Monthly Archives: January 2017

“THE SALESMAN”— In Tehran

“The Salesman” (“Forushande”)

In Tehran

Amos Lassen

In an apartment in a Tehran building, Emad Etesami (Shahab Hosseini) is alerted to danger by the commotion of evacuation.  He gets his wife, Rana  (Taraneh Alidoosti) out before the structure fails.  The stage manager of the play they are currently rehearsing, Babak (Babak Karimi) shows them a vacated apartment, but the previous tenant has not yet fully moved out and whatever happened in her past has violent and disturbing ramifications for the Etesamis.

“The Salesman” is Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi’s analysis of a relationship that plays off of Arthur Miller’s “The Death of a Salesman”, the very play that the Etesamis’ Iranian troupe is mounting.  The strain on their marriage is the focus of the film. After Emad goes out to the store, Rana hears the buzzer and assumes that it is Emad it is so she opens the door before getting into the shower.  But when Emad comes home later, he follows the blood on the stairs. As Emad goes up the stairs, he finds himself following a trail of blood that leads into his new bathroom.  He learns that neighbors have taken his wife to the hospital. The upstairs tenant conjectures that Rana was attacked by a ‘client’ of the former tenant who had ‘many male visitors.’  Emad questions Rana, demanding to know why she let a stranger into their apartment.  She explains and also claims that she did not see the man’s face.  When they get back to their apartment, Rana does not feel safe but she safe refuses to go to the police, as, in Iran, that would mean that she is publicly admitting her shame.  Emad finds a cell phone, cash and a set of keys which he traces to a pickup truck left on their street.

Rana insists on returning to evening rehearsals, but breaks down.  Sanam (Mina Sadati), another cast member asks if her young son Sadra (Sam Valipour) can go home with Rana.  At first, Sadra’s presence seems to ease tensions since the Etesamis have been thinking about starting a family, but when Rana tells Emad she paid for their meal with money from a wad of cash she found in a drawer, Emad becomes angered and he throws the food away. Then the pickup truck disappears and Emad begins searching for its owner.

The focus of the film is on a couple who dance around a stressful event without ever verbalizing their innermost thoughts. , beautifully realized in Farhadi’s closing shot.  Hosseini wonderfully shows Emad’s damaged male pride with his wife’s bruised face constantly reminding him of what has happened. . As Rana retreats into a nervous shell and as she becomes quieter, Emad becomes louder. growing quieter as Hosseini grows louder.  It seems that her unwillingness to talk is because of the shame she feels but we later see that there is something else that contributes to this.

 

The film also looks at the social aspects of class, patriarchy and honor. Director Farhadi’s uses the structural breakdown of the Etesamis’ apartment as a metaphor that their new environment never completely their own. However, the main characters fail to talk about their inner feelings and there is no real catharsis. 

Farhadi embraces the traditions of classic American theater and merges them with his mode of Iranian thriller-procedural. A prologue subconsciously prepares us for the eventual shift between cinema vérité and chamber-drama theatricality. It begins with people navigating a small, geometrically elaborate setting, an apartment complex, and they rush to get out before it collapses. —scrambling to exit it before it collapses. Amid this we meet Emad and, Rana as they help their neighbors out of the building that’s cracking along the walls and seams as if to show that there are more faultlines coming.

 

The first half of the film alternates between Emad and Rana’s rehearsals for a production of “Death of a Salesman” with their efforts to find and move into a new apartment. Soon after the couple moves into their new apartment, a man walks in on Rana while she’s showering, either assaulting her or causing her to fall in the bathroom and suffer a head injury. Rana remembers little of the incident and Emad assumes that the interloper was looking for the past tenant, and presses Babak for answers.

At the beginning of the movie it is easy to interpret the lack of any real intimacy and or signs of affection between Emad and Rana as a cultural thing.  Then as the tense drama unfolds after the attack as we see the actions of a good husband wanting to be his wife’s protector. in reality Rana’s disdain for Emad turns into him actually wanting to harm her attacker as way of  exacting revenge for her rejection of him.   

There is no hint as to how the drama will play out. This is a powerful character-driven drama that confirms the director’s well-deserved reputation at Iran’s best contemporary filmmaker.

“The Mary Daly Reader” by Mary Daly, edited by Jennifer Rycenga and Linda Barufaldi— Female and Alive

Daly, Mary. “The Mary Daly Reader”, edited by Jennifer Rycenga and Linda Barufaldi, NYU Press, 2017.

