Category Archives: GLBT Film

“TOM OF FINLAND”— Art and Pornography

“Tom of Finland”

Art and Pornography

Amos Lassen

Dome Karukowski’s “Tom of Finland”, a biographical Finnish drama that will cause a sensation. Artist Touko Laaksonen (Pekka Strang) who is better known to most as Tom of Finland, gradually begins to break taboos, asserting a gay identity in his life and art and like the main character, Karukowski goes toward the subversive. We see a duality of representation that’s central to an appreciation of Laaksonen’s work as both art and pornography.

Karukowski liberates his film from convention in much the same way Laaksonen was able to free himself from his sexual anxieties through his art, and images of sexualized “Tom’s men” make it off the page and become a part of Laaksonen’s physical life.

In the early scenes we see the threat of intolerance that follows Laaksonen, as a gay man, at a time in his country when homosexuality was criminalized in Finland. This struggle connects the film to a modern context with the president of Chechnya who has very recently called for the “elimination” of his country’s gay population. There is a sense of paranoia in the way Karukowski films late-night cruising and covert a Cold War thriller substituting one form of repression for another).

The film is part of a movement to document crucial parts of the history of the growth of the LGBT community. Touko Laaksonen was a middle-class Finnish Army Officer who had a great deal of difficulty adjusting back into civilian life after World War II in a culture where homosexuality was illegal and could exposure could ruin one’s live.

During the day, he was a successful advertising agency artist in Helsinki, but at night when he wasn’t in the gay cruising areas looking for sexual partners, he was at home developing his own art as a way of dealing with the rampant homophobia in a very conservative Finnish society. He drew private fantasies based on stylized versions of the soldiers, farmers, lumberjacks and leather-clad bikers that he lusted after and they are nothing like the norm of his reality.  When he went to Berlin to sell some of these his visit goes horribly wrong, but Laakesonen knows by the reactions of the closeted gay men who have viewed his work, that he is on to something that is quite extraordinary.

He meets and falls in love with a young dancer Veli (Lauri Tilkanen), and it is Veli who encourages Laakesonen to develop his work even more delving into the ultra-masculine world of biker and leathermen and their sub culture. In order to avoid his drawings being traced back to him and risk trouble with the law, he stops using his real name and just signs them ‘Tom’. Bob Mizer, the editor of the American magazine “Physique Pictoral” that ‘Tom’ sends his work too in 1953 added the ‘of Finland’ to create his famous nom-de-plume.

This was the era of ‘beefcake’ art and photography in the days before homosexuality was fully decriminalized and gay pornography was legal in the U.S.  The Tom of Finland books and artworks encouraged gay men emerging to come out from the and take on this whole ultra-macho role which no-one had publicly identified as a homosexual trait.  Whilst his work was still a secret back home in Finland, ‘Tom’ quickly became a major cult figure in the more liberated environs of places like California and N.Y.

The film shows “Tom’s” success and his personal life and is compelling viewing. Tom comes across as a charming and affable man and they don’t hide the fact that he participated in a sexual liberation that he helped create. His profound relationship with Vila, the one real love of his life, ended with his untimely death from cancer is a very definite and unexpected tear-jerking moment.

“Tom of Finland” avoids the obvious mention of the link between Nazism and BDSM which we now know was a source of fascination for Laakesonen. Rather, the film it focuses on the profound importance of his portfolio of work, which over the course of forty years consisted of d some 3500 illustrations that became being an iconic contribution to the LGBT culture.

Tom of Finland spent much of his life hiding who he truly was and he was only recognized and admired by those in the gay community. We never really get close to this withdrawn, private and pensive man and the only times that we really learn about his personality is when he is relationships. The last portion of the film shows the rise in AIDS and anti-homosexual attitudes in the USA, something of which Tom’s drawings is the blame for.

The film is almost two hours long with the first half of the film beautifully setting Tom up; the second half of the film is about his American success and downfall. The script, written by Karukowski and Aleksi Bardy, is ambitious. It starts with the Second World War and ending at the 1980’s AIDS epidemic. The film is beautifully shot and styled. It is a beautifully crafted and important story of one of Finland’s major icons.

The film succeeds in depicting the struggle of an unprecedented artist who had to live so many years in the shadows because of his homosexuality and the strong repression against the gay communities. However, it does slow down in the second half when Tom comes to America. The cast is excellent and every gay man should add this film to their must-see list.

