Category Archives: GLBT Film

“GUYS READING POEMS”— A Visual Feast

“Guys Reading Poems”

A Visual Feast

Amos Lassen

Hunter Lee Hughes’ “Guys Reading Poems” resembles a silent film with its use of visual storytelling without dialogue. Throughout the film, the characters speak only a handful of words to one another and the poems interspersed throughout function much like songs in a musical film, occasionally moving the story along but more often establishing mood and tone. “Guys Reading Poems” is an experimental art film that was shot in black and white with limited dialogue. The characters are unnamed and are referred to by their roles in the film.

Patricia Velasquez is the Mother, and Alexander Dreymon is the Father. When the Father has to leave Los Angeles for a project in New York, he leaves their child with the Mother, who finds herself unable to cope with the burdens of parenting. Luke Judy plays their son. The film is structurally non-linear and poetry is used to connect the scenes. We get the feeling that the director is trying out new things and thus requires some patience from the audience. What seems random at first will eventually be explained; the elements are here but require time to cohere.

At first it seems that there is no story at all but with patience all comes together. But until that point, the film has wonderful visual style that relates a great deal without the characters speaking much at all. Every moment in the film looks is visually gorgeous,

The film tells the story of a boy whose unstable mother imprisons him in a puppet box and builds an art installation around him, In order to deal with this, the boy imagines a group of young men who read poetry to him, and these recitations echo through scenes of his past, his future, and his fantasies.  In effect, we get a complex jigsaw puzzle charting the reverberations of a traumatic childhood, through which the resulting psychological fallout — fear and grief, anger and sorrow — is seen through the masterful language of the poems and by Hughes’ haunting black-and-white visuals. There is a lot of emotional content and we soon realize that “Guys Reading Poems” is both drama and fantasy, which means that it is also neither. It is one the line between realism and artistic conceit but that is not a negative statement.

The storytelling is elegantly simple, and almost entirely visual. He have a prologue that shows the courtship of father and mother and the rift that develops between them later — as well as the conflict it creates in their child.

Director Hughes has taken tremendous risks and achieves tremendous rewards from them. Some 32 works make up most of the spoken poems in the film. These poems become a comfortable presence and give voice to the soul of the story. It’s largely due to them that the film’s elevated stylization has such an authentic emotional connection thus allowing both plot and purpose to be revealed like petals on a flower.

The poems includes works by Blake, Whitman, Wordsworth, Dickinson, Yeats, and West Hollywood poet laureate (and my friend) Steven Reigns, among many others but it is the visual poetry achieved by Hughes and cinematographer Michael Marius Pessah. The film “revels in its black-and-whiteness, evoking a noir sensibility that pays homage to its cinematic heritage and makes every frame feel like a deeply embedded memory.”  The actors must communicate complex relationships mostly without the aid of dialogue, and they succeed admirably. At the center is young Luke Judy as the boy, moving and endearing in a performance as refreshingly natural as any of his adult co-stars. Since the movie is called “Guys Reading Poems,” the true stars of the show are the ensemble of young men who fill those title roles. Their soulful delivery provides the heart of the film and gives weight to what might otherwise be nothing but a succession of pretty vignettes. Each of them provides a differing perspective, standing in for various aspects of the young protagonist’s psyche as he makes sense of his experience and each of them are gorgeous examples of the male aesthetic.

The emphasis on maleness, along with an underlying current of unrequited yearning for masculine affection (established with the departure of the boy’s beloved father), suggests a gay subtext. This tale of a boy locked away in childhood provides an allegory for a life shaped in the closet; the isolation from family and society, the longing and resentment, the combination of loneliness and self-sufficiency are relevant themes within the LGBT community, and all are intricately woven into every second of the film although not overtly yet vivid nonetheless. This is what makes the film an addition to the canon of queer cinema.

By channeling the pain of the damaged youth into a unique filmic meditation, Hughes has created a touchstone for anyone who struggles to reconcile psychic scars within their own life and a movie that illuminates the path to transcendence. “Guys Reading Poems” is unequivocally an art film, and as such will mot be a box office hit. It is a much-appreciated effort and should be seen. It is one of the most beautiful movies that we shall see all year.  It is not our regular gay indie film with an overt, LGBTQ-themed plot line. We are presented with life’s most perplexing questions – “what is love, is there any real meaning for humanity, can art transcend its ethical boundaries – under the guise of a performative reality that is as mind-bending as the film’s literary puzzle.”

We see how much the caregivers in our lives can aid or hinder our growth and how our childhood scars carry on with us well into adulthood. The film gives us the ability to grasp the many facets of imagination in the context of the human psyche and leaves the viewer with the question of when art stops and brutality begins. It is at this point that the director reminds us that his film is a fascinating puzzle that is meant to be and cherished, rather than understood.

