Category Archives: GLBT Film

“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.

“J.T. LEROY”—A True Story Based on a Lie

“J.T. LeRoy”

A True Story Based on a Lie

Amos Lassen

J.T. LeRoy was hailed as a new literary prodigy in the 1990’s through the beginning of the 2000s. He was supposedly a reclusive, HIV-positive trans man who wrote three books and whose novel “Sarah” was lauded by critics (myself included) as reminiscent of Dickens. And then we learned that there was no Leroy  and that he was a persona created and brought to life by Laura Albert, a writer as a means of saying what she felt she couldn’t say as herself.

The film opens with the demand for LeRoy is at a fever pitch, perhaps even at a breaking point, as Albert (Laura Dern) recruiting her younger sister-in-law, Savannah Knoop (Kristen Stewart), to play the part of this persona in public, with Albert assuming the role of LeRoy’s overbearing handler, “Speedie.” It’s a deception that the pair managed to keep going for six years.

It was the biggest literary scandal to rock book groups until James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” was revealed to be a fraud a few months later. The books in question were always billed as novels, even though heavy autobiographical elements were explicitly implied—but implied by whom? In phone interviews, it was Laura Albert, the author who wrote under the LeRoy name and played him in phone interviews, but it was her sister-in-law Savannah Knoop who assumed the role for photo shoots and public appearances. They really didn’t think they pulling a fast one until the story broke according to the film.

It seems to me that there is a sense of foreshadowing, perhaps even enabling today’s  social-media moment and obsession with identity politics. As an examination of the power of celebrity and the easily muddled nature of truth, the film seems to implicitly understand that the creation and eventual exposure of the LeRoy hoax speaks to something deep within a culture in the midst of an identity crisis, but from what we see in this film, it’s hard to say exactly what that is.

When Speedy and LeRoy engage with fans and press in a haphazard fashion, we feel suspense in every question and answer that’s exchanged and that the deception could be exposed at any moment.

Dern and Stewart convince us that such a stunt could be pulled off not so much in spite of but thanks to its ludicrousness. By the time Knoop moved to San Francisco, Albert was already a bestseller under the LeRoy name. For reasons that are never shared, she felt more comfortable writing her emotional revealing fiction pseudonymously, yet she was still quite possessive of her work. She really enjoyed taking on the persona of LeRoy’s agent, Speedy. However, LeRoy was developing such a following, she needed the boyish Knoop to serve as LeRoy’s socially awkward, mono-syllabic “body.”

When Knoop appears as the androgynous LeRoy, she looks and sounds a lot like Johnny Depp. Regardless, it is hard to understand why so many people were apparently so fascinated by a person who is presented to be so painfully shy and charisma-challenged.

The film is successful in presenting how something so crazy could happen with such apparent ease, but it does not   sufficiently probe the deeply personal needs of both authors and consumers that drive creation. Dern and Stewart do such an excellent job of telling us how it feels to be someone else.

 

“Persianality: Persians in Palm Springs”— A Revry Original Series


Persianality: Persians in Palm Springs

A Revry Original Series

Available now to stream on www.revry.tv

Revry is proud to present its newest Original Series, “Persianality: Persians in Palm Springs”. The digital series was created by and stars the first ever Iranian-Jewish Drag queen, HRH The Empress. It was directed by Cory Schneider and takes place over the course of one day.

In “Persianality”, when Fereshteh Shoorkhaianian (the Empress) is taken on a surprise weekend getaway to Palm Springs by her husband Bijan (Teddy Margas), the couple’s marriage is put to the test. When this lavish couple, who doesn’t know how to function without the assistance of hired help, is left to their own devices, absolute hilarity ensues.

Growing up in the Iranian-Jewish community, the Empress faced a lot of rejection and isolation as a queer kid. Still, she was inspired and amused by the strong and glamorous Persian women she grew up around and continues to have in her life. This was ultimately the catalyst for the Empress to create this boundary-pushing, largely improvised comedy that both pays homage to and parodies elements from her own life.

When asked about shooting the series, the Empress said, “It was all very experimental. We wanted to see what would happen without overthinking it. We had a basic outline and story arc and enjoyed the freedom of that.” The Empress ultimately hopes that the sense of fun and playfulness comes through and makes audiences watching it laugh as much as she and the rest of the cast and crew laughed creating it.

For the Empress, her drag is a manifestation of all the adversities she has been through in life. She has found a way to take her experiences and turn them into art, whether it be comedy, acting, or fashion. Her journey is one of survival, and ultimately being able to flourish as her authentic self in a community that still grapples with acceptance of LGBTQ+ people.

