Love Actually… Sucks!
The Limits of Love
“Love Actually…Sucks” is Scud’s (Danny Cheng Wan-Cheng) newest film and it is quite bold. The film looks at themes that are considered taboo in the society of Hong Kong and it does so overtly as it defies convention. There is a lot of frontal nudity (both male and female). Inspired by actual events, this is a film about love gone wrong—an incestuous relationship between a brother and sister, a married artist in love with a young male model, a dance teacher who lusts after his student and a lesbian couple involved in a triangle. We are quick to see that love is not like a fairy tale and the love that we see here is not love that is good. Yet the film is a celebration of love that many could not care about. Both the Chinese and Taiwanese governments have demanded cuts in the film if it is to be screened in Asia.
Love is usually associated with romance and some kind of peace but we all know that is not a realistic view of the emotion. Here we see complicated love which is aligned with sex, violence and death. We see love here as physical and platonic love seems to be a far cry away. Therefore this is a dark film and unless cuts are made it will not be seen in Asia.
Cinematically this is a beautiful film even though it is quite violent (in its own way). I found it to be totally fascinating.
“Permanent Residence” (“Yong jiu ju liu”)
In Love with a Straight Guy
We have all been there—lusting after someone we can’t have. In Scud’s “Permanent Residence”, we explore the life story of a young man, Ivan, who goes after what he can’t have—he is impossibly in love with his straight best friend, Windon, and this causes him to contemplate his own life and the lives of those that he loves and that love him. We learn about the issues of love, life, dying and death.
This is a sensitive film about unreciprocated love and in the space of two hours we become aware of so much—aside from the issues already mentioned, we must also add friendship and betrayal. Ivan lives in pain and Windon comes across as selfish but that is because most of us will identify with Ivan. Windon uses Ivan for money and while he may, indeed, be in the closet, he chooses to follow the demands of society and not get involved in a same sex relationship.
The film includes funeral scenes and this is something we do not see much of in film these days. There are things here that nitpickers will dwell on but they are not that important when considering the film as a whole. Sure there are not many Orthodox Chinese Jews in Israel but the point being made here is about acceptance and the character is important as a symbol of issues that ay people face every day. Windon obviously is unable to deal with his suppressed sexuality yet he parades around naked when given the opportunity. He simply cannot return emotion and his frustrations become contradictory. Ivan, on the other hand, comes across as a poignant character and one who is content to have his love not be reciprocated.
There are problems with the film but I do not want to talk about them because the good so outweighs the flaws that to write about them brings them to fore. Suffice it to say that the cinematography is excellent as is he acting and this is a film that should not be missed.
“The Sun Came Out”
What an Experience!
Twenty musicians traveled to New Zealand to create 10 new songs in just three weeks and we go behind the scenes in this fascinating documentary. Coming together are Neil Finn, Johnny Marr, KT Turnstall, Radiohead and Wilco make an album with all proceeds going to charity.
Simon Mark-Brown directed this look at a musical collaboration between these really exciting musicians who came together for a special cause. The event took place in 2008 on the west coast of Aukland and not only was an album recorded but the musicians performed three concerts. It is amazing to watch the song writing process and to see the camaraderie between them. Inspiring and intimate, this is something every music lover should see.
The money was raised for OXFAM, an international association of 15 organizations working in over 50 countries to find solutions to poverty and injustice.
Guillone, Sedonia. “Soy Sauce Face”, Ai Press, 2012.
“Sometimes the best kept secret is the one you keep from yourself…”
Tomo claims to be an “ordinary man with an ordinary life”…except for Jun. Jun is the object of Tomo’s lust and he represents everything that Tomo isn’t. He works at a bar in Kabukicho and is handsome, lively, filled with ambition and knows what to say and when to say it. Tomo, on the other hand is a recluse with no ambition. He doesn’t do well around people and would rather do mechanical things instead of interacting with those around him. Jun’s world does not include Tomo but the best laid plans of mice and men…
One night as Jun prepares to go to work, something happens that changes the course of his life. He is forced to face himself and look at his dreams and what he wants from life. Jun’s mother left him when he was very young and he was raised with Tomo’s family and in fact, he was adopted by Tomo’s father. Jun and Tomo grew up together in Tokyo and even after the father’s death, they continued to live in the apartment. Jun was the victim of an attack and Tomo nursed him back to health and learned that Jun had already signed a lease to live someone else. He was not aware of the way Tomo felt about him.
