Category Archives: GLBT Film

“SEQUIN IN A BLUE ROOM”— A Gay Teen and Sex

“SEQUIN IN A BLUE ROOM”

A Gay Teen and Sex

Amos Lassen

Sequin is a 16 year old boy who, after a chance encounter at an anonymous sex party, hunts through the world of a hook-up app to track down the mystery man. He prefers the instant gratification of anonymous, no-strings sexual encounters over meaningful relationships, high schooler and is always logged-on but never-engaged. He stalks and ghosts ex-partners and is unavailable emotionally. At least he was until he finds his way to an anonymous sex party, where he finds a whole new world. We watch him as he connects with a mysterious stranger but they are separated suddenly. Sequin becomes fixated on this man and is determined to find him and so sets off on his mission of tracking him down.

Director Samuel Van Grinsven (who cowrote the screenplay with Jory Anast) has said that his central aim is to make films which reflect the complexity of the queer community. This is his first film and it certainly reflects what he says.  on his debut film, Sequin in a Blue Room, he’s off to a great start in his quest to achieve this.  He gives us a character who is not exactly likeable and his way to find sex (which he often sees as romance) is certainly not the usual especially for someone his age. This is both a character study and a look at the younger generation that is comfortable with  anonymous connections  made over hook-up apps. They do not seem to be concerned about finding meaningful lives.

Conor Leach is Sequin, a 16 year old who doesn’t have the same problems with acceptance or being out as other gay teens – he has a supportive father (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor) and a standard school life. But instead of being the teen that he is, he lies about his age and hooks up with lots of guys he meets on a Grindr-style app and then  blocking every person the moment each sex encounter is over. He hooks up with “B” (Ed Wightman), a married 40 something who develops an unhealthy obsession with Sequin, which then develops in intensity when both find themselves at a sex party. Sequin breaks his own rule and falls for one of his casual hook ups (Samuel Barrie) in the blue room and then begins a journey to learn his name and this leads him back to “B” who becomes increasingly obsessive.

I must say that I felt a bit uneasy watching this knowing that Sequin is still a teen and engaging in such reckless and promiscuous sexual adventures even though I am well aware that teens share many of the same feelings as adults and even if this is a commentary on the emptiness of a generation who has become more accustomed to using apps than finding love after coming out. It seems that the film actually depends on that sense of unease, (sex scenes are filmed as extreme close ups of faces with the character pretending to enjoy the activity and seeing promiscuity as natural in gay life. We see no romance and we sense feelings of being detached and these reflect the emptiness of each sexual meeting.

Yet, even though this is a commentary on coming of age in hook-up culture, it does not instill fear about today’s teens. Director Grinsven uses Sequin’s classmate Tommy (Simon Croker) as a contrast in behavior. Tommy is more preoccupied with finding a date than rushing to the next hook up. This is really just a comment on the way some behave and certainly not the rule. It is just a  certain aspect of the modern queer experience and not the case of an entire generation.

“Sequin in a Blue Room” is with no doubt an effective directorial beginning especially in that it deals with h a problematic character study. I believe that we should see it as “a very modern tale of what it’s like to grow up in the age of social media.”

“THE HOURS AND THE TIMES”— What Might Have Happened

“THE HOURS AND THE TIMES”

What Might Have Happened

Amos Lassen

“The Hours and the Times” was originally released in 1991 during the height of the New Queer Cinema movement. Christopher Munch  directed this original and fictional account of what might have happened in April 1963, when John Lennon and Beatles manager Brian Epstein traveled to Barcelona for an extended weekend vacation. In the four days they provocative Lennon (Ian Hart) reflect on their lives, both private and professional, as they explore their unique bond. Filmed in black-and-white, this is a thoughtful meditation on friendship and sexuality.

We know that Epstein was gay. and felt physically attracted to Lennon who felt emotionally invested in Epstein. There isn’t much of a script and what there is filled with banter. We see how so much can be said through the visual medium of film. A movie doesn’t need to be loud to resonate. Director Munch gives his characters room to breathe and trusts his audience to use their imaginations and become part of the process.

