Monthly Archives: September 2015

“ALL ABOUT E”— Finding Money and Running

all about e

“All About E”

Finding Money and Running

Amos Lassen

E is a beautiful sexy Arabic Australian DJ who seems to have it all—she is headlining at a top nightclub, she shares a home with her gay best friend, Matt (Brett Rogers) and has a world of women at her feet. Then when she and Matt stumble on a stash of cash, they hit the road on the run from the crooks in search of a new life and possibly a lost love. The movie is a thriller road movie and a bit of a love story as well. Matt is her husband of convenience and they soon discover that there are no places to run but to the outback where E’s ex-girlfriend, Trish (Julie Billington) lives. Even though Trish broke her heart, E has to learn to face her past; especially if she wants a future. She also knows that she has to give her family the chance of accepting her as she really is and at the same time live her dreams.

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Director Louise Wadley’s film is different from other lesbian films in that E is not filled with guilt about her sexuality but a complex heroine who has a lot happening in her life. That she is gay seems to be just a small detail and incidental to the plot.

Although E seems to have everything, we see as the story unfolds that her life is really very complicated. The film opens at a gay-club in Sydney’s King Cross, as DJ E (Mandahla Rose) holds up her set with a casual hook-up in the club’s bathroom. When she finally appears, everyone is ecstatic, and she adores the love from her fans. She is cocky, the kind of girl you might want to slap to calm her down but then when E and Irishman Matt, her best friend, manager and husband (they married to keep him in Australia and as a front for her family) happen upon a drug-ring’s duffle bag of cash, they find themselves on the run and the complications of her seemingly trouble-free life become exposed.

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Director Wadley blurs genres and subverts conventions. E and Matt struggle to find a place to hide out, the doors are closed because womanizer E has burnt too many bridges and broken too many hearts. However, we see a different E through flashbacks that show her past relationship with Trish. E is a tender and loving partner, but can’t face telling her migrant Lebanese parents that she’s gay. Her relationship with Trish suffers because of this. Trish refuses to be a part of E’s games to hide her identity. “All About E” puts a lesbian spin on the road movie genre by pairing a Lebanese lesbian with a gay Irish man as they run through Australia.

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They’re trying to get away from themselves and the road movie is what forces them to have to look at the different things they’re not dealing with. E has the burden of trying to be the best for her parents. The pressures of excelling as the daughter of immigrant parents is a reality she constantly struggles with. Coming out just doesn’t seem like an option and she feels this very heavy burden of responsibility for her parents’ happiness. This is not just about someone not being brave enough or whatever to come out. It is very complex when we consider that everyone has their own path and way of dealing with coming out. It was too much for Trish and she, for most of the film, is just a sweet memory. E Has more important problems.

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We learn that that the bag of cash belongs to Johnny and he’s got his henchmen tracking it down. After E is unsuccessful in trying to convince her exes to shelter her, she thinks it’s a good idea to hide away at her parents’ with Matt. But, of course Johnny figures out her coordinates, but he’s gullible enough to believe E when she says she’s taking the money back to him. With her parent’s safety taken care of, E hits the road again with Matt. With Trish just a highway exit away, she can’t resist visiting but she is not welcomed with open arms. It’s been a year since these two last saw each other and Trish is still hurt. Yet, she agrees to let E and Matt stay at her place for a night or two.

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Love like Trish and E shared just doesn’t go away. They can’t resist the pull towards each other, and what results is one of the most sensuous lesbian sex ever. The sex doesn’t mean that their issues are resolved, especially now that Trish has been roped into helping E and Matt escape. No road movie, however, would be complete without a showdown and Johnny eventually catches up to them. What happens next is for you to see when you watch the film.

“POP-UP PORNO”— Grindr Stories Turned into Pop-up Books

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“Pop-Up Porno”

Grindr Stories Turned into Pop-up Books

Amos Lassen

Youtube does not allow sexually explicit content, but Canadian filmmaker Stephen Dunn has found a way around that by telling pornographic tales in the form of pop-up books. The set-up is simple, a narrator tells the story, and on screen we see it brought to life in pop-up form.

There are three videos so far in the series, which debuted earlier this year at Sundance, but we’re concentrating on the gay-themed ‘mfm’ (there’s also”M4F” and ‘F4M”) which tells the tale of a Grindr encounter which got sexy and then became awkward very quickly and is told complete with pop-up penises.

It’s an amusing (based-on-a-true) story and the way it’s told is totally entertaining. 

