Category Archives: Boston LGBT Film Festival

“EVEN LOVERS GET THE BLUES”— A Look at Modern Love

“Even Lovers Get the Blues”

A Look at Modern Love

Amos Lassen

Ana is sleeping with Hugo, Dalhia with Graciano who does not know where he is in life, Léo with Louis, and Arthur is sleeping with everyone in Belgian director Laurent Micheli first feature film. One night, Hugo doesn’t wake up, and Anna begins to mourn him by reconnecting with his body, abusing it, listening to it, ignoring it and, finally, freeing it. All the characters cross paths in the randomness of the Brussels night and then once again in the countryside. Love here takes on a number of different forms.


The story, which begins in the cold of Brussels’ winter, migrates, with spring, to a rural lakeside, before coming to a close in the summer heat of the city’s secret gardens. We visit the bathroom in a bar, a nightclub, have sex on a sofa bed, go to a deserted beach where bodies come together and loves are lost, searched for and are, sometimes found again. The characters’ paths cross and uncross, couples are created and then unmade and there is experimentation with an ever-evolving sexuality as our characters search for the kind of thrills that make them feel alive. We see the unease of this generation in an insecure society that wants and tries to reinvent sex and love.

Director Micheli dares to present confronting sex scenes that are far removed from the norms of the era. The sexual freedom that we see on the screen portrayed explicitly on the screen represents the idea of formal freedom. The film has a sense of vibrancy that is free from the cinematic language that so many adhere to and this freedom carries a burden of awkwardness, but brings real freshness into the film as it portrays the characters’ procrastination in their quest for meaning and freedom in their life.

For the actors (Gabriel da Costa, Adriana da Fonseca, Marie Denys, Séverine Porzio, Arnaud Bronsart, Tristan Schotte) this is their first film role and in their private lives, they all have the conviction and frivolity of their characters.

“SMALL TALK”— A Special Family Story

“Small Talk” (“Ri Chang Dui Hua”)

A Special Family Story

Amos Lassen

Filmmaker Hui-chen Huang shares her personal journey towards reconciliation of her childhood while at the same time analyzing her society’s connection to gender equality and varying identities and sexual orientations. Huang’s mother earns a living as a spirit guide for the deceased at their funerals and she never stayed at home; she was always out and about with her girlfriends instead. The daughter tries very hard to understand her mother. We get an inside look at a culture we probably are not be familiar with in this powerful documentary that is of universal significance and also extremely intimate at the same time.

The film is very timely when we consider the recent parliamentary steps towards the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan. “Small Talk” is a love letter from Huang to her mother who we learn silently suffered from an abusive relationship that came out of a forced marriage in a small Taiwanese village in the 1970s. It is also about the rejection of her sexual orientation by society and her gradual estrangement from her two daughters

As we watch and listen to conversations between Huang and her mother, we see them confront painful experiences that they shared, and in doing so discuss difficult questions regarding their love for each other. The film concludes with a conversation between the two at the dinner table, where their wounds are torn open brutally, candidly and intimately. Shot through three cameras that capture close-ups and profile shots, we see them sitting across a table with no physical contact. Even though Huang’s mother remains silent for the most part during the encounter, her eyes and movements say a great deal.

It is the camera that gives the pretext of opportunity for the filmmaker to physically and emotionally connects with her mother. It is only from behind the lens that Huang is able to fixate on the facial expressions of her mother and show every wrinkle in her mother’s face. The tension breaks when the filmmaker’s aunt, after being asked whether she knew that her sister likes women, rushes inside to announce, “I need to do the laundry”. It is this moment (along with several repetitive sessions of back-and-forth questioning of “Did you know?” and “I didn’t know”) that shows the tremendous need of “small talk”. Here we become very aware of the importance of giving a voice to those who remain silent for too long, those who are despised and discriminated against, and those who should be freed from feelings of shame.

“Small Talk” gives a message is universal and speaks to an audience regardless of nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background. It is Huang’s feature directorial debut and she should be very proud.

