experiment in Time

boyhood poster“Boyhood”
An Experiment in Time
Amos Lassen

Every year it seems one movie becomes designated as the film of the year and now in 2014 everyone is singing the praises of “Boyhood”, Richard Linklater’s experiment in time—the filming of a boy’s life through the various stages of aging. A film like this must catch the audience’s empathy. It was shot in 39 days spread out across 12 years and follows Ellar Coltrane’s Mason from age six to 18. We are constantly reminded that the film is one of unusual construction.
The film is a series of episodic events set within purposefully unnamed Texan locales and it is kept on course by Mason’s growing pains and those of his sister Samantha’s (Lorelei Linklater). This is about a child’s maturation and this is what we see.
Our journey begins with a 5 year old Mason (Ellar Coltrane), as his mother (Patricia Arquette) struggles with finances. Mason and Samantha’s biological father (Ethan Hawke) sees them on weekends, as we experience life through the eyes of this young boy. As he continues to reach age 18, we witness everything from the hardships within their family to happy celebrations, such as graduations.
boyhoodWhile the majority of pictures follow a structure, “Boyhood” has its own system. It flows quite naturally and as Mason continues to age, we’re never told his current age, or how much time has passed. Other aspects such as world events and with the use of the soundtrack simply hint you in the right direction. The film is edited wonderfully and we never miss a thing and this is important since this is a rather long film coming in at 3 hours. We learn about who young Mason is but his mother and father are the ones doing the majority of the talking. There are moments when it feels as if this young boy is simply a different point-of-view during these specific years. We are able to sympathize with many of his issues, and reminisce about some of the happiest memories of our childhood.
As Mason continues to age, the topics naturally become more mature. He has more responsibilities and is discovering who he is through his teenager years. As he begins to find himself, the journey becomes even more about his personal adventure through life, rather than how it fits within his family structure, as he begins to grow more into an individual. He has experiences with peer pressure from other boys, finds a girlfriend, and finds his passion for the art of photography. Once Mason graduates from high school, he’s ready to head out to college. Leaving for a higher education presents new issues for him to face—aside from being the last child to leave home, he is left to explore a new place with different people on his own. It’s scary, yet exciting and we know this because we have been there.
Along with following Mason over ten years of his life, this is a time capsule that reflects the tastes of different periods. The film presents is with a compilation of the years that have passed us by so quickly. While these big moments will most certainly stick out to audiences and the more subtle moments of the years seem to affect us even more. While we primarily remember the larger things that have occurred in our lives, there are so many details that go under the radar. Linklater picks up on these little things and reminds us that so much has happened, and we have all changed as people over time. We cannot forget that the world around us, as well as our interests have changed, making for a developing taste in music, as displayed through the song choices. Tennessee Williams said in “The Glass Menagerie” that memory is tied to music and we certainly see that here.
Ellar Coltrane essentially lived his life out on film, which allowed him to truly open himself up. By the time the picture is over, it feels as if we have actually known him for those twelve years. It’s a special thing to say that we got the opportunity to watch him reach adulthood. Some might find it difficult to connect with him on a more personal level, but I simply didn’t have that problem. Patricia Arquette plays his mother, who gets a large amount of screen time, since she’s such a large part of Mason’s life. She truly hits some genuine notes that will cause you to fall under her spell. This is a powerful performance that truly adds to the film’s genuine nature, as she delivers one of the most emotionally interesting scenes in the entire picture. Ethan Hawke doesn’t get quite as much time as Mason’s father, but he is absolutely convincing in this role. Linklater’s ability to get the best out of Hawke is absolutely evident here. Coltrane isn’t the only one that we get to watch grow up on screen, as Lorelei Linklater plays his sister, Samantha. This is an honest representation that adds another dimension to the family that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.
 “There are few filmmakers who manage to capture character as well as Richard Linklater. This is incredibly evident with features such as Before Midnight and Boyhood. He turned what could have been a chaotic mess into an absorbing cinematic experience that any member of the audience can sympathize with. Each year of Mason’s life makes for one chapter that aids in developing him as he reaches adulthood. Not only is this dedicated to Mason’s life, but it’s also a picture that has been made to perfectly capture the times. It finds the ups and downs in life, as the characters struggle to understand what it all means. Boyhood is the most genuine breed of film that is perfect for the times”.
boyhood2Now this statement might shock the reader, “Boyhood” is not only the best movie many of us may see in 2014—it’s one of the least Jewish serious movies around”.  There are no Jewish characters or traces of Jewish culture. This film is about white WASP America, and this is one of the things that make it so endearing. The film’s “WASP-iness” comes with the territory, which is middle-class Texas life. There are only a few African Americans and Asians on screen; there seem to be more Mexican-Americans. (After all, it was once their land).
The non-Jewishness of the film is also in the particular problems of this family: Olivia, the mother, marries three times, first to a charming, feckless wannabe musician, then to two alcoholics. Olivia’s first husband, Mason Jr.’s father, Mason, left her to work on an Alaskan fishing boat and write music. Olivia’s third husband is a corrections officer. The kids go to college, but it’s assumed they’ll go within the University of Texas system to save on costs. Grandparents bestow birthday gifts of a hunting rifle and a personalized Bible. Snacks are white-bread sandwiches and celery stalks filled with peanut butter. There’s an evangelical church service that is presented head-on as is The Pledge of Allegiance. While this is not my America, it is the America of many others.
Linklater does not judge America or his characters. But they judge. The film takes America for granted and it shows us people who assume that life is a matter of working hard and taking what fate provides with no complaints.