“Considering Hate: Violence, Goodness, and Justice in American Culture and Politics” by Kay Whitlock and Michael Bronski— Rethinking Hate and Violence

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Whitlock, Kay and Michael Bronski. “Considering Hate: Violence, Goodness, and Justice in American Culture and Politics”, Beacon Press, 2015.

Rethinking Hate and Violence

Amos Lassen

It is certainly not news to anyone that for centuries, America has had to deal with brutality that has been fed by the disregard for the humanity of others— the violence against native peoples, black people and immigrants and of late we have had the murders of Matthew Shepard, Jennifer Daugherty, Marcelo Lucero, and Trayvon Martin as well as the Steubenville rape case. We have come to think about these cases as being caused by hate but rethinking them we might consider something else. That is just what writers and activists Whitlock and Michael Bronski do as they tell us that “American society’s reliance on the framework of hate to explain these acts is wrongheaded, misleading, and ultimately harmful”.

It is very easy for us to choose to believe that cruelty ”is aberrant, caused primarily by “extremists” and misfits”. The remedy for this by the government is heavier government-based policing, intensified surveillance, and harsher punishments but this has never worked and it does not work today. We see that the remedies such as Stand-your-ground laws; the US prison system; police harassment of people of color, women, and LGBT people are themselves forms of institutionalized violence.

“Hate violence” reflects existing cultural norms. The authors look at social science, philosophy, theology, film, and literature to examine how hate and common, even ordinary, forms of individual and group violence are excused and normalized in popular culture and political discussion. And yes the word is normalized; a way of looking at this in a way we never thought would be accepted as normal. (But then we can try to define the word normal and see that there is no “normal” definition. We deny this kind of brutality and this is what hurts society’s ideas about goodness and justice. We are asked to

“radically reimagine the meaning and structures of justice within a new framework of community wholeness, collective responsibility, and civic goodness”. Reading this causes us to think about how hate works in out own lives. Cultural change can only happen when we transform our consciousness to understand that no structural challenge will happen. We have for so long been told that we are responsible for the actions of others something I have never understood. What I now take that to mean is that by helping to maintain what is here allows me to work toward other possibilities. By not doing so I help those who react violently know that their actions are socially acceptable.

The book inspires the reader to think again and find new ways of dealing with harassment, violence and bullying. This book introduced us to new thoughts and new ways of dealing with harassment, bullying, and violence and follows that up with a section on books, videos, and online articles for more information and continued study. We get an intellectual look at how a culture of hate has evolved across time and continues to persist.

“AND THEY CALL IT SUMMER”— Dino and Anna

and they call it summer

“And They Call It Summer” (“E la chiamano estate”)

Dino and Anna

Amos Lassen

Dino is a forty-year-old man who loves Anna but he cannot touch and/or embrace her. He is an anesthetist by day and a compulsive lover at night who seeks satisfaction with prostitutes and swingers. The early death of his brother and mother left him deeply marked and this led to his sexual addiction. He reject’s Anna’s love and advances and instead meets her partner’s and asks them to come back to her or at least provide her with the pleasure he denies her and that she deserves.

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When he tells Anna to find a lover, she dismisses the idea but ultimately gives in but she feels so strongly for Dino that she really gets no satisfaction. It just goes to show that he feelings for him are more powerful than physical pleasure and frustration.

Directed by Paolo Franchi, this is quite a film. It is courageous and stylish film; explicit and intimate. It attempts honestly to deal with the issues of longing and desire and it questions the frailties of the male sexual imagination. A man and woman are haunted by the past that lingers on. They cannot live together but they can’t be apart as well. They exist in a emotional wasteland trying to come to terms with their own desperation.

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Some will hate this film but it will change how we look at love, relationships and even movies. Isabella Ferrari’s performance as Anna is impressing and stunning. She put herself completely in the hands of the director, giving it all, reaching the audience with her desperation, her pain, her loneliness caused by an impossible love.

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The film is a non-linear narrative and uses flashbacks to tell the story. We see a different kind of love here and it is far from the idea of happiness at all costs. It explores the sentimental life of a modern and successful couple in which love does not exist and will never exist . Dino and Anna are a picture-perfect couple, but the truth is different: the lack of sex, love, confidence, honesty hiding under this surface will face us with something that probably we are not ready to accept. What we come to understand here is that there is a different way to love, full of tragedy and pain, and a different way to “be together” that makes Dino and Anna feel alive and fulfilled. We see that there is no need to be happy to be alive and even though we may not agree with this but we see it japanning on the screen.

