“SOULBOUND” (“TEUS OLHOS MEUS”)— Finding Happiness

 spellbound

“Soulbound” (“Teus Olhos Meus “)

Finding Happiness

Amos Lassen

One of the questions that so many of us have is how to deal with happiness and if we find it can we let go of the past? Is it at all possible to change destiny?

Gil is 21 years old and has no money. This is difficult for him because he feels fulfilled by poetry and music. He finds himself constantly questioning the world around him. It took a family quarrel to make him run away from home and leaving behind the only love he has ever felt in his life—his Aunt Leila.

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Yet he had a stroke of luck in meeting Otavio, a music producer who could change his life forever. This is the first feature film by director Caio Son and he concentrates on male friendship and sexuality. Here we have two straight or heterosexual men who find a love relationship with each other. For each man, Otavio and Gil, this kind of relationship had been elusive.

Sóh brings us a dramatic film with quite a shocking twist at the end. We experience the emotional tidal waves of two men in love. The characters propel the film and both of the actors turn in brilliant performances. Remo Rocha is Otávio the rock of the relationship. He is a man whose dormant passion for life is awoken upon when he met Gil (Emilio Dantas) on the beach. We see Gil as a pot-smoking wild card of the piece— he is an aspiring, if at times drunk musician who comes to find his heart, together with his body seeking solace in a direction he never thought it would go.  We do not see them making love but we do see them in bed after they had and we sense their deep love for each other. Their kisses are passionate just as is their relationship but it feels quite real and sincere.

We are introduced to Gil’s aunt who loves him dearly but she is married to a man who abuses her. We see what Aunt Leila has with husband Cesar as the opposite of what Otavio and Gil have together. There is a lot of juxtaposition to show this to us and flashbacks fill in Otavio’s back-story.

However, the spotlight is fixed on the relationship between the two men, as Gil, at first repulsed by his latent homosexual awakening, gradually comes to accept his sexual self and moreover his love for a man older than himself. Only as the film comes full circle, a critical scene is missing and whilst there can be little doubt as to its outcome, it still is left begging to be explored. 

“THE WILDING”—-Short Soon to Be a Feature Film

“The Wilding”

Soon to Be a Feature Film

wilding-slide“The Wilding” won the prestigious Iris Prize a couple of years ago.Now you can watch the entire 16-minute short online, for a limited time – and it’s well worth taking a lok.

And if you like it you can also help turn it into a feature film (sort of), as director Grant Scicluna is in the final few days of trying to raise $40,000 AUS for the movie Downriver. He says of The Wilding that, ‘To a degree it precedes the story of Downriver’.

 ”DOWNRIVER” is a mystery drama feature film. Teenager James has served time for drowning a little boy when he was a child, although the body was never found. With little time and danger at every turn, James must uncover dark truths if he is to return the boy’s body to his grieving mother.

‘DOWNRIVER is a film in the style of WINTER’S BONE, THE BOYS or the TV series TOP OF THE LAKE. The film is confronting, dark, tense and will be controversial. It is also a tender story about friendship and forgiveness. This is the very reason why it is worth doing.

‘We believe there’s an audience hungry for strong, emotional, complex material. We need your help to raise the final portion of the budget to enable us to start production in September.

Scicluna adds, “We believe there’s an audience hungry for strong, emotional, complex material. We need your help to raise the final portion of the budget to enable us to start production in September.”

“Red Hot 100″ – The book with the own Exhibition in New York !!!

red hot

“Red Hot 100″ - The book with the own Exhibition in New York !!!    

On the heels of his hugely successful Red Hot exhibition in London (successfully funded through Kickstarter), photographer and filmmaker Thomas Knights creates the ultimate bible for fans of hot ginger men: Red Hot 100″.

With a truly international feel, the book will contain one hundred flame-haired guys from all over the world, captured topless against the iconic vivid blue background now synonymous with the Red Hot brand. Not only is it pleasing to the eye, the book also holds a mirror up to current perceptions of male beauty and asks the question, Why are there so few ginger heroes or heartthrobs in Western culture? This is sure to change after Red Hot 100″!

