“The Trip: Andy Warhol’s Plastic Fantastic Cross-Country Adventure” by Deborah Davis— A Little Known Trip

the trip

Davis, Deborah. “The Trip: Andy Warhol’s Plastic Fantastic Cross-Country Adventure”, Atria Books, 2015.

A Little Known Trip

Amos Lassen

A little-known road trip that Andy Warhol took from New York to LA in 1963, and how that journey-and the numerous artists and celebrities he encountered-profoundly influenced his life and art is the subject of Deborah Davis’ new book. “What began as a madcap, drug-fueled romp became a journey that took Warhol on a kaleidoscopic adventure from New York City, across the vast American heartland, all the way to Hollywood and back”.

We visit a Texas panhandle truck stop, a Beverly Hills mansion, the beaches of Santa Monica, a Photomat booth in Albuquerque among others. We also meet a fascinating group of characters that includes Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Marcel Duchamp, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, and Frank Sinatra not to mention rednecks, beach bums, underground filmmakers, artists, poets, socialites, and newly minted hippies. Each of these became part of Warhol’s psyche.

Andy Warhol’s speeding Ford Falcon is our vehicle that takes us from the end of the Eisenhower era to the beginning of the ’60s. Through in-depth, original research, writer Davis sheds new light on one of our most enduring figures in the art world and also captures a fascinating moment in 1960s America-with Warhol at its center.

Deborah Davis convincingly maintains that the year 1963 was the year when “everything changed” and not only for Warhol, but for the United States, as well. We cannot forget that it was also the year JFK was assassinated and this played its part in America’s obsession with sex, drugs, rock n’ roll and Pop Art. Those of us who lived through this period know that America was never the same after Kennedy died just as American culture was “his passive impenetrable persona” and it was the result of this trip. While Warhol discovered America, he also discovered himself. “The Trip” tells us how suddenly Warhol became so famous.

In 1961 Warhol was not yet a success and he saw what other American artists were achieving. He was a commercial artist and no one took commercial art seriously back then. In January ’61, Warhol bought a Jasper Johns’ sketch titled “Light Bulb,” and he found the idea of turning a common object into a work of art “inspirational.” Using this inspiration, Warhol transformed “the lowest of lowbrow images” — a Campbell’s soup can — into one of the most iconic images of the 1960s. It was that image that resulted in Warhol eclipsing the artists who’d dismissed him as just a “swishy shoe illustrator”.

Within a year, Warhol had his first one-man show at the influential Castelli gallery in New York. There he got to meet the celebrities that he came to idolize. Among the side benefits of his newfound fame were introductions to the celebrities he idolized. Among them were actor Dennis Hopper and his Hollywood royalty wife, Brooke Hayward. Hopper issued Warhol a challenge by telling him to come to Los Angeles for the opening of his show and he would host “a genuine movie star party” in his honor. And this was an offer he could not resist.

Warhol and his three-man entourage left Manhattan on September 24 and arrived in Los Angeles days later having traveled on Route 66. Taylor Mead was one of Warhol’s traveling companions and he did what gay men do as they traveled. Warhol was mesmerized by the lights and the billboards that were giant pictures ion basic primary colors that were like his own creations.

L.A. was endless parties, openings and encounters with movie stars and it was there that Warhol decided to direct his first Hollywood-type movie, “Tarzan and Jane Regained … Sort of” and it starred Mead. The real reason for the trip was the Hopper party and it didn’t disappoint. Warhol states that, “This party was the most exciting thing that ever happened to me”.

Now what is really fascinating about the trip is author Davis’s thesis that the visit to L.A. provided Warhol with the emotional stance that came to define his personality and his art for the rest of his life. Warhol’s impassivity had been evident before, but in L.A., it reached a new high the set of “Tarzan”. Warhol began to understand that his greatest talent was to stand by impassively and allow his subjects reveal themselves. 1963 was the year that changed everything.

