Monthly Archives: February 2019

“OUT OF LOVE”—-Passion, Passion, Passion

“OUT OF LOVE”

Passion, Passion, Passion

Amos Lassen


Director Paloma Aguilera Valdebenito’s “Out of Love” is a film about passion. It all begins when Nikolai (Danil Vorobyev) spots Varya (Naomi Velissariou) from the open kitchen of his restaurant. He experiences love at first sight. The two find each other in an indefinable city, and from that moment on, the dynamics of their t relationship begin. However lust and desire become pain and despair.

“Out of Love” is about extremes— those extremes, that are so common that there everyone is aware of. They include love, hatred, passion and violence in a relationship. Initially Nikolai and Varya they cannot get enough of each other but their relationship starts to fade .to form in the shiny varnish of their togetherness. During the period of infatuation, there was great desire, even publicly. Little disagreements seemed to weigh on both of them.

We follow Nikolai and Varya and see intimate fragments from a relationship that is doomed to fail, but neither of them would have wanted to miss what they had. Because the focus of the story is on the couple is on the couple, we don’t really know what is going on in the world outside.

They are both destructive people gives the film an extra layer: if you are so in love, there is simply nothing else than the other. “Everything is yours,” Varya says at one point in the film, and we fully understand her. We believe the actors because we want to.

A strong point of ‘Out of Love’ is that you do not have to choose a side. Where two fight, have two guilt. It is a cliché, but it definitely goes for it. What works less well is the slightly too long playing time. Although continuous attracting and repelling continues to fascinate, the best-before date is in sight. “Out of Love”, made in the context of De Oversteek, an annual collaboration project of the Film Fund, Mediafonds, CoBO, VPRO and NTI, is a particularly impressive film.

THE HUMP FILM FEST OF PORNOGRAPHY

DAN SAVAGE knows a lot about sex, so much so he has being giving advice about it in his SAVAGE LOVE column for almost 30 years now. He has also said that amateur porn claimed is the real reason that the internet was invented, and the reason why in 2005 and he created extraordinary HUMP Film Festival so that he could share his passion

He coordinates the annual HUMP PORNOGRAPHY FESTIVAL, which is made up of clips of up to five minutes on any pornographic topic, submitted by viewers. Winning submissions are shown in theaters around the United States, providing a unique experience as straight, gay male, bi, lesbian, and fetish porn are all shown together, one after another. While it’s not a strictly queer porn film fest, the curated selection of films always seems to be quite like one.

The years videos include Campground : “A horny Boy Scout goes on a nighttime hike in the woods. Inspired by the gay erotic film Pink Narcissus.” ; Task Master : “An obedient sub takes the term ‘Dirty Boy’ to a whole new level. Chatting online can get messy” ; Troughman : “A man tries to build up the courage to ask another man to piss on him in the Leather Stallion restroom trough.”

From March 1st – 3rd the Hump Film Festival will be at one of its regular venues O CINEMA IN MIAMI : you can find a complete list of all the cities it will play at HTTPS://HUMPFILMFEST.COM/#LOCATIONS-2019

Locations & Tickets
2019 – 14th Annual Fest
Albuquerque – January 31 – February 2
Palm Springs – February 8 & 9
Bellingham, WA – February 15 & 16
Los Angeles – February 28 – March 9 GET TICKETS
Columbus, OH – March 1 & 2 GET TICKETS
Miami, FL – March 1 – 3 GET TICKETS
Long Beach, CA – March 6 GET TICKETS
Eugene, OR – March 13 – 16 GET TICKETS
Nashville, TN – March 27 – 28 GET TICKETS
Manhattan – March 29 – April 4 GET TICKETS
Chicago – April 5 & 6 GET TICKETS
Brooklyn, NY – April 6 GET TICKETS
Cleveland, OH – April 13th GET TICKETS
Washington DC – April 25 – 27 GET TICKETS
Madison, WI – April 27th GET TICKETS
Seattle, WA May 3 – 4 GET TICKETS
Providence, RI – May 4th GET TICKETS
Portland, OR – May 4th GET TICKETS
Pittsburgh – May 10 – 11 GET TICKETS
Philadelphia – May 17 – 18 GET TICKETS
Bend, OR – May 18th GET TICKETS
Montreal – May 23 GET TICKETS
Toronto, ON – May 25th GET TICKETS
Baltimore – TBA
Minneapolis, MN – TBA
Sacramento, CA – TBA
Victoria BC – TBA
Vancouver BC – TBA
Burlington, VT – TBA
Kansas City, MO – TBA
Denver, CO – TBA
Missoula, MT – TBA
Saskatoon, SK Canada – TBA
Portland, ME – TBA
Austin, TX – TBA
Tucson, AZ – TBA
New Orleans, LA – TBA
14th Annual HUMP! Film Festival Films!
Paint Party
This gang buys a few gallons of paint. With apologies to their landlord.