“AFTER BUTT”— The Legacy

“AFTER BUTT”

The Legacy

Amos Lassen

Ian Giles is a gay filmmaker from the U.K. whose new documentary “After BUTT” examines the cultural legacy of BUTT magazine.

BUTT was a quarterly magazine from 2001 through 2011 that helped an entire generation define just what it means to be gay. It was sort of a half lifestyle, half porn zine, known for it’s iconic pink pages, candid interviews and amateur photos of guys’ butts. It was created by Dutch publishers Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom, who ran the publication out of a small basement office in Amsterdam for ten years. Giles shares that he first discovered BUTT when he was in college in the mid 2000s.

“Within BUTT’s pages were images of men in their messy east London flats, shot in daylight; it challenged the mainstream presentation of gay men,” he says. “These were real people, all be it very hip and hairy ones, they opened up what a gay man could look like, do and be.”

Giles interviewed BUTT’s former publishers, editors, and writers then transcribed the interviews, which were then portrayed by a group of young, gay men.

“I wanted to transfer narratives between generations,” he explains. “Through interviewing men in their 40s and then working with men in their 20s I was able to understand how far we have come within a relatively short space of time.”

Reflecting on the origins of the magazine, Jop van Bennekom, played by a man in his early 20s, says: “I think we responded to what was, basically, a representational crisis of homosexuality. The representation of gay was so commodified, so made into a lifestyle, very clean, so commercial … Porn was still stuck in the AIDS crisis, there wasn’t anything spontaneous about gay porn. We started with how we can make a magazine that we think represents us: the gays we know, the sex we like.”

Over time, Jonkers and van Bennekom eventually felt they found the answers to the questions they were asking when they first started producing the magazine, and so they stopped printing it. The website, however, is still active.

“After BUTT” is currently being shown at the Chelsea Space art gallery in London. It runs through March 2. It is not yet known if/and/or it will be shown in the United States.

“POSTCARDS FROM LONDON”— The Sequel to Steve McLean’s Postcards From America

“Postcards From London”

The Sequel to Steve McLean’s Postcards From America

Amos Lassen

Steve McLean’s classic film “Postcards from America” followed the life of a gay man who becomes a street hustler and thief after suffering abuse. It was based on the writings of artist and AIDS activist David Wojnarowicz, who passed away in 1992.

Essex boy Jim (Harris Dickinson) is very good-looking but has no future in his small town. London and the prospect of fame, fortune and cultural stimulation call to him and like many others, Jim journeys to London.

On his first night, Jim is robbed and left penniless. He spends the night in a cardboard box with a homeless kid who suggests he join ‘The Raconteurs’ – a group of male escorts whose unique selling point is their knowledge of the arts.

What follows is Jim’s comic descent from unsuccessful escort, to artist’s muse and art authenticator. However, this is complicated by a rare psychosomatic condition called ‘Stendhal Syndrome’ which makes him painfully oversensitive to art. Jim’s encounters with paintings by artists such as Caravaggio cause him to faint and hallucinate. While this condition threatens to bring about his downfall it could also open up new opportunities if Jim is willing to go after them.

“Postcards From London” will close this year’s Flare festival and is a love song to European queer art and culture.

 

“MY DAYS OF MERCY”— The Death Penalty/A Love Story

“MY DAYS OF MERCY”

The Death Penalty/A Love Story

Amos Lassen

 One of the LGBT movies that you do not want to miss is the Sundance hit, “My Days of Mercy”.

Actors Ellen Page as Lucy and Kate Mara as Mercy deal with the death penalty while falling in love. The death row element is not an intellectual or philosophical analysis, but focuses on the emotional impact on the family of the accused making this a gripping and deeply moving film.

The two women represent opposing arguments for the death penalty. They meet for the first time at a Kentucky protest and they connect. Their divergence continues into their socio-economic backgrounds. Mercy’s family is conservative, religious, wealthy. Lucy’s family is none of those. For the last eight years their lives have been on hold with the three siblings sticking together, trying to get their father, Simon (Elias Koteas), exonerated for the murder of their mother.

Lucy is in her early 20s and has no employment prospects. She seems to be ambivalent. Her older sister Martha (Amy Seimetz) was at university when their mother was killed, and her education was interrupted. Martha is the breadwinner, matriarch and man fan of Simon. One can only imagine the toll it has taken on her. Younger brother Benjamin (Charlie Shotwell) was only a baby at the time. They have suffered and we see that the family is a bit broken, but their strength of character shows that it can recover.

