Category Archives: GLBT Film

“ANYTHING”— A Poignant Love Story

“Anything”

A Poignant Love Story

Amos Lassen

Early (John Carroll Lynch) is a middle-aged ex-insurance salesmen from Mississippi who was persuaded to move to LA by his sister Laurette (Maura Tierney). Laurette is something of a control-freak and is worried about her brother after he attempted suicide when his wife was killed in a fatal car accident.

Early is a loner who depends on Zanax with a Bourbon chaser in order to deal with his depression and get through his days.  One night he is disturbed by yelling coming from the apartment next to his but no one answers the door when he knocks. And so he goes back home. The next morning there is a knock on his door and when Early opens it he sees Freda (Matt Bomer) in a clingy bright red dress asking if she can borrow some sugar.  Frieda flirts and catches Early totally off-guard. 

Over the next few weeks, an unexpected and unusual friendship develops between the two and they learn to depend on each other.  Early rescues Freda after she has been badly beaten by a trick who turns on her and he lends her money to pay her rent. Freda gets Early to open up about losing his wife and in one particularly touching scene, she rubs lotion into the scars on his wrists caused by his suicide attempt.

However, when they try to move their relationship to another level by throwing a dinner party for Laurette and her family, everything backfires and Laurette screams her unfiltered transphobic abuse about how she sees the situation and she does not allow Early or Freda to say a word.

By this point, Early has other friends among the oddball neighbors in the building and has begun to fit in.  He shows genuine concern for other people and believes in the best of people. Because of that quality he is able to maintain a relationship with his sister and is able to allow himself to fall in love with Freda.

Bomer’s Freda is a person with real sensitivity and is totally convincing when she reveals that she is a vulnerable young woman who could see the attraction of a kind soul such as Early.   Lynch is perfect as the sad sack Early has more compassion and dimension that anyone had ever given him credit for. This is director Timothy McNeil’s directing debut and he also wrote the adaptation of the screenplay from his own stage. The movie continues dialogue about the transgender community even though there are those upset that a transgender actor was not cast as Frieda. Many feel that its time for trans actresses, often confined to sassy supporting parts, to be given their shot. Moreover, casting men in these roles gives a broader misconception that trans women are just men in women’s clothing.

This is a quiet, small-scaled drama about love between strangers and siblings, solidarity between lonely people and the transformative power of kindness. Beautifully matched performances of the two main characters are backed up by a wonderful ensemble and sensitive direction. At first it seems like this is just another story of a straight white man saved by the grace of an oppressed minority but then you realize the fine humor and the depth of feeling in the film.

We meet Early when he is in a grief-induced daze following the death of his wife of 26 years in a car crash. After a suicide attempt, he’s released to the care of his studio exec sister Laurette who brings him to Los Angeles to live with her, husband Ted (Christopher Thornton) and teen son Jack (Tanner Buchanan) at their Brentwood home. Laurette is well intentioned but when she tries to set her brother up with an acquaintance who also recently lost her spouse), Early decides it’s time to find his own place.

The monotony of evenings spent on the couch, bathrobe-clad and bourbon in hand, is broken when Early overhears his neighbor across the hall and a male visitor. Freda is a stunning trans woman in a form-fitting red dress. She’s feisty and great with one-liners and Early invites her inside and soon learns there’s more to her than fierceness and flirty double entendres.

Their strange, restorative, gratifyingly confusing friendship evolves in fits and starts of reciprocal care taking. Early tends to Freda when she comes home beaten up after a rough shift turning tricks on Santa Monica Boulevard. She gets him out of his shell by asking questions about his late wife. He lends her money and helps her break her pill habit. She puts make up concealer on his wrist scars.

They are an odd couple — a middle-aged sad guy with sturdy values and questionable taste in clothing palling and a brash, glamorous trans prostitute. Freda is drawn to Early’s politness and consideration; he’s attracted to her charisma, exoticism and mercurial nature. This is a poignant and well-told love story.

“SOMETHING LIKE THAT”— A Relationship Beyond Definition

“Something Like That” (“Alguma Coisa Assim”)

A Relationship Beyond Definition

Amos Lassen

Caio (Andre Antunes) and Mari (Caroline Abras) share a very close relationship. Over a ten-year period, there are three striking moments that we share with them. These incidents also out that relationship to tests. What we really see here are reflections on sexuality, labels and how time shapes and transforms encounters.

When the film opens in Sao Paolo, we meet the two and see them as happy ad free from care. But then one night when they are out clubbing, Caio kisses a boy for the very first time and his connection with Mari is never ever quite the same again.   

In the second part of the film in Caio some years later and he and his boyfriend are about to be married. Mari doesn’t like this and she is upset that her friend is so happy.