Female and Alive

Amos Lassen

I first heard of Mary Daly as an undergraduate when her name came up as we were reading Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”. Little did I know then how much Daly would influence the way I thought and I regarded what has come to be known as early feminist literature. Mary Daly has been referred to as

“outrageous, humorous, inflammatory, Amazonian, intellectual, provocative, controversial, and a discoverer of Feminist word-magic”. Her influence was great, especially on Second Wave feminism was enormous. She dared to speak openly about new ways of being female and alive. She formulated theories about “Bio-philia, Be-ing as Verb, and the life force within words” and she was controversial with what she had to say about race, transgender identity, and separatism. Most of her writings are here and with them are introductions to each selection for context.  

This is truly a comprehensive reader that wonderfully provides a vital introduction to the core of her work and the  complexities hidden away in the pages of her books. Not only are we very lucky to have so much Daly in one place, the editors have made it all accessible to a broad readership, without diluting Daly’s witty but complicated vocabulary. Work on this book began in collaboration with Daly while she was still alive and was completed after her death in 2010. I am sure that many will find surprises here and that is interesting because she had such a huge following that could quote her freely. The writings here have been selected from over a forty-year span contain highlights from Mary Daly’s published works including her major books “Beyond God the Father”, “Gyn/Ecology”, and “Pure Lust”, as well as smaller articles and excerpts. There are additional contributions from Robin Morgan and Mary E. Hunt.  

This is a perfect introduction to Mary Daly as well as a treasure for feminist thinkers who are already familiar with her work and want to access the essence of her thought in a single book. I missed having the chance to study with her here in Boston because I was out of the country for so long but every time I pass Boston College I am reminded of the stories we heard about her tenure there and this makes me admire her even more. Daly was a philosopher/theologian/ poet, and she used all of those tools to demolish patriarchy, refusing to believe that domination was a natural state of being. I would have loved to see her do that live. She had great expectations for women and she was totally committed to women.

groundbreaking work of a feminist philosopher whose expectations for women were only exceeded by her commitment to them. Her use of the English language was something amazing and she dared to publicly condemn what she felt were the evils of the world. For me she was transformative and when I was a graduate student taking a course in feminist literary criticism, my professor would stop when necessary and ask, “Amos, what does Mary Daly have to say about this?”

Contents
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Robin Morgan

Biographical Sketch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mary E. Hunt

Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Editors’ Note . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Introduction: A Kick in the Imagination . . . . . . .

Jennifer Rycenga and Linda Barufaldi

PartI.WindsofChange(to1971). . . . .

  1. The Case against the Church. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  2. Christian History: A Record of Contradictions . . .
  3. The Pedestal Peddlars. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  4. The Second Sex and the Seeds of Transcendence . .

Part II. From God to Be-ing (1972–1974) .

  1. The Women’s Movement: An Exodus Community
  2. The Problem, the Purpose, the Method. . . . . . .
  3. After the Death of God the Father. . . . . . . . . . .
  4. Beyond Good and Evil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  5. The Second Coming of Women and the Antichrist .
  6. The Bonds of Freedom: Sisterhood as Antichurch. .
  7. Antichurch and the Sounds of Silence . . . . . . . .
  8. The Final Cause, the Future, and the End of the Looking Glass War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. .

Part III. The Double-Edged Labrys of Outrageous/Outraged Philosophy (1975–1984)………………… 121

  1. Preface to Gyn/Ecology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  2. The Metapatriarchal Journey of Exorcism and Ecstasy . . .
  3. Secular S and M
  4. African Genital Mutilation: The Unspeakable Atrocities . .
  5. Prelude to the Third Passage . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  6. Newspeak versus New Words . . . . . . . . . . . .
  7. Sparking: The Fire of Female Friendship . . . . . .
  8. The Dissembly of Exorcism . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  9. Daly on Matilda Joslyn Gage . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  10. On Lust and the Lusty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  11. Metaphors of Metabeing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  12. Beyond the Sado-Sublime: Exorcising Archetypes, the Archimage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  13. Evoking . . . . .
  14. Restoration and the Problem of Memory . .
  15. Phallic Power of Absence. . . . . . . . . . .
  16. Realizing Reason . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  17. The Raging Race. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  18. From “Justice” to Nemesis . . . . . . . . . .
  19. The “Soul” as Metaphor for Telic Principle .
  20. Be-Friending: The Lust to Share Happiness

Part IV. Spiraling Onward (1985–2010): Future andPastPiraticalCoursing. . . . . . . . . .