Weldon (Brian Geraghty) is pro bono lawyer, who is also seeing Martha. Weldon reminds about how money is required for justice. We never meet the victim and we do not witness the crime. We do not find out until the end whether Simon is guilty or not and this is a wise choice from the director. Not knowing whether or not the accused is to blame makes the film about the argument.

“MICHAEL”— A Gay Movie from 1924

“MICHAEL”

A Gay Movie from 1924

Amos Lassen

Almost since the dawn of moving film there have landmark gay film and one of the important ones of the silent era is Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1924 movie “Michael”. A new 2K restoration of the film was released as a World Exclusive on Blu-ray on February 12, 2018.

Based on Herman Bang’s 1902 novel of the same name, Dreyer’s film is a fascinating fin-de-siècle study of a “decadent” elderly artist (Benjamin Christensen) who is driven to despair by his relationship with his young protégé and former model, Michael whol is played by the handsome 22-year-old Walter Slezak. It was filmed in Germany, where the auteur demanded complete control of his film and got it despite the German studio’s usual policy of overseeing the films it produces. The co-writer is Thea von Harbou, who was Fritz Lang’s wife at the time. It was released in America some three years later with the new title “Chained: The Story of the Third Sex”. The underlining love triangle has a suggestive gay romance that never is brought out in the open, and has been ignored by many of the film critics.

 

Middle-aged bachelor Claude Zoret (Benjamin Christensen, film director) is a master painter living in opulence. Michael is a tempestuous struggling young artist who four years ago brought the Master his sketches but is rejected and instead is asked to model for him. This leads to making himself at home in the Master’s palace and having the Master pay for his upkeep. The paintings that Michael models for become very popular. The Master calls him his adopted son, and promises to leave him everything. But then when the Master paints a penniless Russian countess, Princess Zamikoff (Nora Gregor), complications arise when they both fall for her. The Master has previously painted only men and can’t get the eyes of the Countess right, as this is his only painting that gets panned by the art critics. Meanwhile Michael steals the Countess from his mentor, which drives him to solitude and to paint his final masterpiece “The Vanquished” that depicts an old man sitting on a rock who has lost everything.

Zoret calls in his art dealer Leblanc (Karl W. Freund, cinematographer) to sell his Caesar and Brutus painting, but learns that Michael, who has jilted him to live with the Countess, sold his best painting, “The Victor”, which he gave him as a present. He then orders the dealer to buy back the painting under the name Leblanc and return it to Michael where it belongs. 

When Zoret is on his deathbed, he calls for Michael but the ungrateful adopted son will not leave the arms of the Countess. But Zoret excuses him and makes out his last will leaving everything to Michael, exclaiming he can now die in peace because he has seen true love. The Master requests that his aide find a secret burial place in a field of flowers and tell no one where it is.

This is a difficult story to like or feel much for any of the self-absorbed flawed characters, or care much for their idea of love. But the pain from an unrequited gay love comes through loud and clear. The Master’s love is filled with self-pity and a nobility that seems completely foolish, but he reaches for truth in both love and art when he symbolically slays his ego.

As drama, the characters remain too distant to offer the warmth needed for Dreyer to convey that love in its purity conquers all in the end. But as an early example of a gay themed film, it becomes a landmark film showing the obstacles in the way of a gay romance.
With this “Michael we get a level of attention to restoration and presentation of the film that is quite unexpected, illuminating not only the early work of one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema, but giving us a wider look at the cinema of the period and the attitudes that formed it.

Dreyer’s film is a dramatic conflict based around the themes of art and love. Michael is an early examination of the power of art and the fire of inspiration. It’s an inspiration that arises out of the very act of being human and communicating with other people and all the emotions that this gives rise to – love, desire, jealousy, betrayal. “All these emotions contribute to the richness of life, its reflection in art and its ultimate culmination in death. The relationship of the artist and their inspiration is a complex one and not an easy one to achieve and it is particularly difficult to convey in a silent film. This is where Dreyer’s artistry shines.

The relationship between the Master and Michael is a more complexly layered one with elements of father and son, artist and muse, master and protégé and suggestions of a homosexual relationship between them. All this is difficult to convey in any film, never mind a silent one, but Dreyer manages to do so.

The other element of Dreyer’s great skill in the film is through the set design and the performances of the actors themselves. The elaborateness of the sumptuous sets and the rich lighting all support the baroque drama of the plot’s romance and tragedy. Dreyer draws much meaning through the eyes of the actors rather than the exaggerated gestures we might be more familiar with from other silent films of the period. “Michael” hints at the greatness Dreyer would achieve in his later films, but in its own right it is a magnificent film from this era of cinema.

