Monthly Archives: February 2018

“MY BEST FRIEND”— Lorenzo and Caito

 

“My Best Friend” (“Mi mejor amigo”)

Lorenzo and Caito

Amos Lassen

Lorenzo is a quiet teenager who lives with his parents and his younger brother in small city in the Argentinean Patagonia. One day, a family friend’s son named Caíto moves south and settles in at Lorenzo’s home. Because Caito’s family is going through difficult times, they can’t give much care to him.

Caíto is very shy and hardly speaks and Lorenzo is supposed to help him feel at home. They become friends and spend great amounts of time together. Although Lorenzo doesn’t like sports, he puts up with Caíto’s fascination for mountain biking. The two share deep conversations and even though they are very different but they come to understand each other.

Everybody Caíto is a difficult case. After a few days, Lorenzo’s parents feel they’ve had enough. At that point, Caíto makes a big confession to Lorenzo. He tells him the true reason why he was forced to leave his house and Lorenzo takes charge of him so that his parents will let him stay.

“A MOMENT IN THE REEDS”— Coming Home

“A Moment in the Reeds”

Coming Home

Amos Lassen

Having moved to Paris for university, Leevi returns to his native Finland for the summer to help his estranged father renovate the family lake house so it can be sold. Tareq, a recent asylum seeker from Syria, has been hired to help with the work, and when Leevi’s father has to return to town on business, the two young men establish a connection and spend a few days discovering one another during the Finnish midsummer. The story of shared youth is the debut film by Finnish director Mikko Makela, and is part of the Finland’s first wave of LGBT films.

Finland has long been known as an open-minded society and it is often envied by other societies around the globe. We see this in Finland’s recent policy of welcoming refugees during the migratory crisis. However, I understand that this is the first Finnish feature film that has been released with a homosexual character in the main role. It is interesting that this year also saw the release of “Tom of Finland” which was Finland’s entry for the 2018 Academy Awards.

Leevi (Janne Puustinen) is studying literature in Paris but returns home for the holidays to see his father, his only remaining relative after the death of his mother, and to help him renovate their isolated holiday cottage, which sits on the edge of a beautiful lake. The incompatibility of Leevi’s bohemian aspirations and his father’s conservatism is immediately obvious and Leevi announces his plans to escape Finnish military service by requesting French nationality upsetting his father.

Leevi is joined by Tareq (Boodi Kabbani), a Syrian architect taking refuge in Finland and who is employed by Leevi’s father to help them renovate the house. Despite the geographical distance that has separated them for the majority of their lives, Tareq’s concerns are very similar to Leevi’s. He comes from a very conservative environment and is a homosexual who can’t find his place in the family home. Through the silences that punctuate their trivial conversations, an intimate relationship gradually develops between Tareq and Leevi during the prolonged absences of Leevi’s father.

Director Makela decided to create the majority of dialogue after filming had commenced thus giving the actors a great deal of freedom, to improvise their conversations in most of the scenes. The film also has a surprising naturalism and simplicity. Leevi and Tareq speak in rough English, which is not their mother tongue and this reflects a modern-day reality that we very rarely see on screen— the use of English as a common language for the international younger generation. The importance of phones and social networks is also presented in a very convincing way as a language that is shared by both young men. 

The film finds its strength and vitality in the portrait of this youth. Here are today’s two young people who, despite their different origins, understand each other, share concerns, worries and the same way of experiencing their sexuality within their families and online.

This is an ambitious film that deals with three important societal issues: the migratory crisis, the father-son relationship problem, and Finnish conservatism. Tareq is polite and educated: he used to be an architect in Syria. He’s the opposite of the prejudiced view that refugees are unschooled and dangerous. He’s the type the immigrant that xenophobes do not want to think about and he’s more intelligent than most bigots. The film succeeds at conveying a message of tolerance and diversity, reminding us discrimination is plain wrong.

The film is a totally believable tale of two men thrown together by chance, forging an instant, deep connection with each other across the space of a few days. There are those who will immediately see the comparison of last year’s beautiful “God’s Own Country” that also dealt with a rural manual worker tasked with working alongside an immigrant. Leevi is

the first human connection Tareq has made since leaving Syria, and possibly the first meaningful connection Leevi has made in his dating life. There is a richness and an affecting tenderness to the relationship between the two and it develops believably; we see a warm companionship that slowly grows into something more.