Bloom
As two lovers stream through each other’s bodies and consciousness, orgasmic hallucinations bloom through their synchronized minds.

Campground
A horny Boy Scout goes on a nighttime hike in the woods. Inspired by the gay erotic film ‘Pink Narcissus’.

Jump Start My Love
This kinky couple connects for a midday power boost. Sometimes it’s watching home movies together that leaves you the most satisfied!

Unicorn
This couple has a different way of looking at love and sex, elegantly conveyed through our shared, human experience.

My Cathartic Release – WINNER, BEST KINK
Take a peek into one woman’s masochistic journey to find a sweet sweet release.

Task Master
An obedient sub takes the term “Dirty Boy” to a whole new level. Chatting online can get messy.

Spin
Your favorite middle school game has turned into a big basement bang fest. You can almost hear the parents yelling, “What’s going on down there?”

The Punishment
In this stylish BDSM film, a couple returns home after a night on the town to explore the arts of dominance and submission. This female lead takes control of her kink by initiating her punishment by being a brat and misbehaving.

Porn Yesterday – WINNER, JURY AWARD
A look at how terrible adults were at hiding porn and how good we were at finding it.

Whatever Floats Your Goat – RUNNER UP, BEST HUMOR
It’s never a dull day in the dairy room, but when a strange new breed of goat shows up this morning, our milkmaid will have to work extra hard to get that milk!

Please – RUNNER UP, BEST SEX
Consent is sexy. Here’s the proof. A deep exploration of rough sex.

Troughman – WINNER, BEST HUMOR
A man tries to build up the courage to ask another man to piss on him in the Leather Stallion restroom trough.

Luminous Lust
A real-life couple boldly bring the audience into the most intimate parts of their lives, sharing with the camera how the couple fell in love, what about their partner turns them on, and how they first met.

Home for Lunch
Coming home from work for lunch, a boyfriend finds something even more delicious.
to fill up on.

The Wheel of Fortune – RUNNER UP, BEST KINK
Five strangers are bound by flesh and metal. Only their release can set them free.

Extreme Wild Fuck… – WINNER, BEST SEX
“Extreme Wild Fuck with Petite GF – Amateur Couple Mountain Top Fuck Fest.” When you set out for a hike, you never know what you’ll “come” across on top of the mountain.

Insomniacs
Hotel. Night. While everyone is asleep, the cursed creep is out, as hungry as ever. Infrared cameras, outdoor exhibition and sloppy hole.

Optic Perve
Put on your spectacles, open your lids, and lend us your gaze. You’ll want to ogle this cornea copia of optical illusions and private eyes!

All of Us
All of Us explores the multidimensional story of two lovers sexual and emotional relationship expressing their passions for pain and pleasure in sweet soliloquies.

Around the World in 80 Lays – WINNER, BEST IN SHOW
A young couple stuck in a sexual rut decides to explore Planet Earth AND BEYOND! Sometimes the greatest sexual journeys require frequent flyer miles.

“TREMORS”— Shaky Foundations

“Tremors” (“Tremblores”)

Shaky Foundations

Amos Lassen

“Tremors” is set in Guatemala City where 40-year-old Pablo (Juan Pablo Olyslager) has what is considered in his Evangelical Christian community to be the perfect life: he is married to a beautiful woman (Diane Bathen) and father to two lovely children, part of a loving family, financially secure and professionally successful. He is known and respected as a “good man”. However, when he falls in love with a man named Francisco (Mauricio Armas Zebadúa), his image is shattered. As volcanic tremors shake Guatemala City, the foundations of his and his family’s entire worldview are shaken to the core.

He becomes judged as a sinner and is even accused of being a pedophile. He is fired from his job and banished from seeing his children over concerns for their safety. His shares an apartment with his lover provoking disgust and his parents and brother implore him to renounce his newly realized sexuality as sin. Even his former house staff turn against him in order to keep their jobs. Pablo is totally ostracized from his former life, so he agrees to enter a program with the Church designed to help “heal” and cure him of his “abnormality”. This is a course of quasi-religious therapy alongside other sinning males and it involves everything from testing his faith to abstinence, injections in intimate places to wrestling to recover his “masculinity”.