THE BEST LGBT FILMS OF 2017— TLA— All Have been Reviewed Here at Reviewsbyamoslassen.com

THE BEST LGBT FILMS OF 2017— TLA

All Have been Reviewed Here at Reviewsbyamoslassen.com

By clicking on the name of the film you will be able to order it.

B&B (c) Breaking Glass Pictures

  1. B&B

Director: Joe Ahearne

Lovers Marc and Fred (Tom Bateman and Sean Teale) initiated a major legal battle after they were refused a double bed at a remote Christian guest house. They came out of their court case victorious and now they’re back at the establishment to claim their conjugal rights. Triumph, however, quickly turns to terror when a scary Russian neo-Nazi also checks in. Their weekend of celebratory fun soon becomes a bloody battle for survival. B&B is a whip-smart and brutally funny dark comedy-thriller that has been earning rave reviews from critics – some of whom have even compared it to the work of Alfred Hitchcock. The Hollywood Outsiders, specifically, called it “a film Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of.” The Horror Society said it’s “frickin’ fantastic and a trailblazer for LGBT cinema.”

Dream Boat (c) Strand Releasing

  1. Dream Boat

Director: Tristan Ferland Milewski

Once a year, the Dream Boat sets sail – a cruise only for gay men. Far from their families and political restrictions, we follow five men from five countries on a quest for their dreams. The cruise promises seven days of sunshine, love and freedom – but on board are also their personal stories, their doubts and uncertainties. A stunningly beautiful documentary, Dream Boat keeps you riveted from start to finish. You feel like you’re really part of the cruise – and having a hell of a good time. Introducing charismatic figures from five different countries, the film offers unique insight into how openly gay men live in regions where homosexuality isn’t accepted. The Huffington Post called the film “true genius” and said the movie “shows us that each of us needs, craves and wants the same thing: Someone to love us for exactly who we are.”

Staying Vertical (c) Strand Releasing

  1. Staying Vertical

Director: Alain Guiraudie

Filmmaker Leo is traveling through the south of France. During a scouting excursion he is seduced by Marie, a free-spirited and dynamic shepherdess. Nine months later she gives birth to their child. Suffering from post-natal depression and with no faith in Leo, who comes and goes without warning (and has sex with men… and pretty much anyone that will have him), Marie abandons both of them. Leo finds himself alone, with a baby to care for. It’s not easy, but deep down, he loves it. Through a series of unexpected and unusual encounters, struggling to find inspiration for his next film, Leo will do whatever it takes to stay standing. From Alain Guiraudie, the visionary director behind Stranger by the Lake, comes a surreal new comedy played with a straight face. This one is stranger and more impressionistic than his last masterpiece, but it’s a stand-out nonetheless.

Handsome Devil (c) Breaking Glass Pictures

  1. Handsome Devil

Director: John Butler

With bright red hair, a smart mouth and a penchant for sexually-ambiguous pop music, Ned (Fionn O’Shea) has always been bait for the bullies at his rugby-obsessed Irish boarding school. Determined to keep a low profile and weather another year with minimal abuse, Ned is pleasantly surprised when he develops a special friendship with his dashing new roommate Conor (Nicholas Galitzine), a rugby virtuoso who shouldn’t have trouble fitting in, but harbors a few big secrets. Ned encourages Conor’s passion for music, but when their pursuits start to take Conor’s focus away from rugby, their friendship is discouraged by the administration. A funny and observant coming-of-age tale from Irish novelist and filmmaker John Butler, Handsome Devil offers a touching reminder about the importance of loyalty, bravery and making sure that your voice, no matter how different, is heard.

Rift (c) Breaking Glass Pictures

  1. Rift

Director: Erlingur Thoroddsen

Though not for all tastes, the atmospheric dread that hangs over this heady, perplexing Icelandic horror-thriller lingers after the final credits roll. Paying homage to classic art-house horror staples like Robert Wise’s The Haunting and Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, Rift is an enticing, well-acted and expertly-directed mystery-thriller from Iceland that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Gunnar receives a strange phone call from his ex-boyfriend, Einar, months after they parted ways. Einar sounds distraught, like he’s about to do something terrible to himself, so Gunnar drives to the secluded cabin where Einar is holed up and soon discovers there is more going on than he imagined. As the two come to terms with their broken relationship, some other person seems to be lurking outside the cabin, wanting to get inside. Eerie and stylishly crafted, Rift has proven a big hit at film fests – not just LGBT festivals, but general horror film festivals as well, where it has earned rave reviews.