  1. Early Moments: My Taboo-Breaking Quest—To Be
    a Philosopher . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  2. The Dream of Green . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  3. The Anti-Modernist Oath . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  4. My Doctoral Dissertation in Philosophy: Paradoxes . . . .
  5. The Time of the Tigers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 319
  6. Re-Calling My Lesbian Identity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 324
  7. Some Be-Musing Moments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 327
  8. The Fathers’ Follies: Denial of Full Professorship . . . . . . . . 330
  9. Classroom Teaching of Women and of Men . . . . . . . . . . . 334
  10. On How I Jumped over the Moon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 337
  11. Magnetic Courage. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 344
  12. Quintessence: The Music of the Spheres . . . . . . . . . . . . . 352
  13. A Heightened Experience of Losing and Finding (Response

to Audre Lorde) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 355

  1. What Terrific Shock Will Be Shocking Enough?. . . . . . . . . 360

Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 371

Works by Mary Daly: A Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 415

Secondary Sources on Mary Daly. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 421

Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 435

AbouttheAuthor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 451

AbouttheEditors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 453

“MARINONI: THE FIRE IN THE FRAME”— From Champion Cyclist to Master Bike Craftsman

“Marinoni: The Fire in the Frame”

From Champion Cyclist to Master Bike Craftsman

Amos Lassen

Giuseppe Marinoni of Montreal is a former champion cyclist who is now, at age 75, is a master bike craftsman. He has been an inspiration to many; a man whose attitude constantly changing. We see him at one moment speaking to documentarian Tony Girardin (who directed this film) about the process behind his constructions, and then at the next minute we see him yelling at the filmmaker for asking silly questions. He has a dry sense of humor and much of what he says is sarcastic thus making it difficult to really know his tone. A lot of what Marinoni conveys is so thickly rooted in sarcasm, that it’s easy to misinterpret his tone.  It takes a while to warm up to him and the film but it does indeed happen. One of the reasons that Girardin wanted to make this film was because of enigmatic personality.

As filming continued, a friendship developed between the two men and I really think that the film is much more intimate than anyone suspected it might be. While Marinoni’s story is interesting on its own, watching the relationship develop on camera is really fascinating.  The friendship steadies the film all the way to the final scenes in which Marinoni pushes himself to earn a golden title. The interviews with friends and family add a great deal to the film.

I purposely neglected to say earlier that at 75 years old, bicycle craftsmen Giuseppe Marinoni is determined to break the one-hour cycling record for his age group.  He is an Italian immigrant who moved to Montreal in 1965 to professionally race. Then he was a tailor but he crafts custom bike frames that are used and respected by cyclists around the world.

Tony Girardin follows Marinoni for two months leading up to the race, getting him to reluctantly open up about his life to the camera, as he struggles through his training to cut minutes off his time. The film is a look at not allowing age to cause on to stop moving forward. 

Giuseppe Marinoni is both a cranky but revered man Montreal manufacturer of bicycle frames who decided to set a world distance record for his age group. We see him training for his 2012 date with destiny and this involve a trip back to Italy and an hour of furious cycling. The race is held on an indoor track, and he rides for 60 minutes straight.

The bike he has chosen to ride in on a frame that he designed in the late 70s for Canadian cycling legend Jocelyn Lovell. We see Marinoni is happier

caring for chickens and looking for mushrooms than he is talking about himself, and there are moments that he becomes annoyed with Girardin’s camera giving us a few laughs.

“CASABLANCAS: THE MAN WHO LOVED WOMEN”— The Man Who Invented the Supermodel

“Casablancas: The Man Who Loved Women” (“Casablancas, l’homme qui aimait les femmes”)

The Man Who Invented the Supermodel

Amos Lassen

In 2011, John Casablancas, the founder of Elite Modeling Agency and the man who invented the supermodel sat down with a friend to record his life story. He would pass away two years later after battling cancer. These recordings became the basis of this documentary. We also see archival footage and pictures along with the story of the man that changed the modeling industry and became a world power.

