Category Archives: Film

“MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE”— Facing Ethical Dilemma

master of the universe

“Master of the Universe” (“Der Banker”)

Facing Ethical Dilemmas

Amos Lassen

Marc Bauder’s new documentary about investment bankers takes us into the world of ethical dilemmas. It is investment bankers that are the real rulers of our universe and not politicians, armies or even countries. From Germany, one of the world’s economic powerhouses, Ranier Voss, a top banker gives us quite a disturbing insider’s account of his emotions, motivations and predictions. What he reveals is a parallel universe of extreme income and merciless pressure.

Our German banker entered the business at the same time as the advent of modern computer systems and he shares reminisces of his working years in some of the world-leading banking corporations. His narration gives us an outline of the typical paradigm of the professional and personal life of a bank’s employee, along with the ethical dilemmas they often faced. We also get his views on the dynamics in financial markets and recession. What we really see, in fact, is a system that disconnects bankers from the outside world, unable to reflect about their work.

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The film is a diagnosis of a system that is hopelessly sick and not being treated and we see inside the bubble that is behind the financial bubble and there seems to be no end on the horizon. This documentary quietly debunks the conservative notion that our largest corporations should be allowed to fight it out. For whatever reason, we find it comforting to think that investment bankers imperil our economic infrastructure and are seen as glamorous super-villains. Even though there are some truths; especially to the understanding that our government steadfastly refuses to effectively acknowledge a series of criminal conspiracies that will certainly foster greater financial catastrophes than the economic downturn of 2008, we still must look at cause and effect. That is what this film does.

We see that regulation is revealed to be unambiguously necessary, if just to allow these bankers to see what is really going on and we learn that they are not much more than parts of an ever-undefined machine. While this film is about Germany, it could be about America as the issues are essentially the same. Voss is a former trader who tells us stories that largely match up to cautionary tales that we’ve heard about those that make up and manufacture “hot” stocks out of almost nothing and then watch as s their machinations escalate into a tidal wave of unfounded debt and investment that’s capable of reducing countries to their knees.

Voss grew up in a working-class family where he dreamt of self-actualizing affluence, and got into the German banking culture in the early 1990s. This was when it was being groomed by American finance. He and his colleagues looked upon the Americans as if they were gods who showed them the way.

Director Marc Bauder here is concerned with the micro, allowing the macro to assert itself gradually. Voss represents every trader of any continent, who far overshot his means and the bank that he left obviously encapsulates all of economically uncertain Europe. We see the bank in cold colors that often emphasizes how its exterior resembles a beehive, a visual metaphor that affirms Voss’s early on with his descriptions of the insane, personality-annihilating level of worker-bee devotion that is expected.

Voss’s most damning pronouncement is that one has be a simpleton to believe that the stock market’s traders are capable of learning from their mistakes, which are barely understood or recognized as mistakes to begin with in a culture that’s dominated by risk addiction.

Voss says that Europe’s economic desolation is a foregone conclusion, and it will fold when France inevitably topples over. Though Voss’s ruminations come from his wanting legal evasion as well as for self-glory, it is difficult to refute his hopelessness. He stresses that, “Only simpletons believe the market is capable of learning.”

This statement is not exactly true—the market learns quickly and will adapt to take every advantage that it can. It rewards the largest, most powerful clients and sticks it to governments, small businesses, and individual investors. What it can’t learn is to regulate itself, despite the post-bust promises of the banks that drove Greece, Spain, and soon, Voss says, France to disaster. He warns that “Some people have an interest in the collapse of the Europe. There’s an enormous potential profit there.”

He rejects the idea that criminal elements are at work trying to outwit other people and Voss’s interview is closer to testimony than to the usual talking heads of contemporary documentary. He’s sometimes defensive, sometimes proud but often despairing. This film is a diagnosis of a system that is hopelessly sick and not being treated.