Warhol became a man of mystery: the more he kept back, “the more interesting and desirable he seemed.” At this show, someone bought a “Silver Liz” for small money and returned it days later demanding a refund. Bad idea. Today its price is $25 million.

I had a ball reading this and could not stop once I began. It is absolutely a wonderful and educative read that I heartily recommend. The story by itself is something but when combined with the wonderful prose of Deborah Davis, it becomes a must-read.

“CUT SNAKE”— Twists and Turns

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“Cut Snake”

Twists and Turns

Amos Lassen

New released prisoner Jim “Pommie” Stewart (Sullivan Stapleton) is all muscle and tattoos, played with an impressively predatory glint in the eyes, who’s desperate to be re-united with his former prison mate Mirv “Sparra” Farrell (Alex Russell).

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It seems that Sparra is going straight and is settling down with girlfriend Paula (Jessica De Gouw). However, Stewart’s arrival in his life draws him back into the criminal world and brings some of Sparra’s complicated feelings back to the forefront.

When we see the antagonistic Pommie reunited with Sparra, we understand that the film will take on the traditional narrative path of questioning whether someone gone straight will revert back to a life of crime. With this as the core of director Tony Ayres’ tale, we see some fascinating twists that give us a lot to think about regarding surrounding gender roles and the concept of masculinity, especially in the blurred lines between machismo and homoeroticism.

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Set in the 1970s seventies in Australia,  this is a crime drama that is much fresher and edgier than many others. tale and you have a watch that feels edgier and fresher than the average genre fare. It is beautifully filmed and is tense all the way through. We see multiple raids on a nightclub and the gritty aftermath of this crime and it is violent and gritty.

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Hyper-masculine Sullivan Stapleton moves between rough diamond charm and heightened bouts of aggression but with a kind of vulnerability that reflects the dichotomy of his persona. Alex Russell brings a boyish charm to the fold and provides a bit of mystery— we’re never sure if Sparra’s motivations and emotions are genuine – whether with his fiancé Paula (Jessica De Gouw) or with his old prison buddy Pommie.

Finding that Sparra does not live at his old address, we see Pommie’s insistence on finding him as almost an obsession with him and after finding his new address he learns that he is living in bliss with his girlfriend, Paula and working as a mechanic.

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Sparra seems to welcome Pommie quite amiably, but it soon becomes clear that they had once been close in prison and Pommie assumed they would have other plans after his release, plans that didn’t include steady jobs and fiancées. Paula is amused with Pommie but she knows relatively little of Sparra’s past, and has no idea he served time. The couple take Pommie out on the town with Paula’s closest girlfriend and they end up in a gay nightclub. When Pommie gets unwanted attention from the drag queen emcee, he discreetly robs the joint and this sets off a chain reaction that reveals revelations.

Stapleton is a brooding and sensual antagonist but to say much more than that about the plot would be unfair to those who have not seen the film. But once it’s revealed, it completely changes what had seemed like a familiar dynamic into something much more dangerous.

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There is a scene with a prostitute that ends in typical violent fashion, but it starts as tender exchange showing a vulnerable Pommie fretting about his sex appeal, which seems novel for more than one reason. At the halfway point, there is a turn in the plot that opens up a whole new direction for the story to go.

“Your Face in Mine: A Novel” by Jesse Row— Speculative Fiction on Race

your face in mine

Row, Jesse. “Your Face in Mine: A Novel”, Riverhead Books, 2015.

Speculative Fiction on Race

Amos Lassen

When Kelly Armstrong moved back to Baltimore, his hole town, an African American man called out to him. Kelly had no idea who he was and is shocked to hear that the man identifies himself as Martin, one of Kelly’s closest high school friends. It was thought that Martin had disappeared some twenty years earlier and he was white and Jewish. Then Martin shares with him an amazing story—Martin had been wrapped up in black culture and had a plastic surgeon perform “racial reassignment surgery” on him. He changed his hair, his skin and his physiognomy so that he could pass as African American. No one, including family and friends have any idea that Martin has been living a new life ever since.