The film is a meditative exploration into the past of her family with each layer revealing a little more about who her mother Anu is (as a Taoist priestess, a lover to many girlfriends, a dependable friend, and an absentee mother). It is the identify of a mother that Hui-chen wants to understand, since Anu has made it clear that she never wanted to get married nor have children. Huang attempts to break down the wall that stands between herself and her mother for the past 20 years. The film also includes interviews with Anu’s past and present lovers, Anu’s siblings, as well as home video shot over the course of the last 20 years to present a daughter’s vague understanding of her lesbian mom.

The ultimate reveal comes when Huang finally gains the courage to have “the conversation” with Anu, which will either free mother and daughter from their shared painful past or further estrange them.

“DISCREET”— Revenge and Masculine Fragility

“Discreet”

Revenge and Masculine Fragility

Amos Lassen

Travis Mathews’s new film, “Discreet” is the story of an older man who returns home after years in hiding and struggling to control his demons. He learns that his childhood abuser, who was at the center of his pain, is still alive. Our man begins to plot his revenge while at the same time dealing with the concept of masculine fragility in modern-day America. The film looks at the complex potential of YouTube in this story of a childhood abuse victim whose fixation with a well-meaning video blogger confuses his connection to the real world.

This is a meditation on many contemporary social ills and presents a vividly worldview. Mathews gives us the first queer film that addresses the subject of alt-right influence on outsider identity in Middle America. There are even Trump-Pence campaign signs that date the proceedings precisely.

Gay drifter Alex (Jonny Mars) hears voices of and sees two very different cultural spheres that influence him equally and they cause disorientation and have a deleterious effect. In one ear is the aggressive Conservative pro-Trump lobby that comes with far right talk radio and that encourages his most violent, reactionary attempts at self-assertion. On the other ear is the peaceable New Age self-help counsel of minor YouTube sensation Mandy (Atsuko Okatsuka) whose videos suggest and advocate finding solace in the routines and rhythms of the everyday. Alex is eager to please Mandy and meets her at her home in Portland where he gets into making his own video art. However, it soon becomes very that Alex is mentally unbalanced and has a very different idea of what is therapeutic. Alex then returns his hometown in Texas to confront the trauma of his youth and unexpectedly comes into contact with his childhood abuser and finds that who he had once considered to be a monster is now disabled. Alex assumes the role of caretaker, even though the possibility of retribution remains with him. Mars’ dour performance holds viewers away from him. We see how he feels about his sexuality by his visits to porn shops on the edge of town and Craigslist motel meets arranged on Craigslist. Yet Alex remains an enigma. The more he goes off the deep end, the more he drifts.

Mandy is never quite a full embodiment of the millennial liberal movement that both encourages and cruelly spurns the protagonist’s difference. “Discreet” reflects the inchoate identity it seeks to portray and it begins to agitate its audience.

There can be a paradoxically public intimacy to YouTube culture that is paradoxically artificial and there is little sense of personal connection. YouYube seems to prey on loneliness among those watching. We become aware of racism, internalized homophobia and the general fear of being seen and hiding behind a computer screen does not prove that someone is discreet or not.

It all begins ambiguously with the sound of frying bacon, an image of an Asian woman holding the sides of her head and, eventually, a body being wrapped in garbage bags. From this point, the plot gradually unfolds slowly and I found it to be unforgettable even when the film is over.

During the course of the film, Alex spends time with John, an older, despondent man with a nervous twitch and arranges discreet hookups in local sex spots. Eventually he connects with Zack, a teenage employee at the local donut shop. Here the film begins a series of twists and turns as it reflects Alex’s dark psyche. We are all aware of urgency that surrounds us with the new presidential administration. We want to act on this but we are not sure how.

“Discreet” is a minimalist thriller that reflects our time without being didactic and preachy. Our government is actively trying to confuse the populace about what’s real, and they’re doing it by inciting a death and destruction narrative. We are being hit with a degree of brute force that’s measured in relation to how scared they are. Straight white men see how demographics and culture are shifting away from their self-interest, and they probably would prefer to see the world go down in flames—as a show of masculinity rather than to concede, compromise. We see that there’s a lot of trouble to be had with most things “discreet.” Discretion is central to Alex’s struggle and he responds to the isolated world that he struggles to overcome. He tries to take down the community of people with discreet actions that rely on each other to stay safe.

