Monthly Archives: April 2015

“GERONTOPHILIA”—One Not to miss–Opens May 1 in New York

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“GERONTOPHILIA”

“Bold! Gerontophilia smashes sexual taboos”
– Abby Garnett, Village Voice

“Warmhearted, sexually explicit, and tender”
– Richard Brody, The New Yorker

“Marvelously fresh…
Gerontophilia has the authentic feel of a little classic “
– David Noh, Film Journal International
GERONTOPHILIA
A new film by Bruce LaBruce

Starring Pier-Gabriel Lajoie, Walter Borden, Katie Boland, Marie-Hélène Thibault

OPENS FRIDAY, MAY 1, 2015 IN NEW YORK AT THE VILLAGE EAST CINEMA

In this wry “reverse Lolita” tale, 18-year-old Lake discovers he has an unusual attraction for the elderly. Fate lands him a job at an assisted-living facility where he develops an intimate relationship with Mr. Peabody. Upon discovering that the clients are being over-medicated to make them more manageable, Lake weans Mr. Peabody off his medication and helps him escape, resulting in a road trip that deepens their bond. The always-provocative Bruce LaBruce returns with a delicately perverse romantic comedy that is both darkly humorous and emotionally heartfelt.

82 Minutes • Comedy/Romance • Not Rated • In English
OPENS FRIDAY, MAY 1, 2015

VILLAGE EAST CINEMA
181 – 189 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(212) 529-6998
For Tickets and Showtimes

Q&A with filmmaker Bruce LaBruce Fri 5/1 & Sat 5/2 following the 7:45PM shows.
Bruce LaBruce will also give a special introduction prior to the 10:30PM shows.

“AUSCHWITZ” — The Reality of the Camp

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“AUSCHWITZ”

The Reality of the Camp

Amos Lassen

Uwe Boll, the controversial German director, shows us the harsh reality of what went on inside the most infamous of the Nazi concentration camps. Aside from the film itself, there is documentary footage and interviews with German teens about

what they know about the Holocaust. In the film itself, Boll combines archival footage, dramatic reenactments and current on-camera interviews and the film gives the viewer an understanding of the “how” and “why” of genocide. This is a sobering perspective on a powerful, compelling and tragic piece of world history. Boll deliberately used a dull tone in the film which makes a deafening statement of presence; almost as if we found ourselves suddenly in Auschwitz.

The film begins with a commentary from the Uwe Boll himself (who also appears later as an SS gas-chamber guard) about his motive for making this film. Then young German teenagers are interviewed about the Holocaust. They do not know much about it, according to the film, though we cannot know if they really represent the German students in general.

The introductory section is followed by the main section of the film which is dramatized part and attempts to describe what it was like being in Auschwitz. Boll’s perception on the dehumanizing processing at the concentration camp is unique and he shows it to us in a scene of two German officers discussing the killings matter-of-factly. However, the director’s attempt to realize “a day in the life” at the concentration camp is brief and very heavy-handed. It is also weakened by other lengthy and poorly-edited scenes with graphic and gratuitous violence. The last part of the film contains another group interviews with the German students who seem to be quite informed, not like the students in the first group. I really wanted this to be a definitive look at the camp but it seems that being a low budget film, it was restricted with what it could do. The technical inadequacies hurt the film overall.

“Auschwitz” is unique in that it was written and directed by Uwe Boll, a notorious B-movie “schlockmaster” with something of a poor reputation and this has hurt him in the reception of his films. The film “Auschwitz” would have attracted me regardless of the director because it is a topic, that as a Jew and an Israeli citizen, that I am deeply interested in (although I have seen some really badly made films about the Holocaust). Even though I really had no reason to think that Boll had an agenda, I suspected that I might be somewhat amused by his film and I am glad to say that I was wrong. Not only was this better than other Boll films I have seen, it is actually a very good movie, even with its flaws. I knew this the moment that the film began and Boll addresses the watchers with a monologue in which he explained one of the impetuses behind his decision to make this particular Holocaust film. “I think it was time to… just showed what it really was. The horror.”