In the third part of their story, Mari is now living in Berlin and working as a house and home decorator and she has decided that Berlin is to be her home. Caio, now estranged from his husband, goes to Berlin to do some post-graduate work at a Berlin Hospital and the two soon settle back into their old routine of hanging out together.  One day that takes a totally different dimension when they get ‘high’ together and end up making love.  Perhaps this is what Mari has been hoping for all these years but when she became pregnant, she realized that she had not wanted this to happen.

“Something Like That” is the film that was originally to be a short film by directors Esmir Filho and Mariana Bastos who also co-wrote the screenplay. After winning awards as a short film, they decided to Open it up into a feature length film. We see how time shapes these two friends and their understandings about sexuality and life in general, and the lengths that they ultimately go to test their friendship. Both of them do not really know what they are searching for and whether life will ever turn out according to their dreams. 

 

“THE TEST OF LOVE”— Dealing with Change

“The Test of Love” (“L’Épreuve d’Amour”)

Dealing With Change

Amos Lassen

Director Arnaud Selignac introduces us to Paul (Fred Testot), a man who is uncomfortable in his own skin. His 20-year marriage to Marielle (Marie-Josee Croze) tested when she catches him in women’s clothes, and he realizes that he can no longer live a lie. Marielle’s initial disgust quickly turns to anger as she lashes out at him. When Paul attempts suicide, Marielle realizes that his life means much more to her than his appearance. They are convinced that their love will allow them to reinvent their life together and they and their two children brave the reaction of others and live with tolerance and hope.

 At first Paul and Marielle agreed that Paul will never do this again, but it is a promise that he is unable to keep.  The next time he is found out, there is anger again but it leads to a rational conversation when Paul explains that he not going just ‘through a phase’ and that he has been for years been fighting his awareness that he is a woman trapped in a man’s body. When Marielle begins finally to embrace Paul’s crisis, their son Lucas (Gregoire Plantade) borrows his father’s computer and finds an online transgender group his father is a member off. A physical fight takes place that disturbs the whole family and then Paul is admitted to the hospital after a failed suicide attempt.

It is at this point for both Marielle and Lucas to accept the struggle Paul is going through is very real.  However Alice (Jeanne Guttet), Lucas’ sister,  refuses to listen to any reasoning and writes both her parents off as freaks, and leaves home and moves in with her boyfriend.

Testot gives a brilliant performance and manages to avoid all of the stereotypes usually associated with transgender characters. He shows his sensibility and his utter devotion to a family that he genuinely loves and is ultimately rewarded with their complete acceptance of him even when they still do not and cannot understand it all.

“FEMALE TROUBLE”—Tasty Tastelessness—–“There’s nothing divine about this earthly piece of trash.”

“Female Trouble”

Tasty Tastelessness—–“There’s nothing divine about this earthly piece of trash.”

Amos Lassen

Wow!!!—“Female Trouble: was made in 1974, 44 years ago and while I was living in Israel. I had never seen it although I did meet Divine when she went on tour and came to Tel Aviv. Now I finally got a chance to see “Female Trouble” on the gloriously restored Blu ray from the Criterion Collection.

Glamour has never been more grotesque than in this film that “injects the Hollywood melodrama with anarchic decadence.” Divine, engulfs the screen with charisma as Dawn Davenport, the living embodiment of the film’s lurid mantra, “Crime is beauty,” who moves from a teenage nightmare hell-bent on getting cha-cha heels for Christmas to a fame monster whose egomaniacal impulses land her in the electric chair. The film was shot in director John Waters’ native Baltimore on 16 mm, with a cast drawn from his beloved troupe of regulars, the Dreamlanders (including Mink Stole, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Edith Massey, and Cookie Mueller) and it provides perverse pleasures that never fail to satisfy.

The Criterion Collection has pulled out all the stops for this brand-new Director-Approved Special Edition – which includes a new digital restoration, Audio Commentary from John Waters, new and archival interviews, deleted scenes, rare footage and much more. As we watch, it is only natural to wonder where do these people come from and where do they go when the sun goes down?

  • The DVD Special Features include:

Audio commentary from 2004 featuring Waters

New conversation between Waters and critic Michael Musto

New and archival interviews with cast and crewmembers Mink Stole, Pat Moran, Vincent Peranio, Susan Lowe, Mary Vivian Pearce, and more

Deleted scenes and alternate takes

Rare on-set footage and More!

PLUS: An essay by film critic Ed Halterhate you and I hate Christmas!” screeches Dawn Davenport at her hapless parents after she fails to find her beloved cha-cha heels under the brightly decorated tree on Christmas morning. And so off she goes to begin a life of crime and debauchery.

“THE NOBLEMEN’— An All Boys’ Boarding School

“The Noblemen”

An All Boys’ Boarding School

Amos Lassen

Boarding schools have wonderful traditions and exclusive boarding schools have wonderfully exclusive traditions. You can guess by the title of this review that we are talking about an exclusive school. The boys that come here continue to practice the traditions and codes that are now age-old.