There’s also a believable awkwardness between the pair’s early encounters. Their speaking English when talking to each other shows the alien nature of communicating in their second language is wonderfully downplayed by both leads; at certain points, their lack of fluency leads them to be more emotionally direct. At other moments, it causes them to underplay their emotions entirely so they don’t say the wrong thing. Both lead performers convey this awkwardness with beautifully, making it all the more thrilling as it slowly develops to intimacy and increased emotional honesty between the two.

The two young men have to deal with the closeted homophobia and xenophobia of Leevi’s dad (Mika Melender), whose quiet prejudice is all the more hurtful as it hides in plain sight – his actions offering an insightful look at the sad reality of how refugees are disregarded by members of Western society. It makes the love shown elsewhere feel all the more powerful in comparison. And yes, this is a tender film but it is also a sexy film.

The screenplay spends so much time slowly developing these characters and their relationship that when they eventually have sex it feels every bit as emotional as it does physical. Every sex scene may seem long but never gratuitous; it feels loving because of the connection shown so believably between the two elsewhere. The mark of two fine acting performances is that even in the physical, passionate moments, they portray emotions every bit as successfully as in the lovelorn dialogue scenes. I predict that this will be one of the most loved LGBT movies of 2018.

“A PISTOL FOR RINGO” & “THE RETURN OF RINGO”— Two Films by Duccio Tessari

“A Pistol for Ringo” & “The Return of Ringo”

Two Films by Duccio Tessari

Amos Lassen

The original Ringo films introduced another iconic hero to the spaghetti western; a sharp shooter who was clean cut and very different to Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name.”

In “A Pistol For Ringo”, the hero Ringo (Giuliano Gemma) infiltrates a ranch of Mexican bandits to save a beautiful hostage (Nieves Navarro). In “The Return Of Ringo”, he is already a veteran of war and disguises himself as a Mexican in order to take revenge on outlaws who have stolen his property and taken his wife.

Both films were very successful when originally release and this was due to the skilled direction of Duccio Tessari. The Ringo films were influential on the Italian western and spawning numerous unofficial sequels because of their gripping set-pieces and unforgettable musical scoring by Ennio Morricone. Arrow Video now proudly presents both films in new restorations.

In “A Pistol For Ringo”, we have a band of Mexican bandits holding up a bank but during their escape they get holed up in a ranch where they take the inhabitants hostage to avoid capture. The desperate sheriff turns to gun slinging outlaw Ringo to help by infiltrating the gang and saving the day. Ringo is charismatic too with some great one liners. He has great boyish charm and a mean streak as well.

He was able to introduce playing hopscotch to kids before brutally killing two bastards in cold blood. We never know if we can trust this guy. First of all he demands 30% of the stolen cash from the town in order to rescue the ranch owners. Then he sells the gang out for 40% to help the defeat the town, and then vice versa again. He is as an anti-hero with wit and charm.

Director Duccio Tessari has a great sense of humor and uses it well. From the opening hopscotch killings, a bullet ricochet off a bell that kills a goon, some silly knife throwing scenes and of course the peculiar aspect that our antihero doesn’t drink whiskey, only milk all make for laughs. The quotable dialogue also has some laughs.

“The Return of Ringo” is a fun sequel and together the two films have made Giuliano Gemma a star in Italy. Gemma can even make a mediocre film watchable and he is great even in a loose retelling of the classic Greek epic Odyssey, with Ringo assuming the Ulysses role. He stars as Captain Montgomery “Ringo” Brown, who has returned from the Civil War, only to find that his town of Membres has been overrun by the Mexican Fuentes gang, led by Esteban (Fernando Sancho) and Paco (George Martin) Fuentes. To his horror, he also finds that his wife, Hallie, has been taken by Paco with the intent to marry her. I do not want to say much more but I wanted you to know what to expect

Here Gemma is dead-on intense and serious, a departure from the first film’s Ringo, who was a wisecracking, boyish (but still deadly) character. From the moment he finds out the fate of his town and wife, he’s pretty intense and focused and seems pretty dangerous from the get-go.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS include:

Brand new 2K restorations of both films from the original negative

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

Original Italian and English soundtracks

Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio

Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack

Audio commentaries for both films by Spaghetti Western experts C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke

They Called Him Ringo, an archival featurette with star Giuliano Gemma

A Western Greek Tragedy, an archival featurette with Lorella de Luca and camera operator Sergio D Offizi

Original trailers

Gallery of original promotional images

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

“IMAGES”— Misunderstood and Abandoned

 

“IMAGES”

Misunderstood and Abandoned

Amos Lassen

Robert Altman”s “Images” is a drama about a woman going through hallucination and nearing madness in Ireland. The film looks at the effects of permissiveness on a hidebound, repressed nature and it is a probing insight into mental disorder.

