Monthly Archives: June 2012

“CLOUDBURST”— Lesbians on the Run

“Cloudburst”

Lesbians on the Run

Amos Lassen

It has taken me quite a while to get around to reviewing what is going to be regarded as our movie of the year, “Cloudburst” and I must admit that this was deliberate. I kept waiting for a time when I could use the review as a balance against some negative reviews but this year has been a really good year and we have had some really good movies. So I finally decided it was time to post my review so here it goes.

“Cloudburst” is the story of a lesbian couple that escapes their nursing home and tries to get to Canada to get married. This is a powerful and sweet story of two women have been together for thirty plus years and the reason they want to get married in Canada is so that family members cannot separate them.  Stella (the wonderful Olympia Dukakis) is a loveable but gruff butch cowboy who is totally in love with Dottie (Brenda Fricker), her partner. We get a beautiful love story, a wild road trip and a love journey. Directed by Thom Fitzgerald, the simple story becomes a journey for love with wonderful performances.

Quite basically this is the same old story but with the added twist of gay marriage. There is another twist as well—our two heroes are in their eighties. Dottie’s granddaughter tricked her into signing over her power of attorney and is now trying to have her put into a home. Stella, meanwhile, has learned that it is possible for same sex couples to marry in Canada and feels that this is an answer to their problems. They leave in a truck and pick up a young good-looking hitchhiker, Prentice (Ryan Doucette) and are on their way.

The humor is wild and coarse at times but there is a problem in that Dot is not well so there is an urgency to reach Canada. As we travel with the “dames”. We see some of the most beautiful cinematography ever and we soon realize that Olympia Dukakis owns this movie. She is totally Stella and if nothing else, she lets us know that “old ladies” can be feisty. She gives the film attitude that you will not soon forget.

I understand that this is the first time that two Oscar winners have played a same-sex couple on screen and they are so different. Dot is blind and ailing while Stella is vulgar and filthy-mouthed. The humor here is the kind that makes us laugh aloud and it is, at times, quite crude. But putting the comedy aside, there are some important issues dealt with here—same-sex marriage, ageism and the elder LGBT population.

Guys, do not worry—there is something for us here as well and that is a scene with full frontal male nudity and then there is the hitchhiker but this is a movie for the girls and they certainly deserve it.

 

 

“Fragments of Easter”— a new poem by Walter Beck

Fragments of Easter

She’s got her arm
Around contestant number three;
He’ll probably end up disappearing
Like the other two.

One of her offspring walks in;
A young petite Bible-thumper
Looking more flamboyant
Than Lady Gaga on LSD.

I suppose I could have freaked her out
And asked where she knew
To get a pair of those leopard print heels she was wearing
In a men’s size 12.

It used to be like that old Cheers song,
Where they knew your name
And they were always glad you came.
Now I’m only half-known,
About as glad to be there
As a piece of furniture.

Her kids are dressed up like department store dummies
And you wonder why they cry in public,
Scream late at night.

She’ll raise her kids
To be beauty queens and corporate kings.
I’ll raise my kids
To burn her kids at the stake.

“I can stop if I wanted to.”

Another phony tough
With a camo ball-cap
And a white t-shirt
Reading
“This ain’t your daddy’s bow!”

How tough can you be
When you’re hunting an animal
Whose main defense is running the other way?
I’d like to see him tango
With some real animals;
The kind that would eat him alive
If he missed that first shot.

Just another phony tough
With his arm around his girlfriend.

She had that pale glazed glance,
Looking like her brains fell out
Somewhere
Between her snatch and her ass.

A half-bearded hipster
In a pink button-up shirt
And stylish sandals
Ten feet away;

At one time,
Back when the world was right,
That distance used to be a lot closer.

I can’t eat
It’s too goddamn crowded
With all this half-known blood noise around;

A noise I used to welcome.

I saw salvation
Walking in wearing a black long-sleeve t-shirt;
The only intelligent conversation
In this packed madhouse.