 

144 pages

Full Colour

Hardcover with dust jacket

10 ¼ x 13 ½ inch

“THE SEARCH FOR SIMON”— Looking for His Brother

the search for simon

“The Search for Simon”

Looking for His Brother

Amos Lassen

30 years ago, David’ Jones’s (writer/director Martin Gooch) younger brother Simon disappeared without a trace and has not been seen since. David is still looking, and the search for Simon has become his life. The brothers were boys when David disappeared and Simon really believes that he was abducted by aliens. When he shares this with writer/psychiatrist Eloise Eldritch (Noeleen Comiskey), she acts interested, although mostly because she sees this as a template for an obsessed character in her next novel. Eloise does wind up introducing David to a nice girl, Sally (Millie Reeves) yet by talking to David’s alcoholic mother Irene (Carol Cleveland), she believes that there may be more answers than David gets when he takes trips to UFO hot spots. 



 The film seems to be some kind of black comedy where nearly everybody acts mockingly or patronizingly toward David, and it’s okay to laugh at him because he acts so ridiculous. Gooch in his direction and the way he interprets the role sees David as both sympathetic and ridiculous and this is a very difficult balance to maintain.

The search has been an obsessive part of David’s life ever since his brother went missing, leaving him unable to form close relationships – even the few friends he has can barely stand to be around him because all he does is talk about Simon.

Gooch presents a world of UFO obsessives, re-enactment societies, tabletop game players, government conspiracies and more as David searches for his missing brother.  Being misdirected to Denmark by a Skype contact and fellow UFO seeker “Arctus The Alien”, David meets psychiatrist Eloise Eldritch who is writing a book on obsessive behavior.  Deciding that Simon will make a perfect subject for her book, she gets drawn into his strange world, whilst at the same time Simon seems to be forming his first real relationship.

Gooch blends science fiction, drama and comedy in a charmingly off-beat manner and it is great fun to see a writer/director striking out and doing something original and quirky.

“The Search For Simon” is not perfect by any means – the comedy side is be gently amusing rather than laugh out loud funny, and occasionally misfires, but the story of Simon and the overall narrative create a sweet and unexpected payoff.  There is a lot of sympathy with its main character, refusing to make fun of him because of his UFO obsession.  It would have been easy to make David an object of ridicule – the typical “socially inept UFO anorak obsessive” – but thankfully this isn’t the case.  Gooch presents his main character as a troubled soul who we can’t help but root for and whose ultimate storyline is actually quite moving.

As much an off-beat drama as it is a comedy, and there are some very, very silly moments. “The Search For Simon often feels as much of a character study (although a very off-beat character) as it does a comedy”.  It is often fun watch, and hopefully we will see more of what Martin can do with his unique brand of weirdness” in the near future.

“PARIS-MANHATTAN”— Obsessed with Woody Allen

parismanhattan

“Paris-Manhattan”

Obsessed with Woody Allen

Amos Lassen

Alice is a pharmacist who is obsessed with Woody Allen and has been since she was 15 years old. She has seen all of Allen’s films and she even imagines that she talks to him in the privacy of her home. One night she meets Pierre at a nigh-club and is pleased to learn that he likes jazz. Alice immediately thinks that he is Mr. Right. But Pierre falls in love with Helene, Alice’s sister and they are married.

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We move forward to years later when Alice is unmarried and running her father’s pharmacy. She believes that watching movies can heal many common diseases and she lends them to her customers. Her father has not given up hope to see her married but when Victor, an alarm technician meets Alice, she does not picture a future with him. But then one when Woody Allen is in Paris, Victor takes her to see him and he gives her some advice.

. Years later, Alice is a spinster that administrates the pharmacy that belonged to her father and believes that movies can heal many diseases. However her father insistently tries to find a husband for her. When the alarm technician Victor meets Alice, she does not see any future relationship with him. But one day, Victor brings Alice to meet Woody Allen in Paris and the director gives an advice to Alice.

This is a great film for fans of Woody Allen but others might not enjoy it as much. New writer/director Sophie Lellouche tries to follow in Allen’s footsteps by making this about layers of different sophisticated relationships within this one family. Some of it is very cute but it does not always work.

Early on we learn about Alice’s (Alice Taglioni) obsession with Allen in a voice-over that says that she and Woody Allen formed a connection when she first saw one of his films (Hannah and Her Sisters) at age fifteen, and that the two have maintained an annual “relationship” ever since. In the narrative’s present, Alice is single and working at her father’s pharmacy. Having found all answers to her questions in life so far through Allen’s acute screenplays, Alice comforts herself in her own idealized version of existence. She is quick to help others and she often lends DVDs of Allen’s films (or those of his influences like Ernst Lubitsch) to pharmacy clients because of her idea that movies can sure diseases. When she meets Victor (Patrick Bruel), she is so filled with past disappointments and film-fuelled expectations that her chances of happiness with him are threatened. 

