Category Archives: GLBT Film

“TRADE”— Accepting Your Real Identity

“TRADE”

Accepting Your Real Identity

Amos Lassen

Trae Brier’s (writer/director/producer)  “Trade” is a story about how a casual meeting between two very different men turned into something that neither could have predicted. Michael (Austin Miller) is a very successful corporate lawyer who lives in a luxurious villa on the beach in Malibu with his wife of ten years,  Ashley (Tiffany Fallon). Their relationship is a strong and happy one, and the couple want for nothing, except a baby that is . Although Michael seems reluctant to take this next step, Ashley is quite desperate to proceed and pressures him to take part in a fertility treatment.

One day on the way home from work, he stops to get a bottle of wine for dinner and meets Shawn (T. Ashanti Mozelle), a young and gay African/American as he was being hassled by the police. The two have a chat and Michael offers Shawn a ride home. It seems that Michael is a bit interested in Shawn who is trying to figure why Michael has offered him a ride.

Shawn is a transsexual street hustler who makes his living as a sex worker. Unable to find legitimate employment since he is an ex-felon (he had unknowingly taken the wrap for one of his John’s  crimes).  Shawn has confidence in accepting who he is and attacks Michael (you’ll understand). The two men have hot gay sex together.  Shawn dressed as Coco excites Michael, and he reveals that he too dresses up as a woman in the privacy of a secret apartment he has.

He persuades Shawn to let him dress as ‘Honey’  and joining him on the streets hustling.  The difference is he wants to do it for sexual kicks whereas for Shawn this is the way he has to earn a living.

As Michael gets involved in his “new life”, he withdraws from his wife, and it is inevitable that any suspicions she has will lead to discovering his secret.  Before he gets to that point, Michael’s new identity is uncovered by one of the biggest clients of his law firm, and, of course, this is the beginning of the end. 

The story is based on a real story and we see two very different men coming to terms with their true identity and this is a sensitively portrayed look at gender acceptance is such a topical issue right now. We clearly understand here that coming out affects others.

“SONG LANG”— An Unlikely Love

“SONG LANG”

An Unlikely Love

Amos Lassen

Set against the background of cai-luong (reformed theater), a kind of traditional Southern Vietnamese folk opera, “Song Lang” is the story of a young man who seems to be quite violent in action. He is muscular with a rugged  build and does not have much to say— he is quite terse and monotonous in words. There is another young guy who seems shy, slim and naive. The two share the same childhood filled with memories of cai-luong troupes and activities. As their lives move forward, we see that even though they seem to be total opposites, there is something very dear between them The film in its presentation of Southern Vietnamese ambience is beautiful and I love that this is mostly expressed via minor characters.

Director Leon Le gives us a tender story of unconsummated love in probably the LGBTQ movie from Vietnam.  If this is to be the standard bearer of a new source of queer cinema then we cannot wait to see what could follow that would match this. We are in Saigon in the late 1980’s and meet a thuggish debt collector Dung ‘Thunderbolt’ (Lien Binj Phat) who without the hint of any emotion does the bidding of his shark-loan boss (Kim Phuong).  Dung is a loner and a strong and silent type, who’s whole life seems to revolve around beating up the poor people who cannot afford the interest payments they were forced to agree to.

It is when Dung has to pay a visit to the local Opera Company  to collect an outstanding debt he meets the star Linh Phung (Isaac) who stops Dung from setting fire to all their costumes as a warning to insure that they pay up.  It’s only later in a bar where Dung comes to the aid of a drunken Linh Phung who is being badly beaten up in a brawl, that the two men somewhat  start to become aware of each other. During the night that they hang out together and discover that have much more in common than they could have imagined.  Dung’s parents were also performers in an opera company,  his father played in the orchestra and his mother was a singer.  When she upped and left, Dung never recovered and he has kept his distance from everyone so that he will never get hurt again.

On the other hand Linh Phung had also been brought up in an opera company until both his parents were killed in a car crash.  Although he is now the star of the company and the director praises his technical skill, at the same time he tells him that he lacks the emotion in his performance because he has never experienced love. This very unlikely pair are shocked  that they relate each other so well, and although it is abundantly clear what they are experiencing is deep and quite profound, they are still cautious and do not let the other see this.