Guatemalan director and screenwriter Jayro Bustamante looks at how non-heterosexuality can clash with tradition and religious beliefs. The film immerses us in an Evangelical Christian Guatemalan community where the reaction to Pablo’s revelation and his subsequent treatment reveals a society that is deeply repressive.

Juan Pablo Olyslager’s Pablo, reflects on his situation  and gives new meaning to the role of faith and commitment to his family, wife and kids and the need to follow through his desires and become his true self; a feeling of guilt and shame and that of liberation; of internalizing the judgements of his peers and wanting to confront them.

Director Bustamante also explores ideas of masculinity, the male form and stereotypes of homosexuality, questioning, like Pablo’s family and Pablo himself do what makes a man. There are never any real earthquakes in “Tremors” — only a slight shaking of the ground. This doesn’t stop everyone from panicking, however; they don’t know that it’s insignificant, and as far as they’re aware, this one could kill them. The tendency to exaggerate every personal decision like it’s the end of the world runs throughout the film. It is a sad and wise tale, that shows how limiting homophobic societies can be. 

Pablo is a family man, a man of the church, and a consultant at a major firm. These things make him loved and respected, but he’s also a homosexual who has left his wife and children to stay with lover Francisco. This reveal doesn’t come until about forty minutes into the start of the film. His wife, Rosa, blames herself, being told that queerness is a result of external forces  such as the  lack of fellatio but his children know better. They miss him and force him into a difficult decision: is it better to pursue your own happiness at great personal cost, or to sacrifice yourself for the sake of others? This decision gives the film a melancholic, heartfelt quality.

Pablo’s wife and family aren’t villains , they are just misguided. His mother believes that the timing of these tremors cannot be a coincidence, using “God’s punishment” as further evidence that her son’s love for Francisco is one of sin. In reality though, these seismic events hint instead at the fragility of the upper class and outdated views on sexuality that threaten to tear Pablo’s life apart.

In the film, Bustamente takes a mature approach to the now well-worn themes found in other recent gay conversion stories. Pablo’s inner conflict is engaging and does not go the way of melodrama. We root for him and hope that everything will be okay.

“FIREFLIES”— A New Life

“FIREFLIES”

A New Life

Amos Lassen

Directed by Bani Khoshnoudi and set in the port of Veracruz,  “Fireflies” tells us the story of young Rami (Arash Marandi), who flees from Iran and travels on a cargo ship bound for Mexico.

He will face a new language and a new culture. He. meets Leti and Guillermo and they create a strong bond that helps him in his new life. What the director is trying to do is to with current issues in order to insure the relevance of the film today.

He makes us feel like Rami who is a vulnerable character, lonely and far from home, with barriers that he will have to be overcome. And to this end, “Fireflies” works wonderfully,

Marandi’s performance, achieves empathy with the public and causes us to fight his battles with him. This is a film with a clear and powerful message.

“SISTER STREET FIGHTER COLLECTION”— Special Edition Collector’s Set

“Sister Street Fighter Collection”

Special Edition Collector’s Set

Amos Lassen

The Toei Company had such tremendous success with “The Street Fighter” series that they decided to build a new karate series around a female lead. and cast a young actress who had appeared in a cameo role alongside her mentor Sonny Chiba. That was Etsuko Shihomi who was still a teen. When she appeared onscreen in her first leading role, she created a new character type: “a tough fighter who was fierce, fearless, good-hearted, and decidedly non-sexualized.”

In the first of the series, 1974’s “Sister Street Fighter”, Shihomi is the half-Chinese, half-Japanese Li Koryu, who travels to Yokohama to investigate the disappearance of her brother, an undercover cop. Li discovers a smuggling ring run by a drug lord with his own personal army of deadly fighters and must penetrate his lair with the help of a fellow karate master (played by Chiba). Shihomi and director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi (Wolf Guy) made two additional films based on the same character over the next year, “Sister Street Fighter: Hanging By A Thread” and “Return Of The Sister Street Fighter”, with a final unrelated follow-up (“Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist”)  which was to be directed  by original “Street Fighter” director Shigehiro Ozawa appearing in 1976.

