Monthly Archives: February 2015

“JOBRIATH A.D.”— “The True Fairy of Rock & Roll”

jobriath a.d.

“Jobriath A.D.”

The True Fairy of Rock and Roll

Amos Lassen

I don’t think that I have thought of Jobriath in years but I do remember his rise and fall and have often wondered why we rarely see his name as part of LGBT history. I was lucky enough to see Kieran Turner’s documentary about Jobriath part of the Boston LGBT film festival and found it intense and fascinating. It is finally being released on DVD through Factory 25 and MVD Entertainment.

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 “Called “The American Bowie,” “The True Fairy of Rock & Roll” and “Hype of the Year,” Jobriath’s reign as the first openly gay rock star was brief and over by 1975. Now, 35 years later, “Jobriath A.D.” spotlights his life, music, groundbreaking influence and the new generations of fans slowly re-discovering him.” Born Bruce Wayne Campbell, Jobriath lived from 1946 until his early death in 1983. He was a singer and actor and the first openly gay musician to be signed to a major American record label as well as one of first famous musicians to lose his life to AIDS. He proclaimed himself as “the true fairy of rock”. Turner found people who either knew or were influenced by him and gives us a deep look into the life of the singer. Using archival material and personal interviews, we learn about Jobraith from those who knew him well. Among the people we hear from are Jayne County, Gloria Jones, Jake Shears, Marc Almond and manager Jerry Brandt are among the interview subjects. Jobriath’s unashamed queerness was just too much for the early 70s. Director Kieran Turner has crafted a rewarding film as a lasting tribute to the creative talent of a major figure. He was enigmatic and very special; a man whose downfall was brought about two much publicity as his manager tried to find a place for him in popular culture. In his time, everyone heard about him and there was even a billboard in Times Square announcing his first album. Turner brings Jobriath back to us and we certainly feel his love for the rock singer that so many have forgotten and that others never had a chance to hear. According to Turner, Jobraith’s demise was caused by his manager, Jerry Brandt. America was just not ready for glam rock that was so popular in Europe. Jobraith was just too androgynous and feminine and even the gay community were not anxious to have such a “sissy” become the symbol of gay freedom. Unlike other glam rockers, Jobraith was very open about his sexuality and many did not like this especially if this is the way people saw gay men in stereotypical terms.

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I have come to think of Jerry Brandt as Jobriath’s Rasputin and even though he appears in the film (at 70+ years old) and explains his side of what happened, we see a man who was smitten with Jobraith and when the partnership broke down, both men were devastated. As Jobraith deals with his failure, he went into near isolation at the Chelsea Hotel and tried to regain something but this time as a cabaret singer known as “Cole Berlin”. However, as promising as this was, Jobraith fell victim to AIDS. It is only of late that he is being rediscovered by a new generation of gay men (and others) and thanks to Turner, I have a feeling we are not going to forget him again. He may have died a “nobody” but he is going to re-emerge as an example of what hype can do to a person and I have a strong feeling that, because of this film, there is going to be a resurgence of interest in him. He dreamt big and had epic nightmares.

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What is so sad is that after he died, his father went to his apartment and got rid of papers and manuscripts and then had them destroyed causing all of his to lose so much. Nonetheless, he is returning to us and we should all make sure that there are welcome mats at our doors. You just might want to add a second mat; this one for Kieran Turner who has given four years of his life to the making of this film and in doing so gives us a look at a man who so many never had a chance to know.

 “Neither for the ears of the elderly nor for those with middle-aged perspectives, Jobriath voiced the excess destitution of New York’s most tormentedly aware, whose lives were favoured by darkness. Cinematic themes of desperate dramas in paranoid shadows were presented as choppy and carnivalesque melodies…Neither America nor England was quite ready. “

Also included with the film is the music from Jobriath’s lost musical, “Popstar” and this is its first release.