We have seen Holocaust films that focus on personal stories and triumphs and this makes it easy to hide the horror that was there. Those who experienced the Holocaust and lived to talk about it remind us that it was unremittingly dehumanizing, bleak, and hopeless. Other films have dulled popular conceptions of the inescapable suffering and tragedy that most of its victims endured and instead making the event seem like “just another backdrop for Hollywood period pieces.”

“Auschwitz” does neither. In the middle of the movie is a 37-minute reenactment of a normal day at the Auschwitz concentration camp and it holds nothing back in its unsparingly brutal narrative. Jews are packed onto trains, herded to the camps, and forced to strip down. Officers register the new inmates based on gender and age, while only a few buildings away camp guards execute babies because they are too young to be of any use as laborers. When the gas chambers are turned on, we actually see the people inside as they scream and panic and convulse in agony. We see no heroes and there were none then at that point. It was Boll’s goal is to show the cruel norm and not the exception. To the extent that we have main characters, they are the officers, guards, and other camp personnel, who are presented by Boll not as the snarling villains usually presented to us in Hollywood depictions, but rather as 9-to-5 day workers, otherwise normal men whose daily routine just happens to be monotonous and to involve unspeakable evil instead of standard white or blue collar drudgery. By doing this, Boll reveals an understanding of the basic problem with overt vilification; when you condemn a certain action, you make it easy for others to believe that they could never commit similar acts of evil, since they’re given the impression that the only people capable of such things are the most obvious of monsters.

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This is what Hannah Arendt said about the banality of evil. Some of history’s greatest atrocities were caused not by fanatics and sociopaths, but by otherwise well-adjusted and “normal” people who simply accepted the malevolent premises of the place and time they inhabited. This “banality of evil” is the central feature of Boll’s Auschwitz reenactment. By making the Nazis generic and identifiable even as they commit heinous acts, Boll reminds us that the potential for great evil exists within all of us. He even reinforces this message by bravely casting himself as one of the guards who eats a sandwich casually as he yells orders at the Jewish inmates or nodding off to sleep while leaning against the door to the gas chamber where Jews are in the process of being killed. In the film’s best scene, the camera lingers on two guards who are engaged in casual conversation. As they cover routine office chit-chat — updates on pregnant wives and funny family stories to requests for vacation leave and the occasional work-related complaint (two of the oven burners keep malfunctioning) – and we the viewers notice a faint rhythmic pounding in the background. Barely audible at first, it steadily becomes louder, gradually drawing our attention and then our curiosity until it suddenly becomes obvious that what we are hearing are the gas chamber inmates slamming desperately against the walls as they succumb to the poison. By letting the audience piece this together itself, Boll skillfully allows the sinister indifference of the Nazi personnel to sink in on its own, rather than attempting to force the point. This revelation and its moral implications insofar as the mindsets of the Nazis are concerned makes it all so much more terrifying and horrible.

Boll’s idea to bring in the high school students for interviews was interesting but the interviews are not focused or structured. Topics are explored substantively and they jump from theme to theme. There are even students who get the facts wrong and then there are times when they show brilliant understandings of history. We are not sure whether Boll intends to portray young people as being generally uninformed about the past – the position stated in his introductory monologue – or he merely wishes to offer a general overview as to their perspectives. Finally, some of Boll’s research was at times sloppy especially when he says that about 50% of the people on Earth don’t know about the Holocaust but he offers no proof for that statement.

As I said before, even with its flaws and weaknesses, this is a very powerful film. It is very hard to watch but very important that we see it. Evil here is reduced to clerical activity and to small talk. The film threads a fine line in which some might see it as irony but hopefully most will see it and questions themselves and the world that let this happen. The film demanded that it reach a point at which it could not be seen as a work of art as it shakes us to our very beings. Think about the last film that made you feel that way. It is important and it is timely that we be shaken by what happens to people by the hands of others.

“Nothing Looks Familiar” by Shawn Syms— Eleven Stories about Change and Identity

nothing looks familiar

Syms, Shawn. “Nothing Looks Familiar”,Arsenal Pulp, 2015.

