Monthly Archives: February 2020

“MUCHO MUCHO AMOR”— Puerto Rican Astrologer Walter Mercado

“MUCHO MUCHO AMOR”

Puerto Rican Astrologer Walter Mercado

Amos Lassen

“Mucho Mucho Amor” is a documentary that follows the life of the iconic Puerto Rican astrologer, Walter Mercado. When Mercado was on television, everybody at the house had to be quiet and pay close attention to see what horoscope would say. Mercado represented hope and was a ray of light that many Latino families needed. Of course, his light wouldn’t be nearly as effective without his glamorous, extravagant capes…and the overall image he created.

This documentary is told through his family, his close friend, some famous admirers (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Eugenio Derbez), journalists, and Mercado himself.  “In a world where homophobia is prevalent, he decided to make and break the mold. He wasn’t ordinary, and he wore it as a badge.” His controversial decision to take the good aspects of every dominant religion and incorporate them into one was fascinating.

Mercado was an international one-of-a-kind phenomenon. To many Latino families, he was the symbolism of hope. He is a man who decided how he’ll live his life and decided to take the “I don’t care” attitude. His success and colorful appearance has been the target of jokes and unwelcome imitation. He died a few months after this documentary was done, and the filmmakers believe that Walter knew about his upcoming death, and that’s why he decided to make this film. Mercado’s message was to live life to the fullest, and the ultimate purpose of life is love.

Directed by Cristina Constantini and Kareem Tabsch, the film follows the life of the flamboyant wanderer of life, astrology and luck, who appeared on the televisions of millions of Latin households for many decades. His sign off, “pero sobre todo, con mucho, mucho amor,” is the lasting impression of the film itself—enchanting, doting, and as simply wonderful as Walter himself. He was a trailblazer within the Latin and LGBTQ community and left a legacy for himself, as thoughtfully seen here.

Mercado grew up in a farm town. From a young age, his experience in healing a bird made him a popular deity of sorts among neighbors. He grew to make it big in the business, going from what was thought to be a whim appearance on-air to getting big network deals for his own shows and branding. His background was in theatre and soaps and he eventually he came to extravagant, colorful capes and gowns, like a Latin wizard of good karma. This image with all of its beads, blowouts and jewel galore, became a staple in Latin culture.

Constantini and Tabsch recognize the impactful and trailblazing icon that Mercado was in. He was never explicit with his asexuality, but is on record saying that he is attracted to life itself. For so much of Mercado’s life, his willingness to love has long been part of his character as a selfless, warm soul with no adherence to customary stock. The film also depicts the hardships and legal battles that he had to deal with. His former manager, Bill Bakula, is interviewed in the film, reminiscing how he came to discover Mercado and worked with him over the years. The longtime relationship came to a halt when a legal battle ensued, with Bakula getting Mercado to sign off ownership of his name and entire brand, unbeknownst to Mercado. This played a factor in his sudden disappearance from on-air work in 2006.

For so long, the Latin community as a whole was hesitant about homosexuality, largely influenced by the culture’s dominating machismo. Mercado’s work was largely accepted, nonetheless, but was sometimes met with comedic bashing in the entertainment world. Whether lovingly or childishly, Mercado’s flashy and theatrical image was poked at in comedy shows, interviews and in general.

“Mucho Mucho Amor” is a celebration of a life that touched so many Latin homes. We sense “the beating energy of Mercado’s legacy as someone who just wanted to disperse magic and healing hope to his audience.”

“I CARRY YOU WITH ME”— A Love Story

“I CARRY YOU WITH ME”

A Love Story

Amos Lassen

“I Carry You With Me” is an epic love story that spans decades and was sparked by a chance encounter between two men in provincial Mexico. Based on a true story, ambition and societal pressure propel an aspiring chef to leave his soulmate and make the treacherous journey to New York, where life will never be the same.

We follow two young men from Mexico as they fall in love, cross the border and struggle to have a piece of the American Dream for themselves. Years later, one of them regrets leaving his son behind and the other wants to stay firmly in the U.S. where they have built their home. Both of them face the same hard consequence: because they came to the U.S. without documentation, they risk deportation and semi-permanent exile from Mexico. 

Director Heidi Ewing weaves in the real-life inspirations of the younger characters, who recreate the men’s lives before the story begins, right down to their tortured childhoods where their fathers tried to scare them into being straight young men. The movie quietly observes the couple work through these unspoken tensions.