Heartstone (c) Breaking Glass Pictures

  1. Heartstone

Director: Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson

It’s pure coincidence that the number 10 and 11 titles on this list both come from the same country. They’re both very different movies. In a remote fishing village in Iceland, teenage boys Thor and Christian experience a turbulent summer. As one of them tries to win the heart of a girl, the other discovers that he is harboring romantic feelings toward his best friend. When summer ends and the harsh nature of Iceland takes back its rights, it’s time to leave the playground and face adulthood for the first time. An absolutely gorgeous, profoundly emotional coming-of-age film, Heartstone has won the hearts of critics all over the world. The Playlist said it’s “beautifully shot, touchingly performed and delivered with a thrillingly atmospheric sense of place.” And Screen International said it’s “Affecting as well as perceptive in how it intimately depicts the blossoming of youth… just the right amount of confidence, compassion and clear-eyed style.”

Center of My World (c) TLA Releasing

  1. Center of My World

Director: Jakob M. Erwa

After a summer away at camp, Phil returns home to find that his mother and twin sister aren’t speaking to one another. Not willing to confront his family during the last days of the summer holidays, Phil escapes to hang out with his best friend, Kat, eating ice cream and playing dress-up. As the school year begins, a new student arrives – the handsome and mysterious Nicholas. Smitten, Phil watches his crush as he runs around the track after school, and is thrilled when Nicholas returns his feelings. However, when first love’s volatility comes to light, Phil realizes he must deal with the problems of his past in order to deal with the issues of his present. A touching must-see, Center of My World was chosen as an Official Selection and won numerous “Best Feature Film” and “Best Director” awards at festivals around the globe.

Paris 05:59: Theo & Hugo (c) Wolfe Releasing

  1. Paris 05:59: Theo & Hugo

Directors: Olivier Ducastel & Jacques Martineau

From the directors behind The Adventures of Felix, comes a thoughtful and relentlessly sexy new romance. It’s after midnight in a Paris gay sex club when Théo and Hugo lock eyes across the crowded room – and their connection is electric. They make their way together and have passionate sex. Afterwards, they leave the club and explore the streets of Paris, drunk with the possibilities of love at first sight, as well as sobered by the risks of their passion. Opening with one of the most jaw-dropping gay sex scenes we’ve ever seen in a movie, the film plays out in real time and follows the connection that grows between these two men. Lead actors Geoffrey Couet and Francois Nambot, both relative newcomers, put everything on display – both emotionally and physically. Their primal sexual connection is palpable. Warning: As stated above, this film contains graphic sex and nudity (did we mention that?). Viewer discretion is advised.

The Wound (c) Kino Lorber

  1. The Wound

Director: John Trengove

Brimming with sex and violence, The Wound is an exploration of tradition and sexuality set amid South Africa’s Xhosa culture. Every year, the tribe’s young men participate in an ancient coming-of-age ritual. Xolani, a quiet and sensitive factory worker (played by openly gay musician Nakhane Touré), is assigned to guide Kwanda, a city boy from Johannesburg sent by his father to be toughened up. As Kwanda defiantly negotiates his queer identity within this masculine environment, he quickly recognizes the nature of Xolani’s relationship with fellow guide Vija. The three men commence a dangerous dance with each other and their own desires and, soon, the threat of exposure elevates the tension to breaking point. Don’t miss what is easily one of the most heartfelt and wildly unique gay films of the past year.

Beach Rats (c) Universal

  1. Beach Rats

Director: Eliza Hittman

On the outskirts of Brooklyn, Frankie (Harris Dickinson, who delivers a star-making performance), an aimless teenager, suffocates under the oppressive glare cast by his family and a toxic group of delinquent friends. Struggling with his own identity, Frankie begins to scour hookup sites for older men. When his chatting and webcamming intensify, he begins meeting men at a nearby cruising beach while simultaneously entering into a cautious relationship with a young woman. As Frankie struggles to reconcile his competing desires, his decisions leave him hurtling toward irreparable consequences. Beach Rats, an award-winning Sundance hit,  is a powerful character study that is as visually stunning as it is evocative. Easily one of the year’s most acclaimed and high-profile gay films, it has earned astounding reviews from critics. The Village Voice said that it has “the burning urgency of a stick of dynamite with a lit fuse.”

Tom of Finland (c) Kino Lorber

  1. Tom of Finland

Director: Dome Karukoski

The proudly erotic drawings of artist Touko Laaksonen, known to the world as Tom of Finland, shaped the fantasies of a generation of gay men, influencing art and fashion before crossing over into the wider cultural consciousness. But who was the man behind the leather? Dome Karukoski’s stirring biopic follows his life from the trenches of WWII and repressive Finnish society of the 1950s through his struggle to get his work published in California, where he and his art were finally embraced amid the sexual revolution of the 1970s. Tom’s story is one of love, courage and perseverance, mirroring the gay liberation movement for which his leather-clad studs served as a defiant emblem. Lead actor Pekka Strang is phenomenal in this positively riveting, unusually sexually explicit biopic – Finland’s official submission to the Academy Awards.