This is exploitation cinema at its best. The films are funky and over-the-top  and filled with action featuring some of the craziest villains ever seen onscreen. The series embodies female power in a male-dominated genre and is a wonderful showcase for the physical presence and martial arts skills of its lead star.

Shihomi goes to find her missing brother, an undercover agent kidnapped by drug smugglers. She begins to nose around and incurs the anger of the main dope fiend and his henchmen who smuggle heroin to the rest of the world in wigs. Her uncle rats her out, thanks to a convenient rape of his daughter, and she is thought dead, but comes back in time to find her brother and defeat the army of villains, with the chauvinist help of Sonny Chiba.
Shihomi is excellent here. She is cute and can kick any man around. The film’s showcase the talents of Shihomi and camp (but I doubt that they realized it). The films  take themselves perfectly seriously, although there is little more a pastiche of elements swiped from contemporary Hong Kong films. The fights get more and more brutal as the movie goes forward. This movies will appeal to those looking for surreal, cheesy fun. “Sister Street Fighter” gives us good  martial arts films that are stylish, with good cinematography, and well-choreographed fight scenes.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:

  High Definition digital transfers of all four films

  High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations

  Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio

  Original English dubbed audio for Sister Street Fighter

  New optional English subtitle translation for all four films

  English SDH subtitles for the English dub for Sister Street Fighter

  New video interviews with actor Shinichi Sonny Chiba, director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, and screenwriter Masahiro Kakefuda

  Original Japanese theatrical trailers for all four films

  Original U.S. theatrical trailer for Sister Street Fighter, plus original English opening titles to the film

  Original German theatrical trailer for Sister Street Fighter, plus original German opening titles to the film

  Stills and poster gallery

  Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Kungfubob O Brien

  FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated booklet featuring writing on the series by Patrick Macias and a new essay on the U.S. release of Toei s karate films by Chris Poggiali

“AND THEN THERE WAS EVE”— Loss and Acceptance

“And Then There Was Eve”

Loss and Acceptance

Amos Lassen

Director Savannah Bloch’s “And Then There Was Eve” looks at the explosive fallout of LA photographer Alyssa (Tania Nolan) when she learns that her husband is  transgender. Alyssa is a successful photographer who wakes up to find her apartment ransacked and her husband Kevin (Jonathan Flanagan) missing, along with photographs and any evidence of their marriage. Seeking answers, Alyssa turns to her husband’s colleague Eve (Rebecca Crowl), a talented jazz pianist who enables her to understand Kevin’s battle with depression and to eventually accept his absence. While getting to know Eve at such a troubling time, Alyssa is surprised to find herself falling in love again. The growing bond between Alyssa and Eve is rushed and at times plays out like a montage. The film’s strength is the discussion it’s likely to bring about. We get a chance to hear about to what extent our gender defines who we are and how it affects the people around us. We also see how a long-term relationship can chip away at one’s identity.

The cast is brilliant all around. Nolan dives into the depths of denial with conviction, but it is Crowl who steals the show. The film is quite provocative and problematic. The second act of the film focuses on the relationship between Eve and Alyssa with the  suspense yielding to their relationship. We get clues of what is to come and I understand that it is something of an obligation to accept what is happening before us. Crowl has a charming ease that elevates the film to something truly special. Her Eve is never allowed to be a caricature and we see her as a fully realized human.

There is a scene early in the film where Eve offers support to Alyssa after her in-laws have turned their backs on her. The two women clearly need each other but have no idea how to ask or what to ask for. It is here that the audience is asked to follow Eve and Alyssa on their journey.

This is a film about loss and acceptance. While the film might not resonate with many viewers when it comes to their direct experiences, I have a feeling ,many will see some version of themselves on screen. This is an important film that I urge you to see..

“DIAMANTINO”—A Disgraced Football Star

“DIAMANTINO”

A Disgraced Football Star

Amos Lassen

I can’t place “Diamantino” into any one genre. It mixes sci-fi, comedy, fantasy and more it follows Diamantino, a disgraced football star who is attempting a comeback. On his search for redemption he comes face-to-face the refugee crisis, genetic modification, neo-fascism, giant puppies and the hunt for the source of the genius.

As Diamantino (Carloto Cotta) narrates, it feels like we’re in his head. He speaks about how he feels when he plays football, encountering refugees for the first time and accidentally being investigated for fraud by the government. The characters seem to be like they are in a fairytale from the lovably naïve Diamantino, to his evil twin sisters who abuse him at every chance, to the loony scientist attempting to capture his genius and make clones of the football star to build the world’s strongest football team. This is a fun film to watch and therefore hard to speak about so I don’t ruin your enjoyment.