Eleven Stories about Change and Identity

Amos Lassen

“Nothing Looks Familiar” is Shawn Syms’ debut story collection in which he brings us characters from a wide section of society and from places of danger or unhappiness into the great unknown. Each character deals with the same seemingly unanswerable question: “if you fight to change your circumstances, could it be possible to reconfigure your very identity?” Eleven strong, tender short stories follow every day lives and this include the sending out of shockwaves of the unexpected.

The focus is on those downtrodden and marginalized. Men and women alike struggle to cope, to survive, and to transform their surroundings and each of them is determined to come out the other side changed. The stories take us into a slaughterhouse and a home for the aged; we meet sex-offenders and meth addicts and a grown man who dresses like a baby and sleeps in an adult-sized crib. While many of us have not had experiences like the ones here, we see that these are still part of the world that we live in.

Sex plays an important and prominent role in Syms’s stories. His characters often act out sexually. We read of a woman who leaves her husband and son to have sex with a biker dude in a campground bathroom. There is an infirm and incapacitated senior citizen who is “taken care of” by a young orderly. Another woman in a hopeless marriage plays mommy to a neighbor who lives his life as a baby. It seems that the characters are trying to gain control by using their bodies since their bodies are all they are able to control. The stories look at the harshness into which some people are born or just find themselves in this causing feelings of alienation and otherness. While this bothers some of them greatly, others are not so aware of it. Two themes are explored throughout the stories are homophobia and racism.

These are stories filled with heart and without cynicism. They are portraits of our contemporary world and by reading them we should learn a bit about facing ourselves.

“BACCHANAL”— Hidden Desire and Dionysis

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“Bacchanal”

Hidden Desires and Dionysus

Amos Lassen

“Bacchanal” is  a strange and a bit pretentious 12-minute short film that is intriguing and good at building a sense of sexual tension. Two young friends reveal their hidden desires by a theatrical presentation of Dionysus. The myth as well as the girl, initiating and redemptive becomes the catalyst of the hidden inner desires. Director Manfred Rott uses a bit of bisexuality to suggest that the men in his film are really hiding their homosexuality.

“Walking the Bridgeless Canyon: Repairing the Breach Between the Church and the LGBT Community” by Kathy Baldock— Social Discrimination

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Baldock, Kathy. “Walking the Bridgeless Canyon: Repairing the Breach Between the Church and the LGBT Community”, CanyonWalker Press, 2014.

Social Discrimination

Amos Lassen

Kathy Baldock is an influential advocate for LGBT Christians in the evangelical church. Here in “Walking the Bridgeless Canyon”, she takes us on a journey of how the church has responded to the LGBT community–and how and what we all can and should do better. She “uncovers the historical, cultural, medical, and political filters of discrimination through which the LGBT community is seen. With the foundation firmly established, she examines the most controversial filter of all: what the Bible says about same-sex behavior”. The book is the result of ten years of research. Here are the important questions:

  • How do history, culture, science, and politics intertwine to create social discrimination against the gay and transgender community?
  • When and why did the conservative Christian community turn their focus on the gay and transgender community?
  • Should Christian fellowship be extended to gay and transgender people? Should civil marriages, or even Christian marriages, be granted to them?
  • What is happening within the LGBT Christian movement today?

Using a timeline narrative, Baldock explores the the details of various influences and influencers. With that, she also shares fascinating stories and testimonies enriching the historical journey. The book includes the resources and tools needed to make informed and wise, Christ-centered choices.

“SAINT LAURENT”— 1967-1976

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“Saint Laurent”

1967-1976

Amos Lassen

“Saint Laurent” , the second film about the designer looks at Yves Saint Laurent’s life from 1967 to 1976, during which time the famed fashion designer was at the peak of his career. Director and co-writer Bertrand Bonello gives us a very slick look at one of the gods of modern fashion. In one of the scenes at the end of the film, we get a close-up of the face of a model who as a way to appease Yves (Gaspard Ulliel) and his desire for thin eyebrows, has each of hers methodically plucked, then brushed with a dark pencil. When she puts on a little lipstick, we see an entirely new face looking at us and that becomes the face of Yves Saint Laurent.