“AFTERIMAGE”— Avant-garde Artist Władysław Strzemiński

“AFTERIMAGE”

Avant-garde Artist Władysław Strzemiński

Amos Lassen

Opening in New York May 19 and in Los Angeles on May 26. It is a look at one of the Polish director, Andrzej Wajda’s favorite artists Wladyslaw Strzeminski, an important figure in avant-garde painting in the first half of the 20th century in Poland. He was an assistant to Kazimir Malevich and the author of the artistic theory of Unism.

Strzeminski (Boguslaw Linda) is seen painting in his flat/workshop as a crew of workmen hang an enormous portrait of Stalin to the outside wall of his building. Printed on a red fabric, the portrait totally blocks the view from the window of Strzeminski’s workshop and plunges his whole flat into a blood red light. It becomes impossible for the artist to continue with his work and he feels as if he has been sentenced to prison. He has been cut off from the outside world, as if he had been put in jail. He protests and reacts violently. The film is a reflection of the painter’s struggle against the communist powers bit by bit, take away all of his rights. Seeing that Strzeminski is not willing to accept the new socialist realism movement being imposed upon artists and art teachers, he is dismissed from the Lodz Graduate School of Visual Arts, where he had been teaching History of Art and taken off the list of members of the artists’ association. He has no livelihood and he is humiliated, penniless and deprived of the food stamps he had been given by the school and the association. He goes deep into poverty, is disabled and seriously ill and eventually meets a tragic end.  

Strzemiński rose to prominence in the interwar years. Having lost an arm and a leg in the First World War he took up the brush and was an internationally acclaimed painter and theoretician by the time he was at odds with the Communist government of the 1950s. Instead of looking at Strzemiński’s experimental nature, or channeling the energy of his dissidence, this is more of a classical drama.

 

The film opens in shades of red as we see Strzemiński’s Lodz apartment and its window covered by the enormous Stalin banner. He puckishly rips a hole in it so that he can let in some natural light for his work that becomes little more than visuals and mostly broad-brush strokes. The government tries to order Strzemiński to fall in line before they interfere more interfere with his life in retaliation for his obstinacy. Even after being relieved of his lectureship, he remains adored by his pupils and venerated by contemporaries, but it becomes clear that this more due to his mind than his manner.

Linda gives a performance of charisma but lacking charm and we see that he’s brilliant but carrying deeply held scars despite the missing limbs (played down as an incidental detail). His mood was clearly the reason for his divorce from his wife and it is very evidenced in his relationships with a love struck student (Zofia Wichłacz) and his own young daughter, Nika (Bronislawa Zamachowska) who has a curt and almost antagonistic relationship with her father, yet she’s a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark film.

Andrzej Wajda and his film is homage to an avant-garde artist who fell foul of stifling Stalinist rules. Strzeminski was a martyr to Stalinist orthodoxy, but we also see a hint of personal identification with him from the director. Stalin murdered his father, after all, so this undimmed animosity is entirely understandable. 

In the film, the artist is in his late 50s and an inspirational lecturer at the Higher School of Visual Arts in Lodz, an institution he helped to found. However, history went against Strzeminski as Poland embraces a Stalinist code of Socialist Realism, which decrees that all art must “meet the needs of the people.” Abstract painters are suddenly suspect due to their “formalism” and “American cosmopolitanism.” These accusations ruined careers and even lives.

“Powidoki” rez. Andrzej Wajda
Zdjecia: Pawel Edelman
fotosy: Anna Wloch
www.annawloch.com
anna@annawloch.com

When Strzeminski defiantly stands up against these new strictures, his political overlords punish him severely. And we see him as a brave, almost saintly resistance fighter for artistic freedom. “Afterimage” is an elegant movie that is beautifully lit, tastefully art-directed, and handsomely shot.