Titles in red are of LGBT interest

ABUSE OF WEAKNESS (Drama) Directed by Catherine Breillat (Romance, Fat Girl). Inspired by director Catherine Breillat’s true life experiences, her latest film, ABUSE OF WEAKNESS, is an exploration of power and sex.  Isabelle Huppert (THE PIANO TEACHER, 8 WOMEN) stars as Maud, a strong willed filmmaker who suffers a stroke. Bedridden, but determined to pursue her latest film project, she sees Vilko (Kool Shen), a con man who swindles celebrities, on a TV talk show. Interested in him for her new film, the two meet and Maud soon finds herself falling for Vilko’s manipulative charm as their symbiotic relationship hurdles out of control.  Official Selection: Toronto International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, COLCOA French Film Festival. Opens in New York on Friday, August 15, 2014 at The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Theatre. Opens in Los Angeles on Friday, August 22, 2014 at Laemmle’s Royal Theatre.

THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS (Thriller) From directing duo Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani (AMER), comes this homage to the masters of classic Italian Giallo horror. Dan returns home to find his wife is missing. With no signs of struggle or break-in and with no help from the police, Dan’s search for answers leads him down a psychosexual rabbit hole. THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS is a bloody and taut fantasia of suspense that leaves the viewer entranced in this highly original erotic thriller. Official Selection: Locarno International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, AFI Fest. Opens in New York on Friday, August 29, 2014 at the IFC Center.  LA opening TBD.

WETLANDS (Comedy/Drama) Directed by David Wnendt (Combat Girls). Eighteen year-old Helen Memel (Carla Juri) likes to skateboard, masturbate with vegetables and thinks that body hygiene is greatly overrated. Struggling with her parents’ divorce, she spends her time experimenting and breaking one social taboo after the other with her best friend, Corinna (Marlen Kruse). When a shaving accident lands her in the hospital, she sees it as a way to reconcile her parents and forms an unlikely bond with her male nurse, Robin (Christoph Letkowski). WETLANDS is an unapologetically vulgar coming-of-age tale about divorce, first love and anal fissures. Official Selection: Sundance Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, SXSW. Opens in New York on Friday, September 5, 2014 at the Angelika Film Center. Opens in Los Angeles on Friday, September 12, 2014 at the Nuart Theatre.

LILTING (Drama/LGBT) Directed by Hong Khaou. Set in contemporary London, LILTING tells the story of a Cambodian-Chinese mother mourning the untimely death of her son. Her world is suddenly disrupted by the presence of a stranger. Though they don’t share a common language, a translator helps piece together the memories of a man they both loved. LILTING is a touching film about unlikely connections and the tragedies that bring us together even though we may be worlds apart. Official Selection: Sundance Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Outfest. Opens in New York on Friday, September 26, 2014 at the Angelika Film Center.  Opens in Los Angeles on Friday, October 3, 2014 at the Sundance Sunset Cinema and Laemmle’s Playhouse 7.