Cathryn (Susannah York) is writing a fairy tale for children about mysterious woods and a unicorn that acts as a counterpoint to her losing touch with reality. She imagines phone calls saying her husband is with another woman and when they go to their country house for the weekend two men in her life intrude as imaginary, or, in one case, real. York shows the intensity and innocence that is marked by strain as well as sensual underpinnings, and brings off the final denouement with restraint and potency.

This is a small film that unfortunately was ignored because of its confusing story and unexplained conclusions about what’s real or fantasy. It’s taken from a work written by Altman and by actress Susannah York’s story “In Search of Unicorns” which she wrote while the film was in production but also managed to find its way into the plot. It was shot by master cinematographer, Vilmos Zsigmond, who made good use of his misty Ireland landscape shots. John Williams gave an eerie score, in which he collaborated with avant-garde percussionist Stomu Yamashta. Much of the story seems autobiographical, though Altman uses set pieces of shock from the thriller genre to maximize the subject’s predicament and keep it from being merely an exercise in art house film-making.

It’s a very challenging film that is heavy on symbolism and motifs and has a nonlinear plotline. Cathryn finds herself isolated in a remote country home where she’s writing her children’s book “In Search of Unicorns” For whatever reason, she begins to suspect that her marriage to the aloof Hugh (René Auberjonois) is in trouble after receiving a mysterious late night phone call from a woman friend who tells her Hugh is not home because he’s with another woman. When Hugh returns at 4 am, he says that this is nonsense, and tunes his wife’s nagging concerns out. He is more interested in his hobbies of photography and hunting.

Left alone, Cathryn begins losing it and  encounters her double while wandering the countryside. She begins to have distorted visions of a former lover, Rene (Marcel Bozzuffi), who was killed years ago in a plane crash. There are several other troubling incidents such as a family friend, Marcel (Hugh Millais), who visits with his 12-year-old daughter Susannah. She tells Cathryn she wants to grow up to be like her, while the Marcel makes it plain he desires Cathryn. By the time an old man walking his dog approaches her cottage, Cathryn has gone over the edge and all the men appear as one leaving her unsure of which one she is with. There’s also the question about blood on the Persian rug and the growing violence in her visions. It’s hard for us or Cathryn to tell whether any of these things happening are real or imaginary.  The fragmented style is surely not for everyone but I was fascinated and found the screenplay to be intelligent with a brave look at a disturbed inner world. The acting is excellent all around.

In 1971, “Images” premiered at Cannes and Susannah York won the award for best actress. However, audiences were confused by this complex film. The film never achieved a normal American commercial release. It is an intelligently constructed and spectacularly well-photographed film and has the Altman stamp but it just was not a success. “Images” is a very atypical Altman film in which the dialog doesn’t overlap, and the visual style is more lyrical at some times and jagged at others.

There’s an especially good use of images to suggest Cathryn’s confusion over time and real events. Those who love Altman will want to see this. Its very differences with most of Altman’s work help illuminate his style, and he tells a well-constructed narrative. It also shows him in inventive collaboration with actress York, whose children’s book about unicorns is read on the sound track and supplies her character with an alternate fantasy universe in which strange creatures and legends replace the challenges of real life. The film is a technical success but not quite an emotional one.

“BERLIN DRIFTERS”— An Erotic Romance

“Berlin Drifters”

An Explicit Romance

Amos Lassen

Ryota travels to Berlin hoping for a long-term relationship with a man he met online. However, the German guy thinks differently and does not even let him stay the night, so he wanders around looking for love, while staying at a lonely Japanese man’s place. Adult director Koichi Imaizumi teams with Japan’s most prominent adult manga author for the year’s most explicit gay romance.

“Berlin Drifters” is an explicit, willfully confrontational romance that will split audiences down porn-versus-art lines while arguing whether the characters found what they were looking for. Two Japanese men in Berlin are seeking connections in their own ways, and in doing so come together and drift apart over the course of a few lusty weeks.

“Berlin Drifters” brings together Asian and European eroticists, from Dutch porn star Michael Selvaggio and German self-described erotic photographer Claude Kolz to Chinese LGBT activist and dramatist Xiaogang Wei. We also have Japanese gay erotica artist Gengoroh Tagame who can be best described as Japan’s Tom of Finland. The XXX-rated nature of “Berlin Drifters” will keep it out of mainstream cinemas and even the most permissive of festivals and this is unfortunate but the film is indeed out there.