Now, however, Martin feels he can no longer keep this a secret and he wants Kelly to help him start a controversy that will help sell racial reassignment surgery to the world. “Your Face in Mine” is about cultural and racial alienation and the nature of belonging in a world where identity can be either a stigma or a lucrative brand.

Martin has had a futuristic surgical experiment that changes his entire racial identity and he and this novel are experiments with ideas of race. Jesse Row looks at issues related to Jewish ethnicity (of the European variety), African American identity, and complicated issues.

This is both an artistic and intellectually look at a subject that many authors will not touch. To do this as satire is even more difficult and artistically and Row has does so beautifully. The idea of “racial reassignment surgery” may sound ridiculous yet Row has made a reasonable fictional exploration by looking at gender reassignment surgery.

Kelly Thorndike, our protagonist is haunted by the tragic, unexpected, death of his Chinese-born wife and his young daughter. His long-lost high school friend, Martin Lipkin, is nearly as compelling as Thorndike in his own right, especially in his tape-recorded sessions in which he speaks about the reasons for his decision to have “racial reassignment surgery”. In effect what this book does is explore American race relations at the beginning of the 21st Century.

Is it so difficult to consider that racial reassignment surgery is real? It is actually happening as I write this review. Now we must confront the questions of what exactly defines culture? What defines race? What defines us? Most of us can and will say we are of a certain culture and we are thoroughly part of that culture, identify with it and have friends and family members who are part of it. Furthermore many will say that they are part of a specific race and identify with the social and personal identifiers of that race. Yet as an individual, how are e defined? Does our body define us? That we can surely see is no because of the gender reassignments going on every day. We can be born into the wrong physical body.

For a moment let’s consider a white person having surgery to change his race. If we can change our bodies (they are fluid and changeable), can we also change our culture and race?

Throughout the book that are questions about love, loss and loyalty. Can we come up with an answer about who or what decides what we will become? Does it depend upon genetics, family, personal ability, social definitions? It has been a long time since I read a book that really made me think about very serious issues like these and f that is not enough, it is beautifully written and filled with ideas, emotion, and imagination.

“MANNEQUIN”— Falling… in Love

mannequin

“Mannequin”

Falling… In Love

Amos Lassen

Jonathan Switcher (Andrew McCarthy) is a young artist. He just doesn’t have any lucky keeping a job. Having nothing better to do, he builds a mannequin that is so perfect that he falls in love with it. The mannequin ends up in the window of a big department store. When he saves the life of an old lady who happens to be the owner of that store, he is rewarded by getting a job at the store as stock boy. Later the mannequin comes to life as Emmy, who was an ancient Egyptian living in the year 2514BC. The two redesign the window display to make it most eye-catching in town enraging the store’s competitors who will do anything to stop them!

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Here is yet another version of “Pygmalion” but it is a pretty poor one at that. When the mannequin (Kim Cattrall), she explains that she is the latest incarnation of an Egyptian princess who has enjoyed a series of lives through the centuries. We learn that she can only come alive when she is alone in the presence of Jonathan. She gives no explanation why this is how it goes.

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Michael Gottlieb directed this without a sense of style making the movie come across as very clumsy. When the mannequin comes to life, she gives him the inspiration to decorate great windows and that is basically the film in its entirety.

Looking at he supporting characters we see Felix, the dim-witted night watchman who spends most of his time talking to his dog, Hollywood, the flamboyantly gay black window dresser who becomes the hero’s only friend. Mrs. Timkin (Estelle Getty), the good-hearted owner of the department store and Roxie, the hero’s bitchy former girlfriend, who is jealous of the dummy and there are more. All of these people do exactly what we expect them to do, exactly when we expect them to do it. I have already mentioned the gimmick of the film—that the mannequin can only come to life when alone with Jonathan but the film seems to forget this at times.