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St. Laurent was a playboy and managed to sleep with whomever he wanted. Here we see him early on picking up models Betty Catroux and Loulou in nightclubs and persuading them to be both his muse and playmates while at the same time even though he and Pierre Bergé are lovers and business partners but that doesn’t stop St. Laurent from beginning a very intense drug-fuelled affair with model Jacques de Bauscher who happened to be designer Karl Lagerfeld’s boyfriend at the time.  It is only the intervention of Bergé that brings this relationship to a quick close, but Berge also seems to be to continually pulling Saint Laurent out of trouble that he gets himself into.

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I understand that Berge worked hard to stop this movie from being made which is interesting since it is flattering to him and we see him as the person who saved St. Laurent and the business.

Gaspard Ulliel is perfect as Saint Laurent. and Louis Garrel gives a brilliant performance as de Bauscher as does Jérémie Renier as Berge.  The flashes forward into the future that show Saint Laurent as an old man and portrayed by Helmut Berger, are the weak spots of the film.

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The clothes are wonderful throughout. The film ends with Saint Laurent’s exquisite Moroccan-inspired collection in 1976 which ended the creative dry-spell that the designer had been going through, and which seemed a fitting way to recognize the genius of one of fashion’s giants.

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The movie was France’s Official Submission to the Academy of Motion Pictures for a Best Foreign Movie Nomination, meanwhile Ms. Romand won a César Award (French Oscar) for work, plus M. Saint Laurent’s dog Moujik actually won a special Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his painfully sad ‘dying’ scene.  

“SMILING THROUGH THE APOCALYPSE: ESQUIRE IN THE 60S”— Producing “Esquire”, A Cultural Icon

smiling through the apocalypse“SMILING THROUGH THE APOCALYPSE: ESQUIRE IN THE 60S”

Producing “Esquire”, A Cultural Icon

Amos Lassen

Tom Hayes’ “Smiling Through the Apocalypse” is the chronicle of Harold Hayes whose editorial instincts produced one of the greatest magazines ever. Harold Hayes was “the swinging editor and cultural provocateur of the iconic Esquire Magazine of the Sixties”. Tom Hayes is the son of Harold Hayes and it is his narration that takes on a journey of unprecedented access to some of the most exciting and compelling talents that graces the pages of “Esquire”— Nora Ephron, George Lois, Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, Gay Talese and Gore Vidal to name just six. The film is a story of risk, triumph, and challenge told by the people that helped make the magazine great, and a son who only come to understand his father’s editorial greatness 23 years after his passing.

The film actually explores the revolution in journalism that came about due to societal turbulence of the 1960s. We see a portrait of editorial genius in the person of Harold Hayes who brought together iconic writers, photographers and artists to make the magazine the vanguard of the cultural revolution.

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Hayes dared to encourage unprecedented journalistic freedom and he managed to land some of the most talented people of his time and we hear from many of them here giving their recollections of the time and the magazine. Hayes also managed to give

bylines to established literary giants like Dorothy Parker and W.H. Auden. Of course, this took place at a time when “monthly magazines were gleaming, state-of-the-art, ad-stuffed engines of both fact and sensibility, and guides to a confident, contemptuous, and romantic new postwar cosmopolitanism.” –

There is this wonderful story—-In 1962, Harold Hayes, then managing editor at Esquire, went to the cubical of junior editor John Berendt and asked him, “Who is the most important literary figure in New York?”, Hayes asked. “W.H. Auden”, Berendt answered meekly. “Take him to lunch and get him to do a piece for us.” He did, and in December Esquire published ‘Do You Know Too Much?’, an article by Auden on the limits of education. This is typical of the magazine’s approach at that time.

Hayes had a vision and the power to make it come true. His son has come to the conclusion that as a magazine editor, his father was one of the greats.

The film’s big draws are those interviewed in the film and the film is also tantalizing as a personal inquiry by Hayes’ son who both wrote and directed the film. Tom Hayes also provides the narration in which he talks about his own relationship with his father who died in 1989 at the age of 62.  While they had a close relationship, Tom, who was born in 1957, didn’t have much understanding of his father’s cultural impact during the decade from 1963-1973 when the senior Hayes ran Esquire. So the film is really a kind of research project for the Hayes, the younger, who set out to learn more about a man he didn’t entirely know.