When the guy he flew from Tokyo to Berlin to see throws young Ryota (Lyota Majima) out of his apartment after they have sex, Ryota finds himself crashing at an underground sex club, having little in the way of accommodation options. He was convinced that his online fling was true love and is not prepared to be homeless.

After having a drink with his artist friend Xioagang at the same bar, Koichi (director Imaizumi) takes pity on Ryota and offers to let him stay at his place. Ryota is overly thankful and cleans, shops, offers sex and the two men settle into an odd domesticity. But eventually Ryota’s Grindr account calls to him and he starts to see other men. However, Koichi is becoming attached, and jealousy enters the relationship.

There is a good deal of narrative control this film “Berlin Drifters” and it is made more vivid by Tagame’s entry into screenwriting. His usual extremes of sexuality and masculinity are very much as are insights regarding acceptance and the stigmas surrounding homosexuality in Japan. We see a Berlin that is wild, tempting and ideal for the naïve Ryota, who’s sure he’s going to find great love in 48 hours. At the same time, it’s a safe haven, where Koichi can hide from the troubled past the ignored phone calls that hint at and contemplate how much he values an equally troubled prior relationship. Ryota and Koichi are fine as travelers on the same road, coming from different directions.

There is a lot of sex to get past all the sex and the production values could be better but the film is basically sweet and traditional and has heart. Imaizumi and Tagame are, ironically, meticulous in their use of sex, with the most emotionally rewarding segments as blatantly free of full-frontal nudity as the rest of the film is chock full of it. Koichi’s reunion with his old boyfriend Mioo and a farewell with Xiaogang are as affecting as they are pointed, as is Ryota’s slow understanding that he may be looking for true love in all the wrong ways.

“The Rest of It: Hustlers, Cocaine, Depression, and Then Some, 1976–1988” by Martin Duberman— A Brutally Honest Look at Himself

Duberman, Martin. “The Rest of It: Hustlers, Cocaine, Depression, and Then Some, 1976–1988”, Duke University Press, 2018.

A Brutally Honest Look at Himself

Amos Lassen

This is a book that I never expected to read but am glad I did and I will explain that during the course of this review. Martin Duberman has always held a very special place in my mind in that he was not only a respected scholar but also an out gay man. I just never thought that he would have the same kind of problems and life situations as the rest of us.

When Duberman’s mother died, he began a twelve-year period filled with despair, drug addiction, and debauchery. He became involved in cocaine use, had a massive heart attack, and immersed himself into New York’s gay hustler scene. He became close to suicide and severe depression and he enrolled in rehab. This is the story of how Duberman managed to survive his personal life while at the same time held leading roles in the gay community and the academy.

Even with what was going on, Duberman was able to remain productive— he wrote his biography of Paul Robeson, rededicated himself to teaching, wrote plays, and co-edited the prize-winning Hidden from History. His founded the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies and in doing so he inaugurated a new academic discipline. At the outset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Duberman was politically active, and in this book he describes the tensions between the New Left and gay organizers, as well as the profound homophobia that brought about queer radical activism. Duberman gives us a lot of gossip here and we read about such people as Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Vivian Gornick, Susan Brownmiller, Kate Millett, and Néstor Almendros, among many others. The book was written with brutal honesty giving us insights into a troubling decade of both personal and political history. We certainly see why this was too painful to share until now.

What we really see here is Duberman’s passion about who we are and how we live. He both challenges gay invisibility and confronts anti-gay bigotry among the intelligentsia. These were unhappy years that was filled with crises and they reveal that our heroes are not always heroic and in many ways are just like the rest of us. What Duberman experienced was during a pivotal era in the United States and in the LGBTQ rights movement. He was part of shaping many of our movement’s milestones and in this book, he fills in the gaps of his life and we are very lucky that he did so.

“Rosenberg English Holocaust Haggadah For Passover: Holocaust Poems and Essays to Supplement the Seder” by Rabbi Dr. Bernard Rosenberg— Never Forget

Rosenberg, Rabbi Dr. Bernhard . “Rosenberg English Holocaust Haggadah For Passover: Holocaust Poems and Essays to Supplement the Seder”, CreateSpace, 2017.

