Seven Short Films
In “True Love”, seven short films explore the nature of gay love. It starts with a young kid trying to get his parents’ attention by wearing his sister’s clothe and moves on to the discovery of homosexuality in a beautiful short, “Going Gay”. There is a short about the taboo of incest and molestation in “History” which is beautifully handled and heart wrenching. “Sunday” shows the relationship of middle-aged lovers celebrating their anniversary; “He Was Perfect” deals with relationships, betrayal and lust while “Staying Together” explores the effect of AIDS and cheating on a relationship. Finally “A Little Drama” is a beautiful pantomime of the Romeo and Juliet story. This is a wonderful compilation of short films and while other reviews I have read have been somewhat negative, I do not agree with them.
“That Man: Peter Berlin”
The World of Porn
Jim Tushinski brings us a documentary film about the world of porn with his focus on the legendary Peter Berlin, a once famous porn star who captured the minds (and whatever else) of gay mind in his very first film, “That Boy”. In San Francisco in 1974, Peter Berlin walked around town and made men tremble with lust. Possessed with a beautiful face, long blonde hair and a lithe slim body, he was the personification of sex. His skin tight white pants looked as if they had been painted on him and left little to the imagination.
Tushinski wanted to know whatever happened to him and in his search to find out, interviewed people who had known him and he eventually met the man himself. Through the conversations of the two, we get an inside view of Berlin’s private life and get to see his private photography as well s some clips of his early work and of him walking the streets.
The film is an explication of the myth of a man who helped to herald the age of gay porn. We learn where he came from, how he got his start and how he came to San Francisco. He was a photographer, he made films, and he was a model. He made his porn films when he was in his 20’s and gained stardom overnight. He had sexual liaisons with the very famous including Sal Mineo and Robert Mapplethorpe. He survived AIDS, saw many die and turned into himself, living alone to this day. He was an icon before we ever used the word. Tushinski’s film gives us Berlin’s story at the same time he gives us stories about Berlin. There is a lot to see here and Berlin speaks and it is from what he says that we get enlightenment about an age that is gone and that we will never see again. The film is powerful and exciting and certainly tells us “how it was”.
“Swoon” (Strand Releasing) is not a new film but it is a very important one and if you have not seen it, you should. If you have seen it, now is the time to see it again. “Swoon” is the film that ushered in the period that began in 1992 and is known as the time of the “new queer cinema”. Based on the infamous and scandalous murder trial of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, a trial that has been written about across America in headlines and has already had two other movies made about it (Hitchcock’s “Rope” and “Compulsion”) it has never been looked at as it is in this film. Tom Kalin took the story and the facts and then created a beautiful black and white film about what really happened and emphasized the gay relationship between the two main characters (played by Craig Chester and Daniel Schalchet).
This is a totally compelling film—so much so that it drove me to read everything about Leopold and Loeb that I could find (and there is plenty). Kalin gives us the most true account of the one of the most nefarious and infamous crimes of the 20th century. We see, or try to see, how it was possible for two rich genius college students could murder a child just for the thrill of it. Kalin focuses on the homosexual and homoerotic relationship aspect of the murderers and his film brings this out beautifully (for lack of a better word). It is the story of two “good” boys, superlatively education, from two good Jewish homes who committed a crime that rocked America. The film is elegant and subtle as are the performances and in that way the gay element is questioned in a way that no one ever dare to do. The film goes past the courtroom and the trial to show how Leopold and Loeb met their deaths and while this is not a “pretty” movie, it is one that is hard to forget. Kalin is indifferent to the martyrdom of positive images concerning same-sex couples and hid film defies generalization. It is intelligent and stands alone in the canon of gay film. Audacious and stylish, provocative, stunning and seductive, it is not easy to forget the images we see on the screen as the film examines manners as they have never been examined before. Kalin makes no excuses and his film is hi monument. We do not get many films like this and we should be very happy that Kalin had the courage to make a film that makes the gay couple to be the “bad guy”. It holds up 20 years after its premiere and I believe that it will always stand the test of time.
A Tender Film
I remember seeing my first Ronnie Kerr film and really liking it. Because of that, I began to look to see what else Kerr had done and I came across “Regarding Billy”, a tender love story that is beautifully acted. Billy suddenly finds himself in charge of his mentally retarded brother when his parents are killed in an automobile accident. He returns to his hometown to become a guardian and best friend to Johnny who is slow. His best friend, Dean, who has been away in the service, suddenly returns home as well and Bill finds his feelings for him resurfacing.
This is an extremely emotional film and it is hard to write how it affects the viewer and leaves him with a feeling of all encompassing love. The film is simply made and it makes us believe that there is love in the world. Keep your eyes and ears open for Kerr’s new film. “Saltwater” which is now in production.