“CLAMBAKE”— Women’s Weekend in Provincetown

clambake poster

“Clambake”

Women’s Week in Provincetown

Amos Lassen

In 1984, a few of women innkeepers in Provincetown, Massachusetts got together to find how to entice summer guests back during the seaside town’s offseason. Back then there was no email and social media so they wrote letters to the people who had stayed with them in the past and invited them to return to Ptown during the autumn months and especially to a clambake weekend. This was “Women’s Weekend,” and over the next thirty years it has continued and even was responsible for other lesbian gatherings in Provincetown. Ultimately, “Women’s Weekend” became one of the most popular lesbian events in the world.

clambake1a

Andrea Meyerson’s “Clambake” is a new documentary that is about that very weekend and how it made Provincetown into the lesbian destination that it has become. Meyerson chronicles the history of Women’s Weekend using archival footage and archives, interviews with celebrities and founders, and current events and performances and she gives is a fascinating and often funny look at what is possible when a few people with innovative ideas try something new. Actually the event is two years older now since the film was made in 2014. Women’s Weekend has become one of the oldest noncommercial women’s event in the United States. Even more important than that is the fact that Ptown offers a safe and very welcoming environment for women to come together and enjoy each other’s company. I doubt that at that first meeting anyone could have imagined what this would become.

clambake2

There is something magical about Provincetown and it has its own sense of history in that it is where the Pilgrims landed when they came to America before they went to Plymouth. In its early days, Ptown was a Portuguese fishing community. Artist began to movie there and they began the unique artist’s colony that exists there still today. Not long after that gay people began coming to Provincetown and they made the town into one of the very popular tourist destinations and as many at sixty thousand people come there during the summer months. What makes the town so special is that everyone can be themselves and all are welcomed.

clambake3

In the film, director Meyerson speaks to many of the original women innkeepers who are responsible for the first Women’s Weekend and we learn that they were worried that no one would come. In actuality there were some 200 women who came to that first weekend and they almost ran out of food. Listening to these interviews, we sense the passion they share as innkeepers. We also learn that they are not afraid of work and many hold other jobs in addition to running beds and breakfasts.

clambake4

One of the things I noticed on my first trip to Provincetown is the wonderful sense of camaraderie that exists there and the respect that each person has for the other. We do not have many places like Ptown in the United States and that is what makes it so special. Many of the very same women who organized this event are also those who worked so hard when the AIDS epidemic hit this country. In Ptown they mobilized to help in any way they could and this was so very painful especially when AIDS devastated the gay community that was there.

clambake5

The female performers that go to Provincetown never hesitate to sing the town’s praises and they love to perform in front of the large crowds that gather to see them. Above all else, Meyerson has shows us the joy that abounds in the town and the wonderful sense of community that exists there. Women’s Weekend has become so popular that now there is an almost hundred page guide to the events that take place during that time. One of the highlights of my life is my first visit to Provincetown and this movie shows us why those who come to Ptown come back again and again.

blgt film

“FURSONAS”— The Fantastic and the Unusual

fposter

“FURSONAS”

The Fantastic and the Unusual

Amos Lassen

First time director Dominic Rodriguez brings us “Fursonas”, a film that moves back and forth between the fantastic and the unusual and challenges the audience to do the same, to look at themselves and think about how we fit into our own family’s story. “Fursonas” is about accepting yourself for who you are. “Furries” are often stereotyped as people who dress up as animals and have sex. Uncle Kage, who we’ll come to know later in the film, assures us that they are fun-loving people who simply enjoy an alternative lifestyle.

fursonas1

We then movie into the back stories. The several furries featured in the film tell us about how they grew up “knowing deep down” that they were furries, and how it took them years to embrace it. We get into what makes them special, what they’re passionate about, and what it means to them to dress up as furries each and every day.

fursonas2

Next we see how the public has grown to perceive furry fandom over the years, and how “unfortunate” incidents—such as furry appearances on the Tyra Banks and Dr. Phil shows have causes many people to believe that furry fandom is nothing more than a fetish. We see the public denying any passionate reason for being a furry, choosing to ignore their back stories and instead judging the entire group based on some misconceived notions.

fursonas3

We see Uncle Kage “coaching” his fellow furries, asking them to never deny allegations about furries having sex with their suits on but instead deflect the question and talk about how great the furry community is and how it welcomes everyone with open arms. This section reveals the “political” side of furry fandom.