“DAY AND NIGHT”— Two Young Women

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“Day and Night” (“Tag und Nacht”)

Two Young Women

Amos Lassen

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Sabine  Derflinger’s “Day and Night” is a matter-of-fact look at two young women who consider prostitution an adventure. This changes when the real world catches up with them.

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Lea (Anna Rot) and Hanna (Magdalena Kronschläger) are students in Wien, Austria and they are as different as night and day. They decide to try prostitution to make some easy money. They have a pact that says that they will stop with it as soon as one of them wants to stop selling her body. They have tangled themselves up in a dangerous game of sex, money and the false assumption that they are able to control the game.

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Hanna is shy and serious; Lea is open and sexy, a young woman who thinks life is a game. She is the stronger of the two and she makes the decisions and exerts power over Hanna. For a while the girls were doing fine and making money but then things get serous and disaster is on its way. I found it all to be a bit predictable and not as deep of a film as I would have liked to have seen on the subject. It seemed to me to be quite a cold film and it was impossible to identify with any of the characters but then again that is just my opinion.

“THE DINNER— Family Tensions

the dinner

“The Dinner” (“I nostri ragazzi”)

Family Tensions

Amos Lassen

“The Dinner” is about two brothers and their wives, and the interactions between them and their two high school age children. When the kids get into serious trouble together, the parents are affected by what they did and questions arise. The film is based on a novel by Herman Koch. Director Ivano De Matteo’s version takes liberties with the novel that opens the action beyond a single dinner conversation, giving context to the hard choices at the heart of the drama.

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The film opens with two drivers exchanging heated words when one of them blows a red light because he is talking on his cell phone. As tempers flare, the offended driver stops his car, pulls out a baseball bat, and goes after the cell phone user. The driver’s side window shatters, but not from the bat—the driver is a police officer, and he fires a fatal shot into the man in self-defense. The bullet passes through the man and strikes his 10-year-old son Stefano (Lupo De Matteo), who is sitting in the passenger seat and was pleading with his father to stop arguing. This incident brings the two brothers at the heart of the story, Massimo (Alessandro Gassman) and Paolo (Luigi Lo Cascio), together, the former a lawyer defending the shooter and the latter a physician treating the injured boy.

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 Paolo and his wife Clara (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) are a middle class couple with one son, Michele (Jacopo Olmo Antinori), who hangs out with his older cousin Benedetta also known as Benny (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) watching embarrassing and violent videos on TV and YouTube. Benny’s father, Massimo, is a wealthy widower who is on his second marriage to Sofia (Barbora Bobulova) and they have a new daughter. Clara hates Sofia, and Paolo has some long-standing enmity toward his brother, but like clockwork, the two couples meet at Massimo’s favorite restaurant once a month.

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Michele has not been doing well in school, and Paolo wants to keep him from going with Benny to a party. At the party, Michele is hopelessly out of place among the college-age crowd and ends up getting very drunk. He decides to leave, and Benny goes after him. The teens are very quiet the next day, but when Clara watches an Italian version of “Crimestoppers,” she sees a video of two people beating and kicking a homeless woman and dragging her along the street. Clara views the video again on her son’s laptop the next day after he goes to school, and is shocked to confirm her fear the two who beat the man might be Benny and Michele. Later, Benny pumps her father for legal information about the crime, which she claims her friends committed; Massimo goes to an unsuspecting Paolo and says he suspects that their children were responsible. Angry at Clara for keeping him in the dark, Paolo forces the truth out of Michele. It is then up to the families to decide whether to cover for their children or turn them in.

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Here we come fact-to-face with the human struggle between emotion and reason. Clara and Paolo are horrified that Massimo can defend the policeman who left a family man dead and his son temporarily paralyzed, but Massimo believes that everyone deserves a defense. This is the kind of rational thinking one needs and expects from a lawyer. Paolo is overcome with shock and horror at what his son and niece have done and he yells at Massimo, Clara, and Sofia for talking about the best way to keep them from paying for their crime. Paolo’s conflict is enormous, flipping constantly between love for his son and his belief in justice and this is a challenge to his liberal philosophy. We see Clara’s hypocrisy as she watches r “Crimestoppers” show to see if justice will be served while at the same time choosing to believe the lies of her son until he is forced into confessing and then actively seeking to keep the truth from getting out. Sofia is a bit more dispassionate, as Benny is not her natural daughter, but she will do whatever Massimo believes is right.