The irony is that this seeming unfeeling debt collector shows he really has a heart when he sells off his possessions to pay the debt of a family who has suffered fatally because of what they owe. Sadly this actually ends up being his undoing. Before this happens though it leads to Linh Phung finally giving the performance of his life on the stage because he at last has found the happiness he has unwittingly always  wanted.

This is an unexpected and compelling love story between two confused young men who have found their potential soul mates in the most unlikely of circumstances,  It is also a love song to a Saigon long changed and the wonderful tradition of Cải Lương Opera. The lead actors are very successful pop stars in Vietnam and share a subtle but sizzling  chemistry between them making their nuanced performances so beautiful.

“EVER AFTER”— A Post-Apocalyptic Feminist Gothic Fairy Tale

“EVER AFTER”

A Post-Apocalyptic Feminist Gothic Fairy Tale

Amos Lassen

“Ever After” is set  two years after zombies have overrun Earth. This, therefore is a fantasy.  Two young women, Vivi and Eva, develop an unlikely friendship in order to survive. They are stranded in the no-man’s land of the Black Forest and they have to rely and depend on each other and on nature as they try to find a more humane world. However, that they have survived has unleashed demons from their past that they now must face. Finally, love comes not only for each other, but also for the world surrounding them. The director, Carolina Hellsgård has said that “Endzeit” or Ever After” is a reflection of our future existence, how we choose to live, and what our options will be in a world where nature strikes back.

Have you thought about what do you do when the future holds nothing and you attempt only basic survival? What happens when your world has shrunk to a handful of strangers, none of whom have much hope that life will be improving in anyone’s lifetime? One’s  memories consist of nothing but one terrible mistake so do you make the most of the situation, or dare to do something drastic, even if it might cost you your life?

Director Carolina Hellsgård and writer Olivia Vieweg explore these philosophical questions in this film. They use a viral outbreak and the collapse of civilization as a starting point and the story take these issues about how we should live out our final days into a dangerous wilderness and its effect on two very different women. In the years following this zombie-like apocalypse, there are two cities that have managed to remain whole: Weimar and Jura. In Weimar, Vivi (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) is haunted by memories of her sister (who is presumed dead in the disaster), and so she volunteers to help repair the perimeter wall. While there, she meets Eva (Maja Lehrer), a hardened veteran who nevertheless still tries to keep hope alive. After they both have gruesome deaths, they find themselves on the same automated train, in a possibly vain and definitely dangerous attempt to get to Jura.

What follows is a strange horror fairy tale adventure, as Vivi and Eva reveal their true reasons for escape, and face the nightmare of wild zombies, and the beauty of the earth that has now been reclaimed by nature. Eva is well-used to protecting herself from these creatures, and reluctantly helps Vivi, who too often collapses into hysterics because of her sheltered life and being traumatized by her sister’s death.

When they are not avoiding or fighting the zombies, Vivi and Eva slowly make their way to Jura, speaking about  why they should keep going in a world with no meaning, trapped in either one city or another, where even basic survival is not sure.

Nature is taking over this world; not just over the buildings and humans but also littering the ground in obsolescence. Vivi and Eva meet a woman who is part-plant, who seems to be a new hybrid of human and nature and she insists that this is the future of humankind, now at the will of nature, instead of the opposite.

“Ever After” is at its best  during its quiet, contemplative moments. The gorgeous cinematography by Leah Striker that puts this resurgence of nature in the glorious light and color it so deserves. We realize that even if Vivi and Eva reach the great city, it is perhaps time to leave it behind.

The film claims to be a modern zombie movie with almost an entirely female cast and women fulfilling every meaningful creative role behind the camera. Maja Lehrer is absolutely wonderful as Eva. She makes her a commanding, rebellious, and vulnerable figure, often all at the same time. Gro Swantje Kohlhof is appropriately withdrawn and childlike as Vivi, but she nicely hints at some character growth over time. 

Hellsgård works with a lot of fairy tale themes and motifs, but she makes it work. The film is ambitious and filled with talent.