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Alice Taglioni is relatively charming, but her character is not fully realized. She seems not to have an obvious drive; she feels entirely defined by her obsession with Allen.  I found the film to be reminiscent of Allen’s “Play It Again, Sam” in which we feel the director’s obsession with “Casablanca”. It is interesting to see that Allen has influenced and inspired this French film and we sense the affinity between Paris and Manhattan. Both cities are seen as romantic here as well as alluring. If you know Woody Allen’s films then you are probably aware that European filmmakers, i.e. Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder, have influenced him. It is interesting now to see him influencing someone else.

“Paris-Manhattan” is an endearing and gratifying film but it seems to be such an homage to Allen that it loses some of its own identity. To compare it to films by Allen hurt it rather than help it but who know what this director has up her sleeve to next surprise us with.

“A MAN, HIS MOTHER AND HIS LOVER”—- Lorenzo, Mario and Mom

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“A Man, His Mother And His Lover”
Lorenzo, Mario and Mom

 

 

Lorenz (Fabian Krüger), a successful writer who’s made a name with his gay-themed literature is called back from Berlin to his small Swiss hometown after his mother, Rosie (Sibylle Brunner), had a stroke. While she’s determined to get back to normal, with her health declining and her refusal to stop drinking too much,  there is the possibility that she might have to go into a home.

While dealing with his mother, Lorenz runs into Mario (Sebastian Ledesman), a young man he knew when he was a kid but who is now all grown up and gay himself. Mario seems interested in Lorenz, but after spending the night together Lorenz starts to push Mario away, even if he isn’t sure himself why he’s so intent on backing away from this possible romance.

While it starts off fairly slowly, “A Man, His Mother And His Lover “(originally titled “Rosie”) is a film that draws you into the complex dynamics between the characters. Lorenz is a man of great  control and ability on the surface but a mess of contradiction and confusions underneath. His journey is an interesting one, with his discoveries about his family’s past coming to inform his present.

His relationship with his mother is a well-conceived one too, with Rosie a strong and fiercely independent woman who doesn’t want to accept the frailty that’ she now has to deal with. She will not let anyone take anything from her.

The film takes a while to get into but after the first twenty minutes, everything comes together and the film is quite a moving experience. The sex we see here is real and totally believable. This is a well written film in which the actors do fine jobs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=by2FemuIYDk

“The Fall of a Gay King” by Simon Hawk— Investigating a Scandal

the fall of a gay king

Hawk, Simon. “The Fall of a Gay King”, Bold Strokes Books, 2014.

Investigating a Scandal

Amos Lassen

Logan Walker is an investigative journalist and as he investigates a scandal that involves corporate magnate, Franklin Judson, he realizes that he has very little to go on. It appears that hush money has been paid to Baxster Crown, a hustler. Walker soon learns that this quite a complicated case.

Ben Donovan, a hit man, comes to see Walker and it becomes evident that there is a network that has been operating for a very long time and it involves men and boys. Walker knows that if he continues the investigation he will expose not only Judson but many others and expose a truly twisted and sick phenomenon.

I had a hard time getting started here but once I did get into the novel everything came together. It is an interesting read and the characters are well drawn. One needs a bit of patience to get started.

“Charm City” by Mason Dixon—- Loyalty in Baltimore

charm city

Dixon, Mason. “Charm City”, Bold Strokes, 2014.

Loyalty in Baltimore

Amos Lassen

Loyalty is a very important quality in the inner city of Baltimore. Ice Taylor is a drug czar and he demands loyalty. Raq Overstreet knows what he did for her and she pledged her loyalty to him; after all, he made her a star. Raq is a boxer and she participates in underground boxing matches where others cheer her on. For someone who has a rough life, boxing makes up for all she has suffered and now she also is a tough cookie as an enforcer working for Ice. In fact she is perhaps his most intimidating enforcer. There is just little problem— Bathsheba Morris.

Raq has feelings for Bathsheba and this plays with her loyalty to Ice. Raq dreams about her but she what she does not know is that Bathsheba is an undercover cop who is trying to find a way into Ice’s organization. She wants to bring Ica and everyone who works for him to justice.

Raq tells the story so everything we read is from her perspective. She has grown up on the streets and has to fight to maintain her life. She has hopes that boxing will be a way to escape the lifestyle she had had to live. Raq has her own set of rules and she knows what she can and cannot do and these jive with what she will and will not do. Her relationship with Ice is symbiotic—-each uses the other. He runs the street and has made a lot of money by dealing drugs. He will use brute force when necessary and it is hard to predict what will do in any situation. Raq knows she owns him a lot and this is why she remains loyal to him.