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Director De Matteo puts the blame directly where it belongs—on human nature, on people driven to violence by thoughtlessness or the view that some people’s lives are worthless. Envy certainly plays a role in how Paolo and Clara regard Massimo and Sofia and their luxurious lifestyle. The way we feel as we watch is constantly shifting, and our beliefs about the characters reinforced and challenged again and again.

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The film is totally naturalistic film style and the performances are wonderful all around but especially Lo Cascio and Mezzogiorno who take this film and its somewhat familiar theme to new and interesting places. It is, however, a bit hard to really know the characters because we meet them at a particularly stressful time.

“SOMEFARWHERE”— Hostage Taking, War Crimes and Gay Sexuality in the Middle East

somefarwhere

“Somefarwhere”

Hostage Taking, War Crimes and Gay Sexuality in the Middle East

Amos Lassen

Talented director Everett Lewis brings us a dramatic story of intrigue in the Middle East. Price (Bryce Blais) goes to a Middle East country on a pretext of being a tourist. However his real purpose is to find his best friend/lover Bo (Drew Boylan) who suddenly disappeared without a trace. In a country where homosexual acts alone can get a gay person beheaded, we look at the question of whether Price can find Bo without revealing his true purpose. Price meets Marwan (Khaled Haider) a taxi driver/tourist who guides of Price and detective Combs (Dale Dymkoski) and we wonder if they know something about Bo’s disappearance.

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It turns out that, that Bo was caught up in a war crime that his U.S. despite unsatisfactory Armed Forces accounts of what had happened. Bo, who is so much the focus of the plot, is seen only seldom in the movie, filmed directly only at its conclusion. As it turns out, Bo had not participated in the American Marines’ brutality, but has been captured and is being held hostage, either for ransom, if that work out, or for revenge execution, to be beheaded by his Arab captors.

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Price’s efforts to find and to rescue Bo mean that there will be many sometimes complicated doings— spy-vs.-spy antics, backstabbing, double-dealing, and slippery, shifting motivations occurs on the part of those who either promise to further Bo’s release or who really want to slit the Bo’s throat and possibly to the point of beheading him (because, like Price, Bo is gay). During all of this, Price himself falls into the hands of some of those who already have been part of the guerrilla cell holding Bo.

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To say more would be to reveal “spoilers”, so I will not go further in giving the Amazon user reading this review some idea of what this film is about. Anyway, I could benefit from further viewings over more time to sort it all out! Another complication includes Marwan, the Arab guide who is helping Price and who falls more than a little bit in love with him. Price began to think that Bo was dead and responded likewise to Marwan. Combs also wants to have sex with Price.

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I can only imagine how difficult it was to make this film because of the setting and due to the fact that the most homoerotic scenes were shot in a Middle Eastern region where fundamentalist Islam runs rampant. There are many moments and scenes of male-on-male romantic intimacy, especially of men kissing one another tenderly, leisurely, and passionately.

“BELTRACCHI: THE ART OF FORGERY”— Forty Years of Forgeries

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“BELTRACCHI: THE ART OF FORGERY”

Forty Years of Forgeries

Amos Lassen

For nearly forty years, Wolfgang Beltracchi tricked the international art world by forging and selling paintings of early 20th-century masters. A larger-than-life personality who was responsible for the biggest art forgery scandal of the postwar era. Here is his story and it is mesmerizing, thought provoking and surprisingly amusing. He is an expert in art history, theory and painting techniques and he tracked down the gaps in the oeuvres of great artists—Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, Heinrich Campendonk, André Derain and Max Pechstein and filled them with his own works. He and his wife Helene would then introduce them to the art world as originals. What makes these forgeries truly one-of-a-kind is that they are never mere copies of once-existing paintings, but products of Beltracchi’s imagination, works “in the style of” famous early 20th-century artists. With his forgeries, he fooled renowned experts, curators and art dealers. The auctioneers Sotheby’s and Christie’s were hoodwinked, just like Hollywood star Steve Martin and other collectors throughout the world.

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We see Wolfgang and his wife Helene Beltracchi wittingly and charmingly chat openly—and with great wit and charm—about their quixotic adventures in an overheated art world that was ruled by blind greed, and in which apparently no one has an answer to the question as to what is an original, and what is a forgery… Beltracchi is an engaging man who is a warm-hearted husband and father, and an impossibly self-confident artist. His dialogues are full of bright wit and he has incredible talent as a painter. The film reveals his expertise in forging paintings from the early 20th century, which were so masterfully done that art experts, museums and auction houses around the world were duped and exposed.