“UNDER THE DARK WING”— Altering Fates

under the dark wing

“Under the Dark Wing”

Altering Fates

Amos Lassen

Johnny Boy (Fiore Leo), while on a routine job assignment, meets a vulnerable young girl (Jessy Rowe) and things are the never the same afterwards. George (David Graziano), his boss, seems to think that he can make money off of the girl but neither Johnny nor his boss have any idea of the dark secret the girl holds. Once it comes out, everything will change.

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Director Christopher DiNunzio has captures the supernatural and horror in this “noir-esque” drama that starts with Johnny Boy messing up on a hit even thought the mark is dead. The problem is that he was killed by the young mysterious pregnant girl who saw Johnny Boy at the scene. She managed to get away and now George is determined to find her. He believes her to be paranormal and he wants to use her powers to help his business. George who thought he had so much over so many discovers that he and Johnny Boy are relatively mild as compared to others.

The film is dark in theme and action as well as cinematography. Because it is so short there was no time to waste in telling the story so it is told quickly but that does not make it any the less effective. It brings crime, the supernatural and horror together and it is an amazing accomplishment for such a short film.

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Although this is the first film by DiNunzio that I have seen, I am going to find his others and watch them as well. There is amazing talent here. I thought to myself that if this is what he can do in fifteen minutes, I really want to see what he can do in a full-length drama.

All begins going downhill when Johnny Boy tells George about what happened on the hit and that he allowed the young woman to get away. George is upset with this and he figures that Johnny Boy is using again. Both men have surprises waiting for them.

I suppose we can call this film a crime thriller. Director DiNunzio uses his audience by playing with us (and you will understand when you watch the film). I really cannot say anymore than to tell you to find this film and to watch it. By discussing the plot I am in danger of ruining the film for others. Let me just say that this is more than a movie—it is an experience.

https://vimeo.com/78175581

 

”Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947” by Bruce Hoffman— Does Terrorism Work?

anonymous soldiers

Hoffman, Bruce. ”Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947”, Knopf, 2015.

Does Terrorism Work?

Amos Lassen

”Anonymous Soldiers” is incredible history that is based on documents that had not been available before about the battles that led to the creation of the state of Israel. The book chronicles thirty years of anti-colonialism that ended British rule in the area now known as Israel and the resolution by the United Nations to create two separate states. Here we get the (before this book) unknown details of how Britain struggled yet failed to bring together Arab and Jewish demands and revolts. We see new evidence about the bombing of the King David hotel, the assassination of Lord Moyne in Cairo, the leadership of Menachem Begin, the life and death of Abraham Stern, and much more. Hoffman shows exactly how the underdog “anonymous soldiers” of Irgun and Lehi defeated the British and were responsible for setting in motion the events that ultimately resulted in the creation of the nation-state of Israel. 

The importance of this book cannot be underestimated for the understanding of the origins of the modern state of Israel and what is currently happening there today as well as a look at the mind of the terrorist and his methodology. The book came out of previously unused archives and gives a detailed account of terrorist and counterterrorist campaign thus giving us a look at some of the most decisive world events in the modern age.

Author Bruce Hoffman is the director of Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies researched previously unused information and relevant documents to examine the positions and activities of the British government as to the insurgent violence from 1917 when Great Britain assumed control of Palestine after four centuries of Ottoman rule and up to when it decided to abandon the Mandate in 1947.

Hoffman shows how terrorism achieved its goal, what that terrorism was and how and why it succeeded when counterterrorism efforts failed. According to Hoffman, the political violence that played such a big part in Palestine when it was ruled by Great Britain presents an ideal case to examine and assess terrorism’s power to influence government policy”. About two-thirds of the book covers wartime and post-WWII Palestine. He begins his narrative with Arab riots in the early 1920s and in 1929 that were directed primarily against the growing Jewish immigrant population. Then, Jews were encouraged to dedicate more resources to their security force, the Haganah that eventually become the Israel Defense Forces). Hoffman spends time on the 1936-1939 Arab Rebellion, which was directed primarily against the British and we learn that the rebellion was made up mostly of guerilla armies and cells in rural areas. The concentration, however, is on terrorism in the cities and the founding of the Irgun that was a paramilitary splinter of Haganah.