Never Forget

Amos Lassen

“Rosenberg English Holocaust Haggadah for Passover” is a wonderful publication that gives us an easy to follow format completely in English for the Passover Seder night. It is a tribute to Holocaust survivors and is a unique compilation of stories, essays, articles and poems from those survivors and their children and grandchildren. The haggadah includes a variety of suggested questions and discussions to share with family at the Seder table. The book was created by Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg, editor of “The Echoes of The Holocaust”.

People from all over the world have provided poems, articles and essays for the purpose of preserving the Holocaust for future generations and explaining what it means to be a Jew, to study Torah, to preserve the holidays and to retell the story of the Exodus yearly at Passover as a way of keeping alive the memory of those murdered in the Holocaust and of those who survived with their lives and whose family history forever changed. The Jewish people have continued to survive despite hatred and destruction through the ages.

Rabbi Dr. Ben Rosenberg has made an important contribution to memorialize the six million martyrs in his Holocaust Haggadah. Passover has now become the Diaspora’s most important Jewish family gathering and Rabbi Rosenberg has brought the commemoration of the loss of European Jewry to that celebration. His great feat may, indeed, revitalize and prolong the memories of both events.

It is impressive how carefully Rabbi Rosenberg preserves the integrity of the traditional Haggadah and still manages to skillfully weave in personal experiences and noteworthy tragic events of the Holocaust. The Rosenberg Haggadah should be read at each Passover Seder in every Jewish home.

“The Great Shift: Encountering God in Biblical Times” by James L. Kugel— Changing Encounters with Goc

Kugel, James L. “The Great Shift: Encountering God in Biblical Times”, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  2017.

Changing Encounters with God

Amos Lassen

Have you ever wondered why in the Bible humans actually meet the divine and have no choice as to do so or not. Obviously there stories had a very different purpose at the time they were written than they do now. The have a very different idea of what reality is and of the human mind. Looking back at the era of the Bible and the thousand years that it covered, encounters with God changed and did so dramatically. Writer and scholar James L. Kugel argues that this transition allows us to get a look at a massive shift in human experience that, in effect, became the emergence of the modern, Western sense of self.

Kugel’s accessible book includes detailed scholarly notes (pages 347-412), a bibliography of works cited (pages 413-441), a subject index (pages 443-467), and a very useful index of verses cited (pages 469-476). In the text of his book, Kugel does assume that the reader will be familiar with the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible.

Kugel is an Orthodox Jew who believes the Bible must be accepted as absolute but he is also a literary and Biblical scholar who persists in the enterprise of digging out how messages in the Hebrew Bible thatebrew Bobl were conceived and written down and how perceptions of God, our relationship to him, etc., etc., have changed over time. As a scholar, he is acutely aware that the Bible wasn’t handed down unedited and inspired by God but that it was written by men over long periods of time, with consequent modifications, second thoughts, and reversals of judgment or commandment.

The book looks at how over decades and centuries, the unknown authors of the books of the Old Testament modified their take on the critical questions of how God communicates with us, if we perceive reality differently than we did early on, and what are we then as psychological/social entities, and related religious matters of importance, such as: Where is God located? When did God become the one and only God, and why? What do angels do and why? Why the emphasis on the written and rules later in Biblical writing? What happened to all the prophets from earlier times? Why don’t we have prophets now?)? (Or do we?) When and why did the concept of the soul appear in the Hebrew Bible? When and why did praying become important, as opposed to priests praying for us in the temple?

Kugel is well prepared to look at these questions, and others like them. He is an exceptionally astute reader of texts and findings in the fields of anthropology, paleontology, archaeology, linguistics and neuroscience. In the foreword, Kugel warns his audience that “this book is not for everyone.” He anticipates that his analysis, in its use of modern scholarship, will go against core religious teachings. At the same time, he recognizes that some modern scholars are inclined to throw out religious conviction and the Bible’s authenticity entirely. In response, Kugel suggests that his “program is to avoid either approach.”

“The Great Shift” is divided into four sections. The first introduces several ways that the Bible depicts encounters with God through a close reading of several biblical and apocryphal narratives, including the rise of several judges, the story of Joseph and his brothers, and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. The third section surveys transformations in the Bible’s record of divine encounters.

In his conclusion, Kugel reminds the reader that “transformations on one side of the human encounter with God has often been accompanied by a parallel one on the other side,” changing the way individuals create a sense of self and how they place themselves in regard to others. By closing with this, he brings the conversation on divine encounters full circle, showing a deep appreciation of how humanity’s struggle to meet God has had an equally lasting impact on how we understand ourselves.