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Claiming these pieces had been part of private collections, Beltracchi and his wife, Helene were able to make millions. The con couldn’t last forever, and Beltracchi was eventually discovered. He was arrested and sentenced to a rather lenient prison term, that allowed him and his wife to leave prison during the day to work together. Beltracchi has never revealed how many forgeries he actually made. The film sheds some light on his process, his arrest, and how Beltracchi’s fakes may be even more popular than his own work.

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The first thing that a viewer will notice about Wolfgang Beltracchi is the almost total lack of appreciation for art. He is not impressed by those, many call masters of the craft. It’s a strange counterpoint to the way that art dealers seem more concerned about what they’ll earn and not what they’re selling.

Perhaps that is part of his reason for his forgeries— it was a way to ‘stick it to them’. Whatever the reason, Beltracchi is obviously talented, but may be more known for his fakes instead of his real work. The documentary does not go as deep into the life and crimes of Beltracchi as one may like, but it does give a great overview of everything, including the piece of art that finally caught up with him.

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The film is very interesting but one that doesn’t dig too deeply, which is a little disappointing. It’s still worth watching, but don’t expect anything too revealing.“Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery” finds the untrained German artist and his wife and accomplice, Helene, in the midst of serving a perversely lenient prison sentence, allowed as they are to work in his home studio by day before returning to jail at night. Constructed around protracted scenes of Beltracchi working on new faux-masterpieces, Arne Birkenstock’s documentary allows us to observe his immensely meticulous process, such as his accounting for the amount of dust within the borders of his canvases. The modest depiction of the man and extends to the interviews, as discussions with art historians and auctioneers are sparingly used to fill in contextual gaps. They also tell us of a systemic complacency within the art world and the increasingly record-breaking auction sales that made it very easy for Beltracchi to convince dealers and gallery owners that the forgeries he sold were genuine.

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At times, it appears as if the film doesn’t hold Beltracchi accountable for his crimes and seemingly celebrates the spoils they brought, especially coming after an ill-conceived, rapid-fire montage of home movies (set to blaring pop music) that show Beltracchi and his family in their then-new mansion of a house and the highly extravagant lifestyle that came with it. Director Birkenstock gives great freedom to viewers to form their own opinions about his subject. Rarely do the interviewees express their own thoughts on Beltracchi the man, as Birkenstock lets him speak for himself, for better and for worse. We, on one hand, see him behaving tenderly with his wife and then speaking about his own genius. He tells us about the thrill he has when he signs a painting in another artist’s name. Because the film admirably downplays his reputation, the man emerges less like a con man and more like a flawed individual who has a talent for fooling people.

The Beltracchis look like two aging hippies (he’s now 61), with long flowing hair and go-with-the-flow nonchalance. (He was already painting fakes when he met Helene in February 1992.) Together, hand in hand, they show how they would search flea markets for old, anonymous canvases and frames with historical gallery identification to paint over. They then would go home to a beautiful modern villa or to his studio. Their elegant surroundings were not just a benefit but also a convincing cover for her family’s fictional art collection.

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They are very well informed about art and the market and came across as credible collectors. Wolfgang grew up going with his father on his rounds as a church conservator and restorer. Wolfgang would keep busy sketching and he soon surpassed his father’s skills. Wolfgang learned that the Old Masters took too much time to copy properly. After dropping out of art school, he kept up with the field and gradually realized that there tended to be a pre-World War I gap in the oeuvres of hot-selling painters.

Sometimes works were known by name and even description but had been missing over the years of wars. Specialists sometimes figured that gifted artists were probably prescient about the changes that would overtake the continent, and scholars were hot to find the works with those hints of premonitions. Wolfgang casually demonstrates how he would go to the locales the artists were known to frequent and paint from the same scenery, adding in touches that pointed toward the future. In effect, he gave the art historians what they were looking for, and these authenticators, called in by auction houses and institutions, were pleased to confirm their own theories, with the benefit of earning a nice commission on the sales.