THE MYSTERY OF HAPPINESS (Comedy/Drama) From acclaimed director Daniel Burman (LOST EMBRACE) comes THE MYSTERY OF HAPPINESS, a joyful story about love, friendship and the pursuit of happiness. Santiago and Eugenio are best friends and business partners who run a thriving electronics store together. One day, Eugenio doesn’t come to work and Santiago delays telling anyone while trying to figure out what has happened. Then Laura, Eugenio’s wife, shows up to say that Eugenio has disappeared. Perplexed, the two embark on a journey to find Eugenio, only to discover that true happiness can sometimes mean losing everything. Opening Fall 2014.

THE WAY HE LOOKS (Comedy/Drama/LGBT) Set against the music of Belle and Sebastian, Daniel Ribeiro’s coming of age tale, THE WAY HE LOOKS is a fun and tender story about friendship and the complications of young love. Leo is a blind teenager who’s fed up with his overprotective mother and the bullies at school. Looking to assert his independence, he decides to study abroad to the dismay of his best friend, Giovana. When Gabriel, the new kid in town, teams with Leo on a school project, new feelings blossom in him that make him reconsider his plans.  Meanwhile, Giovana, grows jealous of this new found companionship as tensions mount between her and Leo. Winner of the Teddy Award for best Narrative Feature at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival and Audience winner at both Frameline and Outfest. Official Selection: Cannes Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, Frameline Film Festival, Outfest. Opens Nationwide November 7, 2014.

GIRLHOOD (Drama) Directed by Céline Sciamma. Fed up with her abusive family situation, lack of school prospects and the “boys’ law” in the neighborhood, Marieme starts a new life after meeting a group of three free-spirited girls. She changes her name, her style, drops out of high school and starts stealing to be accepted into the gang. When her home situation becomes unbearable, Marieme seeks solace in an older man who promises her money and protection. Realizing this sort of lifestyle will never result in the freedom and independence she truly desires, she finally decides to take matters into her own hands.Official Selection: Cannes Film Festival.  Opens Early 2015.

CUPCAKES (Comedy/Musical) Directed by Eytan Fox (The BubbleYossi & JaggerYossi). Set in contemporary Tel Aviv, six diverse best friends gather to watch the wildly popular UniverSong competition. Appalled by the Israeli entry, they decide to create their own and record it on a mobile phone. Unbeknownst to them, their performance is seen by the UniverSong judges and selected as Israel’s entry for next year’s competition. With a soundtrack provided by Babydaddy from Scissor Sisters, this hilarious comedy is a refreshing ode to music and friendship. Official Selection: Inside Out Toronto, Miami LGBT Film Festival, Outfest. Opening 2015.

FUTURO BEACH (Drama) Directed by Karim Aïnouz. Part gay romance, part inquisitive self-journey, FUTURO BEACH is a stunning examination of lives lost and found. Donato (Wagner Moura) works as a lifeguard at the spectacular but treacherous Praia do Futuro beach in Brazil; Konrad (Clemens Schick) is an ex-military thrill-seeker from Germany vacationing with a friend. After Donato saves Konrad from drowning, but fails to save his other friend, initial sexual sparks give way to a deeper, emotional connection. Donato decides to leave everything behind, including his ailing mother and younger brother, Ayrton, to travel back to Berlin with Konrad. There, he finds both confusion and liberation, and his journey for love soon turns into a deeper search for his own identity. Eight years later, an unexpected visit from Ayrton, brings all three men back together as they struggle to reconcile the pain of loss and longing, instinctively drawn to each other in search of hope and a brighter future.  Official Selection: Berlin Film Festival, Outfest, Newfest.

“THE EMPTY HOURS”— A May to December Romance

the empty hours poster better

“The Empty Hours” (“Las horas muertas”)

A May to December Romance

Amos Lassen

In Veracruz Mexico, Sebastian (Kristyan Ferrer), 17, takes over his uncle’s rent by the hour motel. There he meets Miranda (Adriana Paz), a regular customer who comes there to meets a lover who is never on time and keeps her waiting. Since they both have time to waste, they start getting to know each other and some kind of game of seduction begins between them.