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We also do not learn how the mannequin was able to leave ancient Egypt and land in 1987, understanding the language and everything else about modern-day Philadelphia.

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The opening scene perfectly sets the tone of the film— it take place in a mystical mummy’s tomb in Edfu, Egypt “a really long time ago, right before lunch”. Ema ‘Emmy’ Hesire (Cattrall), is a young ambitious woman who avoids being betrothed to a long list of ineligible men at any cost, and has her sights set on inventing things and above all else wanting to fly. We then flash-forward to 1987 where Jonathan is seen creating his muse Emmy the mannequin. Jonathan strives for perfection makes his way through a collection of short-lived jobs with horrible bosses. He has been a party balloon blower, garden hedge sculptor, and pizza-topping maker. Finding his way in the world as a department store window dresser and meeting the doll of his dreams sets a domino effect of success and antics in motion for Jonathan.

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The overly flamboyant Hollywood Montrose (Meshach Taylor) offers much comic relief to the chaos that prevails while Jonathan’s secret is trying to be exposed. He finds comfort in working with someone stranger than him. “Mannequin” has its laughs but unfortunately they are not new.

“SORDID LIVES”— Better Than Ever on Blu Ray

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“Sordid Lives”

Better Than Ever on Blu Ray

Amos Lassen

“Sordid Lives” came out as an indie feature in 2000, and it quickly developed a cult following. It began as a stage play by Del Shores and much of the plot comes straight out of his own life. It is amazing that fifteen years later it still has the bite it did when it came out. Now it has been released on blu ray by Wolfe Video.

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The Blu ray keeps the extras from the DVD and there are now added interviews that include director Del Shore reminiscing with his cast, many of whom created their roles on the stage. These are fun, and certainly interesting to see. Interviews with Beau Bridges, Beth Grant, Kirk Geiger, Bonnie Bedelia, Rosemary Alexander, Leslie Jordan, Ann Walker, Newell Alexander, and Sarah Hunley are part of the blu ray.

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“Sordid Lives” is about a gay actor Ty (Kirk Geiger) who returns home to his small Texas town to attend the funeral for his grandmother. He is still struggling with his identity and coming out to his extended family. We meet three generations of his family, and learn that he has a cross-dressing uncle (Leslie Jordan). Other cast members are Olivia Newton John, Delta Burke, Bonnie Bedelia , Beau Bridges, and Beth Grant. Everyone in the cast has some point of reference with the funeral of Peggy  who died after tripping over her lover’s (Bridges who is married to Delta Burke in the film) wooden legs!

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Ty’s aunt has a hairdo unlike anything you have seen before and is a chain smoker. Delta Burke in her neighbor ad she is a scorned woman. The names of the characters is almost a laugh fest in itself— LaVonda, Latrelle, Bitsy Mae, Noleta, Wardell, and “Brother Boy”. Set in a small, anonymous Texas town, the plot takes place over the course of one day and we meet a dysfunctional family that comes together to bury to matriarch, Peggy. Peggy’s descendents argue and fuss over the arrangements, while dealing with the latest round of small scandals that make up their daily lives. In a house stocked with fried food and custard pie, Beth Grant snaps her wrist with a rubber band to control her urge for a cigarette while she tries to referee the arguments between her sister Bonnie Bedelia and her best friend Delta Burke, who’s fuming over husband Beau Bridges’ infidelities. At the same time but in Hollywood, Bedelia’s closeted son, Ty, visits his twenty-seventh therapist in three years to assuage his anxieties about returning home for the funeral and coming out to his mother. He has reason for concern, because the intolerance of his town and community was responsible for putting his drag queen uncle, Brother Boy into a mental institution, where a sadistic psychiatrist badgers him to overcome his homosexuality. The comedy is cruelly anthropological in this, as Shores says, his “coming out” play.

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“Sordid Lives” is totally over the top in silliness as it tells the story of a family and unconditional love. There is “big hair and deep-fried everything sprinkled with many references to movies and low-end popular culture”.