4 Days in France (c) Cinema Guild

  1. 4 Days in France

Director: Jerome Reybaud

Writer/director Jerome Reybaud’s remarkably accomplished feature debut is a sly and sophisticated take on gay romance in the 21st century. On a seemingly ordinary night in Paris, Pierre takes one last look his lover Paul’s sleeping body, then steals away into the early morning light. Where he’s headed, neither of them know. Pierre’s only guide is his Grindr app, which leads him on a series of encounters with an indelible cast of characters across the French countryside. Paul sets out after him, using his own phone to track Pierre’s movements in a strange and wonderful game of Grindr cat-and-mouse. 4 Days in France has been earning ecstatic reviews from critics. Slant Magazine called it “A kind of ode to cruising writ large,” and said “There’s something endearing, if not uncanny, about the way the film evokes universal truths about erotic wandering.”

God’s Own Country (c) Samuel Goldwyn Films

  1. God’s Own Country

Director: Francis Lee

Appearing on countless “Best of 2017” lists, God’s Own Country is one of the year’s most romantic and uplifting gay movies. Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor) works long hours on his family’s remote farm in the north of England. He numbs his daily frustration with nightly binge-drinking and casual sex. But when a handsome Romanian migrant worker (Alec Secareanu) arrives to take up temporary work on the family farm, Johnny suddenly finds himself dealing with emotions he has never felt before. As they begin working closely together, an intense relationship forms which could change Johnny’s life forever. The Village Voice said “In his debut feature, (Francis) Lee has crafted a mature love story centered on an immature man facing the fear of even admitting that he needs love at all. It’s a film to prize.”

BPM (Beats Per Minute) (c) Passion River Films

  1. BPM (Beats Per Minute)

Director: Robin Campillo

In Paris in the ealy 1990s, a group of activists goes to battle for those stricken with HIV/AIDS, taking on sluggish government agencies and major pharmaceutical companies in bold, invasive actions. The organization is ACT UP, and its members, many of them gay and HIV-positive, embrace their mission with a literal life-or-death urgency. Amid rallies, protests, fierce debates and ecstatic dance parties, the newcomer Nathan falls in love with Sean, the group’s radical firebrand, and their passion sparks against the shadow of mortality as the activists fight for a breakthrough. Winner of the coveted Queer Palm award the Cannes Film Festival, BPM (Beats Per Minute) is one of the most acclaimed gay films of the year. Vanity Fair called it their #1 film and it has earned a place on countless “Top Ten” lists.

Call Me by Your Name (c) Sony

  1. Call Me by Your Name

Director: Luca Guadagnino

In the sweltering summer of 1983, in the north of Italy, Elio Perlman (Timothee Chalamet, in a star-making, award-worthy performance) is a 17-year-old American boy who spends his days in his family’s 17th century villa, lazily transcribing music and flirting with his friend Marzia (Esther Garrel). One day, Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old graduate student working on his doctorate, arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an eminent professor specializing in Greco-Roman culture. Soon, Elio and Oliver embark on a cautious, but passionate summer romance that will alter their lives forever. One of the sexiest movies of the year – or maybe ever – Call Me by Your Name is an instant gay cinema classic.

“THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST”— Lovely, Touching and Heartbreaking

“The Miseducation of Cameron Post”

Lovely, Touching and Heartbreaking

Amos Lassen

Set in 1993, we meet Cameron Post, a teenage girl who is caught having a sexual encounter with the prom queen. Cameron’s legal guardians, her conservative aunt and uncle force her into a gay conversion therapy center. In a sentence that is the premise of this Sundance prizewinner.

The film is adapted from Emily M. Danforth’s novel about high school junior Cameron (Chloe Grace Moretz) who was caught in the backseat of a car at the Homecoming dance with her best friend Coley (Quinn Shephard) and is sent off to God’s Promise, a private evangelical boarding school devoted to “curing” her lesbian tendencies and same sex attraction. She is being taught to “pray the gay away.”

Many of the other teens at the compound are also torn and confused. They feel the self-loathing that society has projected onto them. We meet Cam’s perky and perpetually ashamed roommate Erin (Emily Skeggs) and Mark (Owen Campbell) who is an emotional mess and gives a heartbreaking performance. We also meet Cam’s new best friends Adam (Forrest Goodluck), a politician’s son and Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane) who hides homegrown weed in her prosthetic leg. Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) who runs the place who started the camp to reprogram her homosexual brother Rick (John Gallagher Jr.). The two lead various exercises of psychobabble and Christian dogma and blame same sex attraction on anything and everything from poor parenting, childhood trauma, jealousy, and playing sports. They are just trying to do what they think is right through their own brand of brainwashing and we do not see them as mean or cruel.