While World War II raged, the Irgun suspended its activities against the British but its splinter group, the Stern gang (Lehi), the more radical did not. Hoffman relates the group’s activities during the war including the disastrous 1944 assassination in Cairo of Britain’s Minister Resident in the Middle East, Lord Moyne. The future Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir assumed leadership of Lehi in 1943. Another future Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, assumed leadership of the Irgun in 1942 and dedicated the group to go after the government institutions that symbolized Britain’s oppressive rule of Palestine. This was when Britain was dealing with Jewish immigration to Palestine, Arab discontent with their handling of Zionist terrorism, and what the Jewish Agency would do as the representative of the Jewish population of Palestine. The Jewish Agency had, it seemed, a love-hate relationship with the terrorists.

Violence picked up after the war and there were terrorist campaigns that targeted the British between 1945 and 1947 and these were under the auspices of the Hebrew Resistance Movement, an umbrella organization that brought the Irgun, Lehi, Haganah, and their elite fighters in the Palmach together under a common cause. One of the most famous results was the bombing of the King David Hotel by Irgun in July 1946 and blame for that is still passed around.

It seems more information about the timing and failure to evacuate the hotel has been uncovered and here we get an account of what happened, when and why. There were 100,000 British soldiers in Palestine, twenty for every suspected terrorist, at a cost of £35 million per year and they repeated cordon-and-search operations, curfews, identity checks, mass arrests, and even martial law but they failed to reduce the bombings, kidnapping, and murders of British police. Now we can understand why that was so.

There is a lot to read here yet even with that there are still some unanswered questions. We do not learn how many Jews living in Palestine either supported or did not support the terrorists. Would their opinions have mattered? Then there is the issue of the author’s own political bias. At first he seemed to be more sympathetic to the Zionist cause but then it could have been his disapproval of the British position.

The book actually deals with the political and sociological roots of the problems that faced Jews and Arabs alike. We get a history that is as “complicated and detailed and dispassionate” as it could possibly be. I think it is wise to say that this is not easy reading—it is academic writing written for academic readers. It explains how terrorism can and does work in an older world, giving credence to the modern methods of terrorism that we see in the headlines of today. Hoffman has written a comprehensive and definitive work of scholarship and there is no doubt that this will become one of the penultimate works about Israel for centuries of scholars to delineate their theories as the Middle East, especially Israel and Palestine, continue their war over life and land. It is meticulously researched, exhaustively referenced, remarkably even-handed, and impressively detailed. We see this in the fact that well over half of the book is devoted to just the last three years of the struggle. The focus is on the activities of the two Jewish terrorist organizations, Irgun and Lehi, and they are examples of the impact a dedicated campaign of terrorism can have on a government’s actions and policies. It is not a comprehensive history and the author makes it clear in the preface that that was not his intention.

Author Hoffman asks an uncomfortable question: Does terrorism work?  The answer that he provides is uncomfortable— sometimes it does.

The New Spartacus Gay Travel Index 2015

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The new Spartacus Gay Travel Index 2015 lists the gay friendliest travel destinations world wide.

Berlin: The Spartacus International Gay Guide has just published its Gay Travel Index for 2015. The largest travel guide for the gay community which has been around for more than 40 years now has been reporting on the legal situation of gays and lesbians in 135 countries worldwide for many years now. The editorial staff is in regular contact with the German Foreign Office, the foreign embassies in Germany , as well as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) -activists from around the world.

Tops and flops remain constant
As in the previous years Iran , the United Arab Emirates , Somalia and Russia are at the bottom of the Spartacus Gay Travel Index 2015. The countries at top of the index remain unchanged: Sweden has the first place, together with the United Kingdom , followed by Belgium , the Netherlands and France , who all share the second place.