“THE BRIDGE”— Season 3 on DVD

“The Bridge”

Season 3 on DVD

Amos Lassen

Since it was initially released in 2011, “The Bridge” has been captivating audiences all over the world. It stars Sofia Helin as the socially awkward but brilliant police investigator Saga Norén. The production values have been regaled as a masterpiece and a masterclass of tone, plot and characterization.” 

It all begins when a famous Danish gender activist and owner of Copenhagen’s first gender-neutral preschool is found murdered. Saga is assigned to the case and the murder sparks the beginning of a series of spectacular crimes reaching back into Saga’s own past. With her career at risk, and the question of personal responsibility haunting her, it looks as if she might be pulled from the case. When her mother unexpectedly re-enters her life, Saga must also cope with unforeseen and unwanted demands. The rest is for you to discover by watching.

“120 BEATS PER MINUTE” — ACT UP, France

“120 BEATS PER MINUTE” (“120 battements par minute”)

ACT UP, France

Amos Lassen

For those of you who don’t know (just as I didn’t), 120 beats per minute is the rhythm of house music. It also refers to the desperate race against AIDS, a disease that is killing them people one by one (a resting heart should normally beat 60 to 100 times a minute) refers It is also the name of a new film that just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival that has people talking and movie critics looking for superlatives.

Director Robin Campillo’s “120 Beats Per Minute”, is a tribute to the AIDS activist group ACT UP. For whatever reason it still takes a film about gay people, by a gay director, to show candid male nudity and men making love with men. This is a tightly focused, sensitive and deeply moving drama about gay activists as they struggle to live life to the fullest even as they battle disease and indifference.

Campillo draws on his own experience as an ACT UP member to share the direct-action group that did much to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic in early 1990s France, at the height of the crisis. While this is a powerful ensemble movie, it is also a painful reminder that many in the political and pharmaceutical establishment did not consider what happened to the gay community to be anyone’s business aside from the gay community itself. The establishment felt that ACT UP’s transgressive, confrontational tactics were a parallel to the deadly revolutionary uprisings that shook Paris in 1848. Viewers might think that 1968 was a more obvious parallel with the difference that tremendous numbers of people were dying daily.

Here we see the urgency of fusing the intimate and the political. While sickness and death haunt the movie, “120 Beats” is also a celebration of love and friendship, and of the various forums (nightclubs, gay pride parades, ACT UP assemblies) that gave strength to the vulnerable gay community.

The wonderful mostly male cast has several standout performances by Arnaud Valois and Argentinian actor Nahuel Pérez Biscayart. Even though director Campillo creditably stays away from “maudlin sentimentality”, it is almost impossible to watch this without crying. This is a film about tragedy and loss, but we see that the fight goes on. There are moments of inspiration, perception and ecstasy as the casts keep the tensions and camaraderie working throughout the film.

It begins with a probe of various politics and motivations of the ACT UP whose members demonstrate at a conference, with the resulting aggression and violence that show the fault lines between militancy and protest, inadequacy and action. Soon afterwards, they meet to debate their methods.

We immediacy become aware of film’s overall urgency. Campillo shows simply that large numbers of young gay men were ill and that many were dying. The necessity for these people to come together to form some resistance comes into its own in such circumstances. Most of their efforts are spent on public awareness and there is one excellent scene that shows the activists infiltrating a school with leaflets. The male teacher in one class vainly attempts to collect up the contraband, while a female teacher next door asks the children to sit quietly and listen to the important message. We are shocked and startled by the pervasive ignorance of the general population to what was happening.

We watch the story of Nathan (Valois), a handsome, taciturn newcomer who falls for Sean (Biscayart), a rebellious extrovert. Their intimacy becomes the film’s emotional centre, as the group increases its attempts to pressure large pharmaceutical companies for help with medical treatment.

The scenes where members of the movement confront Antoine Reinartz gives a beautiful and complex performance as ACT UP’s divisive chairman, Thibault. There are many other superb performances, some interesting visuals and several instances of witty dialogue and we remember a time when we had to literally fight for our lives. This is such an important film, especially for the younger gay community that came into being after the worst of AIDS had been dealt with and we cannot allow ourselves to forget what was happening right in front of our eyes.     