We see and feel Ewing’s love for her characters in beautifully natural ways. It is as if it we are another person standing next to the characters and sharing their feelings about the journey north and weary of the hard road ahead. We root for their successes and feel their pain when it comes and we develop a strong emotional connection to their journey.

The film reveals the intersection of misogyny and homophobia that exists among traditionalists. I see the film as proving that nothing beats reality for tales of love, perseverance, and the pursuit of happiness. Iván We meet Ivan (Armando Espitia) as a wide-eyed culinary school graduate who struggles to be seen in Puebla, Mexico and follow him to his eventual accomplishment as a chef and restaurateur in New York City. All the while, he balances a relationship with Gerardo (Christian Vázquez), a university teaching assistant he’d met at a gay bar in Puebla.

What follows is a  story complete with dangerous border crossings, violent run-ins with homophobic society, and the ever-present fear of living in America as an undocumented immigrant. It’s impossible not to hope for the two men since their desires are universal: safety, acceptance, economic mobility, and the right to love whoever you want.

The film touches on many themes that could each constitute their own film: working life in Puebla; coming of age as a gay man in 1980s Mexico; immigrating to the United States; opening a restaurant in New York City; reuniting with a long-distance boyfriend; being estranged from a son for 25 years; etc. and the film struggles under its ambition but  is an intrinsically moving tale and it works.

It does, at times, feel unwieldy because of multiple themes across four decades and different geographies—from Puebla to Texas to New York City, and then back to Mexico again yet it perfectly showcases the legal and emotional messiness of migration.

Even though Iván and Gerardo are undocumented immigrants, they’re human (and sweetly in love). They want to secure a safer future for themselves, and in the case of Iván, he’s eager to put his culinary degree to use instead of being a dishwasher for the rest of his life.

During this transnational story, the diversity within Mexico also comes to the fore. Iván and Gerardo aren’t rootless Mexicans—they’re from urban Puebla, which looks starkly different from the deserts just south of the Texas border where Iván makes his fraught crossing. Meanwhile, the southernmost state of Chiapas contains the farm Gerardo grew up on and behind the scenes, Iván’s actor Armando Espitia hails from nearby Mexico City while Gerardo’s actor, Christian Vázquez, was born in Guadalajara.

In fact, I read that “except for Ewing and a handful of other crew, the entire main cast and production crew was Mexican.” The film centers an LGBTQ story, and while a cisgender gay romance between two men confronted with 20th century homophobia does feel like covered territory, “I Carry You With Me” brings with it all the specificity mentioned above plus the added gravitas of being based on real people.

Ewing also reveals the intersection of misogyny and homophobia that exists among traditionalists in Mexico, as seen through the fathers of both Iván and Gerardo. During flashbacks to childhood, we see how the men punish their sons for exhibiting any behavior not firmly in line with conservative notions of masculinity. Even as young adults, when Iván meets Gerardo’s family as “a friend”, he’s derided by Gerardo’s dad who says that washing dishes is women’s work. 

The film avoids the pitfalls of so many earlier queer films that end in violence and tragedy. It’s wonderful to flash forward to documentary-style photographs as the credits roll, and to see photos of the actual Iván and Gerardo smiling for the camera.

This is Ewing’s first narrative and it impressively has a sense of both timeliness and timelessness.

“LET THERE BE LIGHT”— Small-Town Xenophobia

“LET THERE BE LIGHT”

Small-Town Xenophobia

Amos Lassen

In “Let There Be Light”, a well-meaning father does everything he can for his family, but circumstances beyond his control put him in an impossible moral dilemma. This is the the second feature from Slovak writer-director Marko Škop (Eva Nová). At the outset of the film, Milan (Milan Ondrík) is infectiously good-natured: working construction in Germany to earn money for his three kids’ future tuition. He is charming in a goofy way that is almost too much for his host family to handle.

Milan makes it back home to small-town Slovakia just in time for the Christmas holidays to be with wife Zuzka (Zuzana Konečná) and their kids, including high school-aged Adam (František Beleš), a problem for his mother because of his mysterious late-night outings.

Tragedy comes to the fore when a pair of local policemen pay the family a visit to ask Adam some questions: a fellow member of his “group” has committed suicide, and his parents believe bullying or abuse to be the culprit. The group, as Milan soon comes to find out, isn’t just the wrong crowd: it’s a paramilitary-like sect of young adults out to protect their rural Slovak villages from the threat of Islamic extremists, organized in part by a xenophobic local Priest (Daniel Fischer).