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It is big, trashy, it is fun and as the blurb says, it is a black comedy about white trash. All the actors in the movie seem to be enjoying themselves hugely. This is giddy in the extreme; we like to think there’s a place in the world for silly and giddy in our world.

“THE WOODS”— Private School, Lessons in Death

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“The Woods”

Private School, Lessons in Death

Amos Lassen

Alice (Emma Campbell), Heather’s mother has had it with Heather’s out of control behavior. The last straw was when after the two had an argument and Heather set fire to a tree and nearly burnt their house down. Heather’s father, Joe (Bruce Campbell) isn’t really in agreement with the whole shipping Heather off to boarding school thing but Alice wears the pants in this family and so she goes.. Arriving at Falburn, Heather meets the head mistress, Ms. Traverse (Patricia Clarkson).

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We immediately sense Heather’s anger. Not only is she very upset by being sent away but she has no interpersonal skills and she really does not fit in at the school. She does, however, become friendly with Marcy (Lauren Birkell) who she sits next to one day at lunch and who has the bed beside her in the dormitory. Their friendship is sealed one night after lights out when they bond while listening to

Marcy’s prized transistor radio. It is important to note that even though she now has a friend, it does not mean that she is happy at Falburn Academy. The teachers are all strange and everyone seems to operate according to an unspoken set of rules. There is also something about drinking milk in the dining hall. Then there is the fact that because her mother had requested financial aid, Heather has to take a special class—a one on one with Ms. Traverse and who asks some really personal questions.

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After a really rough day, Heather phones her mother and begs to be allowed to return home. When her mother won’t hear of it, Heather decides to run away and sets off into the woods. However, in the dark forest Heather finds she may be worse off than ever. She becomes disoriented and begins to panic when she hears strange sounds and sees what appears to be something or someone moving among the trees. When she runs, she soon finds herself back at Falburn – and everyone is outside, having found Heather was missing. No one on the staff is particularly happy to see her and Ms. Traverse gives her a very unsympathetic glare.

The following night in the dormitory a few of the girls tease Heather about her runaway attempt and they soon start talking about the woods. It seems that there is a story about the woods that everyone has heard but Heather. One day, a long time ago, three young girls came out of the woods and were taken in by the school. Sometime later a few of the students found the three in an empty classroom – doing some sort of spell or ritual. The three was considered to be witches and the students tormented them and they were chased back into the woods and it was then that the three were determined to get revenge for the way that they were treated. They supposedly offered the souls of the student body to the woods and soon the spirits in the woods indeed took possession of the students. Then Clara, the leader of the three decided that they had to kill the headmistress with an ax.

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Heather does not react to the story in any way other than not believing it but she is having nightmares – about the one empty bed in the dorm and about something that comes in through the windows as the girls sleep. Heather asks about the vacant bed and is told that the girl who it belongs to is in the hospital after having had an accident. Then girls begin disappearing and their beds found to be covered with leaves. Heather becomes suspicious about the school and what is really going on.

At first, “The Woods” seems to be just another girls’ school indie horror flick. However with the presence of Patricia Clarkson and Bruce Campbell we might think a bit differently. Heather needs to get to the bottom of the mystery but the woods will not let her escape. The film seems to be totally predictable and by the end of the fist fifteen minutes, I had it all figured out. The real shock is that the film works even with its many weaknesses. The shocking thing is how well the film works despite these weaknesses. Director Lucky McKee doesn’t simply rip off horror conventions because he clearly understands how they work.

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The performances by and large are quite good. While Bruce Campbell doesn’t put much enthusiasm into his limited screen time, he also doesn’t upstage the main players. Patricia Clarkson wonderfully underplays her role, realizing that often the creepiest thing to do is just sit there. Agnes Bruckner gives a fantastic performance here, one that carries the film and lowers the impact of some of the plot holes. We care about Heather enough that it doesn’t matter why she’s in danger and how it came about, we just want to see her make it through. That is due to Bruckner’s performance. The special effects come together with very skillful editing, and director McKee understands that what we don’t see has sometimes has more impact.