The winners of the year 2014 include Finland (+7 rankings) and Reunion (+27 rankings).
Reasons for these changes are the new laws or constitutions, the legalisation of gay marriage or new anti-discrimination directives passed in the last year.

Under observation: Mongolia – Partner Country at ITB 2015
In 2014 Mongolia introduced anti-discrimination legislation in an aim to protect the LGBTI population against exclusion and hostility. Although homosexuality has been legal since 1961, it is reported that 80% of the LGBTI population in Mongolia has experienced violent attacks due to their sexual orientation. Mongolia ranks in the index in the upper mid-range at position 55 (as of February 2015).

USA: Another year of decisions
The highlight of the year 2014 from the LGBT perspective came from the United States of America . Many of the states are still stuck in the middle of the political struggle to enforce same-sex marriage. Many courts have already past legislation for the equality and thereby allowing the same-sex marriage law in the states of California, Massachusetts, New York, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, and Texas. The Supreme Court is expected to pass a general decision this summer, so the situation remains exciting.

Germany lags behind
In Germany , on the other hand, there is still standstill, when it comes to the equality of gays and lesbians. After the great success of the political Party CDU in the last federal election and the positioning of Chancellor Angela Merkel to the opening up of the marriage and the common adoption laws is not expected that much will happen in the near future in this respect. Although the abolishment of existing discrimination of registered partnerships was promised in the coalition agreement, there has been no corresponding initiative taken so far.

The detailed Gay Travel index can be found at: www.spartacusworld.com/gaytravelindex.pdf

The Spartacus International Gay Guide
This worldwide guide has been published for over 40 years by the company Bruno Gmünder. Whether addresses of hotels in Palm Springs , bars in Hong Kong or clubs in Buenos Aires – no other travel guide provides such extensive and current information on the places where gay men feel welcome and can truly be themselves.

“FAITH CONNECTIONS”— The Kumbh Mela Religious Celebration

faith connections

“Faith Connections”

The Kumbh Mela Religious Celebration

Amos Lassen

Pan Nalin, an Indian filmmaker traveled to the largest gathering on earth and did so in order to respect one of his father’s wishes. There he met with several amazing people and the result is this film—a meditation on time and faith. Nalin’s film is a beautiful study on the power of devotion. It brings together five stories that are in themselves provocative and totally entertaining.

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At the gathering there was a diverse crowd of tens of millions of people who had come for the Hindu celebration that is held every three years at one of four different places. This time we are a place near the Ganges River. The four places are where it is believed in Hinduism that drops of nectar fell from the kumbha carried by gods after the sea was churned. Bathing in these rivers is thought to cleanse one of all sins. The festival is billed as the “world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims”. There is no precise method of ascertaining the number of pilgrims, and the estimates of the number of pilgrims bathing on the most auspicious day may vary; approximately 80 million people attended on 14 February 2013.

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Kumbh Mela lasts for fifty-five days and among the activities are ceremonies, discussion, and celebration and it is estimated that one hundred million people attend. Many who are there deal with the question of either embracing faith and the world or abandoning them. The stories that Nalin brings are about Kishan Tiwari, a young runaway boy, Mamta Devi, a mother looking for her son who has been stolen from her, an ascetic who smokes Ganga (marijuana) to stay calm and he supplies it to others. Then there is Hatha Yogi Baba, a yoga who is raising a baby who has been abandoned. At first it seems like we are watching about religious devotion and the search for spirituality but then we realize that while this film is to a degree about spirituality it is also about the ways that we connect with each other.

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The gorgeous cinematography makes this a visual feast. Filmmaker Nalin’s cultural documentary feels very personal without being intrusive. It throws us into Kumbh Mela where we meet various attendees including people in power and naked and all those others who are looking for what is lacking in their eyes. Nalin uses interesting techniques that allow the audience to be almost like eavesdroppers. We hear part of many conversations yet we do not feel that those speaking are being exploited. But, as stated, we never feel as if these talks are being exploited to another less privatized group. People are just happy to share the excitement of being these.