May-December romances are not new to film but this is an interesting take on an old subject. Sebastian gets a good deal taking care of the motel and it is the kind of job that lets the mind wander for long periods since there does not seem to be a lot of business. In fact, the motel setting certainly encourages coming-of-age reverie. The nearby gorgeous beaches nearby and the hot illicit sex that goes on in the motel is great thought fodder for a young man. Like most motels of its kind, the uncle’s establishment is a place primarily for quick rounds of hungry impromptu lovemaking, and, of course, as we might expect, Sebastián eventually evolves from spectator to participant.

empty hours1

However Sebastián’s character deviates from the pattern we are used to in these kinds of relationships. Sebastian is not naïve idealist that we might expect of a hero of a summer romance. Instead, he comes across as a young man who’s seen some things, and he isn’t afraid to wield his authority at the motel. He is not intimidated by Miranda who is quite beautiful and often comes to the motel to have sex with a married man that she has been seeing. He is clever enough to control his feelings and he does not emphasize his own sexual inexperience.

Miranda’s lover is a realtor who comes to town to sell condos but because of the economy they are not moving, Miranda and Sebastian are both visitors to a way station being set apart from the lives they have been given. At least, that’s the subtext that’s meant to encourage us to believe the couple’s brief union, but we don’t need it because the chemistry between Ferrer and Paz is intensely alive and erotic. We feel as if we’re watching uncomfortably privileged encounters between them, and there’s a brief gesture that ranks as one of the sexiest moments in recent movies. Sebastián moves in to kiss Miranda for the first time, and she initially reacts ambiguously, only to direct her eyes, with the slightest tilt, toward the curtain that will make them invisible behind it.

empty hours2

Director Aaron Fernández’s plaintive, observational approach with his aesthetic openness is endearing. The majority of the film is seen in long and medium shots. The film allows us to take in the entire setting and also to see the little issues of motel life. His patience also informs the eventual sex story with an oddly real dimension of grand casualness: We understand the deviation from normalcy for Sebastian and Miranda and we see that sex does not always fit our expectations and other rules. We see sex as a practice and something of an art.

When the subject matter of a film has to do with a teenage boy spending tile at a rent-by-the-hour motel, expectations certainly meet reality. When the two main characters aren’t together, the film has little to offer to advance the plot and reverts to quiet introspection against the backdrop of beachside Veracruz, Mexico. The film is sparse almost to a fault yet it comes to us so delicately that it rarely feels dull. It is a slow meditation on complicated human relations.

Sebastian is bored and lonely; the guests avoid any interaction, and even the seemingly friendly coconut seller across the street is an amateur hustler. Sebastian is desperate for human interaction and latches onto Miranda who can be left waiting for hours, if not stood up, by her married boyfriend, Miranda strikes up friendly conversations with Sebastian and the two seem to recognize their mutual loneliness and develop a decidedly ambiguous relationship bordering on the sexual but often rooted in feelings of regret and inadequacy.

empty hours3

Fernández quickly strikes a balance between portraying Sebastian’s boredom and the derelict charm of his run-down motel. Sebastian’s loneliness is always on display and we feel it. This is a film about characters and emptiness. It is not perfect but it does show us how skillful the director is.

“THE TRUE STORY OF PALESTINE” (“Etz o Palestina”)— A Satiric Look at Israel

the true story of palestine

“The True Story of Palestine” (“Etz o Palestina”)

A Satiric Look at Israel

Amos Lassen

With all that is going on right now in Israel, it might be a good time to relax and enjoy a few laughs while watching the history of the country. This is a satirical look at the rebirth of Israel made from old newsreels before the state came to be. In the early 1920s and 30s, Israel’s first film studio, Carmel Films, turned out newsreels every week. Carmel captured treasured images of Meir Dizengoff riding his horse, Hanna Meron selling shoelaces, the debut of the Habima Theater, David Ben Gurion’s hairdos, and many other golden moments. In 1962, pioneer filmmaker Nathan Axelrod – with a script by Haim Hefer and the voice of my friend Haim Topol (“Fiddler on the Roof”), collected the newsreels and presented the historical footage as “The True Story of Palestine”, a funny and joyful look at the early days of the Jewish state.

Nathan Axelrod, Uri Zohar, and Yoel Zilberg re-edited newsreel footage, which had been originally shot by Carmel Films and created this satirical, look at the early years of the Jewish state.

Here is the story of Israel from a decidedly humorous perspective. Sometimes we just need to laugh at ourselves.

“DEVO The Men Who Make The Music / Butch Devo & The Sundance Gig” —On DVD and Digital Formats on August 12— Classic DEVO live in 1978-79, philosophy, and more!