Later that night
When it was all said & done,
I found myself in the sports dive
Just down the street

With a couple of old friends
Losing track of the amount of the beers
Cocktails and cheap wine
I was pouring down my throat.

Tom Waits and Hank Williams
On the juke
And old stories being slurred out,
I felt human again.

Woke up,
One eye half-closed
With my head softly pounding
A boozy, jazzy rhythm.
I read that success smelled like cock and vodka.

If that’s the case,
Then I’ll never smell like success;
I woke up smelling like I usually did after crazy nights,
Like cigarettes, cheap hooch and permanent loneliness.

One of the poetic geezers I knew
Told me to go back to bed,
I told him to go fuck himself
And think of me while he did it.

Speaking to the best friend I have
In this dirty writing gig,
I promised him a new batch of work
After I shook off the bitterness and jealousy
That comes after the nights are over.

I sat on the john
Shitting out the remains of last night’s bacchanalia,
Reading a volume of Bukowski
While I did it.

–Walter Beck

“PATRIOCRACY”— Our Political Divide

“PATRIOCRACY”

Our Political Divide

Amos Lassen

It seems that our nation has never been more divided and we certainly see that in Brian Moore’s new documentary. “Patriocracy”. Here is an unbiased look at partisanship and the film questions how it got to be this bad. We are taken back to where polarization began and look at both the Democratic and the Republican parties and their tactics, at the way Congress is divided and the role of the media in increasing the division between them.

The film documents how political pragmatism has decayed and we hear opinions from CBS Correspondent Bob Schieffer, former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson, Newsweek political reporter/Contributing Editor and McLaughlin Group TV pundit Eleanor Clift, news commentator Pat Buchanan, the “Gang of 6” Senators Kent Conrad, Mark Warner and Mike Crapo.

The timing could not be more perfect to see this film. The differences between the parties has been escalating daily as we near the 2012 Presidential election and the country is either totally frustrated or just does not give a damn. This is the most toxic we have seen the political environment and today’s climate is undermined by sarcasm.

The partisanship that we see today appears to have begun in 1964 with the candidacy of Barry Goldwater which opened arguments between the right and the left. Then the Newt in 1979 ended to the rift by not compromising on anything (including his personal life). Of course, the age of the Internet made everything instantly available and everyone with an opinion blogged it. Add to this the Supreme Court decision to allow corporations to pay for elections, we see voters being manipulated by fear. Votes are now ranked on the Internet before a vote takes place in Congress and there is pressure from everywhere.

With the main issues in America now being the “national debt, healthcare reform, illegal immigration, the war on terror, Americans of both parties are shouting at anyone who does not take their side”.  Today it is who makes the most noise and scares us the most are those whose message is heeded and those men who speak logically and reasonably are overlooked. 

“We live in a hyper-fast, hyper-partisan climate fueled by a ‘me first’ perspective and lightning fast media. The dark side of that self- centered position is that America as a whole is suffering. So, really the problems we face in America come down to our state of mind.  I do believe that there needs to be more ‘we’ and less ‘me.’ We do have some very big problems to solve in a short amount of time. And ‘we’ need to base our decisions to fix these problems on well-researched and credible facts, rather than emotions and opinions.”

 

Two by John Mitzel— Satire at its Best

Mitzel, John. “Inferno Heights”, Calamus Books, 2009.

 

A Dark Comic Novel

 

Amos Lassen

 

For those of you who do not know who John Mitzel is, he is one of the few LGBT independent booksellers left and his Calamus Bookstore in Boston’s Leather District is quite a treat. The number of books and DVDs is amazing and you will always find something you want. For the less literate there is also a fine collection of gay porn (both books and movies).