“MANKIND”— Gay Life on Mars?

“Mankind”

Gay Life on Mars?

Amos Lassen

We do not get many LGBT science-fiction films and I can only wonder if that is because we have not dealt with all our earthly problems. There is one that just came out and is “seriously atmospheric…wildly thought-provoking…”

Director Layke Anderson in just 13 minutes brings us Will (Ricky Nixon), a restless young man who wants to join the first colony on Mars. He decides to leave his partner, Evan (Alexis Gregory) and this comprises most of the short film. We have a personal drama about a man who loves his partner but is dissatisfied with his life and with the plant.

He and his partner try to reconcile how he feels. The actors give strong performances and we feel the tension and the chemistry that they share. Through flashbacks we see how their argument came to be as well as the “balance of humanity within the vastness of the universe. The short certainly has the potential to be a very special feature.

Evan believes that Will is far from convinced, even more so when he reads up on the Space program that Will has applied for.  Will however is determined  as it is not just his life that he is unhappy with, but also his planet. We see one of the saddest and also unusual break up stories ever.

“THE BLONDE ONE”— A Sensual Romance

“The Blonde One”

A Sensual Romance

Amos Lassen

Film auteur Marco Berger has become one of the darlings of gay cinema and we await his work. Berger’s new film, “The Blonde One” is set in the suburbs of Buenos Aires where Gabriel (Gaston Re) has just moved in with his colleague, Juan (Alfonso Baron). Gabo is quite shy and reluctant to follow Juan’s wandering hands and meaningful looks. With a revolving door of beauties streaming out of Juan’s bedroom. Yet we cannot help but sense the attraction between Gavo and Juan. What starts out as a sexual relationship based on convenience of location quickly develops into a tender and intimate relationship which is as sweet as it is heartbreaking. 

It all began because Juan’s brother, who had been his roommate moved out and Juan needed to find someone new and that turned out to be Gabriel (the blonde one), a colleague at the Woodworking shop where they are both employed.The two men couldn’t be more different. Juan is a party animal always filling the apartment with his drinking buddies and  a whole stream of girls who end up in his bed.  Gabo is quiet and subdued and seemingly friendless and the only highlight is life is going to his family home where his parents are raising his young daughter.

Gabo is fascinated by Juan’s life and is even more intrigued by his meaningful glances and his wandering hands.  It takes a while time before the two men actually act on their mutual attraction and what started out as a sexual relationship eventually develops more deeply than either man had imagined when they completely fall for each other. They conduct their relationship with the outmost secrecy with Juan carrying on as before with both the drinking and the womanizing but now an uncomfortable Gabo is watching him.

Argentinian Gay auteur Marco Berger has had some very successful moves to his name but this film shows his remarkable talent for  sheer homoeroticism but the skillful way he allows this sensual and touching relationship to gently unfold. The two lead actors are compelling and give very touching performances. We become totally immersed in their relationship even though there is always the uncertainty it will survive when its discovered by the outside.

Director Berger presents the story of a love affair in a series of uninflected, mostly static shots, letting the camera linger on characters’ faces as they register attraction, desire, frustration, jealousy and love. Largely wordless, actor Re brings inner life to the shy, yearning Gabriel and does so with beauty and grace. In fact this entire film is one of beauty and grace.

“YEARS AND YEARS”— A Six-Part BBC One Series

“Years and Years”

A Six-Part BBC One Series

Amos Lassen

BBC One has released the trailer for “Years and Years”, Russell T. Davies’  new six-part drama Years and Years, which stars Russell Tovey  and Emma Thompson and follows one family from 2019 forward over a period of 15 years.

“What sort of world are we in,” asks Tovey’s character as Daniel Lyons, a married gay male, at the start of the trailer as he cradles a newborn infant, “because if it’s this bad now, what’s it going to be like for you in 30 years’ time?”

Emma Thompson is Vivienne Rook, an outspoken celebrity turned political figure whose controversial opinions divide the nation. The focus of the six-part series is the Manchester-based Lyons family: Daniel is getting married to Ralph, Stephen and Celeste worry about their kids, Rosie is chasing a new guy, and Edith has not been home for years. Presiding over them all is Gran, the imperial Muriel. All their lives converge on one crucial night in 2019, and the story accelerates into the future, following the lives and loves of the Lyons over the next 15 years. The show also stars Rory Kinnear, Jessica Hynes, T’Nia Miller, Ruth Madeley, and Anne Reid.