“GUYS AT PARTIES LIKE IT”— COMING SOON—A Queer Horror Movie for the #MeToo Era

“GUYS AT PARTIES LIKE IT”

COMING SOON—A Queer Horror Movie for the #MeToo Era

Amos Lassen

“Guys at Parties Like It is a truly disturbing and heartbreaking exploration of the toxic masculinity pervasive in college campuses particularly with fraternity and sorority parties.”

As part of a brutal hazing ritual, a young frat pledge leads a wasted girl upstairs to swipe his v-card, only to discover getting lucky isn’t so easy.

As part of a brutal hazing ritual, a young frat pledge leads a wasted girl upstairs to swipe his v-card, only to discover getting lucky isn’t so easy. It’s a typical night at the frat house; booze are flowing, boobs are bouncing, and a young frat prodigy, rising through the ranks, is about to get lucky! To score major points with his frat bros and to avoid a humiliating pledge ritual, he finds out, getting lucky isn’t as easy as it sounds.

 “Guys at Parties Like It is a truly disturbing and heartbreaking exploration of the toxic masculinity pervasive in college campuses particularly with fraternity and sorority parties.” It has been reported that one in four women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime, including rape, molestation, coercion, and date rape. This story depicts the series of unfortunate events that lead to an all too common scenario about a girl, a boy, and the word “no”.

The #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns have taken hold of society in what can only be described as this generation’s women’s lib movement. It’s these powerful stories of survival and strength that inspired the screenplay and are reshaping our world.

​”Guys At Parties Like It” is an upcoming indie horror film produced by Mattioli Productions. It is written and co-directed by award-winning gay director Colton David Coate and trained actor Micah Coate.

 ”Guys At Parties Like It” is a #MeToo inspired exploration of sexual assault, toxic masculinity, and societal influence, with an emphasis on date-rape and coercion”.

 ‘On the surface, “Guys At Parties Like It” is a date-rape revenge/thriller about a cis man and woman,’ Colton adds. ‘But if you dig into the supporting characters and their backstories and actions, we see all different types of sexual misconduct from casual to severe.’

‘We have a character named Connor who brings a lot of our LGBT flair, but he is also not without fault. We slice into how gay men can perpetuate misogyny as well. The kind of hero-figure, Trixie, is sexually fluid and is the victim of homophobia. Though the main character is cis female, her struggles and her experiences are mimicked against trans women and men, lesbians bisexuals, and gay men all the time. So I think it relates to many struggles we collectively face.’

“Guys At Parties Like” It is currently hosting an IndieGoGo campaign. Should the goal be met, the team plans to start shooting the film in April 2019.

“HOW TO GET FROM HERE TO THERE”— Going Home

“HOW TO GET FROM HERE TO THERE”

Going Home

Amos Lassen

I cannot remember the last time I saw a science-fiction gay themed film. Sci-fi is just not a popular genre for LGBT film probably because there are so any different aspects of the real world that we do not have to look elsewhere. Perhaps that is what we learn from Kevin James Thornton’s feature film debut, “How to Get From Here to There”. Thornton wrote, directed and stars in his film and also wrote and performs some of the music tracks and while hi intentions are undoubtedly very good, the result is not. Those of you who read my review know that I rarely give a bad review. I really wanted to like this film and I admire the work that went into it but it just does not work.

When his mother dies, an unnamed gay man (Thornton) in blue collar America returns to his childhood home and there he finds a cardboard time machine that he made when he was a youngster. Now he uses it to get an idea about his future, as he thinks about the choices that we face in life. He is now middle-aged  and blue collared with a taste for drink. Perhaps that is why his childhood time machine would n allow  a look into the future (or so it seemed while he had been drinking).

In a sense he returns to his childhood as craft commander. On this trip he meets and loves a younger man (Daniel Mark Collins, who is also unnamed), a strong but quiet guy. We are not told how they met and came together but we see that it began, blossomed and then fell apart during three “imaginary” trips into the future. When the time machine stops working, the man  needs to do what he came to do— have his mother cremated, pack up her house and pick up his life. Since he believes that he has seen a taste of the future during his time machine trips, he feels lucky in that he can change whatever comes his way since he already knows about it.

The problem I had here was that it was not convincing and very amateur. As a filmmaker dealing with LGBT themes, I would concentrate on what we know rather than enter a world of uncertainties. The entire film seemed inauthentic and I found that I really could not be bothered to care about either character. Whether there is potential there for future films, we will just have to wait and see.