Lennon constantly berates Brian about Brian’s homosexuality and religion (Epstein was Jewish), but Brian tolerates it. He has a crush on John, and John seems more than a little curious about taking things beyond the friendship stage.

Christopher Munch shot the film in black and white and Hart and Angus are great as Lennon and Epstein, making the pair’s friendship very natural. The film was remastered and restored for Sundance 2019 and will soon be available to the public on DVD and Blu ray.

“DOUZE POINTS”— “Fiction Flirts With Reality”

“DOUZE POINTS”

“Fiction Flirts With Reality”

 In “Douze Points”, the Islamic State plans for a French contestant to carry  out a spectacular terror attack on the air.  Mossad agents do their best to foil it. This  is a crazy Israeli film on Eurovision in Israel.

Rasoul Abu-Marzuk and Tarik Jihad were childhood best friends who grew up together in the Muslim quarter of Paris until Tarik decided to come out of  the closet at the age of 15. It was at that moment that Rasoul turned his back on his best friend and Tarik was excommunicated from his community.

10 years later Tarik is now TJ, a proud, gay singer that has left his past behind and lives like there is no tomorrow, fulfilling his dream to represent France in Europe’s biggest song contest. Rasoul has taken a different path. He followed his extremist, Islamic father, Abbas, and is now part of an ISIS terror cell in Paris. ISIS decides that the 2019 Europe song contest, set to take place in Israel, is a great opportunity for their biggest terror attack ever!!! They plan to plant one of their operatives into the French delegation at the contest in order to set off an explosion under the stage during the final performance of the event.

 The ISIS cell will make sure that TJ represents France at the European song contest and that one of their members will be under-cover, acting as TJ’s boyfriend. What TJ doesn’t know is that ISIS is planning to carry out the lethal attack, and that his “boyfriend” is none other than Rasoul.

The Israeli Mossad does know about the planned attack and they put their toughest, most experienced team into the contest in order to prevent a major catastrophe.  

“PIG HAG”— Meet Jodie

“PIG HAG”

Meet Jodie

Amos Lassen

Jodie (Anna Schlegel) is a nurse who lives in Los Angeles, She’s a nurse living, loves Guns N’ Roses, and has a small group of gay, male friends. She’s alone.—she lives alone in her apartment,  she goes to concerts alone, and her only friends are gay. We first meet her as she is checking her phone and finds she is being bothered though texts. Some troll calls her fat and pathetic and names her “Pig Hag.” Whoever this is texts continually hoping to get a rise out of her and Jodie makes the mistake of texting back. She enlists her gay friends for support.

But then life changes— while at a Guns N’ Roses concert just outside of Los Angeles. During the concert, Jodie feels good and finds “solace and serenity”. As she comes down from her Axl-Rose high, she decides to drink at a local liquor store on the way to her motel. She is soon sad and drunk and on the sidewalk but she meets Dustin (Tony Jaksha), who is friendly and shows a concern for Jodie and as they take part in a  passive-aggressive encounter, they also spend the night together. The next morning, Dustin sends Jodie into an emotional tailspin.

“Pig Hag” is a look into Jodie’s life over a few days and we see the difficulties of finding love for those who are not beautiful actresses or fitness models. Jodie’s idea of finding real-romance is shattered, and she turns to some dark places in the end to find some kind of a connection with anyone. We see her anger, vulnerabilities, and sexuality. She’s abrasive but also likable and her performance becomes a rage-fueled rant during which she curses out her gay friends.“Pig Hag” gives a new perspective for what it means to be a woman and  to have to deal with so many expectations because of gender.

Jodie (Anna T. Schlegel) does not have it easy.  This is a woman who deals with a lot of harassment over texts and whatnot.  Much of the harassment comes by way of text messages from Mitch Internet.  It’s fascinating how the filmmakers choose to use Internet has a last name.  After all, this is a person who could stand in for all the evil trolls in existence.

Jodie loves looking through the photos on social media.  She is almost 40-years-old and doesn’t know if she’ll ever meet the right man. Jodie thinks that Dustin is the one but he never gets in touch with her the next day.  As she has an emotional breakdown and her best gay friends come to her rescue. 