f poster

After the politics have been revealed, we see how many members of the furry community turn on their own because they feel betrayed by certain furries, such as a man who legally tried to change his name to “Boomer The Dog” and appeared on Dr. Phil to discuss his alternative lifestyle. This sort of exposure outrages people like Uncle Kage, who preaches, “You’re not just representing yourself, but the entire furry community.” It is amazing to see members of the furry community turning on their own and judging furries in the same way the public judges the furry community.

f1

 

Rodriguez, in the film, shows how public perception and internal politics create immense pressure on members of the furry community to truly accept themselves for who they are and preach openly about it to the world. Rodriguez creates a meta-narrative that breaks down the wall and openly challenges the audience to not only accept ourselves, but also accept others who don’t live the same lifestyle as us. We are asked to looked past societal norms and realize that we are all capable of love and passion—we are all human beings.

f2

What begins as a series of innocuous portraits soon becomes a deeply involved examination of the issue of community representation in the media, a controversy that comes into any misunderstood or misrepresented group.  We are engaged with the film but I wish that there had been more narrative.

blgt film

 

“DANNY SAYS”— Everywhere

danny says poster

“DANNY SAYS”

Everywhere

Amos Lassen

I doubt that many of you have heard of Danny Fields— neither had I. In watching this documentary about him, I learned that he played a major and pivotal role in rock ‘n’ roll of the late 20th century. He worked with the Doors, Lou Reed, Nico, Judy Collins and managed groundbreaking artists like the Stooges, MC5, and the Ramones. He was a regular at Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory. Danny was a Phi Beta Kappa kid who dropped out of Harvard Law and became a Warhol confidant, Director of Publicity at Elektra Records, punk pioneer and so much more. Danny’s opinions were once defiant and radical and actually turned out to have been prescient. “Danny Says” is a story of marginal person becoming mainstream and avant garde turning prophetic.

danny1

I would not say that this is a unique documentary but I will loudly say that the subject of the film is unique in many ways. Danny Fields was a regular fixture in the sixties rock scene and during the transition between the late sixties and early seventies, he became involved in a new rock movement that would make its indelible mark on the music world–Punk. He used his flamboyant and brash personality to promote and mentor artists who became legendary.

danny6

Brendan Toller’s film uses interviews, archive footage, and animation to tell Danny’s story. Toller obviously has much love for his subject and this labor of love is a loving tribute to Danny Fields. The film is a fascinating portrait of a truly remarkable man. This is a film that took 5 1/2 years to make. Interviews with 60 people shaped Danny in a real and round way. Danny’s life was filled with many important people and the list of his friends sounds like a who’s-who list of the music world. That such a figure who was so well known in the music industry, could live behind the scenes forever is unheard of.

danny2

The film opens with some rapid-fire interviews from music legends such as Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper who give quick insights about who Fields was. After the titles roll, we, the viewers are introduced to Danny who tells about his early years and up through college and Harvard Law, where he eventually dropped out and moved to New York. He was in his twenties when in New York and it was then he discovered his sexuality. He began working as a writer and editor, finding an in into the rock world through his pre-established channels and listening for the next big thing in music. He worked for a long time at Elektra Records that brought him to the Doors and he signed such artists as MC5 and The Stooges (Iggy Pop). After being fired from Elektra he became the manager for the Ramones.

danny4

This is not only a film about Danny Fields but it is also about the music industry. It is then that we hear stories about Jim Morrison, Nico, Edie Sedgwick, MC5, and the somewhat insane Iggy Pop. He stories are fun and fascination but they have very little to do with Fields other than the fact that he was there, trying his best to make records sell and prevent everyone from overdosing.