At the heart of “Let There Be Light” are the crossroads where Milan inadvertently finds himself at: do nothing about the group, which already bears responsibility for one death, and put his son’s future in jeopardy. If he does something, he may place the rest of his family in immediate danger. The further Milan delves into trying to work things out such as meeting with the dead boy’s parents (Csongor Kassai and Anikó Vargová) and getting a whole lot of resentment from his own father (Ľubomír Paulovič), the further he gets from any practical solution.

The story is told without a musical score and tackles modern issues facing Europe with an unflinching realism. Much of the beauty of the film comes from the empathetic lead performance from Ondrík as Milan, an irrepressibly cheerful character who just wants to do the right thing and has the positive outlook drained right out of him during the course of the movie.

“There’s no dick harder than life,” Milan jokes with his wife after finding himself unable to perform near the beginning of “Let There Be Light”. The following narrative proves that all too true.

Milan faces a grim reality check after finding out his son became radicalized in his absence by a far-right paramilitary troop. The film follows a trajectory of current socio-political climate that is familiar from other countries “where populists and closeted fascists run around offering simple answers to complicated, and at some cases uneven nonexistent problems.”

This story unfolds in this very same climate although set into conditions and circumstances belonging to the domestic environment in a zeitgeist manner. Economic migration became a necessity in many households in poorer regions, the toll it takes on families is also one of the central themes in “Let There Be Light”.

Director Marko Škop deeply researched the topics of employs in a form of motifs evolving into parallel storylines. Two figures personify these– Milan´s father and a local priest. A larger generational schism divides Milan and his reserved and cold father what leads to a tense and strained relationship. The Catholic priest, on the other hand, emerges as an archetypal character proclaiming to protect traditional values what coincidently is the very same language far-right extremists use. Furthermore, clerofascism has a recorded history in Slovakia from the times when the country served as a puppet state to Nazi Germany during WWII, a Catholic priest, Jozef Tiso (a hero to local far-righters venerated by several priests as well), was put into the presidential seat who, among other deeds, agreed to Jew deportations to Auschwitz (he was executed for treason after the war).

Milan’s father remains a mystery which is largely for the benefit of the story while the priest is awkwardly childish with an oedipal complex (however, it would explain his engagement in the paramilitary troop where he seems to wield almost ideological power over local youth). 

The fatherly instinct causes Milan to protect his child from undesired influence as his son has managed to adopt not only the xenophobic rhetoric but the far-right worldview as well. The schoolmate´s suicide was not a coincidence and Milan’s attempt to pluck his eldest child from the local paramilitary brigade and extremist ideology put the whole family into danger. And the local priest is not too happy that Milan is behaving in such a socially disruptive manner. 

Škop juggles several topics and motifs to create a portrayal of family and society amid specific circumstances that came to define the current period. He is very careful in designing the plotline, arranging parallel storylines while not overloading or obfuscating his narration.

The result is seemingly linear storytelling and plot development with regard to a rising tension (and eventually a breaking point) between Milan´s family and the rest of village. Ultimately, “Let There Be Light” is more complex and denser in meaning and implications than the plot may appear to carry on the surface.

“Let There Be Light” is a multilayered drama depicting struggles of a family in a collective social portrait where radicalization is the answer in economically less fortunate regions. Yet this is just one symptom that Škop touches upon. The film addresses more issues pertaining to the current times and not solely in the poorer regions of Central and Eastern European countries. The writer-director turns to the topics of fatherhood, masculinity, intergenerational gap and father figures.

“Prepare My Prayer” by Rabbi Dov Singer— The Language of Prayer

Singer, Dov Rabbi. “Prepare My Prayer “, Maggid, 2020.

The Language of Prayer

Amos Lassen

Rabbi Dov Singer’s “Prepare My Prayer” is a unique attempt to develop a dedicated language for the worship of the heart, the language of prayer. Inspired by recipe books, it gives us a variety of concise and practical recipes for prayer by one of Israel’s most popular religious educators.

Rabbi Dov Singer is a leading voice in Israeli education and Jewish spirituality. He has attracted thousands of Jews of all backgrounds to workshops and prayer events to explore and enhance spirituality while going beyond ritual choreography. He has taught thousands of all ages how to talk and listen to one another. As a result we learn how to do the same with God. Rabbi Singer invites us to try his unique insight.

He sees humans as “Homo-mitpalelos”or praying beings, instead “Homo-sapiens” – thinking beings. He maintains that all of humanity, and therefore, all of creation prays by instinct. We need to let go of all the questions – “to whom am I praying? Why I am praying? Does it even work?” and to learn how to use our spiritual instinct for prayer.