Cameron wrestles with societal attitudes that are at odds with everything about her. Cameron’s story is a and it is totally relevant, especially for those struggling to accept the truth of who they are.

Desiree Akhavan has directed this film sensitively and we see the humanity in the characters.The humor that is in the film helps to undercut the craziness that is the foundation of the camp. We see how those believed to be going against God are forced to go against nature with sensitivity and style.

The kids run through the motions of “Blessercize” exercise routines and completing psychological profiles called “Icebergs,” in which they list all the conceivable issues in their life that might’ve led them astray to homosexuality. As I said earlier, the film does not mock the absurdity of the process or those administering it and rather sees the humor in it as the students deal “with all its inherent contradictions, working their brains into knots trying to either understand or justify God’s Promise’s logic.”

The characters that we meet here are flesh-and-blood examples of a tragic emotional Stockholm Syndrome that should not be.

“PULSE”— A New Look at Gender Identity

“Pulse”

A New Look at Gender Identity

Amos Lassen

“Pulse” is a provocative film about gender identity with a very different innovative and intriguing take. Olly (Daniel Monks) is a disabled teenager who becomes increasingly unhappy at the same time that his schoolmates are enjoying dating and young love. He is facing yet another operation to help improve his walking and this means another lengthy hospital stay. Olly and his mother (Caroline Brazier) always seem to be at odds. She is a workaholic and has a boyfriend and Olly cannot seem to find a place in her life. Olly decides that the answer to his prayers is a new experimental procedure and he has a total body swap and chooses to be Olivia, a young woman. S ever dreamed of being.  However, Olivia/Olly soon learn that life is not always like we imagine it to be.

Along with the body change, he/she experiences a whole personality change too, and sadly not for the better. Olly/Olivia also feels that the time has come to confess that he had always been in love with his best friend Luke (Scott Lee) and is obviously now hoping that now that he is a woman, Luke may finally feel the same about him.

I understand that Monks who is also disabled wrote this based partly on his own experiences because it is so authentic.  Olly’s cry for help was about being loved and not about wanting to transition to a female to find his/her real gender identity but as a way to escape his own body. This is a relatable theme for anyone who has ever struggled with his or her own body and sexuality.

Director Stevie Cruz-Martin chose to show Olivia (Jaime Peasely) as everyone saw her, but also show her/him on screen still as Olly when viewed through Olly’s eyes and while it takes a bit to get used to this, it works very well.

When Olly’s friends Nat (Sian Ewers) and Luke start dating, he learns he has to have a debilitating surgery that will take him off his feet for weeks.  As frustration builds within young Olly, he is given the chance to swap bodies with a young female and a second chance at a “normal” life.

Waking up in the hours following surgery, Olly discovers he is a beautiful female and soon finally feels loved.  However, the novelty begins to wear off as Olly learns that being beautiful, female, and emotionally vulnerable isn’t so easy.  The fabric of friendships begins to unravel leaving him with some very difficult decisions to make.

It is difficult to take a character and break him into two distinct roles yet Monks has managed to write a genuine script that works with a bit of suspension of belief. Olly’s personality is amazingly never lost, even as her confidence grows after becoming Olivia.  Visually, Cruz-Martin made wise decisions in who played Olivia for certain scenes and alternated between Monks and Peasley.  Though this technique, we sense Olivia/Olly’s emotions, confidences, playfulnesses, and vulnerabilities.

Actually, the film is more about body swapping than the traditional trans experience.  We still get an insightful look into the challenges of evolving into one’s true self and shows us that we can look beyond the physical and consider what really makes us who we are.

“BORN IN FLAMES”— A Fantasy of Female Rebellion

“BORN IN FLAMES”

A Fantasy of Female Rebellion

Amos Lassen

Director Lizzie Borden’s 1983 film, “Born in Flames” rocked the foundations of the early Indie film world with its provocative story fantasy of a female rebellion set in America ten years after a social democratic cultural revolution. When Adelaide Norris, the black radical founder of the Woman’s Army, is mysteriously killed, a diverse coalition of women from all races, classes, and sexual preferences comes together to blow the existing system apart. The film is newly restored in high definition for its 35th anniversary and we see that it is even more relevant in today’s political climate.