“SLOW FOOD STORY”— A NEW MOVEMENT

slow food story

“Slow Food Story”

A New Movement

Amos Lassen

Slow Food is an international anti-fast-food resistance movement. In 1986 Carlo Petrini launched of ArciGola Gastronomic Association in Italy and three years later in Paris he launched Slow Food, an international anti-fast-food resistance movement. Petrini has become an ambassador for thinking about food differently and he is famous all over the world. From the tiny town of Bra, home to some 27,000 inhabitants, the Slow Food movement has grown to become a revolution with roots in more than 150 countries. Cheese-makers, vintners, and artisanal food folk thank Slow Food for bringing about a change in consciousness that shook the very foundation of gastronomy.

Before I watched this movie, I had no idea what Slow Food was and while I am still not totally sure what it is, I believe that is all food that is not fast food. Let’s face it, we think more about nutrition than ever before and we have seen the vegetarian movement really grow.

The film shows us the political background in Italy that is indirectly responsible for the beginning of the movement. We see Carlo Petrini, the main force behind slow food, during a speech explaining his ties to the movement. Revolutions and politics go hand in hand and we see that when the economy is not good, fast food is cheap and available and satisfies for a while. As long as it is available, people will eat it and eat in a lot. We see that in order to improve nutrition it is necessary to have a healthy economy where people can afford to buy nutritional food.

Petrini was responsible for industrializing the protection of gastronomic values. He was totally devoted to slow food. In the ’70s when the fast food chains stretched over their tentacles into Europe and the world out of the USA, lots of people started losing the connection to traditional meals. They preferred the quick and hamburgers and rather than sitting down to a family meal. Petrini took the problem seriously and fought against it in articles, speeches and other ways until he was able to form the Slow Food Movement that is now helping in and embracing farmers in some 150 countries to grow and sell their products to customers. This film is a perfect interpretation of the hard work what Carlo Petrini and his co-workers and successors are doing.

I have read some very unfavorable reviews of this film and I cannot help but wonder what those that wrote them were thinking. There is a lot to be learned here but it must be approached with an open mind. It is people like Carlo Petrini that make differences in our lives for the good of us all.

“APACHES”— Young Thugs

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“Apaches”

Young Thugs

Amos Lassen

 Thierry de Peretti’s “Apaches is an ensemble drama about a group of teenagers that sneak into a holiday cottage one night for a party and steal a few things including two antique rifles. When the owner tells an important local figure about it, a disastrous chain of events is set in place.

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Corsica is a place where thousands of tourists invade the beaches and clubs and in this film while that is going on, five local teenagers spend their days aimlessly hanging out in the streets. One summer night, one invites the others to a vacant luxury villa where they spend the night swimming, drinking and hooking up. When they leave, they steal several valuables from the home, including two prize rifles. Upon returning from Paris to discover the theft and vandalism, the homeowner turns to a local crime boss for help, quickly igniting a chain reaction of violence and revenge the teens had never anticipated.

Right away we are intrigued by the way things happen and we sense the tension and even a tinge of fear. With that we also have some very fine performances that are naturalistic performances and provided by a young cast who give us interesting insight into the race and class issues faced by those living in a popular tourist area.

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 Aziz (Aziz El Hadachi) is a poverty-stricken Arab teenager whose father works at a luxurious villa. He tries to score some points with his buddies so he hosts a late night pool party at the villa. As can be expected things get out of hand and I have already described what happened. Aziz takes responsibility for the whole mess including the thefts. Even though he doesn’t snitch on his two friends, Francois-Jo (Francois Joseph Cullioli) comes up with a plan to insure that no one finds out about the valuable hunting rifle he took from the villa. We see that greed is a strong force in the lives of these adolescents who want more than they need.