A Gay Horror Film
“Hellbent” is one of the new kind of gay movies to come out. We have had love stories, coming-out stories, sexy comedies, soap operas, high drama, detective stories and silly farces and now we can add a slasher film to the gay cinematic canon. It is taglined as “when the night belongs to the devil, the party goes to hell”. There is a lot of talent here even though the movie does not succeed (yes, guys, I am panning a film but the interesting thing is that as bad as it is, I loved it). Directed by Paul Etheredge-Ouzts, “Hellbent” starts gushing blood in the opening scene. Two guys making out in a parked car are brutally beheaded but their heads were obviously kept by their beheader.
The action occurs in Hollywood during the annual carnival where the costumes are fabulous and flamboyant. Four gay buddies are stopped from having a good time when they discover that they must fight for their lives in order to get through the night. Since this is set in California, we see lots of drugs and sex along with everything else that the guys of California feel is necessary to have a good time. What they were not planning on was blood and gore.
Eddie (Dylan Fergus) is a young police officer who cruises a very good looking young stranger, Jake (Bryan Kirkwood) who is something of a Marlon Brando clone. Then there is Joey (Hank Harris) who is young and virginal. We have our token drag queen Tobey (Matt Phillips) who is also a “sensitive underwear model” (whatever that means). And where would we be without our bisexual cowboy, Chaz (Andrew Levitas). At one time this could have been a very campy low-budget horror film. But today, it is our very own slasher film and therefore allow us to infiltrate every genre of film making. There is no pretense here—what you see is what you get— no hidden meanings, no sneaky subplots—just a gay slasher movie. It is plain and simple; a total release from the doldrums of life. It is not a great movie, in fact, it I not even a good movie but it was made to entertain and that is exactly what it does.
“Hard Pill” is a daring and captivating film and an exercise in “what if?” which succeeds because it is based on personal experience. Tim, a gay man, has plenty friends but not much of a love life. He is a bit over gay culture and is one of those guys who looks for personality rather than beauty, brains rather than brawn. In doing so he becomes very depressed and wonders if he might be happier as a straight man.
Tim signs up for an experimental drug that supposedly suppresses homosexual tendencies and makes one straight. For a while he is happy—he has a girlfriend, he has duped his excess baggage that once tied him to the gay world. However, as we might have suspected, his happiness is short lived.
The characters and the focus on them is what makes this movie work (especially since the idea for the film is not new). All of the characters are real people with real problems and through this we learn that if there ever was a pill, it would affect not only those who take it but everyone around them. The moral of dealing with self-acceptance and living up to the choices one makes is strong. I agree that the entire idea for a film like this sounds dry and heavy but in this case the opposite is true and there are plenty laughs even though the subject is serious. There is a dry wit throughout the entire film.
One of the questions I asked myself was if the pill was a miracle cure or simply an attack on the gay lifestyle. I wondered what else would change in a person’s life if he or she should suddenly stop being gay. Honestly, I felt that when I read he plot synopsis of the film, I halfway expected to have to face a story about a fictional cure for homosexuality and to be brainwashed with didactic political schtick. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is an intuitive view of how people really live and a very good one at that.
“Freshman Orientation: Home of Phobia”
Laughing Through Hell Week
The ideas of college being a hotbed of sex and parties just did not hold true for 18 year old college freshman, Clay (Sam Huntington). He had imagined that college was going to be one big orgy with plenty of “hot chicks”, endless parties and beer kegs that are always full and ready to be emptied. Clay thought that when he finally got away from home and was on his own, the girls would just fall into his open arms. He never imagined what he would have to do to just get a girl to notice him.
Playing gay can lead to many strange happenings and that is just what happens here. Clay had to play gay so that girls would notice him and you can anticipate the comedy of errors to follow. Clay becomes involved in everything from gender warfare to campus activism and the film breaks all of the rules of political correctness.
As Clay plays gay, he bumbles and fumbles his way through his first year of college. When Amanda (Kaitlin Doubleday) receives a note during sorority rush that she must bring a “fag” to a dance in order to gain acceptance, she decides that Clay is the guy for the job. Amanda is to make him fall in love with her and Clay has no idea that she is using him. He is determined to get the girl even while trying to appear gay. Clay finds a tutor in Rodney (John Goodman, who steals the movie as the stereotypical gay bartender.
Of course, the whole plan goes wrong and the campus becomes chaotic as the issue of sexual identity becomes embroiled in college life. The twists and turns are hilarious and I found myself laughing aloud. The young cast is excellent especially when tackling sexual politics.