Finding love is not easy. Jodie is desperate for connection and we see that when her romantic overtures don’t go exactly as she hopes, she relies on her gay friends so that she does not feel alone. She is an honest person who is often angry due to her insecurities and vulnerabilities. She has baggage that she to unload before she can be the validated person she wants to be.

“DRIVE ME HOME”— Reconnecting

“DRIVE ME HOME”

Reconnecting

Amos Lassen

Antonio (Vinicio Marchioni)  and Agostino (Marco D’Amore)  are two childhood friends who have not seen each other for 15 years. They grew up together in a small town in Sicily and both have widely traveled through of Europe searching for something. They have gone from city to city, with no real destination and no plan.

Then when Antonio learns that his childhood home, now uninhabited, is to be sold at auction soon, he decides to look for Agostino, a truck driver, to help find a solution and save that house to which they have ties.

This is the story of two fragile men who have been tried by life and  who hold onto the cockpit of a truck as they rediscover parts of the past and reopen old wounds that are still hurting. The narration is a mixture of different European languages ​​and accents representing the liquid past in which they both used as a means of escape from their pasts.  They became strays in Europe like so many other young people who struggle with the difficulties of home. Both sought an ideal dimension to be able to gain happiness.

Both D’Amore and Marchioni are two apparent losers that hang between odd jobs in search of their own opportunity and their own place in the world. The cinematography is gorgeous as we visit the icy lights of northern Europe and the warm and quiet atmospheres of southern Ital. This is an intimate and highly up-to-date film that charges us to reflect on the various escape routes that perhaps we deserve to find to find a better life. The grammar of truck drivers and the habits of a little known but extremely fascinating world made of belonging to a community of people who have chosen the movement as a lifestyle are fascinating to see.

The screenplay uses the introspective component; the dimension of solitude that embraces the two men differently, and is extremely metaphorical. The concept of home is stressed. Are we really where we came from?

Director Simone Catania, and starring Vinicio Marchioni alongside Marco D’Amore does a wonderful job with this story of two 30-years-old men who both live abroad and have lost touch with each other years before we meet them. But their lives have changed a lot. Old conflicts and new revelations bring them through Europe on a truck journey that will change their lives forever.

“THE THIRD WIFE”— Coming of Age

“THE THIRD WIFE”

Coming of Age

Amos Lassen

Film Movement brings us “The Third Wife”, a  beautiful coming-of-age story; a tale of love and self-discovery in a time when women were rarely given a voice. Set in the late 19th century in rural Vietnam, fourteen-year-old May (Nguyen Phuong Tra My) is given away in an arranged marriage and becomes the third wife to her older husband. She learns that she can gain status and security if she gives birth to a male child and this becomes a real possibility when she gets pregnant. However, her life is filled with danger when May starts to develop an attraction for Xuan(Mai Thu Huong),  the second wife. As May observes the unfolding tragedy of forbidden love and its consequences, she must decide to either carry on in silence and safety, or create a way towards personal freedom.

At 14, travels up river to marry a man she has never met and start a new life on his family’s silk plantation. The household, which includes servants, her husband’s two other wives and their children, is a place where intimacy and cruelty can be hard to tell apart. It’s the center of a world rendered with pathos and somewhat prurient fascination. This is  Ash Mayfair’s debut feature.
May’s new home is in a steep valley filled with flowering trees and airy wooden buildings and it is both a paradise and a prison. May’s daily routines are governed by rigid, patriarchal customs and rituals but they also include time  for solitude and even pleasure. The two senior wives, Lao (Nguyen Nhu Quynh Le) and Xuan welcome her with big-sisterly advice about sex, childbirth and domestic politics.

At 14, May (Nguyen Phuong Tra My) travels up river to marry a man she has never met and start a new life on his family’s silk plantation. The household, which includes servants, her husband’s two other wives and their children, is a place where intimacy and cruelty can be hard to tell apart. It’s the center of a world rendered with pathos and somewhat prurient fascination in “The Third Wife,” Ash Mayfair’s debut feature.

The story, which follows May from the day of her arrival through a pregnancy, shows us her social and physical surroundings with a quiet clarity. The seasons of her forced transition from child to mother are seen according to the silk worms  which are a source of metaphorical as well as economic sustenance. Like the worms, the wives are part of a cottage industry that mixes beauty and utility, captives of their own productivity.