 

Mitzel has also written several novels and non-fiction. “Inferno Heights” is set in 1980 in Hell which seems to be for sale. There is really only one buyer interested in it and aside from being able to afford the exorbitant price, he is a man of ambition and determination. He wants to develop Hell into a spectacular real estate development but there are forces working against him who eschew change and they are willing to go the distance so that the status quo will remain preserved. These people include Bunny LaRue and his assistant, Helen Shumway (property developers). As we see the two sides battle for possession of Hell we get a lot of dirty dealings, intrigue, lies and deceit and a strange cast of characters that resemble those we met in Dante’s “Inferno”.

 

LaRue succeeds in purchasing Hell and as he begins to develop it, some very strange characters, residents of the underworld, decide that they want in on the deal. Hell will never be what it once was and Mitzel gives us a satire on a satire. To give you an idea just what the satirical level is, I can only say that to review this would be to give too much away and spoil the fun for a perspective reader  but I will say that the satire and irony slap you across the face—first with a tap and then with a sting. All is not humor and there are several very serious passages. If you are from Boston or know the area well, this is highly recommended.

 

Mitzel, John. “Doubly Crost”, Calamus Books, 2009.

 

Mitzel followed the novel with “Doubly Crost” in which he explores the other end of the gamut—heaven. Now LaRue has more plans that came to him after a three day binge as he is steaming the poison out of him. After a short nap, he awakens to find everything different than it was before he fell asleep and dead writers seem to be everywhere. He manages to find some that are stil alive and forms alliances with the attempt to bring about a new Heavenly Order.

 

“The Dick Book–Tuning Your Favorite Body Part” by Micha Schulze and Christian Scheuss— Fun with Dick

Schulze, Micha and Christian Scheuss. “The Dick Book–Tuning Your Favorite Body Part”, Bruno Gmunder Verlag, 2012.

Fun With Dick

Amos Lassen

It had to happen—someone eventually was going to write a book about having fun with your dick but this is so much more than that. It is also a history of your dick (in fact it is a history of dicks in general) and the book has all the answers to the questions you were too embarrassed to ask about your favorite plaything. Added to that are games and trivia and lots of fun useless information about the penis. Filled with illustrations, here is the perfect book letting you “what makes your dick tick”.

 

“EATING RAOUL”— A Very Black, Black Comedy

“Eating Raoul”

 A Very Black, Black Comedy

 Amos Lassen

Made in 1982, “Eating Raoul” has long been considered the epitome of a black comedy and now it is available on Criterion Blu Ray. Basically it is the story of a boring Los Angeles couple who find a new way to open a restaurant. It all started when Paul, coming home one evening, finds his wife Mary (Mary Woronov) fighting off a swinger who has come to the wrong apartment. Paul (Paul Bartel) hit him over the head with a frying pan and ended his life. When they had to dispose of the body, lights went on and they decided to advertise for other “swingers” to stop by and then the couple would kill them, rob them and dispose of the bodies. Everything was going fine until Raoul (Robert Beltran) appears and wants part of the action.

Paul and Mary are a nerdy couple who want to move out of their apartment building because of the number of swingers that live there. It is their dream to open a restaurant in the country but there is just no money to do so. However, when they kill an intruder, a plan hatches and before long they are inviting swingers over, killing them, stealing their money and…..

“Eating Raoul” has had a cult following since it came out and it is really nothing more than schlock. “The pace is rather slow throughout, yet Eating Raoul is also goofy and surrealistic. The over the top sexual innuendos and rampant sexual scenes are countered by the bizarre calmness of Mary and Paul Bland as they take care of victim after victim. Not really a laugh out loud movie (except for the botched robbery scene and the hot tub sequence) but it will make you chuckle.

One thing that was great about this movie is that even though it was obviously a 80s cult flick, the music was, for the most part, great. It gave a cartoonish feel to large portions of the movie and added atmosphere to the strangeness that permeated throughout. The hammy manner in which the murders take place also adds to the offbeat feel of this film as there is no emphasis on violence and blood. No gruesomeness needed, for if the frying pan does the job, why not use it?”