Early on in the film two men, both of whom remain off screen and unnamed, flip through photographs of Adelaide Norris (Jean Satterfield), attempting to construct her profile as founder of the Women’s Army that “seems to be dominated by blacks and lesbians.” The exchange abruptly cuts to Norris sitting around a kitchen table and talking about employment legislation as the men’s dialogue bleeds in and overlaps for a few seconds, before being dropped entirely. We see here Borden’s directorial strengths and political cognizance by implicitly placing competing dialogues within the same cinematic space even though the two parties aren’t in the same physical place. Immediately, and without actual violent conflict, the tensions of making one’s intentions heard and understood are presented.

“Born in Flames” brings together documentary and dramatic sequences into a free-form narrative that exists “somewhere between essay film, political manifesto, and exploitation.” Scripted scenes of ongoing conversations about organized protests and recent instances of sexism across the U.S. are broken apart by news broadcasts and the didactic pleas of two pirate-radio DJs named Isabel (Adele Bertei) and Honey (Honey). These occur in an alternative America where a socialist revolution took place ten years earlier, but did little to alter the gender gap or bring about comprehensive social progress. The film refuses to adhere to traditional channels of communication. Much of Borden’s aesthetic entails numerous speakers or messages being sent, but little indication of how those messages are being decoded. This repetition causes a fractured rapidity, which could be mistaken for incoherence or a lack of ability on Borden’s part. A certain level of incoherence is part of the film’s coherent understanding of the many channels of communication brought about by competing political rhetoric.

The consistent binary opposition for the Women’s Army as “Terrorists or Revolutionaries?” does not suggest a functional diagnosis for group actions within a consistently reshaping socio-political milieu. The film uses the conflicting terms to suggest that media outlets only highlight oppositional actions to sell ambivalence and fear to consumers. The film addressing ongoing human rights concerns through zeitgeist-infused pop, even though Borden omits explicit references to actual events. The rhetoric is philosophical and it clouds the atmosphere.

Borden’s strengths as an generate intensive responses to injustice. The film still challenges, confronts and captures the imagination. Because the film was made before we had digital paraphernalia, it must be admired if just for the amount of work that went into it. “Born in Flames” answers the question of what if  the United States went socialist after a nonviolent revolution and people were still disenfranchised?

Borden made the film over a period of five years with no script and very little money, and it fits the definition of “underground film”. It was well ahead of its time, trading fluently in political savvy and It is still a thoughtful, controversial, decidedly unique sci-fi cautionary tale. Borden radically shows that not even a socialist revolution would eradicate gender inequalities; in her imagined future, it would still fall upon women (rather than the government) to protect one another and fight for equal rights. As a narrative, there is much to be desired. However, the imagery makes up for that lack. We see several strong, black, lesbian protagonists; butch females on the subway moving in immediately to protect a woman as she’s openly harassed by a man; a group of women riding up on bicycles to scare away a rapist and women taking collective action to fight for the right to keep their jobs. “Born in Flames” makes one think differently about life itself, and it is a powerful reminder of independent film’s potential to “subvert the dominant paradigm”.

“FOAM PARTY”— Having Fun

“Foam Party” (“Como la espuma”)

Having Fun

Amos Lassen

.Milo (Carlo D’ursi) is a young man is paraplegic because of an accident and he is still dealing with trauma . Lately, he has been feeling alone because he is confined to a wheelchair after and is still very angry that Mario, the love of his life, walked out on him some ten years ago.

 Milo’s friend Gus (Nacho San Jose) calls a friend of his own, transsexual named Camilla (Javier Ballesteros) and asks her to host a party to celebrate Milo’s birthday. Instead, Camilla organizes an orgy at Milo’s big home where a few hundred people to have indiscriminate sex.

Naturally, the participants have stories. Elisa is a young shy and romantic girl looking to know if she has a wild side like her friends. She meets Jorge, a nice boy more who has experimented in life and sex. Marta and Jesús, are in their thirties and married to each other but passion has left their marriage. Rubén, Isma and Pato are three friends who hope to have sex with as many girls as they can while Susana, a mature woman is looking for somebody important for her. Then there is Mario (Daniel Muriel), Milo’s high school love.

As this diverse group of strangers search for sex, they uncover both funny and profound stories that expose some of their most inner secrets and hopes and dreams as well as their fears.  At the same time, Milo is dealing with issues of his own as he resents his home being used by all these people.

This will come to a head for him when he discovers that Mario is there and he has to deal with wanting to maintain his bitter contempt whilst at the same time trying not to show that he is still very much in love with him.

The sex scenes are discreetly filmed as are the other fun things the party guests do while naked. This is a comedy that gives the viewer a feel good feeling and the strong gay storyline is charming. The film is written and directed by Roberto Perez Toledo and he shows us things are not always what they seem.