It is winter in a prestigious all boys’ boarding school, where children continue to practice age-old rituals and codes bound by years of hierarchy of the popular norm.

We meet Shay (Ali Haji) who is picked at constantly, by Arjun (Mohammed Ali Mir), the tall athletic sports captain and his best friend Baadal (Shaan Groverr). Shay and Pia, the spunky daughter of the new Junior School Principal, are cast as Bassanio and Portia in the Founders Day production of Merchant of Venice. Murali (Kunal Kapoor), the charismatic drama teacher unknowingly adds salt to Baadal’s wounds by casting him as Shay’s understudy. Indignant, Baadal vows to get Shay’s part at any cost and turns to his buddy Arjun for help. Events take a sinister turn when Shay walks in on Arjun, Baadal and their cronies on a debauched night.

The school is in India but it is obviously a remnant of British colonial days and the children are still expected to practice the age-old rituals and codes which should have been done away with years ago. Here in this very formal atmosphere, there is a hierarchal system which allows the senior boys to use the younger sons as their slaves.

14-year-old-Shay is labeled a sissy because he hates sports and prefers drama class. He is devoted to his invalid mother who he is allowed to call via Skype once a week, and who has promised that she will be well enough to finally visit him on Founders Day at the end of the term. Shay’s only two friends are Ganesh (Hardik Thakkar) who is the butt of everyone’s jokes because he is so overweight, and Pia, the only female pupil in the school.

When Shay and Pia are given the leading roles in the Founders Day production of Merchant of Venice, it really upsets Baadal who wants to follow in the footsteps of his father who is a Bollywood movie star and this would have been the perfect part to show off his talent.  Equally important is the fact that enlists Arjun (he wants to be with Pia and he sees this as a perfect opportunity for him to get close to her.

When Baadeal’s clumsy attempt to bribe Mr. Murli, the drama teacher fails, he gets Arjun to ‘persuade’ Shay to give up the part.  Despite all the brutal force they apply to get him to agree, Shay stubbornly refuses as he wants to be able to perform for his mother.What we have is a relentless battle of brawn against wit, and even Ganesh gets drawn into it in such a way that it almost costs him his life, but it isn’t until Mr. Murli becomes aware of the situation and gets involved, and tries to help, that it really gets out of control. 

Once Mr. Murli goes public with the story and Shay is now outed and humiliated by being labeled a rat by almost the entire school, he seeks his own bloody revenge ala “The Merchant of Venice”.

“The Noblemen” reminds us that there still exist schools with this kind of insidious regime where bullying is commonplace and that are also breeding grounds for homophobia. The biggest offense that any of these boys can have is being gay, and the brutal punishment administered to Shay just reinforced his long-held fears about the consequences even more. This kind of activity can contribute to making someone so ashamed of their own sexuality that they will take extreme measures.

“The Noblemen” is the feature-directing debut of filmmaker Vandana Kataria. 

“VENUS”— A New Look at Transgender

“Venus”

A New Look at Transgender

Amos Lassen

Director Eisha Manjara’s “Venus” is a story of family values in the East and how they can never keep up with the West. Sid (Debargo Sanyal) is a transgender woman living in Montreal dealing with a traditional family. Things get even more complicated when it is revealed that Sid has a 14-year-old son. Here is a look at gender and identity politics that is welcoming on all sides of the issue.

Sid is an independent, professional, feisty, and sassy trans woman who chooses to live life on her own terms. In the process, she manages to overcome all odds: societal, familial, and personal and to assert her freedom to be able to live as she chooses. We see Sid and her intimate relationships, as the reality of transitioning and surgery weighs heavily.

The film begins with Sid being chased by a young Ralph (Jamie Myers) who comes out to her as her biological son. Sid apparently dated Ralph’s mother Kirsten many years ago. Sid is now finally taking the leap and transitioning Ralph shows up to claim the privileges of paternity.

Sid is frustrated by Ralph’s appearance in her life and she has a bit of denial and suspicious reticence. Ralph is escaping the neglect of his own household, where his mother’s new husband, Max (Peter Miller), continues to be the cause of his strained mother-son relationship. At the same time, Sid has been trying to move beyond Daniel (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), who has left her emotionally distraught.

Ralph and Sid somehow find comfort together. The coming together is not without problems but the solace that the two have found is heartwarming. But we later find intrigue and secrets between families, Sid’s overbearing mother (Zena Daruwalla) and father (Gordon Warnecke) have something to say as Sid continues to work through the emotional entanglements that tie her to Daniel.