“THE CHAPERONE”— Looking for Mother

“The Chaperone”

Looking for Mother

Amos Lassen

Norma Carlisle (Elizabeth McGovern) gets the job of chaperone in order to leave Kansas in 1922 and get to New York to find the mother who abandoned her and left her  to an orphanage. Norma is fleeing a marriage thrown into chaos by the discovery of her husband (Robert Fairchild) in bed with a man and the revelation that he has been with this lover since before their marriage. He had taken Norma from her from her dead adoptive parent’s home at 16 because her innocence was useful for a man seeking social cover rather than romance.

 Norma’s ward is Louise Brooks (Hayley Lu Richardson), the future huge silent movie star.  Louise sweeps her way into the New York Denishawn dance academy charming those around her with her free spirit. Not a virgin since before she left her hometown Louise is ready to either shake off her chaperone or get Norma to loosen up and embrace a new world.

At first Norma retreats into moralizing after her recent marital shock. The liberated example of Louise and the obstacles thrown in her path as she tries to find her mother (Blythe Danner) eventually push her to break free. She begins an affair with the man (Geza Tohrig) helping her find the records of her mother. He reawakens her sexuality.

The story is part told in flashbacks but it lets the drama slip through its hands. The infidelity is shown in too short bursts to gain momentum. Issues are raised but never developed. At the beginning acquaintances of Norma mention that they are going to join the Ku Klux Klan but, apart from a raised eyebrow that she gets seated next to a black person in an NYC theater, racism and segregation are not dealt with. Prohibition flies by and homophobic violence gets treated like an inconvenience. The issues are there but they are not developed.

The ending is something of surprise because Norma radically knits together a new kind of family life that includes her gay husband, his lover and her own but it is hard to believe that the lukewarm characters can make this happen. Despite McGovern’s mild, glassy eyed acting and that there is scant evidence that Louise will a great performing talent.

 

Michael Engler directed “The Chaperone” from a screenplay by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes who adapted it from a novel. But Fellowes who was able to conquer television with six years of “Downton Abbey,” is not so successful here,  It seems Fellowes doesn’t exactly want to leave such success behind and once again returns to the Jazz Age but in America, highlighting the development of future film star Louise Brooks as she enjoys her first taste of popularity during a key trip to New York City. Fellowes even brings in Elizabeth McGovern to star in the picture, which inspires one of the best performances from the actress, who really digs in deep here while the rest of “The Chaperone” isn’t all that committed to emotional depth. 

“The Chaperone”, at first, seems like lighter fare, but it grows heavy, dealing directly with Norma’s loneliness and the exploitation of Louise, which would eventually drag her through a Hollywood career. McGovern is the best thing about “The Chaperone,” leading it through some lackluster breakdown scenes. Fellowes is ultimately making a movie about Louise Brooks and the first steps of her career, but Norma is always the most interesting person in the frame, and McGovern’s a good reason to stay with the film.

“BLACK HAT”— A Gay Double Life

 

“BLACK HAT”

A Gay Double Life

Amos Lassen

Here is a bit of news that I am anxious to share. Premiering at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, the new short LGBT film, “Black Hat” is a narrative drama about a seemingly pious Hasidic man who lives a secret double life. When he misplaces his black hat one night, his two separate lives to collide in a way he never imagined.  Shmuel (Adam Silver) leads a simple yet religious life. Every day he goes to pray at the synagogue before going to work as a dry cleaner. When his wife and daughters leave town for a few days, Shmuel enters the more complex world at night.

 

“Black Hat” explores religion and queer identity through the experiences of this closeted Orthodox Jewish man. We often see religion as the antithesis of LGBTQ identity. We have had any number of LGBTQ films about Christianity and the ways it affects the gay community but we have not had much about the Jews. The film beautifully captures Shmuel’s struggle between his devout faith and queer identity. For him, as for many with the same struggle, he can’t choose one over the other because they’re equally engrained into his identity. So, Shmuel which means that during the day he prays and works and at night he visits gay bars looking for someone to share his live with.