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We see a lot of close-ups and this is one way of making us feel like we are a part of what is going on. However, the film is long (over 2 hours) and it feels like there is some repetition. This is my only real complaint. The ending is quite powerful but it does not have the same effect it might have had the entire film been cut differently.

“BROMANCE”— A Homoerotic Male Friendship

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If you put the words ‘modern’ and ‘dance’ together a lot of people immediately roll their eyes. Perhaps this movie  will change your mind though. It’s a celebration of the Bromance, with three guys showing the bonds that can grow between men, and doing it through the medium of dance.

 They do not shy away from the homoerotic edge that can come with these friendships, whether it’s acknowledged or not, along with the a strong feeling of how these peoples’ lives are bound together. While this is not per se a gay film, it is erotic to a degree.

“OUT TO WIN”— LGBT Sportspeople

out to pin poster

“Out To Win”

 LGBT Sportspeople

The documentary Out To Win, from Small Town Gay Bar’s Malcolm Ingram, is premièring next month at SXSW in Texas next month, but ahead of that a teaser trailer for the LGBT-themed doc has arrived, which you can take a look at below.

out1“Out to Win” is a documentary film that serves as an overview and examination of lives and careers of aspiring and professional gay and lesbian athletes from all over the world. Chronicling the present, framed within a historical context of those that came before, this film highlights the experiences of athletes who have fought and struggled, both in and out of the closet, to represent the LGBT community and their true selves. This film is told through the voices of pioneers, present day heroes, tomorrow’s superstars and the people who’ve helped them succeed. Featuring interviews with trailblazers including Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Jason Collins, Brittney Griner and more.’

Here are some other reviews:

Out To Win (BFI Flare Review)

March 29, 2015 By Scott Elliott Leave a Comment

 

“Out To Win is an interesting and intimate documentary of LGBT sporting history over the past 40 years.

Beginning as a retrospective, Out To Win looks at how attitudes and conceptions of gay sports stars has changed since 1975 when David Kopay came out as the first professional gay NFL player. Featuring interviews with several now-retired athletes including Kopay, Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, all of whom have lived through scandal and prejudice and had their careers damaged as a result of their sexuality being made public.

In the telling of their now historical comings-out, these elder statesmen and women of gay sports are able to tell their stories in a non-sensationalised context, allowing them to discuss openly and honestly how things have changed since their (often forced) exposure and the work they’ve done to ease the process for younger athletes who’ve found themselves in similar situations.

This first section serves very much as a historical document, with the retrospective chronologically giving way to modern-day gay athletes including Britney Gryner and Charlotte LeBonte.

In fact, LeBonte publicly announced her coming out via an article she published during the filming of the documentary; it’s hard for any filmmaker to get any more current and contemporary than watching the reactions roll in on her Twitter feed. It’s compelling and ultimately uplifting viewing that must have been a huge gamble for the Director, and happily it pays off in spades.

Of course, no documentary on such a divisive and controversial subject can be entirely positive, and Out To Win remembers this, telling the tragic story of Justin Fashanu, the only UK athlete featured in the documentary, who came out while still a professional footballer in the late 1980s and took his own life in 1998. The documentary’s overall tone though is of hopeful progression, but deals with these sadder elements of LGBT sporting history without romanticising or over-dramatising, choosing instead to highlight the progress and good work done in the name of Justin since his death.

The final section of Out To Win looks to the future, with interviews with up-and-coming, soon-to-be professional out gay athletes such as Conor Martens and Chandler Whitney, whose stories of internal turmoil and acceptance from their team-mates, not to mention the wider sporting community, are a hopeful counterpoint to earlier scandals, while still underlining the transformative and often traumatic process coming out can be.

While we see a flash of Matthew Mitcham’s cheeky smile and Tom Daley’s bum mid-dive, both are, to the British viewer, conspicuous by their absence from any further involvement. This, however, does not detract in any way from the stories told, with the filmmaker preferring to focus on mostly US-based and team-oriented sports and the perhaps more controversial comings out of players in traditionally more ‘macho’ team sports such as American Football, Baseball, and Basketball.