The film is filled with Punjabi family charm and a love story that has room for personal reflections. Venus is both charming and hilarious and one trans person’s story that looks to explore life beyond the stereotypes, beyond the usual coming out and unexpected parenthood. The Ralph-Sid relationship is an emotional highlight but the real angst is left for Daniel and Sid to live through.

We begin to dig deeper for inner strength and transcending the boundaries that we set for ourselves. Sid is forced to entertain the curious and very persistent Ralph while at the same time navigating fraught relationships with her traditional Punjabi parents.

“Venus” also presents us with the hopeful idea that if a kid can embrace one’s gender identity (“My dad’s transgender. That is so cool,” remarks Ralph during one his first encounters with Sid), anyone can”).

“Venus” is not only about gender and what that means in today’s world, but the clash of culture and generations and this provides a lot of laughs in that neither mother nor son understand each other.  What really takes this movie to another level is the pitch-perfect performance of Sanyal which is an absolute joy to watch. He avoids all the clichés of over-playing his character and he gives her dignity and a presence that lights up the screen.

“MAPPLETHORPE”— A Biopic

“MAPPLETHORPE”

A Biopic

Amos Lassen

We are finally getting Ondi Timoner’s biopic about Robert Mapplethorpe and I have been lucky enough to see and share some of the first photos about it.

Robert Mapplethorpe’s (Matt Smith) portraits, images of calla lilies, and chronicles of New York City’s underground BDSM scene are touchstones of 20th-century photography even now, nearly thirty years after his death from complications of HIV/AIDS in 1989.

“Mapplethorpe” revisits the photographer’s legacy, beginning at the moment just before he takes up residence in the Chelsea Hotel. There, Mapplethorpe begins to build a portfolio of images—and, at the same time, to explore his attraction to men which he had suppressed. But it is the artist’s relentless ambition that threatens to tear apart the relationships he cherishes the most.

“From the early ’70s until his untimely death at age 42, the film explores the intersection of his art and his sexuality, his struggle for mainstream recognition, and, looming above it all, the specter of the emerging AIDS crisis.” The film is “a nuanced portrait of an artist at the height of his craft and of the self-destructive impulses that threaten to undermine it all.”

“GRIMSEY”— After Breaking Up

“Grimsey”

After Breaking Up

Amos Lassen

After breaking up with Norberto who ran away to Iceland, Bruno wants to find him. Arnau, a local tour guide in Reykjavik, helps in his search. Their trip will become a grieving process until they reach the remote island of Grimsey.

The film is set in the gorgeously austere Icelandic landscape, embodying the end of the relationship. This is truly a romantic story and as Bruno searched for Norberto, he also searches within himself.

“Grimsey” is the feature debut of both directors, Richard Garcia and Raul Portero who also star in the film.

The power of the film is in bucking some LGBT stereotypes by telling a universal story without seeking the normalization of his characters.

“BOY UNDONE”— Memory Plays Tricks

 

“BOY UNDONE”

Memory Plays Tricks

Amos Lassen

Coming to us on DVD at the end of May is “Boy Undone”, the story of two young men who spend the night together after meeting the previous evening in a notorious gay club. The next day, however, the host wakes to find the boy he picked up bewildered and confused, unable remember his name or anything about his past.

There was no identification of any kind nor were there any clues to who he might be and so the boys begin to search for the truth among fragments of memories that may or may not prove reliable. This is a chilling homoerotic thriller that shows you want an intense film can be.

“SODOM’S CAT”— Make Love First

“SODOM’S CAT”

Make Love First

Amos Lassen

“Sodom’s Cat” runs just over 30 minutes. It was shot back in 2016 and has been touring film festivals for more than one year, earning praise from both audience and critics.

The film follows the lives of five young men from Taipei who meet for a group-sex party after contacting each other through a dating app. The film is about so much more than just explicit gay sex, it looks at the psychological and emotional consequences of contemporary hookup culture.

“Sodom’s Cat” was an immediate critical smash at the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival and it was shortlisted for the prestigious Iris Prize Award. The film was directed by Huang Ting-Chun who says he was heavily influenced by the French gay film “Paris 05:59”His goal for “Sodom Cat” is to examine casual gay sex and relationships that are still considered taboo in Taiwanese culture.

“This is a film that is about love through sex,” Ting-Chun says. “Though it is X-rated, it is the emotions behind our current sex culture that I want to explore.”

Dating apps and online dating have been a feature of many LGBT stories of late. These apps and online forums have revolutionized the way LGBT people meet for dating, romance or just “no strings” fun.

This film asks what it must be like to be a part of this world, and yet feel strangely distant from it. Sun is a young man who attends a sex party that was with four other men organized via a dating app. While the others seem to be enjoying themselves, Sun is unaroused despite the others’ best efforts turn him on.

Challenging contemporary ideas of what it means to be gay and sexually active and depicting gay sex with great frankness and honesty, “Sodom’s Cat” is a controversial film.