“STONEWALL”— The Poster for the Movie

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“Stonewall”

The Poster for the Movie 

Amos Lassen

We have been hearing about Roland Emmerich’s new film ”Stonewall” for a little while now. He says what inspired him to make the movie was the work he did with young LGBT people in Los Angeles. Even though we have yet to see the film, we can now see the poster for it. He had already been criticized for concentrating his film on young, largely white, cisgender gay men even though drag queens, trans* and other queer people were at the front and centre in the 1969 protests. Those who have already condemned the film have not seen it so it is better to wait and see for ourselves. We saw what happened when similar charges were raised over “Exodus: Gods and Kings” which I personally liked.

What we do know so far about the film is below in the synopsis.

”’Stonewall’ is a drama about a fictional young man caught up during the 1969 Stonewall riots. Danny Winters (Jeremy Irvine) is forced to leave behind friends and loved ones when he is kicked out of his parent’s home and flees to New York. Alone in Greenwich Village, homeless and destitute, he befriends a group of street kids who soon introduce him to the local watering hole The Stonewall Inn; however, this shady, mafia-run club is far from a safe-haven.  As Danny and his friends experience discrimination, endure atrocities and are repeatedly harassed by the police, we see a rage begin to build. This emotion runs through Danny and the entire community of young gays, lesbians and drag queens who populate the Stonewall Inn and erupts in a storm of anger. With the toss of a single brick, a riot ensues and a crusade for equality is born.”

“KISS ME KILL ME”— Gale Harold Returns

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“Kiss Me Kill Me”

Gale Harold Returns

Amos Lassen

Director Casper Andreas is bringing us a new film, “Kiss Me, Kill Me” and the poster has just been released. All of you know that I am a big fan of Andreas and have reviewed all of his films. I am already looking forward to this new one.

Gale Harold stars in his first gay role since “Queer As Folk” and alongside of him is Van Hansis. The film is described as a contemporary Alfred Hitchcock/Agatha Christie-style ‘who-done-it’, with the mystery centered on Dusty, who confronts his unfaithful boyfriend and then blacks-out. When he comes to, he finds his boyfriend murdered and he’s the prime suspect.

“BLIND”— Eskil Vogt’s Award Winning Debut Feature

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“BLIND”

Eskil Vogt’s Award Winning Debut Feature

Amos Lassen

“Blind” was the winner of the Screenwriting Award for World Cinema at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. It is the story of Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Pettersen), a woman contending with the loss of vision. As she tries to navigate a world without sight, she spends her days attempting to remember the visual world as she once knew it. In an effort to maintain a connection to reality, she begins to write a sexually charged story, and speak through the characters. She says that what’s real is not important as long as she can visualize what it looks like. She also realizes that her loss of sight heightens her creative ability and imagination. While the main topic is blindness, the film is also about loneliness and writing.

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When we meet Ingrid, she has already been gone blind and we see that the movie is about what is inside her head. Her loss of sight was due to a genetic condition. She had been a teacher but now she spends her time at home. She rarely goes out even with her husband Morten (Henrik Rafaelsen), an architect who, she believes, sometimes sneaks back in when he’s supposed to be at work and voyeuristically spies on her. Perhaps he does as we see that the line between objective and subjective is very thin and we never really know if whether what we see on screen ever really happened.

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In the beginning of the film, it plays as a kind of sensory procedural, showing us the world as “seen” through sightless eyes. Ingrid is disoriented and even making a cup of tea is difficult and filled with suspense. This is director Vogt’s first feature film and it has a wry sense of humor especially in the depiction of Ingrid’s interactions with her voice-assisted microwave oven, cell phone, and a wand that announces the color of any object against which it is pressed. For me this really hit close to home since I have a good friend who is blind and became so after having been a person with sight.