We learn early on who Bathsheba is and aside from being a cop, she once grew up in the same hood where Raq lives and Ice works. Long ago she decided to get her life in order and chose the police force to be the place to do so. Even though she does not like what is happening on the inner city streets of Baltimore, she cares about the people there. We do not get a picture of her as honest for some reason.

Both women are fascinating characters and seeing a romance blossom between a cop and an apprentice to a drug dealer is interesting and we do learn a good deal about loyalty.

“EVERGREEN: THE ROAD TO LEGALIZATION”— How Washington State Legalized Recreational Marijuana

evergreen

“Evergreen: The Road to Legalization”

How Washington State Legalized Recreational Marijuana

Amos Lassen

Washington State became the key battleground in the fight for cannabis prohibition reform.  It seems that a growing medical pot industry was paving the way for cultural change in Washington State, and the architects of Initiative 502 put forth a plan that they felt would balance the politics of the region and stand a chance to pass in November. However, many in the local cannabis community were vehemently opposed to I-502, saying that it imposed “harsh and scientifically arbitrary DUI laws, new taxes, additional restrictions and penalties that negatively impact youth, medical marijuana patients and care providers”.

This film documents the campaigns for and against I-502, the successful ballot initiative in 2012 that legalized recreational marijuana usage in Washington State, almost in real time. I-502 passed in November of 2012 and marijuana usage was legalized formally in December 2012. Director Riley Morton went to extraordinary lengths to provide ample time for arguments from both sides of the legalization issue.

The filmmakers had access to both sides as the campaign goes on. What was so interesting was that the opposition to I-502 came from marijuana activists who argued that a provision making it a DUI to drive with five nanograms of active THC was particularly punitive and would strengthen, not relax, existing drug laws. The pro-legalization side was made up of Rick Steves, the ACLU’s Alison Holcomb, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and former Bush 43 US attorney appointee John McKay. The yes campaign was the new mainstream. And it won big – by more than 10 points.evergreen1

“Evergreen” is an important document for students of political history to see how a successful campaign is won, and how it’s lost. Dominic Holden a new editor, made an important point that the more the No campaign stressed the DUI component of the law, the more they were helping other side because polls overwhelmingly showed that people who were inclined to vote for legalization are far less comfortable with driving stoned. 

“Evergreen” understands its historical significance. It’s a relevant film while Washington State figures out just how it’s going to legalize marijuana usage, but it’ll also be worth seeing it again in five and ten years to see whose predictions came true.

 The film is an in-depth look at all of the difficulties and nuances activists faced in passing I-502, a piece of legislation in Washington State legalizing small amounts of marijuana. It is a serious look at both sides of the aisle, but the surprising thing is that the two sides aren’t pro-legalization vs. anti-legalization—we don’t see much in the way of anti-drug conservatism.

This is not a film designed to entertain. The film excels at showing each side of the debate, without forcing any conclusion or agenda on viewers. It’s still a very open question whether I-502 was the best legislation. The point comes across fairly clearly that small steps may be best when dealing with major paradigm shifts.

The majority of the film is a look at the process of drafting legislation, gathering support and signatures, and spreading the word through public forums. There are a few somewhat wild scenes of countercultural events like Hempfest, with all of the cannabis enthusiasts. It is a lesson in policy, civics, and argument, with little focus on actual cannabis culture.

Because the entire debate centers on whether or not the bill goes far enough, and not if the bill should exist at all, shows how far the cause of legalization has advanced. The real question is if and when the federal government will follow suit, but so far all that can be considered on that front is that the Obama administration announced that it will not challenge state legalization laws. This is an unbiased historical document of how dedicated people took the first steps toward introducing just a bit more reason into the law code.

Each side questions the other’s hidden motives, and the film records these insinuations instead of digging into each participant’s personal history so it might look at their merit. It’s clear, though, that there’s some truth on both sides, with pro-502 forces making serious concessions to law-and-order voters and anti-502 activists hanging to some unrealistic “all-or-nothing game plans” and in some cases having an economic interest in the status quo.

Washington’s experience informs other states’ efforts to move from decriminalization of certain uses to a broader, regulated legalization.