“Diamantino” is a wild ride from start to finish with a lovably naïve character in the middle of it all. This is a  modern-day fairytale response about celebrity culture. Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s genre (and gender) brings us a sharp comedy romance  with this film. It is part celebrity football satire, part laughing at modern society with fantasy/science fiction elements.

“We quickly learn that Diamantino is an easily manipulated guy, whose twin sisters (Anabela and Margarida Moreira) are secretly laundering his cash – a plan that the secret service believe to be his. As Diamantino falls from football grace, he simultaneously becomes aware of the plight of refugees and decides to adopt one. This is the excuse the secret service need to plant lesbian investigator Aisha (Cleo Tavares) in his house, posing as a refugee teenage boy, who begins to get wind of a second sinister plot that sees a group of right-wing EU sceptics treating Diamantino as a disposable experiment in order to instigate the Portuguese equivalent of Brexit.”

No matter how crazily the plot twists, it’s the purity of Diamantino that keeps us hooked. Cotta plays it straight all the way as an innocent abroad in a world of potential evil, his interactions with Aisha are full of silly sweetness. Abrantes and Schmidt keep things light and constantly inventive, but Diamantino’s perpetual selflessness makes the darker satire about the creep of right-wing ‘build that wall’ ideology hit us hard. The film has a message about the importance of tolerance, love and silliness in the face of the darker elements of modern life.. We have humor, a mix of genres and an inane plot full of topical nods at important issues. The result is a surprisingly entertaining film which also manages to comment on subjects like gender fluidity and the nature of celebrity, desire and love.

Diamantino is the world’s foremost soccer star who also happens to look suspiciously like Cristiano Ronaldo, as if recalling the events of the film from a distant point in the future. He begins by describing his close bond with his father who taught him how to play the game and of his father’s fondness for beautiful church ceilings and how they made him look up at them. Simultaneously, a drone looks down into another place of faith, a football stadium where among deafening cheers Portugal plays a game and Diamantino gears up to take a shot while being surrounded by giant, fluffy puppies that roll around in a candy floss-filled environment. The puppies are the player’s magic charm and it is when he stops seeing them in the field that his troubles begin.

Diamantino, we learn, has the cognitive abilities of a child, but his heart is full of love and good intentions and following both career and personal tragedies, and already affected by the plight of refugees who are forced to flee their own country, he decides to adopt one to shower all his love on. It is at this point that another narrative element joins in the form of Aisha (Cleo Tavares), a lesbian government agent who wishes to investigate the football star’s finances by absurdly posing as a refugee boy and Diamantino’s newly-adopted son. Also involved in this increasingly bizarre and complex story are two evil twin sisters, an agent dressed as a nun with a bunny headpiece, Diamantino’s face on bedspreads and an anti-European Union subplot which involves cloning and scientific experiments to find the source of the athlete’s genius.

Apart from its political relevance and directness, there is a general non-serious tone and awareness of the inanity going on. The notions of innocence and purity that define its central character making him both lovable and deserving of sympathy. The idea is also present in the eventual relationship that grows between Diamantino and Aisha, free as it is from all labels and definitions. Despite his burnished physique and skills on the field, Diamantino remains child-like and helpless, and in a welcome reversal of roles, needs Aisha to rescue him from the troubles that he gets into.

“Spectral Pegasus / Dark Movements” by Jeffrey Beam and Clive Hicks-Jenkins— A Very Special Book

Beam Jeffery. “Spectral Pegasus / Dark Movements”, Clive Hicks-Jenkins, artist, Kin Press, 2019.

A Very Special Book

Amos Lassen

There is an unwritten rule somewhere that reviewers are not to have favorites and I am a supreme breaker of that rule. I have my favorites but I do not usually say who they are even though some of my readers will say that it is obvious. Speaking of poetry, Jeffery Beam holds a special place in my heart and I make no secrets about loving his poetry. However it has been quite a few years since I had something new by him to read. Even better than that is a CD that comes with Beam’s new collection which is intense and knocked me over. I had almost forgotten how much I love the language we speak and write with.