Writer, co-producer, and gay Jewish man Phillip Guttmann shares some of the challenges ultra-Orthodox Jews face. There are groups of Orthodox Jews who remain out of the public eye yet deal with real issues, like substance addiction, untreated mental health, living in the closet — issues that everyone around the world faces — but in these religious insular communities, talking about such issues publicly is forbidden. He hopes that this film can help start those conversations around the intersectionality of Judaism and queer identities and raise awareness of the often-forgotten community.

Let me share a few words about ultra-Orthodox Jews. In an effort to survive near extinction 75 years ago, ultra- religious Jews, in their many different sects, created and continue to create large families and strictly private communities as a means to rebuild. In these communities, they follow God’s commandments as spelled out in the Torah and Talmud. Close-knit families look inward and find meaning in their traditions. 

 But in the contemporary world of today, modern problems impact even these ultra-insular communities. Every day, ultra-religious Jews face the same issues as people from the outside world: drug abuse, mental illness, questions about gender and sexual orientation, strained marriages and much more. But in the Hasidic code, such problems are forbidden and any displays of these problems is even more taboo. In Los Angeles, New York, Jerusalem, and everywhere that exist Hasidic Jews, real people hiding these painful struggles under their black hats and wigs. 

Hasidic Jews are typically born into large, tight-knit families, just a few blocks away from the secular world, but a million miles away experientially. Children typically learn to speak Yiddish first and English second. Schools in these neighborhoods may provide some education but steer boys more towards the Talmud than mathematics or science. The bulk of these individuals’ entire worlds exist within a mile of their home.

​Every year many Hasidic Jews try to escape: some flee, some overdose, and some turn to suicide as their only way out. Breaking away means starting over, learning completely foreign customs and traditions, and often times means losing entire support systems. Many who are desperate to leave never do because they simply don’t know how.

​“Black Hat”  looks at one such story from this community. We follow twenty-four hours in the life Shmuel’s story and we learn that these often mysterious and misunderstood religious individuals are perhaps more complex than is commonly believed. 

​This is a story about loneliness and the feeling of being trapped between two worlds. The film ends on a hopeful note of understanding and connection when a Hasidic man who also harbors the same secret, returns Shmuel’s misplaced black hat. Ultimately, this is a character study of a man searching for his place in the world.

Below is a but of information about the ultra-religious Jews:

FAST FACTS:

  • Hasidism started in Galicia in the 18th century as a response to formal, stuffy Jewish liturgy of the time. 
  • Today it has faced near annihilation (mid 20th century) and fought to come back and survive with Hasidic families tending towards large families with an average of 8 children to re-grow. 
  • Over the years, Hasidism has split into dozens of sects that interpret the Torah and the Talmud differently and see issues like Israel’s existence or how to interact or not interact with non-Jewish communities, differently. Sects like the Satmer movement, believe that Israel cannot exist properly until the return of the Messiah and prefer as little contact with non-religious Jews as possible, while the Chabad movement recognizes Israel as the home of the Jewish nation and takes an outward approach, extending beyond their communities to spread the word of the Torah to non-believers.  
  • Hasidim, particularly Chabad, can be found in nearly every country and major city, though, tend towards smaller numbers. The largest communities of Hasidim can be found in Israel and New York City, and also have sizable communities in Paris, London, Montreal, Miami and Los Angeles. 
  • In 1933, the total world population of Jews was estimated at about 18 million. 85 years later in 2018, the total world population is estimated at about 15 million. That means that the deficit of 6 million Jews created by the Holocaust is beginning to regrow. This can be in part attributed to the Haredi movement. 
  • Most Haredi Jews live in Israel in Haredi neighborhoods. The current total population of Haredi Jews in Israel is over 1 million (out of over 6 million Jews in Israel). In New York, the estimated Haredi population is over 90,000. And in Los Angeles, where our story takes place, there are close to 15,000 Haredi Jews.

“RAINBOW’S SUNSET”— A Filipino Gay Melodrama

“RAINBOW’S SUNSET”

A Filipino Gay Melodrama

Amos Lassen

“Rainbow’s Sunset” is the story of  80+ year old gay men who finally move in with each other when one is dying.