Guillone gives us a look at Japanese culture and we see that there is a great deal of respect for the family. Guillone is an excellent writer and has a gift for description and creating believable characters. This is a character driven story and interestingly enough, I found myself identifying with both Tomo and Jun. Usually we find one character that appeals to us but in this case, the two main characters are endearing.
Huchu, Tendai. “The Hairdresser of Harare”, Weaver Press, 2010.
A Look at Zimbabwe
I had no idea what to expect when I started to read “Hairdresser” and I found myself totally intrigued with the story of Vimbai, a hairdresser at Mrs. Khumalo’s salon. Vimbai is depended upon by many clients but things change when handsome and smooth-talker, Dumisani, comes to work with her. The fact that he is filled with charm bothers Vimbai and her cool exterior comes tumbling down. Needing somewhere to live, Dumisani rents a place from Vimbai and he asks her to go with him to a family affair, a wedding and there she discovers that he comes from one of the wealthiest and most respected families in Harare. Vimbai receives a warm welcome and before long a relationship begins between the two hairdressers. Both of them have their own agendas, however and secrets are exposed and jealousies emerge.
Vimbai tells this sensitive story of how her life changed with the entrance of Dumisani. For one thing, competition in hair styling began between them and it is questionable whether the two can work together. Dumisani is something of a mystery and as the story continues we learn more about both him and Vimbai. Vimbai is a very determined woman and she takes care of herself. Life is a struggle and Zimbabwe is not an easy place. Vimbai faces challenges all of the time and the way she lives is a microcosm of life in her country. Economics, politics and society are not easy to deal with and the author does a wonderful job of bringing these issues into the novel. It is ironic that Dumisani becomes the best hairdresser in the salon and instead of being jealous, Vimbai likes him and the jealousy, while there, is played down. She learns that he has a secret but she manages to get over the shock.
I know nothing about Zimbabwe and this gave me more reason to want to read this book. While it is fiction, it contains information about real issues in the country one of which deals with Dumisani’s secret (and I bet you can guess what it is).
I loved feeling like I was spying on Vimbai as I listened to her thoughts. As the novel progresses, we begin to have a sense of uneasiness and we feel we have to warn Vimbai about what is to come. When the secret is revealed, the novel becomes sad and I thought to myself. This is one of the most realistic novels that I have read in a very long time. The writing is both literate and smooth and this is a pleasure of a read.
“Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!” (“Se sei vivo spara”)
Imagine a movie that has a Mexican bandit, a gang of gay cowboys and a priest who fight over stolen gold in a place that is surreal and you get “Django Kill”. Django is our Mexican outlaw, a member of a band of thieves that steal gold from a stagecoach. Yet the American members of his gang betray him and shoot all the Mexicans who are around. Django manages to live and escapes his grave and pursues the gold while exacting vengeance.
Keep in mind that even though this movie uses “Django” in the title but that does not mean that it has anything to do with other “Django” films. Tom Milian is The Stranger, a Mexican outlaw and bandit who teams up with a group of Americans to commit a heist that will make them rich but once they have the gold, the Americans turn on everyone else and kill them (all but Djano who manages to get away). Rescued by two Indians, he goes looking for the gang.
Meant to be a spaghetti Western, this is more of a macaroni mess. It is filled with subplots that go nowhere; “Django Kill” really pulls out all the stops in an endless parade of the macabre. From the curious opening scene with Tomas Milian crawling out of a grave to the brutal lynchings and gothic horror drenching of one of many villains in liquid gold, this is a real treat for genre fans. “As with many similar movies there are no morals anywhere to be seen, characters turn up, rub their hands together, kill mercilessly and then are shot down or, in this case, killed by an exploding horse”. I understand that there are many versions of this movie in existence, which is not surprising in the least. This is really a movie that is a lot of fun and is not meant to be taken seriously.