”Spectral Pegasus / Dark Movements” is, quite simply, glorious and it could not have arrived at a better time. I have always been the kind of a guy who turns to poetry when things are not so good (that does not mean that I don’t read poetry when times are good). Not only are these poems special, they come with wonderful illustrations thanks to Welsh painter Clive Hicks-Jenkins. Beam and Hicks-Jenkins take us  on a wonderful journey— a hero’s journey that goes through “death, resurrection, psychological and spiritual trials, and revelations into redemptive vision.” The places where we stop form a microcosm of our own society. We begin with the  death of the painter’s father,  we have two narrations going on at the same time—the poetic narrative and the visual narrative and these come together in myth and dreams. There is something feral about the poems which is probably the result of confronting with dark forces and bringing back knowledge that had fallen away over time. To know is to heat and to heal is to look within oneself remembering that pain is there to remind us that something is not right. Pain, be it mental or physical comes to guide us to where it can be alleviated.

“The dead have died a thousand times

for they have died in me

I climb the signal tower each time I bend my knee…”

This collection has twenty-one full color illustrations, sixteen poems, and illuminating essays by Sarah Parvin, Mary-Ann Constantine, and Claire Pickard.  From what we read we are able to get a vision of hope. William Rossetti reminds us that we will not be waylaid by those who came before us. We must look to our alienation and face it head on if we are to heal. We can renew ourselves and our world. We see that in the poetry and its illustrations here and we are reminded that the early drawings on the walls of caves was communication back then and it is the lack of communication that forces us into isolation. I could feel a sense of renewal as I read.

We are also reminded that art began in the caves of the Paleolithic world and in those caves ritual, religion, painting and song were born. By its very nature this is a provocative book and we need to remember that the purpose of literature was to provoke. Ever since I read ‘Frankenstein:, Mary Shelley has provoked me to understand that we all read differently. I found a sense of rebirth with this book and the way it sees  modern suffering.”  Of course it helps that Beam is a wordsmith and writes beautifully and that Hinks-Jenkins draws from his inner being. I always find poetry difficult to review because it appeals to the emotions and it forms a bond between writer and reader. What I see is just that; my perception of the magical verses that Beam writes and the stunning artwork of Hicks-Jenkins becomes mine and I am not sure that I want to share what came to me from what I read and experienced here. I totally fell in love with “The Big Bang: River Jordan” and was amazed at the research done to try to find out what this poem is  all about. I lived on a kibbutz in Israel in the Jordan Valley and I thought my knowledge of the area was good if not perfect. I was surprised to see how much I did not before.

“I am the Bastard Angel and the Virgin Devil

I am  Again and Then and Was and Ever”.

In closing, let me just say that I am overwhelmed as often happens when reading something new. Here I read of old ideas clad in semi-modern or modern  finery and they are very different now but then so are we. I urge you to read and savor what is here.  Think of this book like wine— it gets better as it ages.                                                                                 

“THE INVISIBLES”— Hiding in Berlin

“The Invisibles” (“die unsichtbaren”)

Hiding in Berlin

Amos Lassen

“Even under the oppressive National Socialist regime, at the height of the war, homelessness afforded a cloak of invisibility—fortunately. The air raid blackouts also helped. Even after Berlin had been declared “free of Jews” in 1943, an estimated seven thousand remained in hiding throughout the city. About 1,700 would survive the war and outlive their tormentors. Four of those survivors tell their stories in Claus Räfle’s dramatic-documentary hybrid, “The Invisibles” .

Cioma Schönhaus set a new standard for surviving. He was able to live night-to-night pretending to be a new draftee summoned to Berlin, living in spare rooms provided by patriotic Germans for recruits awaiting their formal mustering. This lasted for a while but eventually, he fell in with a counterfeiting ring and saved thousands of German Jews and dissidents with his fake papers, while also making enough money to eat in fancy restaurants.

After dying her hair blonde, Hanni Lévy spent her days going to movies and window-shopping on the Kurfürstendamm. She never knew where she would spend her nights or where her meals would come from. Ruth Arndt and her sister would eventually become maids for a high-ranking military officer, who knowingly shielded them from his colleagues. Eugen Friede lived a more typically “hidden” existence, but he also became involve with the resistance.

Claus Räfle’s subjects spent a little time locked away in attics but as time passed, they largely followed a hide-in-plain-sight strategy, which seemed to work, because the National Socialists never expected anyone would do something so bold. If these people were ever caught, their involvement in resistance networks would raise the stakes.