This is the English, translation of his bestselling, Hebrew edition, “Tikon Tefillati” in which Rabbi Singer engages readers and encourage them to take practical steps and actions that actively influence their prayer experience. Written in the style of a cookbook, we get short recipes as a means to develop and enhance one’s skillset – the mechanisms we use when we pray. The emphasis is on  concentration, emotion and spiritual connection with God, and our engagement with the Divine.

Eleven chapters are broken down into concise, accessible sections in which each “recipe” begins with short, powerful quotes from traditional Jewish texts, the Bible, the Talmud, and/or Hassidic masters. The poetic narrative focuses on and guides readers through a particular practical aspect of prayer and encourages us to take what’s being shared and practice it.

“Esther: Power, Fate and Fragility in Exile” by Erica Brown— Moments of Destiny

Brown, Erica. “Esther: Power, Fate and Fragility in Exile”, (Maggid Studies in Tanakh) Maggid, 2020.

Moments of Destiny

Amos Lassen

I have always found the Book of Esther to be a puzzle in which destiny rules. We read of Esther, a beautiful but highly unlikely queen who becomes a leader of the Jewish people. Her uncle, Mordechai, is able to use his influence to become a trusted confidant and the Jewish minority that faced extermination became a powerful people in a foreign kingdom. Erica Brown looks at these issues and others in “Esther: Power, Fate and Fragility in Exile” and gives us a textual and thematic reading of the story against the background of “hate and political ineptitude”. She shows how this ancient story has something to say about problems today such as antisemitism, sexual tyranny and the lack of leadership.

I believe it is the mystical quality of the Book of Esther that makes it so fascinating and compelling. The fact that there are so many unanswered questions adds to it. What we see here from Erica Brown is a high level of insights that help clarify what it says while at the same time keeping  the mystery. After all, it is about destiny and that we cannot predict or foretell. The most amazing insights we get here are the ways the book is related to contemporary life and how it looks at the mysterious personage of a queen who rose to her position by luck. In learning about Esther, we also learn about ourselves and the role of destiny in our lives.

We see how the story of Esther has stood the test of time and how it has been received in different generations. It indeed has something to say about Jewish life in the diaspora and it adds to our understanding of Jewish life in general.

“Ani Maamin: Biblical Criticism, Historical Truth, and the Thirteen Principles of Faith” by Rabbi Joshua Berman— Challenging Questions

Berman, Joshua. “Ani Maamin: Biblical Criticism, Historical Truth, and the Thirteen Principles of Faith”, Maggid, 2020.

Challenging Questions

Amos Lassen

The Bible has been academically studied for 200 years  and that study has confronted the believing Jew with the most challenging of questions: “Are the accounts of the Tanakh historically accurate? Was there an Exodus? Why does the Torah provide multiple versions of its law and its stories? What are the warrants for believing the Torah is a divine text? Can a Jew seeking intellectual honesty maintain fidelity to the Thirteen Principles of Faith?” Dr. Joshua Berman looks at this and addresses these issues.

This is the first full-length treatment of these charged issues by an Orthodox thinker and it provides an academically and traditionally based approach of spiritual and intellectual integrity for the believing Jew.

“Such a Library!: A Yiddish Folktale Re-Imagined” by Jill Nadler Ross, illustrated by Esther Van Den Berg— A Special Librarian

Nadler, Jill Ross. “Such a Library!: A Yiddish Folktale Re-Imagined”, (pictures by Esther Van Den Berg) Intergalactic Afikoman, 2020..

A Special Librarian

Amos Lassen

I often wonder what will happen to the Yiddish language now that my generation knows very little of it. It has been dying for years and today’s youngsters are basically unaware of its importance to the Jewish people. Jill Ross Nadler with “Such a Library” shares an old Yiddish folktale for today’s children and gives them a delightful read and introduces them to Yiddish.

“Such a Library” begins with a retelling of an old Yiddish folktale and then moves to  a modern-day library with very special  librarian, Miss Understood. Stevie likes the library to be quiet but that changes with Miss Understood who does not understand his complaint about the noise. When Stevie tells her that the library sounds like a party going on, she think that is a wonderful idea and opens a book from hundreds of balloons fill the room adding to the noise level rather than do anything about it. Stevie tells her that it sounds like a zoo and soon animals come out of the opened book and the party becomes a circus. It seems that every time Muss Understood says, “Once Upon a time” the noise level rises. When the noise finally dies down with the animals and circus performers returning to the pages of the book, it becomes quiet again and Stevie understands what real noise is. He had thought that the sounds of computers and turning pages were noisy but nothing compared to Miss Understood’s book.