Toward the end of the film, one of the characters says, “We’ve got to have fun, enjoy life and stuff,” and we can feel the irony dripping thickly from every word. It is their concept of fun that is unrealistic. But there is something much deeper here than kids looking for fun. Aziz and his pals Hamza (Hamza Mezziani) and François-Jo are like so many teens, they seen to have a potentially troublesome mix of resentments and they desire to push at the boundaries. When Aziz suggests that they crash the holiday home of the ‘Frenchies’ that his dad looks after for an night of hedonism, they jump at the chance. Mix drink and friction and we get a dangerous cocktail. We see early on that the caper is used to explore the way a situation can slide from dead cool to simply deadly.

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Peretti shoots much of the early part of the film in a sickly half-light and pool reflection, his camera voyeuristically peering in from a distance. It’s atmospheric but the gloom means it takes a while for the characters to fully take shape. Once they have, things move fast. The climax may be inevitable but it is while we wait for it to happen that the viewer begins to understand the social implications of what we are observing. Materialism is everywhere as we see in the attitudes of the wealthy tourists. We also see the youth’s reaction to what they wish they had. When commodities become the reason for caring then loyalty becomes worthless.

The violence is the film happens off-screen but it echoes ominously in the animalistic tendencies of the teens. We immediately see what makes these kids act as they do (and we wish it was not true). We really get a sense of the kids and their yearning for freedom, money and girls. We also see where they are in society and we understand that they have strict parents who try to enforce respect and discipline. We wonder if their decisions and actions are justified and with all of the focus of the film on them, we are spoon-fed their thoughts and emotions.


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We do not hear a lot of dialogue and instead we see a lot thus giving us time to think about what is happening. Once the scene is set and we have become acquainted with the characters, the pace of the film quickly picks up as things start to spiral out of control.

We get some great insights into youth, race and class issues and the young cast really displays the mentality of the younger generation.

“FEDORA”—Chasing Youth

fedora

“Fedora”

Pursuing Youth

Amos Lassen

I would have forgotten this movie altogether had I not seen that it has been released on DVD and Blu Ray by Olive Films. I love the movie and the book “Crowned Heads” by Tom Tryon from which it was taken. Billy Wilder directed this film that has a noir tinge to it about an aging Hollywood goddess and her impossible pursuit of youth. Barry Detweiler (William Holden) stars as a film producer who travels to the Greek isles to coax a Garbo-like screen idol Fedora (Marthe Keller) out of seclusion. But the deeper he infiltrates Fedora’s remote villa, evading an overprotective countess (Hildegard Knef) and a mysterious plastic surgeon (José Ferrer), the closer he comes to discovering the terrible secret behind the actress’s timeless beauty.

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Fedora is film’s most intriguing movie queen. Rumored to be well into her sixties, the actress has remained a starlet for over four decades–retaining youth and radiance despite her advancing years. The mystery behind her numinous persona has never ceased to captivate audiences. Even now, with her living in seclusion on the beautiful Greek island of Corfu, the public buzzes for her to return to the screen. When producer Barry Detweiler travels to Corfu, staking his faltering career on Fedora’s return, he discovers the actress’s tragic secret. Fedora’s eternal loveliness may not be the result of defying her age, but of concealing her youth.

When the film came out it was underrated totally. Looking at the subject of a star’s attempt to make time stop was said to resemble Wilder’s own “Sunset Boulevard” and “Fedora” was another jewel in Wilder’s crown of good films. Detweiler was a washed-up producer looking to make a comeback and would be better than a moving starring Fedora.

The film explores the basis of cinema: realism, illusion, romance and tragedy – in a word, emotion. It’s not a flashy film, let alone a cynical one, and it has a narrative assurance beyond the grasp of most directors nowadays: it is finely acted, mysterious, witty, moving and magnificent. There is no doubt that many will compare the story of Fedora with the stat Greta Garbo. We immediately see this when Fedora, an aging and reclusive film star, dies in Paris, struck by a train (ala Garbo’s death scene in “Anna Karenina”). At her funeral, Detweiler thinks back over the past two weeks and the part he might have played in her death.