When May becomes pregnant, she prays for a boy, observing that Xuan, who has given birth to two daughters, holds a lower status than Lao, the mother of sons. She also observes the affair between Xuan and their husband’s oldest son, a relationship that brings conflict and tragedy to the family.

 “The Third Wife” gives us a look at a tableau of injustice from a perspective that feels both compassionate and detached. We see a male-dominated hierarchy that directly oppresses women and brings misery to some men as well.

The cruelty that May encounters is a fact of life, as is the solidarity she occasionally experiences with Lao and especially with Xuan. The possibility of freedom occasionally seems real and the  final scenes allude to  “desperate and defiant” acts of resistance.

Here is one of the great scientific injustices throughout human history. Women have been blamed for not producing a male heir, even though it is only the father who can supplies the determining chromosome.. As the junior-most wife of a wealthy Vietnamese plantation owner, May’s position depends on her ability to give birth to a boy. The dysfunctional family dynamics and her first stirrings of passion also confuse May.

May looks even younger than her fourteen years, so the idea of her marrying anyone is rather disturbing. Nonetheless, she fulfills her wedding night duties and is soon pregnant. She is probably rather fortunate, because the senior wives, Ha and Xuan are quite supportive and protective of her. She also makes fast friends with Xuan’s daughters.

Director Mayfair brings us a wonderfully lush and evocative film that is also very steamy. As May, Nguyen Phuong Tra My looks distressingly young and vulnerable, but she is also convincing when her character starts to make some cold, hard decisions. Other actors are also quite good.

The film is a visual feast to watch. is absolutely gorgeous. Cinematographer Chananun Chotrungroj uses the rain forest backdrop and luxuriates in the trappings of  the 19th Century. It is hard to watch the tragedy as it inevitably transpires, but Mayfair keeps the viewers on the edge of their seats and makes them want to be in this world, despite its social inequities. 

The scenes of sex and desire are treated with restraint, using juxtaposition to evoke mood so that silkworm caterpillars supply the disturbing emotion of May’s wedding night. The silkworm life cycle is returned to repeatedly through the film and we see that their busy existence is in many ways as futile and for the sole profit of others as that of the wives.

About Film Movement

 Founded in 2002 as one of the first-ever subscription film services with its DVD-of-the-Month club, Film Movement is now a North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films based in New York City. It has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide.  Film Movement’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries, and foreign art house titles. Its catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. In 2015, Film Movement launched its reissue label Film Movement Classics, featuring new restorations released theatrically as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, including films by such noted directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, Arturo Ripstein, King Hu, Sergio Corbucci and Ettore Scola. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com. Visit www.filmmovementplus.com for more information about Film Movement Plus, the new subscription streaming service from Film Movement. 

“PAPI CHULO”— Cross-cultural Communion

“PAPI CHULO”

Cross-cultural Communion

Amos Lassen

 “Papi Chulo” explores some deep emotional themes but lightly touch. Sean (Matt Bomer) is a gay Los Angeles weatherman who is having a rough time after a painful breakup. One day he has a breakdown on the air and his boss (Wendi McLendon-Covey) tells him to take some time of find also find someone he can talk to. Sean has a few ongoing projects around his house and decides his time off to take care of them, He goes to a local hardware shop for supplies where he sees middle-aged day worker Ernesto (Alejandro Patiño) outside, and hires him to repaint his sun deck. Ernesto speaks very little English and has no idea what Sean is talking about as he tries to make conversation a variety of topics. Sean feels like he’s sharing his pain with someone, and having Ernesto around helps him cope with his loneliness. However, Ernesto doesn’t understand when Sean wants to hang out socially as well. He introduces Ernesto to his friends as if he’s a new boyfriend. Ernesto’s wife, Linda (Elena Campbell-Martinez), thinks this is very funny least until Sean gets a bit too close for comfort.

Irish writer-director John Butler slyly allows this to play using the humor in the characters rather than the situations. As Sean and Ernesto develop this offbeat friendship, the script reveals more about these two men and it becomes clear that Sean really needs professional help. Even as things become deeply emotional, the film remains honest and optimistic and eschews melodrama. We are reminded all the time that Sean’s friends care about him, and even Ernesto begins to understand that Sean’s pain needs more than just a  listener.