“DEVO The Men Who Make The Music / Butch Devo & The Sundance Gig” 

On DVD and Digital Formats on August 12—Classic DEVO live in 1978-79, philosophy, and more!

Amos Lassen

 “The Men Who Make the Music” combines concert footage from DEVO’s 1978 tour with music videos and interstitials featuring a vague story about DEVO’s rocky relationship with “Big Entertainment.” 

As for the bonus program, Butch Devo and the Sundance Gig, Jerry Casale says, “In January of ’96, we closed Sundance Film Festival. We wore 20s style prison suits and dished out classic DEVO songs to an unsuspecting audience of Hollywood elite.”


  • Jocko Homo (Music video, taken from “The Truth About De-evolution”)
  • General Boy 1
  • Wiggly World (Live)
  • General Boy 2
  • The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprise (Music video)
  • Roll Out The Barrel (AKA “Rod Rooter’s Big Reamer”)
  • Praying Hands (live)
  • General Boy 3
  • Uncontrollable Urge (Live)
  • (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Music video)
  • General Boy 4
  • Jocko Homo (Live, partial performance)
  • Secret Agent Man (Music video, take from “The Truth About De-evolution”)
  • Smart Patrol / Mr. DNA (Live)
  • Come Back Jonee (Music Video)
  • General Boy 5
  • Red Eye (Live)

Devo Corporate Anthem

  • Original VHS goes for hundreds of dollars
  • Originally shelved by Time Life due to concerns about its anti-music industry content
  • Bonus film: 1996 Sundance Film Festival live show featuring early DEVO songs

Some of the earliest  professionally shot footage of DEVO

“GRIGRIS”— Dashed Dreams

gris gris


Dashed Dreams

Amos Lassen

Grigris is 25 years old and he dreams of becoming a dancer. The fact that one of his legs is paralyzed does not deter him but is a challenge for him. However, all of his dreams go down the drain when his uncle becomes critically ill and in order to help save him, Grigris goes to work for gas traffickers.

Grigris had the misfortune of being born in Chad in the capital city of N’Djamena yet somehow he managed to always have a smile on his face. this slender 25-year-old almost always has a smile on his face. He is able to escape his bitter world by dancing at one of the local nightclubs and he is graceful and confident. When he dances his friends chant his name and nothing seems to affect his sweet disposition.

Grigris film still

The film is directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s  and it is about how a man with such a sunny disposition can survive with his spirit intact and this is a question seemingly without an answer., and for most of this casually engaging drama, that answer remains uncertain. This isn’t a particularly gripping tale of crime and love, but it works on a character level. You like Grigris more than you love the movie.

Grigris (Souleymane Démé) learns that his beloved stepfather is gravely sick and money is needed to pay for a lengthy stay in the hospital. But Grigris is poor and no one can help him—except, that is, for Moussa (Cyril Gueï), a local criminal who will pay him handsomely to help smuggle precious petrol in the dead of night. Grigris knows that he shouldn’t, but he really has no alternative.  As an underdog hero he quickly realizes a way to bring in more money from these illegal activities by cutting out his employers. We can almost tell from this point who it will end. But there is something about the style of the film that keeps us watching.

Démé as Grigis is filled with charisma. He is tough from the street and his broad smile seems to cover any problems behind it. He  has terrific chemistry with another newbie, Anaïs Monory, who plays a village beauty named Mimi who has had to become a prostitute in order to earn a living. do questionable things herself to earn a living. The film is a meaningful but schematic study of African poverty, something we do not see much of in the movies.


Once Grigris cheats on his criminal cohorts, the film becomes something of a subdued, slow motion chase movie with Grigris hiding out with Mimi in the small, isolated community where she grew up. The film builds to the inevitable confrontation and showdown between Grigris and the between Grigris and the bad guys, but director Haroun has a surprise up his sleeve and he shows us that there are ways to combat crime even if it means to take the law into our own hands.

This is a story of hope against despair in the director’s native African country of Chad. Deme, appears in every shot of the film and his talent for dance gives us some wonderful scenes which are in contrast to the sadness of Chad. Chad itself gets such little exposure outside of global charity appeals and once-in-a-while reportage so it is interesting to see this film just to see the country. But there is so much more. Aside from getting a sense of life in the city, its humor and its the color, its inherent problems and dangers, we get a really good story.