I can just see youngsters being spellbound by this book and I love its message and the picture we get of a modern librarian who understands the children who come to read. The story beautifully illustrates the line from the Sayings of Our Fathers and the Yiddish proverb of “Who is rich? The one who is happy with what he has”. To make things even sweeter, there is an explanation of how the Yiddish folktale evolved into this modern retelling. We all know that no matter how bad a situation is, it could always be worse. In fact, the message here is not just for children but for children of all ages.

I love the illustrations and use of color as well as the loss of innocence (in a sense) about libraries. I can see young folk being mesmerized as the story is told to them and I especially love that they get not only a wonderful story with beautiful illustrations but also a sense of Jewish history and an introduction to a culture that is now gone.

“THE PASSION  OF DARKLY NOON”— The Desire… The Obsession… The Nightmare…

“THE PASSION  OF DARKLY NOON”

The Desire… The Obsession… The Nightmare…

Amos Lassen

Directed by Mark Kermode and Philip Ridley, we are taken on a surreal incursion into the dark heart of the ‘American dream’ in “The Passion of Darkly Noon.” Darkly Noon (Brendan Fraser) is the sole survivor of a military-style attack on an isolated religious community. While stumbling through a forest in a daze, he is rescued by the free-spirited and enigmatic Callie (Ashley Judd). Darkly finds himself having strange new desires for Callie as she nurses him back to health but then he watches her jump into the arms of her returning mute lover Clay (Viggo Mortensen). Lost in the woods with only his fundamentalist upbringing to make sense of his unrequited passions, Darkly soon becomes very angry. This is a spellbinding, hallucinogenic dream that is on full display.  in a glittering new transfer of his most formally inventive and electrifying film.

Judd is fully on display: playing a backwoods homesteader who just happens to do most of her chores in microscopic attire. Brendan Fraser is the religious crackpot who develops an obsession with her. Darkly is a handsome young man with a strict religious background, who is found ailing and exhausted in the American Deep South woods and rescued by truck driver Jude (Loren Dean). He takes Darkly to the forest house of sexy young Callie who nurses Darkly back to health.

Upon recovering, Darkly’s rising passion is troubled by his upbringing, the death of his strictly religious parents, his own strict beliefs and the fact that Callie is already involved with Clay (Viggo Mortensen), currently away in the forest. Nevertheless, Darkly develops a sexual obsession for Callie. So, when Clay returns and Darkly sees the two lovers kiss and hears them making love, he becomes quite mad. I just cannot say anymore without ruining the plot.

Bonus Materials

  • New 2K restoration by Arrow Films from the original camera negative, approved by Philip Ridley
  • High Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentation
  • Original 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • New audio commentary by writer/director Philip Ridley
  • Isolated score track in lossless stereo, including never-before-heard extended and unused cues, and the two songs from the film
  • Sharp Cuts, a newly filmed interview with editor Leslie Healey
  • Forest Songs, a newly filmed interview with composer Nick Bicât
  • Dreaming Darkly, an archive featurette from 2015 featuring interviews with Ridley, Bicât and star Viggo Mortensen
  • Previously unreleased demos of the music score, written and performed by Bicât before filming started
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Image gallery
  • Reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring a new Philip Ridley career retrospective written by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

“LINGUA FRANCA”— An Undocumented Filipino Trans Caregiver

“LINGUA FRANCA”

An Undocumented Filipino Trans Caregiver

Amos Lassen

Isobel Sandoval’s “Lingua Franca” is a semi-autobiographical film that she directed, wrote, produced, edited and starred in the film all by herself.

The focus is on Olivia, a trans caregiver trying to find her way to a green card, exploring relevant themes but in a fairly unengaging way. Olivia’s relationship with Alex (Eamon Farren) dominates the picture at the expense of its message. Sandoval’s performance is clearly inexperienced but Farren certainly does the best he can with the material. The problem is simply that it just is not that interesting. It’s not new. We’ve seen it done better in many other films and this is not what the film should be focusing on. 

Sandoval has forgotten character. Olivia has little depth. Aside from the fact that she is trans, a caregiver and an illegal immigrant, it’s really quite difficult to understand who Olivia is. She never really feels like a person— just a prop. It’s very hard to care about Olivia’s plight without decent character development, and she has none. 