  It definitely sounds intriguing as each episode jumping ahead by a year or two. Although the drama will explore a country going through political and economic instability, it will be full of warmth and humor and a positive outlook. It will also deal with the rise of populist politicians in Britain, trans-humanism, war and other cultural issues facing the United Kingdom.

It begins with Britain withdrawing from Europe, America becomes a lone wolf, China asserts itself and a new world begins to form.’  Society is hotter, faster, madder, with the turmoil of politics, technology and distant wars affecting the Lyons in their day-to-day lives.

Russell Davies  who recently wrote and produced the award-winning “A Very English Scandal”  about a homosexual affair that brought down a major political leader, also has another TV series in the works for UK’s Channel 4— “The Boys”, about the impact of the 1980s AIDS crisis and Davies has been working on it for a number of years and claims it is his most heavily-researched work.  The five-part drama will follow the story of the 1980s, the story of AIDS, and the story of three boys, Ritchie, Roscoe and Colin, across the decade.

Four LGBTQ Classic Movies Coming to Blu-ray For The First Time From Shout! Factory— In Time for Pride

Four LGBTQ Classic Movies Coming to Blu-ray For The First Time From Shout! Factory

In Time for Pride

“Shout! Factory, the American home video company, will release the four gay favorites in high definition for the first time, with new bonus features included in each Blu-ray disc package.

Releasing on 28 May:

“TO WONG FOO, THANKS FOR EVERYTHING”

The 1995 drag comedy starring Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo on a cross-country road trip. New extras include a making-of documentary. (May 28) 

“BOOM!”

The 1968 camp classic starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as sparring lovers. Screenplay by Tennessee Williams which he adapted from his stage play “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore”. Elizabeth Taylor is at her most beautiful. New extras include audio commentary by filmmaker John Waters, who lists Boom! as one of his favorite movies. Also a making-of documentary with film critic Alonso Duralde. (May 28)

“JEFFREY”

The 1995 gay romantic comedy starring Steven Weber and Michael T. Weiss.  Screenplay by Paul Rudnick, based on his play of the same name. New extras include audio commentary by Weber and film critic Alonso Duralde, plus interviews with Weber and producer Mark Balsam. June 11)

“CANT STOP THE MUSIC”

 The1980 disco classic starring Steve Guttenberg and a young Bruce Jenner (long before transitioning to Caitlyn), plus The Village People, in a highly fictionalized telling of how that band was formed. New extras include an interview with Randy Jones of the Village People. Plus audio commentary from writer/producer Allan Carr and comedy writer Bruce Vilanch. (June 11)

From  Shout! Factory:

‘At Shout, we celebrate and champion the universal movement for equality, and drive creative expression and diversity in independent storytelling,’ said Jeff Nelson, senior director of marketing at Shout! Factory, in a statement.

‘We’re thrilled to bring these fun films back into the market! There’s something for everyone: Outrageous camp, disco-pumped extravaganzas and heartfelt stories of love and acceptance.

‘Each movie still strikes a chord of with audiences who remember them, and we hope our upgraded releases will bring in new generations of viewers as well.’

“KANARIE:— Queer in South Africa

“Kanarie”

Queer in South Africa

Amos Lassen

“Kanarie” looks at several controversial subjects in South Africa including blind patriotism and the effects of religious dogma on sexuality and healthy self-expression. Christiaan Olwagen’s coming-of-age drama  rehashes an age-old LGBTQ trope  from a different angle and gives us an earnest, warm, and at times heart-wrenching film about the human condition, marginalization and the overpowering need for acceptance. 

Johan Niemand (Schalk Bezuidenhout) is an eighteen-year-old man who is expected to do military service during the 1980s. After auditioning, he is accepted in the South African Defense Force Choir as a fellow “Canary” (part of the soldiers’ travelling choir). Once he is there he is overwhelmed by the vitriol and discrimination within the community. He also meets another choir member named Wolfgang (Hannes Otto) who makes him feel less alone. The two spend a lot of time together and grow closer in what becomes more intimate than a friendship. Eventually, they fall for each other. But this is not a happy moment for Johan, who  is struggling with confusion, guilt and self-loathing because of his sexuality. This experience also opens his  eyes to the bigotry and blatant gay animosity that is rampant within the military. 

The film is filled with lightheartedness and music letting us see art as a transformative force that helps the individual transcend bias and prejudice, as well as to see his own shortcomings more clearly. Which is precisely why there is conflict arising between the choir members and the commanding officers who want to censor ideas and voices that go against their political or personal beliefs. A recurring theme is the clash between the old hierarchical, rigid norms and a newly surfaced openness that attempts to be inclusive, abhors injustice and wants to reward and encourage individuality instead of restricting it. 