John Casablancas was convinced by someone in the industry that he should be a modeling agent. But that wasn’t enough for him, as he decided to take on the giants of the industry like Ford Modeling Agency, and start his own company. It was unheard of at the time that a heterosexual male would be a leader in the fashion industry. Casablanca shot to stardom by “stealing” talent from the bigger agencies and establishing his own. He represented people like Christie Brinkley, Stephanie Seymour, Cindy Crawford, and just about every big name at the time. It was his idea to turn the models into celebrities thus making them household names so as to increase their value. It revolutionized the industry and set off a nasty war between the agencies.

We see Elite Models founder John Casablancas reflect on his loose and lucrative career. He certainly seems to have had all the luck— not only was he born rich, handsome and multinational, he was educated at the best Swiss schools and then chaperoned into high society. He went on to create the global powerhouse Elite Model Management, which caused the careers of many to take off and remain grounded.

The documentary features a lengthy one-on-one interview backed by tons of personal archives, TV clips and fashion-spread photos and it is almost like watching a dream sequence. This film is a glimpse at how one man managed to transform the sleepy world of modeling, in the mid-1960s into a star-driven enterprise of the ‘80s and ‘90s that made beautiful women into rich and famous celebrities. He was a successful lady-killer and a very decent person.

Casablanca was born in New York to Catalan parents and then raised in France and Switzerland. At times he seems to be a parody of the International Playboy. He was tall, suave, handsome and athletic and he appealed to beautiful women. What is most

impressive about Casbalancas’ career is how he more or less single-handedly reshaped the modeling business into the giant that it is today, taking his Paris-based Elite (which he founded in 1972) from a boutique agency of some thirty models and expanding it into the U.S. and dozens of other countries, with annual billings reaching close to $100 million during at its prime.

All of this was done on the backs of young women — many of them underage and handpicked in the company’s Elite Model Look beauty contests and is never questioned in this film. Director Hubert Woroniecki has a tendency to be more hagiographical than biographical in his approach to Casablanca. Still, he provides some intriguing details about the gradual shift in modeling from nameless faces in magazine ads to superstars like Eva Herzegovina and Heidi Klum (both of whom were once represented by Elite), particularly the “model wars” of the 1980s between newcomer Casablancas and New York stalwart Eileen Ford, whose conservative approach was a far cry from the, headlines-heavy atmosphere of Elite.

Casablancas does not brag about any of this, and his modest, matter-of-fact way of recalling his rise to power is refreshing. The documentary is full of home movies, private and professional photos, appearances on Oprah and Letterman, as well as newsreel footage of the Swiss Alps in the 1950s to the skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan some three or four decades later.

“MOUNTAIN”— A Visit to the Mount of Olives

“Mountain” (“Ha’har”)

A Visit to the Mount of Olives

Amos Lassen

The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem is the oldest active Jewish cemetery in the world, it proved fertile soil for Yaelle Kayam’s imagination. She took a story from the Talmud about a rabbi who no longer desired his wife and moved it to the area. The cemetery on the Mount of Olives is ironic in that there is so much sadness in all of the beauty that is there and this is a personification of Tzvia (Shani Klein) who lives at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Separated from the cemetery by a wire fence (in accordance with Jewish law), she is the patient and frustrated wife of rabbi, Reuven (Avshalom Polak) and their four children. We are taken into the rhythms and rituals of religious life. There is a recurring shot in which we see Tzvia stretching into life while the call to prayer drifts through the window and her husband conducts the Shacharit prayers. We become aware of the boredom of her mundane life in every frame as the camera hovers behind her as she smokes a cigarette at the sink, or looking out across Jerusalem from the window of her home. As if this is not enough, her husband Reuven is no longer interested in her and fatigue has taken over the their lives.

Tzvia is dissatisfied both emotionally and physically at home and finds solace amidst the tombstones of the cemetery as she goes there to read the poetry of Israeli poet, Zelda. The book is old and battered and has obviously been read many times. One night, Tzvia who is reserved and a traditional woman meets a small community of pimps and prostitutes operating out of the cemetery and she forms a strange, silent bond with them. They allow her to sit and observe in exchange for home-cooked food. Suddenly, the routines previously presented begin to shift and change slightly.

We become aware of Tzvia’s shifting moods and mental states by subtle changes and adjustments to the look of the picture – colder colors in the home emphasize her changing moods and handheld camerawork seems to become more evident if and when her spirits and heart rate are raised. Yet, Tzvia remains largely inscrutable, and while Klein elicits great empathy with a woman eroded by the monotony of her life, her inner-self remains a mystery. Her actions themselves are left unknown during the end of the film and whatever impact they might have is elusive.