Here is a film that has something to say about swingers, s&m, rape, murder, and cannibalism without becoming tasteless. In other words, it has something for everyone. This is late director Paul Bartel’s greatest accomplishment.

“This is a classic tale of rags to riches, of a respectable married couple, down on their financial luck, who, with initiative and a novel idea, manage to fulfill their dream, a hotel in the country. If, to get there, they must pose as bondage merchants, murder their clients, rob their wallets, give the bodies to a petty thief who sells them to dog-food companies as choice meat, than such is the nature of success.

“RAOUL” declares itself as a true story from the Sodom and Gomorrah of Hollywood, where fantastic wealth co-exists with degrading poverty. The film is a moral tale, about steering the middle-course, about what it takes to be normal and decent. It plays like straight John Waters, but just as hysterical, even if, eventually, it cannot sustain itself.
The featured couple is called, appropriately, the Blands, and it is significant that their serial-killing weapon is a lethal frying-pan. Paul, played by the director, is the epitome of his name: balding, pedantic, so obsessed with fine wines that he gets fired from his low-rent off-license for over-ambition. His wife, Mary, is less bland, which is why she is more easily tempted by the dark side. While Paul remains sweetly virginal, she, a hospital nutritionist, works in an environment where she is continually harassed by lecherous Lotharios, and is knowledgeable enough to know that the most humiliating revenge is to have them receive their enema from a burly dandy.

Bartel is a Roger Corman alumnus, and this can be seen in the fluid, economical filming, and the functional set-ups that are actually quite complex. The film’s very classical structure is at odds with (piecemeal) filming that has characters seem, ineptly, to wander up to the camera, although this has the unsettling effect of making the creepy nonsense seem curiously real.

There is also a hint of suppressed Gothic in the telling – Mary’s hysterical normality is so camp she could be Vampira – while the Blands’ blandness is under attack from all sides. It’s bad enough to have ‘swingers’ (a charmingly 50s word for perverts that chimes with the Blands’ adorably tasteless 50s furniture left them by Mary’s mother until she dies) crowding the tenement for sleazy, Warholian, sado-masochistic parties, but to have one of them storm into your apartment, throw up all over your carpet, nearly die in your lavatory, bring your husband to the party to be humiliated/initiated by Doris the Dominatrix, and then come back to violate your wife, is an imposition.

The film makes satirical points enough – the rich and professional classes are all vile, violent sleazes, while the S&M ‘sickos’ are sweet, loving mothers who live in pleasant suburban avenues so indifferent to capitalist Darwinism that they help out the competition. The racism needed to keep normality normal is shown in the horrifyingly hilarious shooting of a store-robber, or in the final fate of self-confessed ‘Chicano’ Raoul, which suggest Peter Greenaway might be a fan of the film. The cannibalism theme has a long satirical history in jibes on the bourgeoisie, and it’s no surprise to learn that Bartel is a devotee of Bunuel.

But the film’s real satire is to show how normality must survive in a society, Hollywood, that has obliterated any recognized sense of reality”.

“THE MEN NEXT DOOR” from Rob Williams–Some Advance News

“The Men Next Door”
Wraps Production and Hits the Film Festival Circuit

Guest House Films wrapped principal photography on its new comedy, The Men Next Door, a few weeks ago, and the movie is already being booked at summer film festivals!

The film will have its World Premiere at Philadelphia QFest on July 14, with an encore screening on July 15.  Director Rob Williams and several cast members will be at the screening and after-party, so if you’ll be attending the festival, get your tickets early! And come meet the stars at the after-party on July 14

  The Men Next Door also has been booked as a Centerpiece Screening at an upcoming film festival – but we can’t formally make that announcement yet!  “Like” the film’s Facebook page to stay updated.

 The Men Next Door stars Eric Dean (Nine Lives, Arizona Sky), Michael Nicklin (“The George and Alana Show”) and Benjamin Lutz (The Love Patient, Bite Marks), in the story of Doug, a 40-year-old man (played by Dean) who finds himself dating two very different men – 30-year-old Colton (Lutz) and 50-year-old Jacob (Nicklin).  After falling for both of them, Doug finds out that Jacob and Colton are, in fact, father and son!