Bomer is excellent and delivers a layered performance as a smart man who has pushed his emotions down inside and can’t quite understand why his life seems to be going out of control. He keeps hoping he won’t have to confront his feelings, smiles stiffly and has clumsy conversations with everyone he meets. Sean’s real connection with Ernesto is a nice surprise, and Patiño plays him with a wonderful sense of wry humor. They are a fascinating odd couple, and each of their outings around town gives something to their strange relationship.

Director Butler gives the usual California locations of Silverlake and Runyon Canyon a fresh twist. Sean’s home in Eagle Rock is isolated from the city and the  film uses dating apps and easy sex. So if the plot sometimes seems to be pushy, its relaxed pacing and gently themes involve the audience.

Even though Ernesto understands very little,  Sean still insists on talking to him almost nonstop.  He talks about the work he needs done but then gives highlights of his life.  There is something in the warmth of the older man’s smile that encourages Sean to  share more and more .

The second day Sean insists that they take a break and go rowing on a local lake. He’ll pay the agreed hourly rate regardless of any work that gets done or not, and although Ernesto was initially wary of the fact that Sean is gay, he warms to him even though he has no idea what he is thinking about.  It is definitely not sexual in any way, but on the 3td day when the go off for a hike in LA’s hills there is a genuine warmness developing and an improbable friendship between these two strangers  who are totally opposites.

The second part of the film sees a change in tenor  as we learn why Sean is in such state and how his relationship with Carlos ended,  and everything makes sense.  We not only find our attitude to Sean’s seemingly odd behavior changing into compassion and something we can all relate to.

Here is cross-cultural communion that drives a metaphor into the ground. The film begins in medias res, with Sean having a meltdown on live television while reporting on a scorching heat wave sweeping through Los Angeles. He’s given a sabbatical that he’ll come to understand as a tacit firing, and at exactly the point that the job no longer really matters to him. He must get his deck painted before he can think about it.

What follows are events that find the lonely Sean taking the quietly obliging Ernesto on day trips around Los Angeles. Later, Ernesto guiltily acknowledges in a phone conversation to his wife  that he sees what the stranger by the lake does but that his bond to Sean is, in “conditionally transactional, possible only if it’s mediated by money.”

“BATHROOM STALLS & PARKING LOTS”— A Look at Underground Gay Culture

 

“BATHROOM STALLS & PARKING LOTS”

A Look at Underground Gay Culture

Amos Lassen

I have noticed that Brazilian gay films tend to be a bit more audacious and daring than those from other countries and director Thales Correas even says that he wanted to make a film that was indeed daring and audacious and that is what he has done with “Bathroom Stalls and Parking Lots”. It also happens to be a picture of our community as it is in terms of looking for and finding acceptance. We will not find such an authentic film as this any time soon.

Leo (Correa) is a Brazilian who has come to live in America (like the director) and he decides to go to San Francisco to see what he has heard so much about. He is surprised to find Totah (Felix Olmedoz), his American sex buddy also visiting there but that doesn’t change his plans for fun. He gets together with his friend, Donnie (Izzy Palazzini) as they go through the clubs in The Castro District and force a casual encounter to show Totah that there can be compatibility aside from sex. Donnie’s straight friend, Hunter (Oscar Mansky)  a hopeless romantic, joins them as they try to teach Leo how to turn a relationship based on casual sex into something more meaningful. As they bar hop and go to seedy places, they find themselves dealing with unexpected  obstacles that challenge how they approach relationships and they might even end up risking their own friendship.

As they “run” the streets of San Francisco to follow an American fling that they had begun on Grindr, they do whatever they have to, even if it means going to the seedy club scene where hookups take place in bathroom stalls and parking lots. As they spent time in this milieu, they discover truths about themselves and what modern dating is all about. The film has already won several prizes and is on its way to win even more.