“Mountain” depicts the unlikely transformation of a married Orthodox Jewish woman who lives and works beside one of the holiest sites in the Middle East into a fully realized woman. The Mount of Olives that is located in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem gets its name from the olive groves that once covered its slopes. The sprawling site has been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years, and holds approximately 150,000 graves. It is also the site for Christian worship, as several key events in Jesus Christ’s life, as relating in the Gospels, took place there. Ironically this hallowed ground is the backdrop of the film as a religious woman sees the seedy underside of Israeli life involving prostitutes and drug dealers.

We see the prototype religious woman who does all things to keep her home kosher, providing for her children and for her seemingly loveless husband ion Tzvia . Director Kayam has stated that the film was certainly not meant to ridicule gender roles within a religious family. It means to challenge the standard views of an indifferent marriage, and explore notions of female interiority and self-discovery. Having Tzvia and a religious woman was to make her come across as pure and to emphasize the stereotype of the religious woman.

“She is religious, but it comes more from my own experiences,” Kayam said. “The idea of having her religious was meant to make her appear more righteous, more pure. And it has more to do emphasize more of the archetype.

Tzvia is the mother of four kids. They recite their prayers before and after every meal, and are dropped off at the school bus to attend Yeshiva. She is married to a teacher named Reuven. Tzvia spends her days doing wifely chores inside and outside her home, which happens to be surrounded by the ancient cemetery spread out over the Mount of Olives. Reuven pays little attention to her or her female needs  and her stifling monotony gradually worsens and he is very lonely.

Tzvia begins to witness new and bizarre, even seedy scenarios, involving prostitutes, pimps and drug dealers, at the graveyard. These seamy elements affect her profoundly and bring her dead soul to life. She becomes a voyeur to an exotic world, a world which had long been completely foreign to her.

Even though the narrative is apolitical, the deliberate choice of having the film set on the Mount of Olives is radical. This is an honest portrait of the limits of orthodox religion in an effort to explore female interiority.

With a title like “Mountain”, there will be suspicions of it being a metaphor for jump and as we watch we ask ourselves about the vagueness that we see. The conflict within Tzvia is introduced early in the film, when she casually describes her home as a “petting zoo” to a group of Orthodox women passing by—one of many self-conscious moments that doesn’t land as intended. We certainly get a sense of frustrated expectations as we see that Reuven is losing interest in his wife. They do not really communicate and we know nothing about their history— the sparse dialogue leaves their history together a void. This is counterbalanced by lively family scenes and photographic sweeps whenever Tzvia leaves the confines of their home. People from the world outside of the Mountain (tourists, and a good-natured Palestinian groundskeeper, Abed [Haitham Ibrahem Omari]) remain at a cautious distance, until Tzvia sees a clique prostitutes and johns doing their after-hours business among the tombstones. The encounter ignites a curiosity within her, and soon she’s attempting a rapprochement with the lowlifes turning tricks just feets from her home.

I had to stop and wonder if Tzvia’s glimpses of the lurid, debased outside world are liberating unto themselves, or if the woman’s curiosity is a sad symptom of loneliness in an increasingly loveless marriage or even both of these. She tries to have a cigarette with one of the prostitutes, only to have the younger woman to harangue her worse than she could possibly have imagined. This is something of a confirmation that allows Tzvia to keep coming back, with home-cooked food as she seeks a kind of mute companionship with the underclass.

Despite the film’s obvious theme of the sacred versus the profane, Tzvia’s life has pleasures and monotonies all its own; her four young children make for the culture of a small colony unto itself, and one of the more incisive family details comes when Tzvia has to tell her husband that their oldest daughter is merely pretending to be obedient when he’s around, because he’s not around often enough.

The issues that Tzvia faces are vague and the film withholds bigger connecting concepts that never come. Once again, I am amazed at how far Israeli film has come. There was a time (even when I lived in Israel) that it was almost impossible to get an Israeli to watch a movie made in Israel. That is definitely not true today.