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He’d gone to Corfu to track her down, pushing himself into her island villa, where she lived with a nurse, an old countess, and the plastic surgeon who had success ] keeping her looking young is amazing. We see her mental stability fail as the producer offers her a script for “Anna Karenina” and soon after this she is locked away in a Parisian asylum and the producer is in the hospital with a concussion. This ended Detweiler’s reverie ended and so the countess takes up the narration and completes Fedora’s story. Thinking about the film I must conclude that it is really about our fixation on youth, fame and vanity and it is brilliant but hardly seen.

I understand that Wilder had a difficult kind finding backers for this film. Movies about Hollywood are hard to finance for fear of stepping on someone’s toes. Fedora was once the most famous and glamorous star in the world. Then, during the height of her popularity, she retired and disappeared. Berry ‘Dutch’ Detweiler spent one memorable evening with Fedora back in the day, but a financial impasse has led to him seeking her out once more; a screenplay with Fedora attached is money in the bank.

When Dutch arrives at the remote Greek island where she’s secluded herself, he finds Fedora just as youthful and as beautiful as ever, though she doesn’t remember him or their affair. But the star is surrounded by a mysterious and sinister entourage; included among them is an irate Countess, a sinister doctor, a domineering personal maid named Balfour, and the classic silent chauffeur with a mean streak and a nasty right hook. Fedora pleads to Dutch to help her escape from her captors, but Dutch is found out and given a hearty concussion. When he wakes up a week later, Fedora is dead. Actually we see Fedora’s death during the opening credits and from there the movie is told in flashbacks in which the Countess tells the truth about Fedora. For me to continue to talk about the film would be for me to spoil it for those who have not yet seen it. What I will say is that the Fedora that the film follows for the first hour is not the real Fedora. She is, in fact, Antonia. Now you can guess the rest or even better get a copy of the film.

During the first hour of the film we see a poisonous view of the new Hollywood and it is obvious that Billy Wilder was revolted by the kinds of movies that were produced. It is the idea that one’s image matters more than anything else and this is simply a projection of class, sophistication, and desirability and what this movie is really about and what Wilder despises so much about the motion picture business. In fact, the end shows us that Fedora and Dutch both find some consolation for their own images among the ruins of their lives in a world they no longer understand.

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Throughout the film Dutch Detweiler is the optimal hero, a good guy in a weird situation who wants to see justice for Fedora’s death. In the end he’s revealed to not be much better than those he chased, grudgingly admiring a shadow of the world where Fedora’s legacy must go unchallenged less ‘the public’ find out and have their fantasies challenged. Is he doing what is noble or right? Not at all. It comes from a selfish place. He’s just happy that the real Fedora remembered him; she’s all he really ever cared about. (To truly understand what I said here in this paragraph will require a viewing of the film).

“Fedora” was filmed in a time that was more permissive than usual studio confines, and Wilder struggled with the freedoms afforded by the end of the Production Code’s stranglehold on cinematic output. As such, the movie features nudity. I suppose that because I am a sentimentalist, I really liked the film and even more I admire its nerve. What Wilder has done here is give an inquiry into the perverse reality of youth-fixated stardom, a delusion that filmmaking amplifies. Wilder’s  “Sunset Boulevard” was an elegy for Tinseltown’s silent era and “Fedora” is a grotesque inflation of Hollywood’s out-of-vogue sense of glamour.

“THE OUTRAGEOUS SOPHIE TUCKER”— The Vaudeville Super Star

sophie tucker poster

“The Outrageous Sophie Tucker”

The Vaudeville Super Star

Amos Lassen

Sophie Tucker was an icon who ruled the Flapper era. She came before all the feisty broads that followed—Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Bette Midler, Madonna and Lady Gaga. She was the first woman to infatuate her audiences with a bold, bawdy and brassy style unlike any other previous performer. Her nickname was “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas”. Directors Susan and Lloyd Ecker take us on their seven-year journey retracing Tucker’s 60-year show business career.