The cast also includes Heidi Rhodes as Evelyn, Doug’s best female friend; Mark Cirillo (The Seminarian) as Woody, his best gay friend; Christopher Schram (Requited – available on the Blue Briefs DVD!) as Philip, Doug’s #1 employee; Devon Michael Jones ( Sex, Politics & Cocktails) as Derek, Doug’s fraternal twin brother; as well as Ronnie Kroell (Eating Out: Drama Camp, Into the Lion’s Den), David Alanson (Bite Marks) and Rachel Alig (Bikini Spring Break).

“REVOLUTION”— Coming of Age

“Revolution”

Coming-of-Age

Amos Lassen

“Revolution” is a short film that is part of the Guest House Films compilation DVD, “Blue Briefs” and while I rarely will select a film from a collection to review, I decided that “Revolution” is important enough to gain its own praise. This is a coming-out story of Jack (Mojean Aria), a sixteen year old Iranian/American growing up in Los Angeles in 1989. Jack is experiencing turmoil—he is at odds with the traditional Iranian family of which he is a member.

Here is a film that has the theme of multi-culturalism and change. Jack must try to change a bad situation for a better one but his mother is not easy to deal with. She (Sheila Vosough) is terribly upset that her hired help (Busy Phillips), a Filipino maid, has taught Jack a prayer in her own language and now she is convinced that they want to take him away.  The maid has brought her own son, Gabe (Zach Cumer) with her to the house. The film is set against the politics of the time, a turbulent period that witnessed the Iranian Revolution and the AIDS epidemic. We get to see a mother change her attitude about her son.

Director Abdi Nazemian gives us a solid film about a different culture during a truly distressing period in history.

 

“L’Antisémite”— Banned at Cannes— A new French film is worth watching if only for its portrayal of aesthetic corruption propelled by bigotry

“L’Antisémite”— Banned at Cannes

A new French film is worth watching if only for its portrayal of aesthetic corruption propelled by bigotry

By Vladislav Davidzon|June 26, 2012 7:00 AM|1comment
Dieudonné M’bala M’bala (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Trial and Error

Studying the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial provided a reminder that it’s always crucial to confront Holocaust denialism, whether among Nazis in the immediate postwar years or from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today

The Cannes film festival is known, among much else, for its many cavalier offenses against good taste. When I attended it last month, I saw an orange Lamborghini with gold-plated rims and Qatari license plates circling languidly around la Croisette, and utterly unspeakable things went on at the invitation-only party at the Russian pavilion. Sacha Baron Cohen’s dictator lustfully fed his camel an espresso. Yet one abomination was officially averted: French-Cameroonian comedian, actor, and political provocateur Dieudonné M’bala M’bala’s new film L’Antisémite was officially banned by one of the festival’s infamously unbending edicts.

After trying and failing to find a DVD copy of the film for sale on the street upon my return to Paris—it is illegal to distribute L’Antisémite in France—I found that a dodgy torrent site online was hosting the work and sat down in my cramped living room to watch it. The opening credits of the film, which is co-produced by something called Iran’s Documentary and Experimental Film Center, are overlaid by a skull and crossbones beneath which runs a general address to the viewer, warning that “this film has no distribution agreement, and that its dissemination is interdit sur le territoire français and in countries that have ratified the Geneva conventions; but as the French legislature has no authority in the ‘international zone,’ watching it cannot be prohibited in nonaligned areas, neutral seas, and in space.”