“WEIRDOS”— A Journey

“Weirdos”

A Journey

Amos Lassen

Bruce McDonald’s “Weirdo’s” is a road trip film that begins in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, 1976. , Kit (Dylan Authors), a reserved fifteen-year-old boy with fancy shoes and a girlfriend named Alice (Julia Sarah Stone) want to move on. Kit also travels with a spirit animal of Andy Warhol (Rhys Bevan-John), an imaginary guy in a wig who looks and sounds like Andy Warhol and who acts as guide and guardian angel. Kit is a true weirdo.

The couple confronts the imperfections of their relationship as fellow travelers add fresh dynamics and new temptations. The characters who are real, raw, and peculiar in their own particular way. What makes the film come across as honest and authentic.

Kit and Alice bum rides, walk, and hitchhike from Antigonish to the shore where Kit hopes to get away from his father and move in with his mother Laura (Molly Parker), a hippy who regrets she ever moved out of Toronto. She’s presumably more open-minded than his father Kit’s father, Dave (Allan Tawco), who spends his days at home offering swipes at Kit’s gay French teacher.

Both Alice and Andy Warhol are a supportive moral compass for Kit. As we watch, we feel the tension between straight and gay, straight and hippy, and U.S. and Canadian. The characters are flawed and complicated, but not overtly so and they are grounded in reality but with relatable and refreshingly humane shortcomings.

In the third part of the film when Alice and Kit arrive at their destination, we meet Laura an obvious mess of complicated mania and who takes center stage. from the moment the camera sets eyes on Parker. While it is only lunchtime, Laura has a Manhattan and dances freestyle in the yard. She is overjoyed at the return of her son and offers her guests sandwiches, stories of Andy Warhol, and liquor.

Laura takes the drama to its deepest and most unexpected places. She brings rapid-fire shifts of highs and lows as she reveals a manic-depressive woman full of life, love, and energy. She reveals the depths of her character’s depression and realizes just how out of control her behavior is. Laura’s desperate cry for help puts Kit and Alice’s own weirdness into perspective as the film gives us a coming of age tale about embracing the differences that unite people rather than drive them apart.

“DEADLY VIRTUES: LOVE. HONOR. OBEY”— A Break In

“Deadly Virtues: Love.Honor.Obey.”

A Break In

Amos Lassen

A menacing young man (Edward Akrout) breaks into a suburban home and encounters a married couple, Tom (Matt Barber) and Allison (Megan Maczko) having sex. He quickly ties them up and tortures the man who he puts in the bathtub and forces Allison to watch.

First time screenwriter Mark Rogers has quite brutally explored the terrible impact of domestic violence in “Deadly Virtues” but it is so deeply buried beneath the torturous moments that it fails to connect with the audience.

 Sadomasochism and rape on the screen are hard to watch and we want to know why this is happening. We do not get the heartbreaking back-story until the finale. This is a somber story that requires a degree of patience and resilience to see all the way through.

We realize that there is a strained form of bondage that has held the marriage together. The intruder is the catalyst to spark change, the necessary force to get Alison to improve the condition of her rotting marriage. The intruder is the driving force and the necessary antidote for to reflect upon her predicament and take action. “Deadly Virtues” is a horribly and finely nuanced examination of hurt, anger and hidden love.

The premise is simple. An obscured man (Edward Akrout) breaks into a suburban home and makes his way upstairs. He picks up a woman’s shoe on the staircase and smells it. The camera lingers on the under-toe sole and the overall impression is one of distaste. He continues up the beige staircase as we become increasingly aware of the lovemaking sounds at the top of the stairs and we soon see the young couple engaging in a bit of light bondage. He enters the room and prepares to join in.

The sadomasochistic role-play is taken to an extreme with the dominant partner’s knowledge of both psychology and physiology that both confirms and then completely disrupts the idea of consent. The point of the drama seems to show that our mainstream sexual cultures are based upon an almost childlike “understanding of sex as a game rather than as the biological response to physical touch. What is more, the depiction and justification of rape culture is part of the story and it is true to the characters and it is not to be denied or ignored”. We see the Tom’s fingers slip inside the shiny second skin that Allison is wearing while tied to the bed and we hear her panting and see her tear-stained cheek all the while he discusses how victims often feel pleasure at the time of the crime despite its circumstance. The effect is visually incredibly erotic and at the same time cold and horrifying to hear.