There is really no narrative that connects everything together and this hurts the film which does not have any structure. This does not mean that it is not a good film. Just listening to Danny talk about his life is enough to make us enjoy the entire viewing experience. We just remain unsure as to what this film is about.

danny5

And these stories never quite add up to any sort of overarching narrative. Things, for the most part, seem to unravel chronologically, moving ever forward through the ups and downs, with no real structure in sight.

danny 7

“Danny Says” is by no means a bad film. Fields himself is hilarious throughout as he talks about his roles in some of the biggest moments in music history. It is filled with hilarious stories about the heyday of rock and roll and it highlights the importance of the guy who is in the back of every photo.

blgt film

 

“DOWNRIVER”— Secrets and Revelations

downriver

“DOWNRIVER”

Secrets and Revelations

Amos Lassen

“Downriver” is filled with grim secrets and slowly surfacing revelations from Australian writer-director Grant Scicluna with his first feature film. James (Reef Ireland) has just been released from prison after serving time for drowning a little boy when he himself was just a child. The boy’s body was never found, and James has spent his life being guilt-ridden and haunted by questions about what really happened that day. He returns to the rural community where the crime took place and is determined to find the body. As he searches, he is confronted by bullies and sexual predators from his past. He risks punishment he risks by breaking his parole and is threatened with violence from the characters that emerge all around him.

downriver1

This is a film filled with tension and we feel that there is something sinister beneath what we see on the screen and eventually discover that this feeling comes from a network of abuse, exploitation, blackmail and desire. The suspense and the tension that we feel come from layers of flashbacks and dialogue that the portrayals of the actors amplify. We are taken to very dark places as James looks for the truth.

downriver2

We see how unreliable memory can be but we also see a portrayal of homosexual relationships as every bit as complex as their heterosexual counterparts. We meet James the eve of his release from juvenile prison. He is unable to provide answers to the grieving mother of the drowned boy he was convicted of killing whose body was never recovered. He says goodbye to his cellmate and lover, and is transferred to a halfway house with strict parole instructions. His mother Paige (Kerry Fox) is happy in a new relationship and reluctant to invite him back into her life, while his unseen father has offered financial help but no contact.

downriver3

James’ uncertainties concerning the boy’s death are made worse by his having blacked out at the time due to an epileptic seizure. He needs to understand what happened and atone for his role in it, he heads back to the sleepy rural community on the Yarra River outside Melbourne, Australia where the tragedy occurred.

downriver4

 

There is a restraining order on James that forbids from being in the same area as his former childhood friend Anthony (Tom Green), who was with him when the boy was killed (and who James thinks is the one who killed the boy). James moves into his family’s old cabin. Anthony is really something else; trading nude shots or sex for favors. He seduced Damien (Charles Grounds), a sensitive kid from the nearby caravan park and we see his power as a predator.

downriver5

Anthony taunts James for the weakness that made him open up to the police back when they were 10-years-old during the investigation. When James starts going through the past, he discovers something more disturbing than a dangerous game that got out of hand. He comes upon secrets that, make Anthony’s violent family suddenly nervous.

7

Ireland’s powerful performance as James gives the film a compelling emotional center as it moves through questions of culpability, remorse and redemption. Even if James seems to be a somewhat opaque as a character through to the final scenes, his need to take ownership for the mistakes of his past is clear. Green’s Anthony is initially seen as a classic bad seed, manipulating those around him. However, his vulnerability becomes clear when we see him in the context of his terrible all-male family.

Fox beautifully conveys the painful conflicts of a mother trying to move on with her life but still deeply connected to her son and needing to forgive him. Her boyfriend represents the ideals of kindness and compassion that fit with the film’s examination of human fallibility.

6

The film is a bit too self-consciously oblique, and at times confusingly mysterious. The final scene is so burdened by symbol that I found myself being frustrated. Nonetheless, this is a brilliant first film and I am sure that as time passes, we will be hearing a great deal about writer-director Grant Scicluna as someone to watch.

8

He is able to create an enveloping mood and how to punctuate his story with the right and necessary methods to keep his audience interested (or spellbound).

blgt film

“PARIS 05:59: THÉO AND HUGO”— Facing Reality

paris poster

“PARIS 05:59: THÉO AND HUGO”

Facing Reality

Amos Lassen

Théo (Geoffrey Couët) and Hugo (François Nambot) meet through each other’s bodies in a sex club. One follows the other down into the basement of L’Impact, where men have no inhibitions and sex is everywhere. The club is a world of its own and where anonymous sex takes precedent over everything else and love has nothing to do with anything until Theo and Hugo meet and both realize that they have fallen in love at first sight. As they chat there is certainly a feeling of desire that seems to have no boundaries. They decide that they need to go outside for fresh air (or whatever) and they begin to roam Paris at night. Outside they face the reality that does not exist at the club and the sense of sexual freedom that they felt there is replaced buy feelings of existential helplessness and insecurity. As they strive for intimacy that insecurity hinders how they feel.

paris2

A beautiful script and naturalistic dialogue, Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau’s film reveals the intricacies of gay love and eroticism. To the viewer, we see nothing more than a flourishing love story that hits a fork in the road, at first. It seems that fate has brought the two together and what first was lust later becomes reluctance and confusion.