Fredo (Tony Maseba) comes from a wealthy family and has been in love with poor farm boy Ramon (Eddie Garcia) since they were in school together.  When they were in college, she shared physical intimacies. Even with this, Ramon got married and had a family. Fredo, who never married, was there  for Ramon whenever and he actually financed Ramon’s first home and his political campaign when he decided to run for public office.  He behaved as a surrogate father and grandfather to Ramon’s family as they grew up. We meet Ramon now that he has retired. He had been a well-respected Senator and something of a local celebrity. One of his daughter’s was elected mayor of their town.

Fredo, on the other hand, is not doing well and is now in the final stages of terminal cancer. Ramon moves in with him. Sylvia (Gloria Romero) Ramon’s wife has known about their relationship for years is resigned to what will happen. However, Fredo’s three adult children are concerned that gossip about their father being gay will harm their own relationships.  Each of the children have their own problems within their own relationships  but that did not stop them focusing on trying to persuade their father to move back home for their sakes. 

Writer/director Joel Lamangan’s film is of help to the conversation about the acceptance of the LGBT community with Filipino society.   Even more so, it is a look at gay elders. The theme of a Senior Citizen coming out and opening up to his family on his long standing love for a childhood male friend is not new in everyday life but it is  to film. “Rainbow Sunset” takes on two important issues— coming out in a society where being gay is totally looked down upon and elderhood in the LGBT community.

This is a family film that is relevant and important to every family. It looks at  the double standards of society and does so with grace and style. The film brings the audience to a natural flow of emotion and, indeed, there are humorous and light moments just as there are many dramatic moments. We weep along with the characters and we weep for society and for those who cannot live open gay lives. After all the drama, the most important take away is the importance of family as the basic core of society and it is the fundamental support system for each of us.

“BOOM!”— Taylor and Burton and Tennessee Williams

“Boom!”

Taylor and Burton and Tennessee Williams

Amos Lassen

“Boom!” is often considered to be a comedy horror story of posh, intelligent people letting their hair down in public. It is based on Tennessee Williams’s “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore” about the ‘Angel of Death’ poet and the dying millionaires and stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It is not one of their best movies, though it is still interesting, intriguing and fascinating. At least I think so.

Taylor plays the supposedly dying Flora ‘Sissy’ Goforth and Burton plays the penniless poet Chris Flanders, a mysterious man who may or may not be the Angel of Death. Both stars seem to be enjoying themselves but are upstaged by the grand Italian island setting and the wickedly waspish Noël Coward’s ingratiatingly camp turn as the Witch of Capri.

Director Joseph Losey’s 1968 movie is magnificently self-indulgent, an overblown but captivating Sixties kitsch folly, made at the peak of the Burton-Taylor fame. It was directed with a winning lack of restraint, apparently relishing overheating Williams’s already overheated play and the playwright’s own screenplay, but with dialogue mostly lacking in his usual wit. The movie looks smart thanks to the ravishing island location and Douglas Slocombe’s lovely, distinguished Technicolor widescreen cinematography. The score by John Barry, another asset.

Williams’s play “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore” must set some kind of record for literary resurrections. It’s a short story, “Man Bring This Up the Road,” and it exists in no less than three dramatic versions that have received widely publicized professional productions, two on Broadway in 1963 and 1964 (both unsuccessful) and one in San Francisco. It then became “Boom!”, a $5-million color film version. In spite of Williams’s rewriting “Boom!” is still an unconsummated work caught like so many of the playwright’s heroes, midway between a real world and a symbolic one.  With all of its overtones of Indian mysticism, Christian theology and Greek mythology, the movie is essentially a story of the very-very rich that shows that money can’t buy happiness. Mrs. Flora Goforth, who dominates “Boom!” from beginning to end, sits on her Mediterranean island dictating her memoires into a battery of tape recorders. She is, at turns, mean, bawdy, stingy and frightened. She’s had five or six husbands, is a multimillionaire and is now refusing to face the fact that she’s dying. Because she is so healthy looking, it seems only that she must be dying of some dread plot device.