The film is looks at the difference between true BDSM relationships, the ‘couple play’ associated with pretty little whips and clean, shiny latex and the misunderstanding of these relationships that is regarded as psychopathy. By concentrating on the subject through the shifting gaze of the players in the context of a simple home invasion thriller, it leads us to think about the nature of physical and mental consent and how likely we all are to do things against what we understand as our own will.

Edward Akrout as Aaron combines a sadism that manages to be quite disgusting with a sexiness that relies not so much on charisma but on his gestures that he carefully controls. He is dominant and each twitch of his eyebrows and mouth says something about the lining of the mind and body with his d philosophy. He does not just play the role, he enters in completely. As the film moves forward, his performance makes it clear he is not simply a villain, but a true dominant male in every sense of the word.

Megan Maczko is also stimulating as Alison. She matches the film’s tone with perfect poise. She has plenty of very emotional scenes and when she cries, the emotion always feels somewhat deadened. She comes across as someone sleep talking around her existence and is riveting. Matt Barber as Tom feels less real than the other two but he is also excellent.

During one weekend, “our grand-inquisitor/marriage-guidance counselor from hell” explores and exploits Alison and Tom’s relationship, uncovers uncomfortable truths and acts as a catalyst for extreme liberation.  

Zoran Veljkovic’s cinematography enriches the drama and infuses it with arresting images and a visual palette. Almost abstract-like close-ups of a dripping tap, and a pivotal wine-drinking scene played out largely in shadow complement and enhance the narrative are amazing.

“HANDSOME DEVIL”— The Loner and the Athlete

“Handsome Devil”

The Loner and the Athlete

Amos Lassen

Ned and Conor are forced to share a bedroom at their boarding school. The loner and the star athlete at this rugby-mad school have an unlikely friendship that is tested by the authorities. What we see here is not new— “the geek pariah and the secret gay jock” along with the inspirational teacher are familiar topics. It is the sweetness, poignancy and humor of this Irish story that makes it irresistible.

Fionn O’Shea and Nicholas Galitzine are the friends and they turn in terrific performances as does Andrew Scott as the teacher, a man who practices what he preaches and steps out of the shadows.

Unable to convince his widowed father (Ardel O’Hanlon) and chilly stepmother (Amy Huberman) that a boarding school where rugby is a religion is the wrong place for him, Ned Roche (O’Shea) prepares himself for another term of ridicule and teasing from his “tormentor in chief,” Weasel (Ruairi O’Connor). Ned is a thin, self-styled 16-year-old rebel with over-dyed red hair and a room decorated with David Bowie lyrics and Dita Von Teese pinups. His solitary nature and ambiguous sexuality make him a target for gay slurs from his classmates.

Then when transfer student Conor (Galitzine) is assigned as his new roommate, the mismatch could signal extreme discomfort. Conor is a hunk with a stellar record on the rugby field. We learn that he did not exactly leave his previous school because he wanted to. Ned senses that there will be trouble so he erects a “Berlin Wall” down the middle of the room and tries to keep to himself. But Conor has his own issues causing him to feel alone in the flock, and his shy efforts to reach out allow Ned to find an unaccustomed taste of friendship and acceptance.

Dan Sherry (Scott), their English teacher has no tolerance for laziness or stupidity. He sees the potential in both Ned and Conor and encourages their friendship and their musical interests, signing them up against their better judgment to participate in a talent show at a neighboring girls’ school.

However, rugby coach Pascal O’Keeffe (Moe Dunford), resents the distraction from Conor’s game as the school team approaches its first final match in some ten years. He creates dissent between the friends that lands Ned back in social exile, gets Conor ostracized and puts Dan on the spot about his own secrets.

We can anticipate where this is going but that does not hurt the film. It is set almost entirely at an all-boys boarding school and details the unlikely friendship that forms between Ned and Conor.

The quest of being true to yourself very evident in “Handsome Devil”, a charming coming of age/coming out film from writer/director John Butler.

The two total opposites clash right from the offset. but as time progresses, and with a little help from supportive English teacher Mr. Sherry, the two students realize they have a little more in common than they had envisaged yet they felt that their friendship boosts Ned’s reputation at school but has the potential to truly destroy Conor’s.

The friendship between the protagonists does feel somewhat hurried, but there is chemistry that allows for the viewer to become involved in their solidarity. You do not want to miss this film.