“THE NEST”— Bruno and Brother

“The Nest”-

Bruno and Brother

Amos Lassen

Directors Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon’s “The Nest” introduces us to Bruno (Nicolas Vargas) who has left the military and travels to Porto Alegre (Brazil) to find his estranged older brother Leo. What he finds instead is a vibrant queer community that happily embraces him, inviting him into their social scene. Through these unconventional new friends, Bruno finds a “new family” and a new space where he is free to explore his sexuality. Now that he is way from home, he’s found himself, and he and his lost brother become closer than ever. “The Nest” is both a look at the queer, punk underground of Brazil and a unique coming-of-age drama. Originally made for Brazilian television, this is four-part miniseries that is now screening as a feature-length work.

Porto Alegre is in the south of Brazil, and Bruno, a 19-year-old AWOL army soldier stalks the streets, nightclubs, and gay hang-outs searching for his older brother, Leo. Years ago, Leo ran away from home, escaping his homophobic parents (who remain unaware of both Bruno’s search for his older brother and of Bruno’s own sexuality, which remains hidden behind his silent and stoic personality).

Bruno meets and becomes friends with Stella (Sophia Starosta), a bartender who worked with Leo. Stella is skeptical of Bruno’s desire to find his brother since Leo has shared stories with her about the pain inflicted upon him by their parents. The world that Bruno finds in Porto Alegre is wonderfully intoxicating, making it as easy for viewers to succumb to as it is for Bruno. We see gender there approached with a mixed-up blend of traditions taken from femininity, masculinity, and everything in between. We are all aware that the concept of family is a big one in queer culture and “The Nest is never just about the blood family that Bruno goes in search for, or the one he discovers on the streets of Porto Alegre. It explores the significance of each as Bruno attempts to not just find his blood relative, but begins to build a life with his new friends. The film tells the story of two gay brothers, dynamic that is uncommon in film.

With its open-ended conclusion amid the naked, blasting fluorescents of a discotheque dance floor, there is certainly possibility for more of The Nest . It is a world of ravishing details and intricate characters, where even minor side-characters have a world of history behind them. It is a world that I embraced and would care to dive further into. This is a surprising and sumptuous experience. Below are summaries of the four episodes that make up the film (should you see it as a miniseries);

Episode 1 : Bruno arrives at Porto Alegre, in search of his brother. The boy meets Madam Marlene’s “gang” and discovers the city with them.

Episode 2 : Bruno has to postpone his search for his brother for a few hours, since he and his two new friends are suddenly invited for breakfast by Leon, a nice, yet a bit weird, French old man.

Episode 3 : Guided by Stella, Bruno goes to a nearby beach to discover an important part of his missing brother’s past. There, he finds out that it’s not a bed of roses when you are determined to be yourself.

Episode 4 : It’s Bruno’s last Day before he returns to the army. He has doubts about going back. He’s running out of time to find his brother.

“THE CULT” (“A SIETA”)— A Look at the Future

“THE CULT” (“A SIETA”)

A Look at the Future

Amos Lassen

André Antonio’s “The Cult” takes us into the future to the year 2040 when Earth is abandoned for interplanetary colonization and only the disaffected remain. Those who are too bored to travel are immunized from the need to sleep and they lounge languidly in ornate interiors, whiling away the hours with hookups. This first feature is filled with vibrant ambiance and lush cinematography.

Recife in 2040 is a deserted city after the population to emigrated to the space colonies. One of the former residents decides, one day, to return to the city and the house where he was born. While there he spends his time reading, walking the deserted streets and getting sexually involved with several men. One day he discovers the cult, The Seita” that populates the underworld of the city.

The idea of the film is to give us a look at an imaginary of a future not so far away. We see what happens when the population of the city abandons the planet and what is left in Recife are ghosts of a past memory. It is as if they are resistance if it makes the viewer and they make us think about how things once were. We see that this future is not only disheartening because of the apparent extinction of much of city life, but also because of the very collapse of its structures, which became decadent signs of a once prosperous past.

When the main character returns from the space colonies where a large part of a population lives, he sees abandoned resources and land degradation, and that these have led to a life of social decay. He happens to be an extremely arrogant young man who regains his old house with fine and elaborate porcelain, velvet curtains, art and books. He becomes engaged in frivolous dialogues with the men he attracts to his house and with whom he enjoys sex but without any kind of empathy beyond the frivolity necessary to show himself and attract them, one after another. He has no concern for his “victims” and feels that these men are only there to fulfill his carnal need.