Overall Verdict: While Out To Win may seem to be only of interest to those passionate about sports or LGBT history, it opens a window onto a side of the sporting world that would normally not be available for public scrutiny. Truly inspiring and worth a watch to anyone wants to learn how a few brave people can change the Out To Win is a pumped-up documentary, primed to convince sports fans of the need to address homophobia within various games and to praise and support LGBT players brave enough to come out. Whether it converts non-believers into sports fans is another matter. I found the opening montage of out-and-proud athletes strutting their stuff (in a sporty way) to Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ to be rather exhilarating, and my ears pricked up when an interviewee explained that the appeal of sport lies in its guarantee of drama, but really I was only interested in the off-pitch stories. Every one of them is inspiring in some way, and all are told well, if briskly.

Though most sports personalities featured are American, the film includes two extraordinary Brits. NBA Hall-of-Famer John Amaechi is spotted in Market Street in Manchester as an overweight, bookish teen. He cites literary character Quasimodo as a kindred spirit for him at the time, as they are both met with amused and frightened reactions by people around them. Within six years Amaechi is idolised on basketball courts across America. Coming out as gay eight years ago and post-NBA he was greeted with praise and hatred. The story of Justin Fashanu is better known and far more tragic, his public shunning by his brother and fans after he came out and his subsequent suicide remains a grim warning for gay footballers today.

As with everything these days, social media will have a role to play in helping LGBT athletes to come out, providing them encouragement, offering them distraction and inevitably facilitating some abuse. When baby-faced college football star Conner Mertens posts a coming-out letter he wrote to his team on Twitter his whole life changes. Olympic gold medallist Charline Labonté is interviewed just as an online piece she has written to publically out herself goes live. We watch her scroll through tweets of support, an experience she describes as ‘overwhelming’. When Labonté notes how positive the response is, in the same breath she anticipates negative tweets to come.

In a statement included in the press material for the film, founder of Outsports.com Cyd Zeigler remarks: ‘gay history has simply been pushed to the sidelines of sports, politics and entertainment for too long’. It follows that Out To Win could not have come soon enough, and it seems director Malcolm Ingram has hit on a winning formula. I can’t wait for him to apply it to the worlds of showbiz and politics. world for the better.

 Danielle Davenport March 23, 2015 Reviews

 Out To Win will interest its audience, and perhaps even provoke awareness. It’s a fascinating documentary which scrutinises the intersecting, conflicting, and mutually revealing powers of prejudice and sport. As an educational tool, the film buzzes with energy and purpose.

The soul of the film stems from elsewhere; each interviewee’s undeniable passion, knowledge and honesty makes Out To Win a personal, impactful, and, at times, heart-breaking watch.

Unfortunately, as the film draws to an end, the desire to include as many accounts as possible distorts the length, structure, and style, while simultaneously diluting its initial tonal authenticity.

Burdened with scope and significance, Out To Win bypasses several potential endings before its final close. Nonetheless, this is an intimate, insightful and enriching documentary told with compassion and resolve.

 

 

 

“100M FREESTYLE”— Feelings for His Straight Best Friend

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“100m Freestyle”

 Feelings for His Straight Best Friend

“100m-freestyle” is a  little film about a subject many gay men will know well – trying to deal with your feelings for someone you know is almost certainly straight and won’t feel the same way you do.

 ‘Polo and Domingo spend their last days together between Ciudad Mendoza and Cordoba, in Veracruz, Mexico, before Domingo moves to another city. Domingo has to say goodbye to his girlfriend, Mina; while Polo deals with his feelings towards his best friend in the little time they have left.’