“ALL THIS PANIC”— Teenage Girls in Brooklyn

“All This Panic”

Teenage Girls in Brooklyn

Amos Lassen

Shot over a three-year period with great intimacy and access, “All This Panic” is a feature length documentary that looks intimately at the interior lives of a group of teenage girls as they come of age in Brooklyn. We follow the girls as they transition between childhood and adulthood.

Director Jenny Gage’s chose to shoot her subjects—several teenage girls growing up in New York City—in extreme shallow focus and often with fluid, fluttering camerawork “All This Panic” is Gage’s debut feature and it captures the intensity of teen angst, the daily struggle of sex, parents, friendship strife, and adulthood hanging over the girls’ heads. one’s head. Gage filmed her subjects as they make the transition from high school to the “real world.” Filmed primarily in intimate small-group settings, we watch as these girls gossip, party, smoke weed, struggle to have sex, deal with family issues, and worry about their respective futures. We actually watch the girls as they grow up in front of our eyes.

They speak openly about sex (a lot) and deal with major issues of race, delinquent parents, sexuality and we soon realize that even when we laugh at them we are listening to their every word. The way these teens are treated with seriousness is rare what makes “All This Panic” such a refreshing documentary.

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The film probably might have benefitted from greater diversity— there is only one girl of color and she seems somewhat divorced from the rest of the girls, though her statements on the discomfort of being a black girl at a primarily white school give some clarification why this is. The film is not a definitive statement on teen hood but an impressionistic series of photographed snapshots of a particular set of girls in a particular part of New York City at a particular time. What we get is a tone, a feeling that anyone who’s ever been a teen (and that is everyone) will recognize. While some of the stresses of those years dissolve, the question of what each girl wants does not.

The girls are an interconnected group of sisters and friends. More abstract and philosophical than a traditional documentary, we learn of the dreams and fears and hopes of the girls in what seems like a fictional narrative but is all too true. The girls have to understand what they want from life, what they want from romance, what it means to take those first steps out from under the shadow and protection of (or, in some cases, lack of) their parents. We see a compassionate slow-reveal of the psyches of adolescent girls and it is quite an experience. It’s also enormously heartening for anyone who worries about how the world today seems to push kids to grow up too quickly. The way these girls talk about their experiences with and attitudes about alcohol, drugs, and sex is reassuring: they worry about growing up too fast too, and they’re navigating dangerous waters just fine. The beauty here is in the impressions and perceptions. The varied experiences of these young women show us the fluid nature of getting older, each subject reaching milestones at different times, or not perhaps not even reaching the same milestones at all. Its structural looseness and its intuitive images are its greatest plus.

“BEACH RATS”—Sexual Awakening, Cruising and Romance

“Beach Rats”

Sexual Awakening, Cruising and Romance

Amos Lassen

“Beach Rats” is about the sexual awakening of Frankie, a Brooklyn teen, as it looks at cruising in the real world. The movie, directed by Eliza Hittman was inspired by a photograph, one that is representative of today’s day and age of digital culture— the photo is a dimly lit “selfie” taken by a teenage boy and is meant to arouse its eventual recipient. From that photo, Harris Dickinson was cast, and the model-turned-actor delivers some grueling, sensual, and captivating star turns. This is “a story about the tension of masculinity and heteronormativity set in the present and is especially relevant today.

The idea of cruising is not unique to gay people and neither is the relationship between sexuality and class and where you live. These are two of the major themes of the film. Frankie is both “maddeningly impenetrable and desperately vulnerable”. He is a snarler and a mumbler. We see him as a typical teen who is gay and is insecure.

“Beach Rats” gives us a macrocosm of Brooklyn where real estate prices are high and many families fall below the minimum income for self-sufficiency. The film looks at inequality by virtue of its location. When we first meet Frankie, we see him as jut another beach rat. He is buff, blonde and has no job. His days are spent getting high with his friends and walking around a park. There is a sense of insecurity and unhappiness that Frankie can’t hide. His father is dying (which provides him with a steady supply of painkillers), and at night he visits Chat Roulette, a gay cruising site. Over the course of the summer, he attempts a relationship with cute and confident Simone (Madeline Weinstein), but also becomes more confident about meeting up with guys. Eventually, his private desires and daytime friends come together in a seaside confrontation. We see the paradox of modern life where everyone is super-connected all the time because of smartphones and the Internet making sex and drugs easy to obtain. We also see that male sexual awakening is taken for granted. This is NOT a coming-out story since Frankie never comes out.