There is a lot of wisdom and intense, but silent discoveries here. Johan uses music and his fondness of it to turn inward and see some of his ingrained beliefs. During this process he manages to unearth several damaging or self-destructive perspectives that he had been indoctrinated with. He begins to question the validity of his patriotism and the legitimacy of the songs they are taught to sing in the context of the military’s internal turmoil and its oppressive force. He sees that this power is misguidedly used to enforce hatred, bigotry and racial segregation, but also that there is a violent desire to keep people from doubting the system and revolting against it. Johan directs a choir performance of Culture Club’s Romance Revisited, only to be interrupted by Reverend Koch, who calls it an “amoral, subversive smut”.  Schalk Bezuidenhout’s performance is sublime and intimate. He carries the entire plot and therefore the film.

“Kanerie” explores deep-rooted societal issues such as normalized homophobia within the military, group think, repressed anger and the harrowing experience of internalized shame. The conclusion is that the only acceptance you need is from yourself. This is cleverly and gradually delivered to the audience through a sequence of unforgettable scenes and performances that discreetly and firmly uncover the importance of being compassionate towards yourself and others. 

The film is remarkable insight into how gay men struggle with their sexuality in a country that is desperately holding on  to its immoral past. Olwagen’s wonderfully entertaining tale however fills us with hope that love will in the very end conquer all.

“FIRE ISLAND”— Going Home

“Fire Island”

Going Home

Amos Lassen

Every once in a while I hear about a new film that sounds like it is going to be big hit. You anxiously await its arrival on a big screen near you or on DVD or streamed and you rush to see it and realize that there is a great deal of potential in it but as it stands, you were totally bored watching in. Such is the case with “Fire Island”.

Mimi (Carly Brooke) is like Dorothy in the “The Wizard of Oz”. In fact the movie is a modern take on “The Wizard of Oz” about a young woman trying to find her way home after tragedy. Mimi has gone from happy wife to heartbroken widow and mixed-up mistress, while she is only in her early thirties. She’s determined to find her way back to a happy life and that search begins at Fire Island. Even stranger is that this is a true story in which we journey with Mimi as she makes her way with help from her friends, family, and music, back to love and home and in this case from New York City to Cleveland.

“Fire Island” is written, produced and directed by Mimi Spiwak Harris who should have known better. Andy Peeke, Amadeo Fusca also star.  

I so wanted to like this story of a woman finding her husband as she goes through life after the death after being widowed. The worst part is that the final man doesn’t show up until the last 5 minutes. The others were just filling time.

Production quality isn’t bad and the gay friends thing is okay. Who movies to a different state on a whim? The plot however is a mess as is the acting. I seldom give negative reviews but really…

“SAY YES”— Exploring Bisexuality

“SAY YES”

Exploring Bisexuality

Amos Lassen

When Director Stewart Wade has a new film out, we know that we are getting a piece of work of quality. His characters are well-developed and his plot is relevant and interesting to watch. “Say Yes” explores bisexuality and does so in a way that is fascinating to watch. Lily (Leah McKendrick) is a woman who is dying of cancer and she asks her husband, Beau (Patrick Zeller) and her twin gay brother, Caden (Matt Pascua) to continue as a couple after she is gone. Her husband is straight and if he is to follow what his wife has asked him to do means that he will have to deal with issues that he has not dealt with in the past. We are left to wonder if it is possible for a straight man to fall in love with a gay male.

Zeller and  Pascua play the two men and both are excellent. Stewart Wade wrote and directed the film that also stars  Shari Belafonte, Alexandra Paul, Alberto Manquero and Stefanie Estes.  Because of the nature of the plot, I can’t really say much about it, I can say that we do not often see fluid sexuality being presented in such a sweet and positive way. We realize that when it comes to love, boundaries do not remain rigid. To see this in such an enjoyable way shows that when love is around, things change.

Before I realized it, I was wrapped up in the story and invested in the characters. I simply was not ready for it to end and we certainly can see that there is a place for a sequel. Going a step further, we explore ourselves as we explore the characters and notions about love. Because we never know who we will love and when we will love, it is best to keep our options open. There is a sensitivity here and can bring forth both tears and laughter. In a sense we see that sexuality like emotions can be quite fluid. Since we never know how life will treat us, it’s best to be open to whatever comes our way. I believe that there will be as many opinions about the film as there are those that see it and to me that is a good thing. I love walking away from a book or movie and then think about it for a long time.