Sophie Tucker was one the World’s most popular and successful entertainers for the first half of the 20 Century.  She had a wonderful range of comic and risqué songs and was one of the first women in show business. She was literally larger than life defying the norm of other females treading the boards as when she started out as she was in her words ‘fat, ugly, too old’ as well as a married Jewish lady to boot. However, in her career spanning some five decades she reveled in her differences, especially her size, and made it an integral part of her act.

sophie tucker2Sophie Tucker was camp personified in every sense of the word. She was flamboyant and often wore ridiculous costumes which were really much more about getting noticed than trying to flatter her matronly figure. She was mentor to the likes of young Judy Garland, a best friend to stars like Frank Sinatra, and even at the end of her career she was adored by the new boys on the block in the 60’s i.e. The Beatles, and she really earned the title ‘The Last of The Red Hot Mamas’.

I so wanted to love this film. I can still remember my parents gong to every show Tucker when she performed in New Orleans. Unfortunately the film falls a bit short just as two Broadway musicals did and closed before they ever opened. What happened with this film is that the Eckers use too much of the film to give their own take on Tucker even though they never met her. But even with that it is very hard not to love Sophie Tucker and to see just why she became the star that she was.

Sophie Tucker worked her way through vaudeville, the first talking motion pictures, and eventually television. She inspired stars like Better Midler, and Judy Garland, and may be one of the most important names in jazz and blues, that you’ve never heard of. Born in an Orthodox Jewish family, Sophie wasn’t what you would expect for a star. She wasn’t exactly beautiful, but her voice, attitude, and humor, were enough to pack the house. This documentary looks at Sophie’s early years, when she was finally able to become a star.

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Through archival footage, including many interviews with Tucker, fans are treated to her amazing voice, as well as an insight into Tucker’s impressive business savvy. In our world of social media, it’s unthinkable that a celebrity isn’t in the public eye at all times. Although it would be decades before a star could tweet their every movement, yet Tucker was constantly promoting herself and knew just how to do so. The stories of her selling books, advertising her own shows on the street, and making sure that she remained in contact with every person she met, is amazing viewing. Her talent is great but the way she sold herself is truly amazing.

“TO KILL A MAN”— Defending What’s His

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“To Kill a Man” (“Matar a un hombre”)

Defending What’s His

Amos Lassen

Jorge (Daniel Candia) is a meek caretaker at a forest preserve who is often seen injecting insulin into his belly fat. He is a middle-class family man whose neighborhood has become filled with thugs. Because he lives meekly and well, he becomes a target for their intimidating tactics. One night, one of the thugs Kalule robs him and takes his insulin needle. His son, Jorgito (Ariel Mateluna), a teenager tries to stand up for his father but this just makes the thugs angry and they begin a rampage of terror and threats on Jorge’s entire family. Seeking help from the bureaucratic government does not help much and both Jorge and his wife Martha (Alejandra Yañez) as well as their children remain totally vulnerable. Jorge avoids confrontation and socialization so when he walks past the gang, he does so with his head down and ignores their yelling and insults.

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From this point the movie moves ahead two years during which time Kalule (Daniel Antivilo) went to prison. Jorge seems now to be especially timid. His marriage has fallen apart and Kalule, upon being released from prison, terrorizes the family with intensity. Then comes the chronicling of Jorge’s desperate retaliation, and what began as a pursuit of his stolen medicine becomes a chase for both his loved ones’ security and the fortification of his masculinity.

Alejander Fernandez Almendras directed this film about revenge in Chile. Revenge films are not new by any means but it is not often that we get to see a fresh take on this subject that is so complex and complicated and is tied so much to the emotions. Finally when Kalule roughs up Jorge’s daughter and she is put into the hospital, Jorge decides the time has come for him to act.

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The film’s aesthetic, meanwhile, works to isolate Jorge and sow us who he is from the very first scene. We see him walking alone amid a sloping forest that’s backlit by a setting sun. I realized that the director is showing us a life that is spiraling downward and not for any reasons other than external ones.