The film is utterly appalling from beginning to end. The humor is puerile and the filmmaking technique forthrightly crude. But the message is by no means unsophisticated or a reversion to older examples of anti-Semitic propaganda. While there has always been a strain of anti-Semitic jocularity in French comedy (starting with Voltaire, passing through the popular anti-Semitic songs of the Dreyfus era, the collaborationist references in Maurice Chevalier, as well as his imitators, in the 1940s, and culminating with the casual redneck chauvinism of the so-called franchouillards), this is something qualitatively different—and worth paying attention to. A medley of paranoia, narcissistic rage, and twisted self-exculpatory demagoguery, it is also the record of a gifted artist’s comprehensive descent into nihilism and madness.

The opening 2-minute skit of the film consists of a Chaplanesque newsreel narration set during the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945. The quivering, grabby hand of a pinstriped inmate extends out from behind barbed wire as the emaciated survivor jostles with a fleshy cigar-smoking capo for attention from the camera. Dieudonné arrives dressed as an American sergeant and throws scraps of food at the beggar, commanding him with a hearty laugh and flash cards to “Mange! Bouffe!” (“Eat! Grub!”) The prisoner then reveals the existence of the gas chambers to Dieudonné. As a kitten laps up liquid from a Zyklon B canister, Dieudonné sniffs at the canister suspiciously and then dabs some on his neck like cologne. Together they sift through the ashes of a barbecue pit. “Chicken?” the skeptical Dieudonné asks. “No, those are children’s bones,” the prisoner tells him. Dieudonné proceeds to sit on a leather chair only to be yelled at by the prisoner “for sitting on my grandmother!” He picks up a chandelier and asks if it too was made of Jewish skin. “Bien sûr,” replies the prisoner before Dieudonné plops it over his head and electrifies him as if in a cartoon. The film also features guest appearances by the aged Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson and ghastly National Front ideological guru Alain Soral.

The sad tale of Dieudonné’s (he is universally known by his first name) fall from grace and folk acclaim as the multicultural golden boy of French comedy into ever more lurid and hysterical anti-Semitic gestures has been told so often that one feels benumbed at the prospect of having to recite his rap sheet. Having started out as part of a comic duo with a Jewish boy he had grown up with, he became active on the anti-racist left and worked to put together a movement of pan-African intellectuals. A prodigiously gifted actor and mimic, he has an undeniably energetic charisma that he directed into his successful one-man shows and a minor career as a film character actor. He then parlayed his success into the Théâtre de la Main d’Or, a Paris venue that he started and owns.

Yet sometime around the turn of the last millennium Dieudonné underwent a mysterious conversion to the religion of Dadaist provocation: public anti-Semitism. In December of 2003 he appeared in an Israeli army officer’s uniform wearing a black hat and fake peyes on a live comedy show. He concluded the sketch with a Hitler salute, after which he shouted either “Heil Hitler” or “Heil Israel.” (A French court determined the matter inconclusive.) He was tried on charges of anti-Semitism and acquitted. His acquittal was followed by an ever escalating, frenetic, and no doubt exhausting one-man campaign against the “Zionist world conspiracy”—and in particular against the Jews of France. He described Judaism as “a sect, a fraud, which is the worst of all, because it was the first,” insulted the Talmud, spoke admiringly of the “charisma of Bin Laden,” and decried efforts at remembrance of the Holocaust as “memorial pornography.” He got into physical altercations with Jewish teenagers in the Paris suburbs and with young Jewish men in an airport in Martinique. In 2007, he ran for the European parliament as a candidate of the ultra-radical Parti Anti Sioniste (whose platform is self-explanatory), and obtained the endorsement of the jailed international terrorist Carlos the Jackal.

Five years later, Dieudonné finds himself politically allied with the ultra right-wing Front National, led by Marine Le Pen. In between taking vacations with Le Pen’s husband and attending press junkets as a guest of various Arab dictatorships, he has struck up friendships with Islamist radicals as well as members of the Iranian government. (For the record: No Parisian, Arab, Muslim, Jew, French intellectual, dissipated American poet, or novelist living in Paris, or any entity inhabiting several of these categories that I spoke with had any clear theory about what triggered Dieudonné’s decision to merge his once-flourishing stage career with the apparently dominating ambition of becoming France’s most notorious anti-Semitic bigot.)