“A SPELL TO WARD OFF THE DARKNESS”— Dark Optimism

a spell to ward off the darkness

“A SPELL TO WARD OFF THE DARKNESS”

Dark Optimism

Amos Lassen

We follow an unnamed character though three moments in his life. Without knowing why we first meet him at a fifteen person collective on a small island belonging to Estonia. Then we off to the wilderness of northern Finland where we see him again and finally we are at one of his concerts where he leads a black metal band in Norway. Each meeting reminds us that he is an optimist. The film is actually an enquiry into a spiritual existence while being a member of a secular world. We see

non-actors in Scandinavia as they try to find their past and their present and learn about what to expect in the future. We see a record of what they have done and how they see that a belief in transcendence is a viable outcome of living in the now. It is really hard to decide if this is fiction or nonfiction so we can assume that it is somewhere between the two. It is a “a document of experience and an experience itself, an inquiry into transcendence that sees the cinema as a site for transformation.” I am not saying that I understood everything I saw in this film but just because it has made me think, I must say that is a worthwhile experience to have. We must ask ourselves if it is possible to have a spiritual existence within an increasingly secular Western culture.

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I suppose that it is easiest to say that the film is a collaborative journey across the spiritual plains of Northern Europe. Directors Ben Rivers and Ben challenge the viewer by “pushing ethnographic fetishism and self-reflective analyses to the nadir of its cerebral appeal.” The film is divided three distinct segments; as a whole this philosophical voyage is somewhat amorphous. The first fragment presents an English-speaking commune in a quaint Estonian idyll where the free spirits of the sixties continue to this day. They feel strongly about psychoanalysis but you will have to see the film to decide if that is positive or negative.

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In the second section we are in the Finnish wilderness that feels like a version of Thoreau’s Walden. The third section is at a neo-pagan, death metal concert in Norway. There is something here akin to Thoreau. We are reminded of his most famous passage from his transcendental manual for self-reliance; “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” This section opens with a pan shot of a dark Nordic island. If I have a complaint about and I really don’t, it would be that the directors gave us a warning before the movie by telling us indirectly that it is anti-narrative, theoretical and experimental. It would have been more interesting to discover this ourselves.

I understand that disconnecting sound and vision in a symbolic fashion represents the separation of the soul from the body and this is an attempt to objectively understand society through personal introspection. To actually do this would mean total submersion in its abstract methodology. The film is grainy to see and it uses natural sound—by this we get the directors’ multifaceted ideas. The film is a delirium of composite ideas that culminates in a lucid and spiritually sinuous example of art which “came about from the rhythms of everyday life, with the linear narrative structure of the film merely the stanzas of this poetic meditation on life and our soul’s endless wandering.” Then is it possible to examine our modern world as an agent for spirituality which is above the noise of daily life.

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We can take what we want from the film but I find it easiest to look at it as a “timeless narrative that looks to illuminate mankind’s constant search for what distinctive qualities make them unique, this philosophical examination of identity and faith is a blank canvas for self-prescribed psychoanalyses and soul searching.” We have a world that distances itself from the ongoing destruction of nature.

The point of stories is that they take time. Is telling stories a way to mark temporal movement? Or is its point to make time stand still long enough to yield hidden meaning? These are some of the questions we get in the film. There is also a suggestion that the conflict between man’s industrial and social inclinations versus the supremacy of nature is something to be studied.

A BFI Release

The film follows the existential exploration of a nameless journeyman (played by real-life musician Robert A.A. Lowe). We become aware of “philosophic experimentation and sexual freedom of communal life, the meditative reflection of serene solitude amongst green overgrowth, and the euphoric expulsion of emotional indignation of strapping on a guitar and screaming” and we reach the conclusion that for some people’s survival, touching darkness is of absolute necessity.  There is a link between the three chapters. In the first, a woman tangentially speaks of rave culture and the hypnotic effects of techno-trance music.  In the darkness of dance clubs worldwide, throngs of people move in sync to the throbbing repetition of electronic beats and this is a connecting factor. In the greens of the second chapter, our traveler seems to be consciously rejecting any notion of a collaborative spirit and in the final chapter we see our everyman on stage in dissonant harmony with three other band members as they create a set of songs sonically disparate, but purposefully comparable to that of electronic trance.