There are some interesting themes in “Lingua Franca” and they are occasionally well-explored, but the film’s lack of any real character development and unintentional focus on its central love story mean it the film does not know where it is going. Sandoval’s work is greatly flawed, and one can’t help but feel this picture may have been a tad more successful in more experienced hands. It is one of those tales of the moment that seem like they can never end well.

Olivia looks after Olga an elderly Russian Jewish women (Lynn Cohen) in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.  The irony of the situation is that Olga and her late husband came to the United States  themselves some decades ago in very similar circumstances  as Olivia’s

Besides her work, Olivia leads a solitary life and is stuck scrimping and saving to send money home to her mother in the Philippines.  She is also trying to pay off Matthew, a  friend of a friend who has agreed to marry her so she can finally get a Green Card.

When Matthew tells here he is no longer free and returns her money, Olivia is faced with the reality of the possibilities of being deported.  The ICE authorities have been forced by the Administration to step up their raids to discover illegal immigrants, and she feels like they are closing in.

Alex, Olga’s drifter grandson is just out of rehab and has been given shelter in her house on the condition he helps look after her.  However he’s a recovering alcoholic prone to relapses who has trouble hanging on to his job in his uncle’s slaughterhouse, much less caring for Olga.

Like Olivia, Alex is also very much a loner , and now living under the same roof, they can hardly avoid eventually drifting together.  However, Alex does not know that Olivia is a trans woman.

While this is not  the story of Sandoval’s own life, she is in a position to relate to it personally and so adds a real sense of authenticity to it.   It’s a very downbeat drama that seems to deliberately avoid giving any sign of optimism and hope, yet somehow Sandoval draws us in and keeps us interested and invested until the very end.

To find out what happens when Alex learns Olivia is trans, you will have to see the film.  I can say that the two of them are on different paths in their life.

Sandoval uses her own experiences to tell this story.  She is a transgender woman of color and an immigrant and these influence iher worldview in a way that others probably won’t be able to see. 

“The Italian Invert: Intimate Confessions of a Homosexual to Émile Zola” by Michael Rosenfeld and William Peniston— Uncensored

Rosenfeld, Michael and William Peniston. “The Italian Invert: Intimate Confessions of a Homosexual to Émile Zola”, Harrington, 2020.

Uncensored

Amos Lassen

In the late 1880s, a young Italian aristocrat confesses his life story to the famous novelist Émile Zola. He candidly describes his seduction as a teenager by one of his father’s (male) friends, his first love affair with a sergeant in his military regiment, and his “extraordinary” personality. Judging it too controversial, Zola felt that it was all too controversial so he gave it to a young doctor, Georges Saint-Paul, who published a censored version in 1896 in a medical study on sexual perversion. A few months later, the Italian finds this medical treatise in a bookstore and is shocked to discover that the doctor censored and distorted the most daring parts of his text in order to support his own theories. His protest comes via a long, unapologetic, and even more daring letter to the doctor, defending his right to lead his own life.

The book is based on the newly discovered manuscript of the letter to the doctor, along with some additional resources. This edition is the first complete, unexpurgated version in English of this very famous gay autobiography. We read about the uniquely nineteenth-century experience of a privileged young man, forthrightly expressing his desires and defending his right to pleasure. Additionally, there are two analytical essays―one by Michael Rosenfeld on the relationship between Zola, Saint-Paul, and the Italian “invert,” and the other by Clive Thomson on the doctor’s career and they give further context to this story.

What makes this book unique is that a gay man frankly describes his desires, loves and life at the end of the nineteenth century. Originally written in French and previously published in censored versions only, recently discovered manuscripts lets readers discover (for the first time) in English the complete story of this young Italian aristocrat who dared to defend his right to sexual pleasure. As an original source for the study of autobiographical texts as historical documents, this is quite a historical document.  Researchers in Jewish studies will be interested in the author’s revelations about his Jewish mother and her family. It is also an important addition to existing publications for historians of medicine, psychology, and sexology.

A brilliant archival discovery, a triumph of careful scholarship, an unsuspected episode in modern literature, a moving testimony about sex and love, and a fascinating, previously censored chapter in the history of sexuality. This is a classic text of nineteenth-century sexology and it also contains here with critical notes, and gives us a revised and expanded version of the primary documents available in English. It also adds important essays that situate and enlarge their scope.

The uncensored letters of the young Italian homosexual . are an autobiographical account inspired by the long tradition of letters sent to great writers by anonymous readers. . It is still relevant as a manifesto that protests medical dogma and defends the right to happiness and love between men.