This is an outrageous new comedy with a title that dares to say what so many of us come face to face with. Our players are also immigrants who speak their own language as well as broken English. While the movie is quite funny, it is also a look at the  sexy underground gay world and the culture of romantic relationships among gay/bisexual young men in the Castro (Although every town has its version of that district). More important is that we see “how dating apps have turned relationships into disposable and meaningless experiences.”

As Leo learns from this experience, we see some fun scenes including an underwear party Leo’s relationship with Donnie moves toward a quietly powerful climax. As honest and funny as it is, “Bathroom Stalls and Parking Lots” is also sweet and a look at being young, gay and a bit promiscuous.

“CRUISING”— Cruising For a Killer, Now on Blu Ray

“Cruising”

Cruising for a Killer

Amos Lassen

In 1980, Academy Award-winner William Friedkin (“The Exorcist”, “The French Connection”) directed Al Pacino as an undercover cop sent into New York’s seedy underbelly in “Cruising” which has now been released on Blu ray for the first time. New York is caught in the grip of a sadistic serial killer who is preying on the patrons of the city’s underground bars. Captain Edelson (Paul Sorvino) has young rookie Steve Burns (Pacino) infiltrate the S&M subculture to try and lure the killer out of the shadows but Steve immerses himself deeper and deeper into the underworld and risks losing his own identity in the process. “Cruising” was the subject of great controversy at the time of its release and remains a challenging and remarkable movie to this day, with a haunting performance by Al Pacino.

When “Cruising” came out it created quite a furor because of the way it depicted gay men as “they are”. People saw masculine men dancing and kissing and participating in S&M activities and this was something that many had never seen before. The movie violated the picture people had of gay men as being effeminate and weak. The movie broke ground by showing that gay men, in particular the leather subculture, are real people and have some influence. The movie also showed the interiors of gay bars and the activity there as it was.

This is a brutal film and definitely affects the viewer as it combines murder, mystery, sex and subculture. Viewed today it still shocks and many still consider it to be homophobic by depicting gay men as being sexually obsessed whereas those many of the men who are members of the leather scene claim that it is accurate. It is important to remember that the movie was made before AIDS when sexual excess was extremely popular. I do not think that people were fair to the movie—it is not a look at gay culture as a whole—it uses the leather scene to show how one man’s life is affected by his work.

William Friedkin is known for making mysterious, dark films and he has done so again with this film. The controversy around it brought about a dialogue which led to a better understanding of the gay community and if had done nothing else, that would have been enough. But “Cruising” is also a good movie even with all of the controversy. It is not an easy film to watch. The characters are not the kind of people that we like and for some reason the film seems incomplete. Originally 40 minutes of film were cut due to censorship problems but some has been restored to the film with the new cut. This should clarify any ambiguity of the film. What the film really seems to be about is the thin line between good and evil.

“Cruising” is more than a movie—it is an experience and a provocative one at that. It has no soul and it is dark and physical. It is a riveting ad dark look at something many know nothing about. The grittiness of the film reflects the scenes it pictures. This is not a gay film—it is a horror film, a very tense thriller with remarkable performances. It is also important as it pushed the door wide open for others to come in and take up filming the gay community. The plot may ramble but then so does life—like the movie, life is all over the place.

When the movie was released it was a box office failure. I wonder if that had anything to do with the fact that for the first time, we saw poppers, pierced nipples, uninhibited  sex, slings and the inside of New York leather bars. What we get on DVD is a restored, digitalized edition of what was once considered “politically insensitive trash”. It is remembered because teenaged boys discovered, by watching the movie, that there are other uses for Crisco than deep frying.

When the movie came out, a mainstream slasher film set in the gay milieu and in one of the kinkiest aspects of the gay subculture was agonizing for the gay community and for the gay liberation movement. The gay movement of the time used the motto “We’re just like you” and the movie showed that they were indeed very different. The movie, from such a talented director like Freidkin, should have been spectacular and it was at first. Unfortunately, the weakness of the plot then took over and the kinky sexuality of the beginning of the film became replaced by little more than pedestrian gore.

About half of the film is so good is because it is honest and authentic. Friedkin shows us a New York City of sexual delights, mythical and magically sensuous. Central Park is a veritable smorgasbord of sexuality and the meatpacking district is loaded with adults finding and getting exactly the kind of sex they were looking for.