 

 

“A tapestry of beautifully rendered concepts…impressively committed to its poetic design.” —Eric Kohn, Indiewire

 “Elegantly artistic and engagingly challenging… It is a film that aims to challenge and provoke and succeeds on that score.” —Mark Adams, Screen Daily

“EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS”— A Different Look or Ridley Scott Takes on the Hebrew Bible

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“Exodus: Gods and Kings”

A Different Look or Ridley Scott Takes on the Hebrew Bible

Amos Lassen

Movies and the bible are really good friends. We have had thousands of cinematic epics based on the good book and here Ridley Scott tries his luck with the story of the exodus from Egypt. Compared to the other epics from the holy writings, this one has really special, special effects. Quite basically it is the story of Moses (Christian Bale) as he deals with Ramses, the pharaoh and the release of 600,000 slaves and their journey out of the land of Egypt and into their own land.

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What this film does is to recall those Technicolor biblical epics of the 1950s and early 60s. They were somewhat bland and solemn films in which the audience could see their movie idols dressed in sandals and robes. The casting here is very interesting—mostly American, British and Australian actors in Middle Eastern and African roles and they have caused some concerns as well as raise a few eyebrows. Yet this is how it was in early Hollywood.

I have often wondered how the Egyptians had time to put on all the eyeliner that they wear when they had to spend so much time oppressing the Hebrew slaves. Christian Bale as Moses is an interesting choice. He was raised in the Egyptian palace as the brother to the man who was responsible for hating the Israelites and I cannot help but wonder here that if he had really known who Moses was would it not have all been a great deal different.

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Director Scott is confused and he made mistakes all the way through the film. But there is also some good things here as well. The story is a good one—as it should be when we consider that it is 3000 years old. The special effects are amazing as are some of the battles scenes. However, what is missing is the human aspect of the story. When we read it in the Torah, we see the psychologically complexities of the characters and the situations. In the movie we get a tad bit of romance and a bit of domestic life but just not enough. There are some fascinating sections in the film but there is another major exception. The book of Exodus in the Bible is made up of two entwined stories—-one of liberation and one of self-assertion. The Israelites find a political identity and begin organizing as a people. Then there is the love story between the people and their god. He too is in the process of formation and at times he is compassionate and other times he is stern and strict.

Ridley Scott has God come to Moses when he is a young boy and he urges Moses to move toward becoming an extremist. Moses wants to help free his people, but he also feels a residual kinship with Ramses, a bond that must be severed completely. His military insurgency is not enough. The film is a study of power, loyalty and rebellion.

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We quickly realize that Scott is shooting for a goal of credibility in some cases and forgetting it in others. The movie works best when it is about Moses and his desire to discipline God.

The story of Moses and his spiritual battle with Pharaoh is nonetheless most associated in the collective imagination with Charlton Heston and I doubt that that will ever change. Scott has an inventive take on Moses. As embodied by a boisterously fierce Christian Bale, the man who went up the mountain came back down ready to kick some people be it that of Egyptians, doubting Hebrews, or even the movie’s peculiar representation of God Himself. Most of all, however, Scott zeroes this story in on the brotherhood of Moses and Ramses, and what it means to lose it. This knowing agony informs the movie well enough to overcome its own internal plagues. (of which there are many). The real strength of the movie comes from a very modern perspective on Moses. It is odd to see Moses spend over an hour of the movie as essentially an atheist, doubting the Egyptian gods well before he continues doubting the Hebrew one—until he runs into a burning bush. Fitting the actor and director’s own sensibilities, this Moses is exhaustedly human, as well as very cynical of all spirituality until he becomes a growling, fiery, and even maniacal messenger for it. Unfortunately Bale and Moses are not the same person.

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Sometimes it is fun to watch a remake of an established film just to look at the differences. Take this movie like that and you will be fine.