Jorge is the kind of character that we pity yet there is a sense of grace to him. He seems unable to act and he allows his marriage to fall apart and his daughter to be near raped. We see the indignity of a man who has been screwed-by-the-system deal, whose bruised ego is as crippling as his untreated diabetes. Basically this is the story of a family man, that is tormented by neighborhood thugs and who resorts to unseemly measures when the authorities fail him. Jorge is both sympathetic and opaque. The police issue an ineffective restraining order on Kalule after he left prison and the assault on his daughter, Jorge quietly resolves to take matters into his own hands.

His unspectacular but artfully plotted act of vengeance is dramatized over two remarkable, inventively tense sequences, one of them a lengthy, stomach-knotting scene. I realize that what we do not see on the screen that give the movie all of its power. We do not have to see evil to know that it is there. Jorge had no choice but to take justice into his own hands and live with the emotional and psychological consequences. The film won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival in January and was recently named Chile’s entry into the Best Foreign Language Film Oscars® category.

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Director Almendras says that, “If the main character is ‘forced’ to commit a crime, we seldom question the real implications of that act. In that sense, I decided to make a different use of the audience’s attention for the second half of the film.” That is what you will have to see for yourself.

“A LIFE IN DIRTY MOVIES”— The Sarnos

a life in dirty movies

“A Life in Dirty Movies”

The Sarnos

Amos Lassen

Joe Sarno was a legendary sexploitation director known as “The Ingmar Bergman of 42nd Street”. He and his loyal wife and collaborator Peggy have a place in the history of sex films and lived between – New York and Sweden. They struggled to make one last erotic film before they closed up shop and here is “a funny and touching portrait of a unique couple who followed their passion in life – no matter the cost!”

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The film follows the couple for a year as 88-year-old Joe tries to get a new film project begun. He wants to produce a female centered soft-core film that is reminiscent of his heyday as a filmmaker in the 1960s. We get a look at soft-core porn and how it has evolved into the harder variety that is so popular today and how the new liberalism on film almost put Sarno out of work. We hear conversations with filmmaker John Waters, porn star Jamie Gillis and film historian Michael Bowen. This is really a look at Sarno’s significant place in film history as an “erotic auteur,” whose ambitions as a filmmaker often surpassed the needs of the genre that he helped to create and define.

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Contrary to the title, this is not a “dirty” movie although we do see some somewhat salacious scenes alongside of the charming couple who made those dirty movies. There is sex but there is also a wonderful love story. Joseph and Peggy Sarno are now an elderly couple and represent what it means to grow old together. While Joseph is heavy and looks like a grandfather, Peggy is slim and still quite beautiful. Her eyes are piercing and her voice is sexily raspy. We see right away that Peggy is in charge and hides from her husband that they are facing serious financial problems.

Yet, the Sarnos generally maintain a remarkably positive emotional tenor: He’s trying to produce a new film, and she’s keeping their domestic life running. In the past, Sarno wrote and directed something like 75 films over a long career that had a rough time when the adult film market’s shifted from soft-core erotica in the early 1960s to the colder, harder, industrialized porn of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Director Wiktor Ericsson followed Joseph over the last few years of his life, before he died of natural causes in 2010 and we see him as a mixture of Ed Wood and Ingmar Bergman. Sarno deeply admired Bergman’s work, and even had a retreat in Sweden, where he produced several movies (most famously Inga, one of the first X-rated movies to be released in the United States) with American money. Sarno’s work showed an appreciation for women as humans rather than as objects for self-fulfilling attainment and this is what made them so different from others. He does provide long sequences from Sarno’s films, allowing viewers to compare-and-contrast the films. It appears that it was Sarno’s naiveté, which was responsible for their financial situation but it also inspired him to produce sex scenes that were very sexy.