Once the two men leave the club and the passion of unbridled sex, they go beyond what their bodies could say to each other, revealing a cataclysmic turn of events that sends their relationship into a what could become a downward spin. The second half of the film is made up of just conversations leading the viewer to fall in love with Hugo and Theo.

paris2

Upon seeing a film that begins with twenty minutes of explicit sex, the viewer wonders exactly what is this story going to be about. Slowly we realize that this is about falling in love. When they first see each from across a dungeon filled with men writhing is orgiastic joy, Hugo and Theo come together with a passionate kiss and ignore what is happening around them. They then make love (have sex) with a sense of urgency and passion.

As they dress to leave the club, it is obvious that they both felt more than just the usual  sexual connection. It is then that they begin to know each other and realize that they had unprotected sex. Hugo tells Theo that he is HIV positive and this tales them to a hospital emergency room. At this point they are both confused and angry and even though they fight and have words, neither is ready to leave the other. Theo calms down and realizes that things are not really as bad as they might think and off they go to walk around Paris and learn more about each other. at the same time. 

paris3

This remarkably fresh and completely enchanting film wonderfully encapsulates a contemporary gay love story that shows sexual attraction as a major element, but not the defining one. Couet and Nambot are perfect in their portrayals of Hugo and Theo sharing just the right amount of chemistry together to be totally convincing that they could, and would, make Theo and Hugo’s relationship really last.

blgt film

“SPA NIGHT”— Gay in Koreatown

spa-night-poster

“SPA NIGHT”

Gay in Koreatown

Amos Lassen

David Cho (Joe Seo) is an adolescent on the cusp of manhood. He lives in a tight-knit, traditional home in the heart of Koreatown, Los Angeles with his first-generation parents. David worked at the family restaurant but business was slow, the restaurant was forced to close. His mother, Soyoung, found a job as a waitress, but his unemployed father, Jin, began a downward spiral and as this happens, tension builds in the home. spiral downward. As the patriarchal balance teeters, tension builds at home.

spa night

To please his mother, David pretends to go to SAT classes but secretly has taken a job at a Korean spa to help his family make ends meet. At the spa, he discovers an underground world of gay sex that both scares and excites him. As David explores his sexuality, his family life crumbles, forcing him to reconcile his own desires with his parents’ hopes, dreams, and expectations.

spa2

Joe Seo gives an incredible performance as David, a young man dealing with sexual awakening. This is writer/director Andrew Ahn’s debut as a director and his story of a closeted Korean-American youth who is not a boy yet not quite a man rings true throughout.The film focuses on a close knit family involved in a economic crisis that forces them to adapt for an unplanned scenario and Ahn begins with characters facing a tenuous future. But Ahn’s film is more than that— it’s a hopeful narrative of a young man awakening to his sexuality via the activities he sees and experiences after taking a position at a local male only Korean Night Spa. The film explores the intersections of two particular communities.

spa3

The circumstances involving the Korean spas as known gay cruising areas in contemporary Los Angeles is not new, although Ahn may be the first to directly address this as a necessary evil by owners and a problem for heterosexual clients. Technically, sexual activities at these establishments are illegal, and considering legal bath houses for gay men do exist in several areas throughout Los Angeles this situation speaks to the tempting power of the taboo. The setting provides a unique coming-of-sexual-age scenario for David who sees this world very close to him.

spa4

David’s situation is a familiar one but his pressures are amplified by his heritage. The film captures that period of growing up when one begins to understand that the world isn’t what it was thought to be and one defines himself from some power within.

blgt film