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His downfall came when his interpretation of a long missing Heinrich Campendonk known as Red Painting with Horses, 1914, sold for a record 2.8 million Euros at an auction in 2006. It attracted new verification analysis that caught his rare error. The cheated purchasers are surprisingly philosophical (they did receive restitution). The Beltracchis’ adult children are still stunned and mystified by the source of their parents’ comfortable lifestyle and luxuriant vacations (shown in a lot of family photos). Some details are left vague, such as the wife’s negotiations with a dealer who helped them (and who was also arrested) and their final sentences. Other than the 14 paintings that were the subject of the 2011 court case over the $21 million they were paid, Wolfgang has still not identified all of his fakes that are probably hanging on moguls’ and museum walls.

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES:

Interview with Wolfgang and Helene Beltracchi

Interview with Filmmaker Arne Birkenstock

Art Authenticators Visit Beltracchi’s Studio

“DISC OF LOVE”—- A CD Has a Few Surprises

disc of love

“Disc Of Love”

A CD Has a Few Surprises

Amos Lassen

As Jake is leaving town to go see his family, his good friend/ roommate Lucas begins acting strangely. As Jake tries to find out what the matter is, he only gets a CD and as he drives to his parents’ house, he discovers what is on it.

Ryan Davey directed this sweet, funny and sometimes slightly provocative short film and now the director has released it online for us all to enjoy.

‘A gay themed short film which tells the story of Jake, who is leaving town to visit his parents for the weekend. His roommate Lucas is acting in a strange manner. He tries to find out why but all he receives is a mix CD. As he is driving to his parents he discovers what is on this mysterious disc.’

“ODD PEOPLE OUT” —- Gay Cuba and the Revolution

odd people poster“Odd People Out” (“Seres extravagantes”)

Gay Cuba After the Revolution

Amos Lassen

 “Odd People Out” (Seres Extravagantes) is a documentary about the process of marginalization, repression and denial of the gay community during the first two decades of the Cuban Revolution as seen through the eyes and voice of Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas. He is the main character in an account by other writers and artists who were part of his life, and who were also punished and persecuted by the Cuban regime. Julian Schnabel’s “Before Night Falls” was fictionalized biography of Arenas while “Odd People Out” deals with facts and what we see here is a kaleidoscopic depiction of Reinaldo’s life, of the Cuban gay community that surrounded him before the revolution, and of the hardships he endured after it. It stands as a unique testimony of a unique time and a unique artist. The documentary combines rare archival material, including audio recordings of the writer’s voice, with contemporary footage clandestinely shot in Cuba.

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This documentary explores issues left inconclusive in Arenas’ autobiography, particularly issues about his arrest on charges of corruption of minors and about his sham marriage. Interviews with fellow writers Anton Arrufat and DelfÌn Prats and a close friend, Tomas Fernandez Robaina are of particular importance, they appear characterized in a rather satirical light in Arenas’ autobiography. Ingrid Gonzalez who was married to him in 1973 speaks about the author’s views on sex. Arenas married her in 1973 in order to gain access to goods and services available only to married couples. We learn about Arenas’ conflictive relationship with his mother, Oneida in an interview with her. This documentary effectively portrays dramatic glimpses of a multi-faceted, rebellious sexual outlaw. Arenas has become an icon among Latin American and Latino gays who often suffer from the homophobic attitudes of their native societies.

The title “Seres extravagantes” (literally “outrageous beings,” but translated awkwardly here as “Odd People Out”) comes from the endlessly quotable Fidel Castro’s derogation for the queens who used to promenade in Havana’s La Rampa district.

The film gives us Arenas in approachably human dimensions. Remarkably, it does so with a mere handful of images of the writer, instead relying on his voiceover narration, smartly edited from archival sources, to span a series of successively more revelatory interviews with his literary peers and family. the film was made underneath official Cuban radar with Spanish financing and it begins with Arenas’ uncle Carlos in the boondocks of rustic Oriente province, pointing out the verses that little Reinaldo would carve into the trunks of palm trees. Director Manuel Zayas managed to draft the uncle into searching for Arenas’ long-vanished biological father, José Antonio, providing a loose pursuit structure that alternates with copious archival footage and interviews with other gay Cuban authors suppressed to varying degrees by Castro’s regime. 



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With masterful restraint, the live-action footage of Arenas is saved for the final minutes, and after hearing his voice throughout the film it comes as a shock to see him in a silent, melancholy reverie. A closing title noting his 1990 suicide serves to remind us of how profoundly the island has changed since that moment, when the ruinous consequences of the Soviet Union’s disintegration were not yet fully apparent.