The movie totally infuriated the gay community at the time but now we see it as a fascinating glimpse of what gay life was, even if it was a Hollywood version of it. It is now a part of our history and a look at the way Hollywood treated us as a disenfranchised minority. Not many gay movies have the gumption or the audacity to show poppers in a leather bar and the film is executed with style and class and it is not nearly as offensive as some of the more recent films I have seen. It was not meant to represent the entire gay community but just one aspect of it. The movie was made way before its time.

Now with so people dead from AIDS in New York to date, it only stands to reason that many of the people that are in the club scenes are no longer alive. But in this movie, in the discos, in their flannel shirts and leather chaps, behind their mustached faces and mutton sideburns, they are smiling. They managed to find a place in the world where everything finally makes sense and this is what the movie is about if we ignore the serial killer aspect of it—it’s a movie about having fun. The days of “Cruising” and cruising are lost forever and at least we have the movie to remember them by.

Bonus Materials

  • Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, supervised and approved by writer-director William Friedkin
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Newly remastered 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio supervised by William Friedkin
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing 
  • Archival audio commentary by William Friedkin
  • The History of Cruising – archival featurette looking at the film’s origins and production
  • Exorcizing Cruising – archival featurette looking at the controversy surrounding the film and its enduring legacy
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

“FLAWLESS”— A Coming-of-Age Story

“FLAWLESS”

A Coming-of-Age Story

Amos Lassen

“Flawless” is a serious is coming-of-age story that sets the tone quickly as it introduces us to Eden (Stav Strashko) and best friends Tigist (Netsanet Zenaneh Mekonnen) and Keshet (Noam Lugasy).  What her best friends don’t know about Eden is that she’s transgender bit this isn’t important until later on in the film.  Both Tigist and Keshet have plans to sell their kidneys through Keren (Assi Levy) in exchange for breast implants.  Eden sees this as the possible answer to all her dreams.  While Eden’s hair and skin grew softer as a result of hormones, her breasts haven’t grown.  Her father is only supportive to an extent.  Hormones and pronouns are okay but not surgery.

The trio soon travel to Kiev for their surgeries.  Eden still appears to have some mixed feelings while her dad isn’t entirely on board.  It’s only upon arrival in Ukraine in which all chaos breaks loose when confronting the questions of how far does one need to go to have the perfect body and whether one must have a flawless body in order to be validated.  This appears to be the case for both Tigist and Keshet.  With Eden, it seems that having the larger breasts would help to not feel so flat.  Eden’s reluctance doesn’t stop Keren from going full-on transphobe.

When it comes to transgender identities, there’s a right way and a wrong way to use them in a film.  “Flawless” treats Eden’s transgender identity in the right way and not  as a gimmick.  There are no uncomfortable camera shots.  One shower scene does begin to reach a level of discomfort but this is because of the transphobia on Keren’s part.  This said, co-directors Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit don’t make it a point to focus in on Eden’s genitals.  Tigist and Keshet get in on the transphobia shortly thereafter but ultimately, friendship sparks some of the strongest bonds. 

Strashko made history when she became the first transgender actress to be nominated for the Israeli Ophir (comparable to the American Oscar) Award.  The actress gives a remarkable performance.  It’s nice to see transgender talent being allowed to thrive in a leading role for a change.  Strashko does more than just thrive in this instance.  She shines.

There’s still something to be said about how “Flawless” combines both wanting the perfect body with selling organs on the black market.  The pressure of an always-on social presence is a global phenomenon, too and we certainly see that here. Later in the film, we learn that Keren discovered the girls through one of their vlogs, a haunting example of how opportunistic scammers can prey on the vulnerabilities we share online. 

The ability to go under the knife takes on a special urgency for Eden who turned up at the school just before the end of the year. Though Eden conceals it from even her inner circle, she’s  trans and her father will pay for hormone treatments (because they’re reversible) and protect her by making sacrifices to move the family — but stops short of supporting any serious operation. Eden’s journey towards acceptance of herself and by others, as portrayed by trans actress Strav Strashko, provides a necessary helping of heart to what would otherwise come across as a dark parable about the dangers of the web.