Rosen, Rob, “ Queerwolf”, MLR Press, 2012
A New Kind of Werewolf
Blake’s life changed drastically when he awoke in a pool of blood and naked. He has become a werewolf and does not now where to turn. But then there is Ted who lives upstairs and he is a hunk. Blake turns to him for help and what follows is a laughfest of a read from author Rob Rosen who always satisfies. I always look forward to Rosen’s writing—he is entertaining and an excellent writer.
Blake and Ted begin a journey that takes them to Salt Lake City and Las Vegas in search of their pack of werewolves and they come upon some really strange surprises. Blake also realizes that his survival is at stake as he and Ted are being pursued by a rival wolf pack. Rosen gives us a new character in Blake who narrates the story and I love that we find out about him at the same time that he finds out about himself. I felt that Blake and I became friends and his journey became my own.
In creating Blake and his pack, Rosen gives us something new in that these are stereotypical gay wolves—I mean they wear sequins and sashay. Blake has heart as do the members of his pack and we get almost a new genre in fiction—a paranormal comedy. Have no fear, there is lots of sex in the plot but there is also something else—a deeper message. Rosen deals with the topics of knowing who you are and self acceptance.This is not easy to do with comedy and Rosen does so exellently.
Imagine how you would feel if you knew that there was a pack of gay werewolves on patrol in your city and then you will get the general idea of the book. I can’t rave enough aout “Queerwolf” and I do not want to give anything away. Rush, don’t walk, to get a copy; this book has everything—sex, comedy, suspense and a pack of wonderful characters. You might just find yourself wishing that you had fangs.
Dansky, Steven F. “Hot August Night/1970: The Forgotten LGBT Riot (Volume 1)”, Christopher Street Press, 2012.
We Shall Not Forget
I am so happy to tell you about a new press launched recently by Steven Dansky. Christopher Street Press is aimed at preserving our history and Dansky, an original member of Gay Liberation Press and activist, photographer and writer has been involved in the fight for LGBT equality for fifty years. The first print book from the press is a small u powerful volume, “Hot August Night/1970: The Forgotten LGBT Riot” and is about the riot that took place a year after Stonewall and a month after the first New York City pride march in Central Park.
The book is a collection of photographs and personal reminiscences by those who were there—aside from Dansky, we hear from writers Perry Brass and N.A. Diaman as well as from ten others and Dansky himself. It is so important to have our history. We have not had an easy time and we have worked hard to get to where we are today. We see that the problem of recording our history is that many people have different views and as one gets older, memory fades. For this reason, the photographs are important because we all know that pictures trigger memories.
This book focuses on the riot of August 29, 1970 when members of a group,“Flaming Faggots” came together to go to Times Square for a demonstration against police harassment. The very idea that an openly gay group would take part in such a demonstration at a highly visible place lets us know how important equality is to us (in 1970). Our community aspired to help make the world safe for everyone and social justice and our own survival become one and the same.
I must say that this is one of the most fascinating reads I have had in a long time. Even though the book is only 68 pages long and half of those pages are photographs, I found a lot to think about. I am anxious to see what else is coming from Dansky and Christopher Street Press.
Aldrich, Robert. “Gay Lives”, Thames & Hudson; 1 edition 2012.
Yet Another Look at Gay Icons (and Others)
There are several books that chronicle the lives of icons and heroes of the LGBT community. Robert Aldrich gives us one more with this comprehensive biographical survey from as far back as Chinese courtiers and as near as the 21st century. There are those who lived their entire lives in the closet and then there are those who have been completely open and are pioneers in the fight for equality.
Do we need another book like this? I am not sure we do but this is a beautiful book and Aldrich gives us some really interesting facts and includes several people that the majority of us have never heard of before. I love the diversity here and it is fascinating to read about people and the way they lived at certain periods of history. It is one thing to be aware of our heroes but here we get to learn about those who chose to live their lives quietly and away from the spotlight. It is through that we can learn something about human nature.
There are more than 70 short biographies here and we learn about how gay people lived at different times and in different places. The lives here reflect our special culture and our larger community and while we are all familiar with names like Capote, Williams, Michelangelo and Harvey Milk, how about reading about the real Aimee and Jaguar or two ancient Egyptian men from four thousand years ago or about a nun who lived during the Renaissance. The book contains wonderful illustrations and is a welcome addition to the canon of gay literature. My copy sits on my desk so that I can use it, peruse it and enjoy it whenever I want.