The movie’s story, inasmuch as there is one, is told through the postmodern technique of triplicate compartmentalization. Events taking place in “the movie” are shot in color while those taking place behind the camera, bracketed by faux shaky handheld-camera-style documentary effects, are in black and white. Dieudonné plays “himself” as a pathologically violent, misogynistic, homophobic, rabidly anti-Semitic degenerate alcoholic. There is no discrepancy between the persona in the black-and-white and the color narratives within the film and the persona he plays in his real life. Dieudonné’s essential riposte to his critics’ cries of “Antisémite!” is to flaunt just how big, how dedicated, and how significant an anti-Semite he truly is.

The plot of the film goes like this: In “the film”—the film within a film in which the actor is appearing—Dieudonné appears dressed as a Nazi sergeant on the way to a costume party with his wife, whose conversation centers pathologically on Jews. Echoing the cries of Dieudonné’s critics, his distressed wife asks if he suffers from the sickness of anti-Semitism. All their “friends and colleagues” have turned away from them. The scene fades to black and white, and the film’s prancing gay Jewish director offers directions on how to act. Afterward, Dieudonné and a Lebanese translator (played by the same actress as the “wife”) give a reflective interview to Lebanese television during which Dieudonné recites and cavalierly dismisses a litany of the criticisms directed at him. Asked by the Lebanese host whether the film is an incentive to anti-Semitism, he and the translator begin to cackle. There is no anti-Semitism either in France or in Lebanon, they rejoinder, this is merely a “political slur to attack people.” The elderly Holocaust-denier Robert Faurisson is brought into the film, which causes friction and infighting among the film’s crew. “I don’t like Jews,” Dieudonné confides to Faurisson. He and Dieudonné discuss their mutual hatred of Jews while driving a large truck and are then accosted by a bright light and a white-clad angel representing “the spirit of the Shoah.” Dieudonné wavers but then obeys Faurisson’s obscenity-laced command to run her over.

Soon after this, Dieudonné’s character’s wife in “the film” finds out she has cancer and accuses her husband of seeing Jews everywhere and sends him off to see a shrink about his problem. A circumcision scene takes place in a dimly lit room with a gaggle of masked avatars performing incantations over the child’s crib. They perform the operation with a scythe. As the spray of red blood hits the face of a blonde actress portraying a headstrong Jewish chauvinist named Esther, she calls her uncle Dr. Goldstein and tells him about the “monkey” who wants to use his psychiatric services. There follows a predictable bad-acid-scene routine with the shrink during which the film’s Jewish producer, a black-leather-trench-coat-clad biker, arrives and ravages Esther by force in the director’s room and then subjugates and humiliates the gay director by making him kiss his member. A vengeful Palestinian terrorist calls in a hit on Esther after she insults the Quran; the little boy who pulls the trigger is played by Dieudonné’s real-life son. A wounded Dieudonné whelps over his dying wife’s body (she is wantonly euthanized by a Jewish doctor) and shrieks, “Yes! YES!I am an anti-Semite!” At the end of the movie within the movie, Dieudonné and the actor playing Goldstein (as well as the emaciated prisoner in the camp) have overcome their natural hostility through viciously homophobic banter at the expense of the capering director and walk off together like Bogart’s Rick and Capt. Renault in Casablanca. We can all be friends, the logic of demotic and democratic misanthropy goes, if we just hate and tease each other equally.