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The film brings us the idea that Ingrid spends much of her time writing, creating a fictional narrative that allows her to see in her mind what she can no longer see with her eyes. We meet Elin (Vera Vitali), a single mother newly relocated to Oslo from Sweden and who Einar (Marius Kolbenstvedt), a shy shut-in whose appetite for Internet porn rivals seems to know no boundaries is an object of infatuation. He spies on Elin from his apartment across the street. Ingrid writes her real-life husband, Morten, into her fiction as a rival for Elin’s hand, and it is then that Vogt’s film becomes quite playful.

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Vogt shows us a writer’s “fickle temperament” and this includes the sets and locations and even the gender of one character. As they evolve in Ingrid’s mind, they change onscreen. There is a bending and splintering of the surface reality of the film, all his formal strategies issue directly from Ingrid and her fragile, profoundly human psyche. Ingrid’s blindness affects every thing she does or thinks as well as how she moves, writes, dreams, and how she feels about herself as a woman.

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The film opens with Ingrid’s voice-over as she talks about her blindness. Ingrid, when home alone, has taken to writing stories and that not everything we see is necessarily real. We see the connectivity of everything that happens everything is connected and realize that we are all dependent on something or someone.

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We finally get to see Ingrid’s complex and flawed psyche. The movie begins as visual poetry and we immediately empathize with her. As she deals with her lack of sight, she begins to narrate the lives of a few people. Writer/director  Vogt turns us around before allowing us to go forward and herein lies a sense of mystery. We are taken into the mind of a blind person and it is quite a fascinating experience.

“BLUMENTHAL”— Died Laughing at His Own Joke

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“Blumenthal”

Died Laughing at His Own Joke

Amos Lassen

Harold Blumenthal (Brian Cox) was a celebrated playwright who died after cardiac arrest while laughing at his own joke. Harold was both unmarried and childless and was survived by his brother Saul (Mark Blum), Saul’s son Ethan (Seth Fisher who also wrote and directed the film), and Saul’s wife Cheryl (Laila Robins). Even though he was estranged from his brother, Saul finds himself feeling somewhat numb about Harold’s death and this included a serious case of constipation. Saul also resented that so many of his brother’s plays were based on their family life and felt that his life was plagiarized for Harold’s work.  Cheryl, an actress who hadn’t worked in a few years and worried that her age is preventing her from landing roles.  Ethan, is a smug complainer who thinks he can do better than his current girlfriend Christina (Mei Melançon), but was himself unable to move on after dumping her.

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At the core of the film are the unresolved issues between Saul and his deceased brother yet we see Ethan on the screen more than anyone else. He is a pharmaceutical sales rep who thinks far more highly about himself than he ought to, is a terribly abrasive person, the type who tells everyone around him that they’re doing everything wrong with zero tact. 

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As for Harold Blumenthal, we only see him in clips from an interview show where he talks about his life and his career yet his his presence all through the film. Since the film revolves around him this should be no surprise. — not surprising, considering Cox’s estimable screen charisma — the story revolves around the personal turmoil of Blumenthal’s remaining family members.

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Saul suffers from severe constipation which seems to be the result of his jealousy of Harold. Cheryl, Saul’s second wife is an actress who once starred in Harold’s plays who wants to get back into show business but is very worried about her appearance.

Ethan sells birth control pills and hormone replacements but seems to have no understanding of the women in his life. By and large, the film is a quirky study of mostly unappealing characters whose problems are filled with clichés. Ultimately each finds peace. Cheryl regains her self-confidence through making-out with her gay dog walker (Kevin Isola); Saul overcomes both his emotional and physical blockages after meeting Harold’s mysterious lover (Nicole Ansari), who shares a secret about his bother’s writing; and Ethan, with the helpful advice of his best friend (Alexander Cendese), manages to overcome his relationship issues.

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There are some funny one-liners but the film never manages to sustain comedy and falls again into the use of clichés. We wait fore appearances by Cox and Blumenthal since he is the best thing in the film.