“Transgender Sex Work and Society” by Larry Nuttbrock— A Systematic Examination

Nuttbrock, Larry. “Transgender Sex Work and Society”, Harrington Park, 2018.

A Systematic Examination

Amos Lassen

“Transgender Sex Work and Society” is the only book that systematically examines transgender sex work in the United States and globally. “It brings together perspectives from a rich range of disciplines and experiences and is an invaluable resource on issues related to commercial sex in the transgender community and in the lives of trans sex workers, including mental health, substance use, relationship dynamics, encounters with the criminal justice system, and opportunities and challenges in the realm of public health.”

The volume covers interactions of trans sex workers with health, social service, and mental-health agencies, featuring more than forty contributors from across the globe. There are synthesizing introductions by the editor help organize and put into context a vast and scattered research and empirical literature. The book is perfect for researchers, health practitioners, and policy analysts in the areas of sex-work research, HIV/AIDS, and LGBTQ/gender studies. “We look at the role of sex work in the lives of transgender women and the problems and hazards that come with this type of work. This reveals a complex interplay between sex and gender, survival and validation, desire and love, social justice and health.”

Until now, transgender individuals have been the least studied of all sex workers. This wide-ranging book changes that. The findings here document the diversity within the transgender population but they also show that transgender individuals face unique challenges and are stigmatized by virtue of their gender and involvement in sex work.

 

“A SKIN SO SOFT”— An Intimate Bodybuilding Documentary

“A SKIN SO SOFT”

An Intimate Bodybuilding Documentary

Amos Lassen

“Soft” isn’t the word that comes to mind when looking at the over-pumped muscles of the Canadian bodybuilders featured In Denis Cote’s documentary. The French title, which translates as “your skin so smooth,” is a more sensible title. The subjects of Côté’s fascination with this extreme form of self-creation project a hyper-charged masculinity that’s undercut by rituals traditionally associated with femininity, from make-up and bronzers to the whole act of displaying one’s body for admiration.

Côté doesn’t emphasize this as he weaves together portraits of six bodybuilders that push personal details and large statements to the margins. Cote focuses on the surface of things knowing that, when images are well chosen and the presentation is right, the film can offer a wealth of details.

There are a few scenes at competitions, but these are secondary in nature to the film, even if they’re primary to most of these guys’ lives. Côté uses an understated, non-interventionist approach to show the daily lives of these men, which by the very nature of their pumped-up bodies has a built-in exaggeration.

The film’s biggest fascination is in the duality of man and muscle: it’s hard not to make animalistic comparisons when talking about their looks and behavior. Côté assures them a humanity as well, without trying to analyze their obsession with this extravagant concept of masculinity, nor the need for self-display.

We meet four bodybuilders, a personal trainer and a strongman wrestler. The participants do not speak much aside from gruffs, chomps, snorts, snores and some of the most astonishing breathing patterns you are likely to hear. Côté shows us the pervasive silent stoicism of this breed of 20th-century male, a cocktail wrought in an atmosphere of pseudoscience constructed with the help of self-help doctrines, inspirational quotes and fragile masculinity.

Each of the six lives is examined individually. The camera starts on the largest and details his precise beauty regimen. The physique is extreme, the vanity particular. A younger man drinks down his food, hyperventilates, and viewers will worry that his head might pop. A truck tugger and tire flipper spends a panicked few days almost mute before a local entertainment wrestling bout. His wife faces a brick wall. Elsewhere, a young bodybuilder accosts his somewhat bemused girlfriend for her lack of commitment to a weights routine. A mystic-cum-fitness coach sporting some curious labyrinth marks on his head appears and provides the longest stretches of dialogue, earnestly whispering garbled diagnoses and training tips to several clients, all of whom return blank faces and supreme concentration. Finally, the cheeriest muscle man merely talks about the lopsided nature of his muscle build. Where the film succeeds most is by bringing these men into each other’s company and they finally head off to a woodland retreat together. It is a sweet, hilariously homoerotic encounter.

Throughout, the film’s blurring of the boundary between reality and invention is as gentle as Côté’s treatment of his subject. The focus is on regimes of exercise and diet, preparations for photo shoots and competitions, and the brief gaps between these all-consuming activities, with each individual piece of these six daily routines filmed with a sense of quiet calm that finds the right balance between tenderness and detachment. hold them.

Very little is explained in this near-silent doc and in real terms, these men (and two women, both given satellite status to their male partners) occupy a pretty marginal place in the world of sports, or the world of anything else.