When I watched the film for a second time with a French friend, the literary critic Florian Hohenberg, he observed that the film was complex because Dieudonné’s pathologies are complex. When I ventured that the whole ideological premise might be understood as Dieudonné convincing himself that all his incitements were a distancing lens directed toward something more noble—a sort of Racist anti-anti-Racism for redirecting the attention toward the plight of French Arabs and Blacks, Hohenberg smiled at my endearing naiveté. “No, no,” he answered. “You want that to be the case so that this has something, however tenuous, to do with reality.” He then quickly and assuredly unpacked—in typically breezy and sexy but methodologically consistent and classicizing French fashion—the cultural provenances of the film’s in-jokes and their concomitant relation to Dieudonné’s previous provocations, as well as the obvious ontological problematic all this must surely have wrought for his inner life. Listening to his brilliant deconstruction of the recurring themes in Dieudonné’s cosmology, I blurted out that all this was excellent. And: “Why don’t you write about this for the French press?” I asked. Hohenberg merely chuckled and answered slyly, “If I ever published any of this on the Internet I would be dead within the week.”

He may be right. Dieudonné’s movie was made for the Internet in every sense: Shunned by polite society, pursued by the anti-racist organizations, the courts, and the Belgian police, expelled from Cannes and thus having to toady up to Ahmadinejad to make films, Dieudonné’s last remaining constituency is his rabid underground fan-base of dispossessed Internet users. Paradoxically, with every fresh provocation he cements his status among young, deprived, and poorly integrated Frenchmen of Arabic and African descent as a fearless speaker of “taboo” truth to power. At the end of May, Belgian riot police broke up a screening of the film in Brussels. Criminal proceedings for incitement of racism are under way in Montreal and elsewhere. Dieudonné has been found guilty a half dozen times of racial incitement and defamation by French courts—usually incurring a 10,000-euro penalty. He is a leper who aspires to become king of the lepers.

After making a movie about coming to inhabit one’s artistic artifice and the collapsing walls between perception and reality, there is literally nowhere left for Dieudonné to go as an artist, a political actor, or as a human being. His war against French Jewry and Jewish organizations, which began perhaps as a stunt and has continued unremittingly as theatrical actionism, has solidified into the fundament of his identity. The spectacle of a talented man subsumed and transmogrified by compulsive-obsessive hatred is valuable to us as a cautionary tale, like anti-smoking commercials in the United States: As bad as anti-Semitism is for the Jews, it is far more toxic to the anti-Semite’s own soul.

“The worst thing,” Hohenberg said as we watched the credits, “is that he no longer has the glint of intelligence in his eyes that he used to.” As a filmed record of the way that Dieudonné’s obsessive anti-Semitism distorts his art and takes over his life, L’Antisémite may be a talented performer’s most valuable and lasting achievement.

“The Campaign Within: A Mayor’s Private Journey to Public Leadership” by Neil Giuliano— A Kid with a Secret Becomes a Mayor

Giuliano, Neil. “The Campaign Within: A Mayor’s Private Journey to Public Leadership”, Magnus Books, 2012.

A Kid with a Secret Becomes a Mayor

Amos Lassen

Neil Giuliano is the first openly gay male who is the mayor of an American city with a population of over 130,000 residents. His journey was not a smooth one. He was a self-doubting child, raised in an Italian-American Catholic family. He tells us his personal story and we learn about local politics and what goes along with them. Giuliano was elected mayor of Tempe, Arizona and then suffered an anti-gay mayoral recall that threatened to relieve him of his office. He was co-chair of the 2004 Presidential Debate and then decided to leave his political party, the Republican, because it was tilting too far to the right.

Giuliano was also the president of GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation as well as executive producer of the organization’s media awards and he has stories to tell that will elate you and also make you feel sensitive. While we may think that politics can cause problems, we look at Giuliano and read about his internal situation and how he deals (dealt) with it. Presently, Giuliano is the CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation as well as a motivational speaker. He is a man dedicated to public service and this book proves that.

Giuliani’s life story is beautifully haunting and totally dramatic. Coming out brought sunshine into his life as opposed to the darkness of the closet. His story meshes his personal life with his activism in politics, media, gay rights and philanthropy.  This is a book that is after your heart and as it steals it, you go on a journey through self-doubt, aspiration, faith, regret and friendship.

Written beautifully with grace and style, here is a book that instills pride and provides hope and tells the truth. For me, that is more than enough.