The movie opens with the arrival of a ne’er-do-well poet, Chris Flanders, an aging, turned-around Orpheus, who ascends to her mountain domain, bringing with him a reputation for being the last house guest of wealthy old ladies before death. Half-mocking, half-sympathetic, Chris(t) presides over the last 36 hours of Mrs. Goforth’s life. In effect, he arranges her safe, finally peaceful, passage out of her hell on earth. Miss Taylor, who is not a subtle actress, has no trouble with the robust, shrewish aspects of the wealthy woman from One Street, Ga., but it’s impossible to see the vulnerability in the woman Williams described as “a universal human condition.” She spends a lot of time changing her clothes and fixing her hair. As the Angel of Death, Mr. Burton is earnest and mellifluous. The one unequivocal success is a brief appearance by Noel Coward as the Witch of Capri, Mrs. Goforth’s wickedly gossipy friend.

The mostly negatively reviewed film did little to help the plummeting careers of Burton and Taylor. The film is caught between a real world (of vanity and suffering) and a symbolic one (fuzzy overtones of Indian mysticism, Christian theology and Greek mythology). The only thing that comes through as clear and straight is the beautiful location shots on the coast of Sardinia.

Taylor never makes us feel her vulnerability or want to really care about her. While Richard Burton has a mellifluous poetical voice but is done in because the confrontational chatty scenes have a gloomy air of self-importance and lack dramatic inspiration. The highly stylized film is ineffective in conveying that this a study of universal suffering and instead remains fascinating as its questionable worth is to watch the famous stars emote in such a flowery but pretentious manner.

There are different kinds of bad movies. Some are simply wretchedly bad, like well, you know. Others are bad but fascinating and “Boom!” is one of these. It isn’t successful, it doesn’t work, but so much money and brute energy were lavished on the production that it’s fun to sit there and watch.

 Taylor and Burton exchange 90 minutes of Tennessee’s peculiarly formal dialog, and you begin to realize that this was done before in Williams’s “Night of the Iguana.” In that the man was a failure, but he had a poetic spark that the dominate and successful woman hungered for. Williams has written this story more than twice, no doubt for reasons of his own.

Well, about 10 minutes into the movie you get its most exciting moment. Goforth-Taylor stands in the window of her modernistic castle, observes that Burton has come aboard and decides that the time has come once again to take unto herself a lover. Taylor seems to embody a kind of deadly beauty, and we anticipate a moral struggle to the death between her and Burton. However, this tension dissipates.

The sets are great and Flora Goforth lives in a house that seems to be carved of Ivory soap. Everything is white, or gray, or in shadow. Her clothing is white and black. The crags of the mountain are always behind, the sea is always below. In this strange world, the characters rattle instead of breathe. Still Taylor is there and Burton, and you can watch them struggle with this impossible movie or simply watch them.

“THIRD WEDDING”— An Immigration Story

“Third Wedding”

An Immigration story

Amos Lassen

Silver-headed gay bear Martin (Bouli Lanners) buries his younger husband after he was killed in a fatal car crash and now has nothing but grief and some very large  he is left with his grief and very large debts. Just as he is about to lose his home,  his friend Norbert (Jean-Luc Couchard), a bar owner offers him a way to deal with his problems. Norbert has been marrying various exotic women so that they can stay in Belgium and now  he wants to do the same for his latest girlfriend Tamara (Rachel Mwanza) from the Congo.  However  he suspects that the authorities are on to him, so he is looking for someone to take his place.  Martin agrees but he insists that when Tamara moves in to his house with him that she keeps  to herself.   However, she soon has him eating out of her hand and by the time they get to filing for a marriage license and the right for her to stay in the country, Martin has grown to truly like her and is now very committed to doing what he can so that she can stay.

Because he is an older white gay widower and she is a much younger Congolese woman they are subject to being investigated by the immigration police who take to visit unannounced at 5 am on a couple of mornings.  If tripping up over some of their tricky questions is not enough, there is the sudden arrival of Phillipe (Eric Kobongo), another illegal immigrant who Tamara claims is her brother.

With Phillipe moving in as Martin gets more protective of Tamara they also have to deal with a visit from Norbert who Tamara has been ignoring even though she still says that he is her boyfriend.   With the authorities closing in on them, a farce ensues  as they all try to get what they want from the situation as it quickly goes out of control.

The success of this charming but slightly uneven comedy rests on the unlikely relationship between Martin and Tamara and the wonderful chemistry between the two. With the whole controversial subject of immigration very much in the news today, this is just another story of someone who needed to bend the rules to get a better life.