People disappear all the time and despite their apparent tranquility, we realize that there is great discomfort by the police that are still in Recife. The buildings are empty and the human life of the city seems to reside only in ruins where they deal with fear, shame, fear or uncertainty.

There are casual encounters, of circumstance, and the shadow of the cult sect rules the decaying and ruined city. Everyone lives quietly in their uncertainty. They have fun at night in a club and the life that once prevailed is now their only comfort but it makes them distance themselves from an older population who harbor the weight of any responsibility. The viewer reflects on the presumption of the screenwriter and director in this “wannabe” intellectual and metaphorical film but that is actually quite banal.

“I LOVE YOU BOTH”— Twins

“I LOVE YOU BOTH”

Twins

Amos Lassen

Fraternal twin siblings and roommates Donny and Krystal (Doug and Kristin Archibald) are suffering malaise. Krystal is just getting over a messy break-up and hates working at her father’s office. Donny is hoping that his career as a pianist will begin soon and in the meantime he takes babysitting jobs. As they become more and more frustrated by the outside world, the closer the two siblings become. Things change when they meet Andy (Lucas Neff), a sweet, good-natured artist and designer that they are both struck by. Andy seems to like both of them and this causes problem between the once inseparable twins.

This is the debut feature for director/star/co-writer Doug Archibald as well as the big screen-acting debut of co-star, co-writer, and sibling Kristin. The chemistry between the leads is obviously natural and they share a witty rapport that makes the film move forward at a quick pace. 

The twins have been codependent since birth and they are best friends who share almost every aspect of their lives together. They each meet Andy at the same birthday party and they are both attracted to him, wanting to spend more time together and undoubtedly determine if Andy is straight (for Krystal) or gay ( or Donny).

A short time later, Andy invites Donny and Krystal to join him at a friend’s party.  During the party, the twins discover Andy is actually bisexual thus leaving him up for grabs for both of them.  As a result, Krystal and Donny both start dating Andy, each wanting to pursue their individual feelings, yet careful not to harm the other.

This romantic crisis is filled with humor and the film has a lot to smile about. After Krystal sabotages her own date with Andy, Donny and Andy start growing closer together.  Krystal attempts to let go, despite the fact that Andy may have actually preferred her.  Things come to a head when Andy and Donny decide to take a weekend getaway and invite Krystal to come along.  As Donny prepares for a night out, Andy and Krystal head out for a drink.  Alone, Andy shares his feelings for Krystal, leaving her torn between a relationship she desperately wants and the possibility of harming her brother to have that relationship.

Labels are extremely double-edged. On one hand, they can provide much needed representation for marginalized minorities, groups and communities, (such as Blacks, LGBT or a specific nationality). On the other hand, labels generate an expectation, and easily disappoint when certain criteria are not met. This is what we look at in this film. The focus of the film is not the romance, rather the focus is on the relationship between the twins. is the central pillar about the movie. This is a movie about fraternal love.

“WONDERKID”— Homophobia in Football

“Wonderkid”

Homophobia in Football

Amos Lassen

Rhys Chapman’s “Wonderkid” looks at homophobia in football (that’s soccer to Americans). After earning a dream move to a London Premier League club, Wonderkid should be on top of the world but he faces the reality of callous friends, a hostile changing room, and vitriol-filled messages on social media and having to deal with himself. The film highlights the key issue of sexuality as an issue when it should not be. I recently read that 72% of football fans say they have heard homophobic abuse while watching live sports in the past five years. Yet, at the same time, nearly two thirds of people say more should be done to make LGBT people feel accepted in sport. Nearly 90% of supporters say they would be either proud or neutral if their favorite player came out as gay.’

This short British film explores the ultimate sporting taboo— coming out. We see the raw emotions of a talented footballer who just wants to give his all to the game but who is held back from displaying his full potential by not being able to “be himself” and this indeed affects him and those around him. His agent Johnny is aware of his client’s desire to come out to one and all, but he is also aware of the ramifications such sexual openness could have on a series of lucrative endorsements and media deals (and moreover, his cut therein). The result is a standoff that finds wonderkid holed up in his hotel room longing to break free, only for promises of coming out from his agent, forever accompanied with the line – “when the time is right”. The problem is that is the time is never right.