Hugh Hefner tells us that when Esquire stopped including photos of semi-undressed women in the 1950s, he saw an opening for a magazine of his own. Publisher Arnold Gingrich and Hayes decided to bring a medley of classy writers to the magazine and provide an exciting new design. The magazine achieved many cultural firsts including Diane Arbus had her first photographs published in Esquire and the magazine’s Dubious Achievement Awards, which Benton and writing partner David Newman helped to introduce. The magazine also published major political and cultural reports by Norman Mailer, Talese, and John Sack, who wrote probing coverage of the Vietnam War.

The film does miss an opportunity to broaden its appeal by paying too little attention to Hayes’ personal life, which was apparently more complicated than the film suggests. In a discussion after the Palm Springs screening, Tom Hayes referred to his parents’ messy divorce, but this is not mentioned in the film. Harold’s personal history is not entirely irrelevant to the subjects covered in the film. One intriguing segment deals with a hatchet job that Hayes commissioned on rising feminist writer Gloria Steinem, but the film never delves into the sexist prejudices that so many editors harbored during that Mad Men era.

Despite these, the film captures the 60s with grace and skill.

“JET LAG”— For the Last Time

jet lag poster

“Jet Lag”

For the Last Time

Amos Lassen

Sergio Tovar Velarde’s short film is dedicated to “those who are free, to those who have been and those who will never be.” It is about a loving gay couple that had to break up because of the impossibility of one of the men to accept his homosexuality.” We see a pair of lovers’ last hours together before one leaves the man he loves for the sake of social conformity seemingly unable or perhaps unwilling to accept his true sexuality.

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There is no happy ending but the two men share sexual embraces ad intimacy as well as heartfelt pleas from one to the other to accept who he is and the life they could have together but to no avail. The film was shot out-of-focus with frequently close-ups and this heightens the sense of intimacy. We almost feel that we are eavesdropping on their final moments. And we witness the loving couple having sex for the final time, hold hands for the last time and saying goodbye forever. It is realistically played and we feel the language of love that is lost forever.

“VALLEY”—- A First Film from Sophie Artus

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” Valley”

Amos Lassen

Winner of Best First Film Award and Best 
Actor Award at the Haifa Film Festival 2014

Winner of the Audience Award at the
Paris Israeli Film Festival 2015

In Migdal HaEmek, an isolated town in the north of Israel, we find three 17 years olds: Josh, who is disturbed and very aggressive but likes to be with his little dog; Linoy who wants
to be a famous actress but gets no support for her dreams; and David, the new kid in town who surrounds himself with books and music and blames his father for his mother’s death.
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The three adolescents, forced to deal with violence at home and at school, live in a world of cruelty and beauty where the desire to kill or to die and the will to live, define their fates.

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“Intimacy Idiot” by Isaac Oliver— An Extremely Single Gay Man

intimacy idiot

Oliver, Isaac. “Intimacy Idiot”, Scribner, 2015.

An Extremely Single Gay Man

Amos Lassen

Isaac Oliver has a new book coming in June and t promises to be a very funny look at an “extremely single gay men in New York City”. It is made up of his sketches, vignettes, lists, and diaries from his life. There is a story of when he hooked up with man who dresses as a dolphin, a story on how he has suffered on airplanes and buses sitting next to people with “Food From Home”, and a story of his hovering around an impenetrable circle of attractive people at a cocktail party. In each selection, Oliver shows us “the messy, moving, and absurd moments of urban life as we live it today.”

Oliver has been living in New York for ten years and like so many of us he has lusted for strangers on the subway, slept with many people in his neighborhood and seen the very best and the very worst of humanity as he sold tickets to Broadway theater in a booth at Times Square; he describes being a passenger on the subway during Breastfeeding Awareness Week and lived to tell the tale. His stories coming from “years of heartbreak, hook-ups, and more awkwardness than a virgin at prom and a whore in church (he has been both). But it is not all laughs as he tells is about his encounters with love, infatuation, resilience, and self-acceptance” and they all seem to cry out for his desire for intimacy.

As Oliver relates his stories of dating and sex, we all find something we have experienced and while this is all very funny, it is also serious and true. Oliver observes the world with sensitivity as he relates the folly of the modern world.