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Regarding the films, director Ericsson emphasizes one of the strongest and most distinctive features of Sarno’s aesthetic: his concentration on female pleasure, particularly as registered in the face. This presents a promise of an illusion of intimacy and this is what draws many people to porn to begin with.

So “The Sarnos–A Life In Dirty Movies” isn’t really about dirty movies at all. This documentary is really a touching tribute to Sarno’s marriage to his remarkable wife Peggy as the ageing auteur tries one last time to direct another movie.

Sarno was a pornographer with lofty artistic aspirations. (Remember Burt Reynolds in “Boogie Nights”?) During his prime in the 1960s, Sarno made a ton of artsy soft-core pictures. In a time when major cities had rows of theaters devoted to showing less-than-reputable motion pictures, he was a prolific supplier of product. It’s easy to dismiss someone like this, but let’s be honest: Sarno made a lot of films and he made them according to his distinct personal vision and this is really what this film is all about.

One of the interviewees states that “sex in Joe’s movies had consequences.” He wasn’t content to simply show casual fornication. Instead, he used sex to get at larger themes about relationships and human nature. If that made the audience uncomfortable he did not care. Sarno says that the goal was “to be as hot as possible without actually showing anything”— to arouse without getting too real. But all of that changed in 1970 when “Deep Throat” became such a hit and Sarno resisted until he could resist no more.

“A Life in Dirty Movies” is an amusingly quirky look at an eccentric artist. Among the details we learn is that Sarno had a longtime habit of drawing diagrams for sexual positions right into his scripts. We also get to hear him philosophize on what it was like to spend so many years engaged in the exploitation business and we see that porn is a cutthroat business.

“NOT ANOTHER CELEBRITY MOVIE”—- A New Kind of Spoof

not another celebrity movie

“Not Another Celebrity Movie”

A New Kind of Spoof

Amos Lassen

Director Emilio Ferrari brings us a new kind of spoof film with what I understand is the largest celebrity cast for a movie made on the smallest production budget ever filmed. The cast portrays the biggest icons in show business, themselves.

The film parodies “Oceans 11” with a celebrity look-alike cast. Charlie Sheen hires Brad Pitt, George Clooney and eight other celebrities to kidnap Justin Bieber while he is doing a concert in Las Vegas. Charlie Sheen who is down on his luck has been living with porn stars since his affair with Paris Hilton (who?) fell apart and he has been replaced by Ashton Kutcher on his television show. Johnny Depp brings him new drug to try but instead of feeling the effect, Sheen suddenly realizes that he is obsessed with Justin Bieber. (Now this is sick). What makes this interesting is that Sheen has only seen Bieber on television but somehow he thinks that the bieb is his illegitimate son. He tries to get to him but Bieb’s manager, Usher, puts a restraining order on him and, in affect, forces Sheen to give up—but Sheen is too clever for that.

He “hears about Bieber ‘s upcoming concert at the Riviera Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Things get complicated when Charlie and the team realize Paris Hilton is dating Usher and the Beiber is not actually performing on stage but inside the casino vault with an hologram displaying his every move on stage. Charlie turns to Oceans 11 heroes Brad Pitt and George Clooney and along with their help, hires a team including Lady Gaga, Robert DeNiro, Tom Cruise, Mark Zuckerberg, Angelina Jolie, Kanye West and finally Donald Trump , to pull off an elaborate heist to kidnap Bieber”. (Are you still following this?)

The movie was filmed on location in Los Angeles and Las Vegas and it is a very funny film that features over twenty celebrity look-alikes in “the roles of their lifetimes”.

“I AM YOURS”— Two Cultures Together

i am yours

“I Am Yours” (“Jeg er din”)

Two Cultures Together

Amos Lassen

Mina (Amita Acharia) is 27 years old and a single mother, living in Oslo with her 6-year-old son Felix (Prince Singh). She is a Norwegian Pakistani and has a poor relationship with her family. She is always looking for love and has sex with men but none of the couplings show any hope of anything more than sex. But then Mina meets Jesper (Ola Rapace), a Swedish film director and she falls madly in love with him.