Good, Campy, Naked Fun
We are all wondering whatever happened to “Dante’s Cove”, the very popular mini-series that was once aired on Here! TV. It seems that the demise of Regent Media, the company that owns the television channel. Has affected the network and we have not anything new from them in over two years. However, you can see several seasons of “Dante’s Cove” on DVD.
Some movies are camp, some are horror, some are love stories, some are cheesy and some have beautiful naked people of both sexes doing all kinds of wild things to each other. “Dante’s Cove” has all of these. It is good and scary and naked and cheesy and campy and lots of fun. It is the same kind of fun that we had with that cult soap opera, “Dark Shadows” but with more skin and we do not take it seriously.
“Dante’s Cove” is a modern day soap opera which takes place in Laguna Beach, California where there is no shortage of beautiful people. The young denizens there find themselves in a world of mystery and romances that shift the way we do when we play musical chairs. Kevin (Michael Gregory) opens a trap door at the Hotel Dante and unleashes a multitude of evil forces into the community. With this comes melodrama, eroticism and ultra high camp (and some really cheesy acting). There are gorgeous bodies everywhere and all of them manage to get naked at some time during the course of an episode. In as much, the movie satisfies our voyeuristic tendencies— beautiful women for the women, handsome well built men for the men and a few of each for the bisexuals. The sexual action is equally distributed between man/man love scenes and the girl on girl action. Interesting how the director manages to please all tastes, The cinematography is lush and the music is excellent (although a tad campy). What is missing is the acting but everything else makes up for that.
I am just sorry that there are no more episodes being screened but three seasons and the pilot are available on DVD.
Paris, Mickel Angelo. “The West Hollywood Story”, iUniverse, 2006.
Great Characters, Great Story
When I first started reviewing in 2006, I was a bit apprehensive about reviewing self-published books but was soon to discover that some of our best literature has either been self-published or began as self-published. We are all certainly now aware of the value of this literature.
I loved Paris’s “The West Hollywood Story” and, in fact, it and is one of the first books I reviewed. It has a great cast of characters, a wonderful story and it is eloquently written with just the right amount of information on the characters that make up the story. It is a melodrama that almost reaches epic proportions with the number of ideas with which it deals.
Patrick, a metrosexual, dies by his own hand and his two roommates, Seven and Luna mourn his death. Lonely, they take in a new roommate, Aaron and introduce him to the gay Hollywood scene. But Seven is unable to give to Aaron what he wants most— love.
The search for identity and meaning in the world along with the quest for love is what this book is about. With the help of a psychic, Emma, who warns them about the road that they are about to travel upon and we set off on a tour of the gay ghetto and become privy to all that happens there. Sometimes hard to read because it is so honest, we escort our characters on the road to discovery when suddenly we realize that we are also learning about ourselves. The twists and turns mirror the twists and turns of our own lives and while the circumstances may be different and the times may not be the same, the quests are the same and the purpose is universal. Paris has done an admirable job in telling his story and I applaud him and hope to read more from him. The book is conveniently divided into short chapters which give the reader time to identify with the plot. I found myself thinking about my own life as I read and I think you will as well.
Tushinski, Jim. “Van Allen’s Ecstasy”, originally published by Harrington Park, 2006, Lethe Press Reprint, 2011.
Michael Van Allen was born into a family that was talented to the Nth degree. Now 29 and gay, he has always dreamed of being as talented as his father, a famous concert pianist and his mother, a noted artist. One morning he awakens in a mental hospital and is told that he has had a breakdown at one of his father’s concerts. Michael’s mind is a total blank and he has no memory of his life before he awoke. His story becomes a quest to find out not only who he is but also who he once was. This journey of self-discovery is filled with shocking revelations and issues that could quite possibly destroy his family forever. As he journeys, Michael unevenly balances a life based on what other people tell him about himself and the fact that he can remember nothing himself. What was it that caused him to lose all sense of the past and why is he in a mental institution? Who is the mysterious presence known as Sasha who haunts him and attempts to give him advice? As Michael looks for answers to these questions, his mind teeters between obsession and madness. He knows that the answers that he will get will either push him over the edge or plummet hi into the depths of insanity. The plot is Kafkaesque and dark and enlightening and this is a book that will make you think and will stay with you.
Infused throughout the book is the mystery of creativity. It deals with the soul of an artist who wants to be accepted and approved of because of his talent—a talent that Michael wants so badly to have. Here is a story about discovery of oneself and the yearning to be not only a member of society but to be respected by that society. (Isn’t that what we all want?). It is also a study of madness and of knowing who one is. Tushinski has taken a topic that is not easily written about and writes with finesse and style that is haunting.