This is not the first documentary to combine talking head documentary segments with dramatic representations, but usually one has been conspicuously privileged over the other. Here Räfle gives them both equal weight.

 “The Invisibles” combines intimate interviews with controlled reenactments of the events discussed in the film. The basis of director and co-writer Claus Räfle’s documentary is archival interviews with four Holocaust survivors— four of the 7,000 Jewish Berliners who hid within the city even after Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels declared it “free of Jews” in 1943. They were sheltered by friends, shepherded between members of the limited communist resistance, and in Cioma’s case, maintained in the basement of the Afghan embassy by a network of document forgers. The four managed not only to evade the mass deportations to death camps in Poland, but also to survive the Allies’ incessant late-war bombings of Berlin and the devastating siege of the city that brought an end to the war.

Through its subjects, the film tells us much about the precarious conditions that they endured during the war, but the staged reenactments show us little that these individuals’ words haven’t already captured. The film shifts from docudrama to documentary with an emphasis on the machinery that was in place to help, not harm, Jews during that time.

“THE SECOND TIME AROUND”— Finding Love Again

“The Second Time Around”

Finding Love Again

Amos Lassen

Katherine Mitchell (Linda Thorson) is a widowed and vibrant senior who certainly wasn’t looking for love a second time and  not at her age, and not with grumpy Isaac Shapiro (Stuart Margolin).  She is convalescing after breaking her hip and the other seniors at the same place are noisy. In trying to escape that noise, she listens to the music she loves and discovers Isaac. As they spend time together, they find love and plan to fulfill Katherine’s lifelong dream of going to the opera in Milan.

Directed and cowritten by Leon Marr, Isaac and Katherine, meet when Katherine recuperates after a bad fall that lands her in an assisted-living facility in an unnamed Toronto. She is a WASPY opera lover from a wealthy background, who initially gets on the grouchy side of Isaac, a Holocaust survivor and lifelong tailor who has simply been biding his time (and drinking) since his wife died some years earlier. The assisted living residence is a hotbed of griping and card-playing and Katherine resents being dumped there by her overworked daughter (Laura de Carteret) but does get visits from her grandchild (Alexis Harrison), who brings her an opera-loaded iPod. This, in turn, is shared with Isaac, who doesn’t know from Verdi but remembers old Yiddish lullabies. Not much is made of the new duo’s differences, so the script has to work extra-hard to do so.

This is the story of unexpected sparks that fly between two unlikely mature souls that find the one comfort they treasure–opera music–and use it as a foundation for finding solid romance with one another.  The film explores the familiar themes of developing mutual attraction and it is quite refreshing to witness folks of an advanced age connecting.  

Basically this is a pedestrian romantic story about vibrant oldsters re-establishing love that has been dormant. The film effectively resonates because of the two veteran leads— Linda Thorson and Stuart Margolin. Baby-boomers may recall these performers from their extensive work on television from yesteryear.  Thorson was the youthful and curvaceous replacement for Diana Riggs’s iconic and sleek sidekick Emma Peel on the immensely popular British ’60s spy TV series “The Avengers.” Margolin, is the Emmy Award-winning supporting actor from the ’70s detective TV series “The Rockford Files”.   

Katherine Mitchell had to give up her living arrangement independence at her own place and go to a senior citizen convalescent home after a nasty fall downstairs when leaving the opera. Her rehab assignment includes socializing among her fellow older peers. Katherine finds the residents rather charming and approachable. In particular, widower Isaac Shapiro makes an unusual impression within the bunch. Abruptly abrasive at times, the retired tailor and Holocaust survivor shares an interest with Katherine as she continues to nurse her injured hip. Their mutual adoration for opera music is what gradually brings the two widowed individuals closer emotionally. They are quite the odd couple with their love for operatic song and spirit. Both are understandably wounded but the lyrically soothing and sensual vibes of opera are the healing source for the couple’s bereavement. Both Katherine and Isaac gradually learn to let their guards down and permit their hearts to operate and get past vulnerability. In this case, opposites attract and Marr resourcefully uses the simplicity of making the music a therapeutic security blanket for the aging lovers to newly discover affection for one another. Katherine and Isaac really have a genuine and authentic feel for finding their footing in the name of elusive love and longing.  

This quite basically is the story of late-blooming love story between a pair of mismatched seniors who become devoted soulmates through opera and operational isolation. Both Thorson and Margolis are wonderful and it is so nice to have a romantic movie  for the over-60 crowd.