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The film brings together two different cultures—Mina’s Pakistani family does not approve of her lifestyle. Filmmaker Iram Haq chronicles the day to day of Mina’s life and he also adds what she seems t be thinking and we, the viewers, get a new look at falling in love and maintaining it. We are brought into her moral ambiguity that is at a troublesome point with her traditional Pakistani family. They feel that she shames the family with behavior that they see as irreverent and she does this by dating the wrong kind of men; those that are emotionally unavailable, self-absorbed and sometimes married. Additionally Mina has a son and it seems that she ignores his feelings. Mira is an actress but has no luck at auditions and she messes them up the same she messes up her relationships with men. We immediately see that she is self-indulgent but at the same time she looks for validation from men so that her empty feeling will be filled and so she can find what her family does not give her. She has no place—she neither fits into traditional Pakistani life nor Norwegian modernity. We, however see her as a woman with good intentions but who is also emotionally irresponsible. She often degrades herself and her decisions are not thought out. She is a conflicted and challenging character. We want to hate her but we cannot. When she meets Jesper who initially seems ideal, she leaves her son alone and ignores him to ensure that his selfish, somewhat adolescent disposition is placated. She never stands up for herself, even when the hesitation in her eyes shows that she’s aware she’s being foolish or used. Is she a lost soul or is there hope for her?

 Director Haq avoids victimization and vilification. Though Mina is obviously a victim of her situation and upbringing; she tries to be accepted by a society that isn’t entirely embracing of difference and she’s also intelligent and capable enough to be able to read her son’s moderate indifference towards her. What really makes this movie work is her realization of self and gradual consciousness of how she appears to others. Whatever situation comes up is soon the result of decisions that she makes. Nothing is forced or even contrived and we do not learn that she will live a happy life. The film is more interested in examining and capturing the essence of a complicated character in the middle of a cultural vortex than teaching life lessons or morality. There is a strong sense of unpredictability and tragedy as we watch. The film perfectly captures the reality of being imperfect human in a world filled with people similarly focused on their own immediate needs.

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Amrita Acharia’s performance as Mina is spellbinding and writer/director Haq succeeds at cultivating an authentic and gritty atmosphere and the result of this is a film that is, from time to time a bit too subdued for its own good. Haq has done a superb job of establishing and developing the central character; we cannot deny that Mina becomes an absolutely sympathetic figure and this seems to be true when she sets off to Sweden to be with Jesper.

There is great attention paid to details and the film is made unambiguously way, and this leaves us with satisfactory impressions on how the impulsive and emotionally destructed Mina struggles in more than one front: family, love, profession, be herself. However I was concerned with her son and Mina asking herself often if she will ever be a good mother? We will never know.

“EXILE: A MYTH UNEARTHED”— Rethinking a Biblical Myth?

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“Exile: a Myth Unearthed”

Rethinking a Biblical Myth?

Amos Lassen

Ilan Ziv’s new documentary, “Exile, A Myth Unearthed” looks at the exile of the Jewish people from the land of what is now modern Israel. According to history and Jewish theology, the Jews were exiled in the first century AD, following the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. This has been a major theme and depicted in artwork and lamented in poetry and prayer for nearly 2,000 years. But what if it never happened? This provocative film looks at the exile through the lenses of archaeology, history, myth and religion and asks what it means for our understanding of history and the contemporary struggle over land in the Middle East.

“Exile” looks at new evidence that suggests the majority of the Jewish people may not have been exiled following the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and asks us to rethink about an event that has played a critical role in the Christian and Jewish traditions.

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The myth of exile is an essential narrative in Middle Eastern and European history, and of critical importance to both Christian and Jewish theology. The possibility that some Jews simply remained where they lived raises some uncomfortable questions. Could some Palestinians actually be their descendants?

The issues raised in this film are of more than passing historical interest-they can help us re-shape the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a new way, and illustrate that history can shape our future.