Chris Mason is brilliant as Wonderkid. The film continually asks the question of why should one’s sexuality be an issue? We know the answer but it seems to not work for football. We see the inner turmoil of a young man yearning to be his sexual self, yet too afraid to be seen in a gay bar. He is sick of the ingrained homophobic comments both from the stands and from his teammates and “playing it straight” drags him down. We know that something clearly has to give and give it does, even if the key act itself is not shown, and we hear it via a voiceover. As the film comes to a close, we can only wonder how many wonderkids feel the same way but do not act.

“CRAZY ALL THESE YEARS”— Life, Death, and Running Away

“CRAZY ALL THESE YEARS”

Life, Death, and Running Away

Amos Lassen

Ben (Christopher Howell) is a gay man ho goes home to a small Tennessee town to take care of his ailing mother (Cinda McCain). He was tired of his life in New York, but it took his return for him to remember why he had left. He and his mother had had a contentious relationship in the past and now he tries to deal with his mother’s demands and requirements along with the feelings that he thought he left behind him when he moved away. His only hope of solace comes from his relationships with his neighbor Lori and her brother Joe (James Fuertes) who had once been his partner but whose heart he had broken. Now Joe has become “straight” and Ben must find some way to forget the wounds so that they can all return to the way life had once been. Joe is excited about the chance to be with Ben again despite the hurt he has had to deal with. Ben realizes that by running away, he could forgot those problems but soon sees that running away has really not solved anything.

Because what we see is so real, this is a bit painful to watch. All of us are well aware that life is not always fun. It is strange that we know how this would end, yet it affects us as we watched. The acting is excellent all around and what really impressed me was the depth of the mother’s struggle.

There are actually only four important characters that had to deal with real family issues and they do so wonderfully. For those who have mothers who do accept their sons’ sexuality, there is something important to be seen here. In fact, for everyone there is something important to be seen. Life is all about relationships and only when Ben understood that his mother loved him was he willing to let her go. All she wanted was for him to be happy and even if they has different definitions of happiness, there was a mother/son bond there. While Ben’s mother was homophobic, she loved her children (as mothers do). This caused Ben to run away and stay away for fifteen years but he returned to take care of his mother.

This is the first official release from the new label Dekkoo Films. With a massive library, Dekkoo.com, our sister site, is the best spot to stream gay themed-movies online. Now they’re branching out with original content and distributing worthy gay movies.

“COBY”— The Journey to Manhood

“Coby”

The Journey to Manhood

Amos Lassen

Becoming a man is not always an easy process but for Coby it is extremely difficult. You see Coby was born Suzanna and when she became twenty-one-years-old, she decided to change her gender and become male. At first, Suzanna uses the transitional name of Coby. Not only is this the story of Coby’s journey to manhood, it is also the story of his commitment to her surroundings, specifically the town of Chagrin Falls, Ohio in the American Midwest. This is an incisive, tender and ironic portrait of a transgender and his family seeking freedom.

Suzanna’s transformation deeply disrupts the lives of all who love her. Ultimately, that transformation becomes the one of a whole family compelled to modify their own perspective. We realize that there is much more than a physical metamorphosis at stake and it is the spiritual change that we unexpectedly see here.

The film premieres in May, 2017 at the Cannes Film Festival.

“HOW IT ALL BEGAN”— Love and Friendship

“HOW IT ALL BEGAN”

Love and Friendship

Amos Lassen

Director Dennis Nolette’s “How It All Began” is a compelling story of love and friendship that is being shown on Amazon Video beginning on May 16. The series which we will see episodically centers on

the romantic relationship between a late-middle-aged gay man and a twenty-something millennial. Dennis wakes up to discover Zach, an attractive young man in his bed and begins to wonder if Zach is simply j a one-night stand, or is it more than that?” Featuring lead performances by Nollette and Zach DuFault, the first five episodes are ready to roll and are quite endearing.

“We’re excited to introduce this wonderful new series to audiences worldwide. With an endearing script and winning performances by the entire cast, “How It All Began” is a terrific original series everybody (not just LGBT audiences) can enjoy.” says Armand Petri, Head of Operations at Together Magic, the releasing company.

The supporting cast appearing in the first five episodes includes Luke Cook and Miles Cooper. The remaining episodes of the first season of “How It All Began” will be released in the upcoming weeks.