“THE GERMAN DOCTOR”— A Mysterious Doctor

the german doctor

“The German Doctor” (“Wakolda”)

A Mysterious Doctor

Amos Lassen

 In Patagonia in 1960 a German doctor (Alex Brendemühl) meets an Argentinean family and follows them on a long desert road to a small town where the family will be starting a new life. Eva (Natalia Oreiro), Enzo (Diego Peretti) and their three children welcome the doctor into their home and entrust their young daughter, Lilith (Florencia Bado), to his care, not knowing that they are harboring one of the most dangerous criminals in the world. At the same time, Israeli agents are desperately looking for the German doctor to bring him to justice. The film is based on the novel by Lucia Puenzo who also the filmmaker. The plot follows Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death,” a German SS officer and a physician at the Auschwitz concentration camp; in the years he spent “hiding”, along with many other Nazis, in South America following his escape from Germany. Mengele was considered to be one of WWII’s most heinous Nazi war criminals.

We immediately know that something is afoot—the music drones, there is a storm and the doctor sends off ominous vibes. We see the doctor become medically fascinated with Lilith. The looks that pass between the two are filled with mutual interest; Lilith is having her first crush while the doctor’s concerns are clinical to the point of inhumanity.

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The director is careful not to over-signpost the historical significance of a man who — with a crisp enigmatic mode of charisma delivered expertly by Brendemühl — seduces the family into letting him live with them. However the film loses some of its grip in the familial subplots. Enzo, the father is a doll-maker who wants to make all his toys perfectly identical.

In the opening scenes of this historical drama we see a distinguished looking German gentleman accosting a traveling family of 5 to ask if he may follow behind them as he is unsure about driving alone on the desolate dirt roads in the middle of the vast plains of Patagonia.  The family is heading south to the small lakefront town of Bariloche to re-open a Hotel that once was thriving concern when another generation of the family ran it.  The German never reveals much about his own destination or any of his plans for staying in this country far from home. This adds to the suspense early on. When they finally arrive the German, who the family learns is either a Doctor or Scientist, insists on renting a room from them and to overcome their reluctance sweetens his request by overpaying. He sensed that the family has little cash.  Eva the heavily pregnant mother is German speaking, as are so many of the local residents as the best school in the area was the German one, and she welcomes him into their home.  Her husband Enzo is a struggling doll-maker and although a man of few words and simple tastes, he is the only one in the family who is not impressed with the charm onslaught from this very creepy stranger in their midst.

The ‘Doctor’ is particularly “smitten with” Lilith the 12 year old of the family who has always been much smaller than the norm for her age ever since she was born 2 months premature.  Soon he is trying to persuade the parents that with the hormone treatment that he has been working on, he can improve Lilith’s growth rate dramatically. They are all initially reluctant to even consider this course of action but Eva relents after Lilith suffers another brutal day of taunting at her school because of her size.  However she insists that they keep the news of this change of heart from Enzo until at least Lilith starts gaining some height. Once the ‘Doctor’ gains Eva’s confidence he turns his attention to her, especially when he discovers that she is going to give birth to twins. (We eventually find out that he has some plans of his own for these yet unborn babies).

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 This filmmaker never hides the fact that the Doctor is none other than Josef Mengele the notorious Nazi who did barbarous and inhuman genetic experiments on the inmates of Auschwitz earning himself the nickname of “The Angel of Death”.  It was believed that after the War he, like so other high ranking Nazis, fled to South America where he continued his cruel work on pregnant women and children until his death in Brazil in 1979.

The story unfolds slowly and tension builds with the insinuation of what the doctor is really up to as he slowly worms his way into this family’s lives.  It is only the German School Archivist that suspects and confirms his true identity and she is anxious that he is caught and out in trial for his war crimes just like Eichmann who Israelis had recently captured. Unfortunately, a wide network of loyal Nazi Party supporters protects him so he will always manage to avoid this completely.  

The movie succeeds first and foremost because of the very strong and sinister performance by Brendemuhl as Mengele and secondly because of the bleak setting of the film giving it a sinister tone throughout. Brendemühl exudes a “reptilian combination of charisma and menace. He is solicitous, attentive, and handsome, but with a posture that’s just a little too erect and a searching gaze that’s a little too clinical”. Lilith and her family never seem to realize quite who they’re dealing with, but we suspects early on that he is Josef Mengele, a suspicion that’s soon confirmed. That revelation is unveiled in an almost offhand way that’s typical of the film’s matter-of-fact take on even the most incredible events, a reflection of the sensibility of its smart but sheltered young narrator, who notices far more than she can comprehend.

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The story is a fictional account of an actual six-month period during which Mengele was on the run, living incognito to evade the Mossad agents who were extraditing Nazi war criminals for trial in Israel. For most of his 35 years in South America, though, the doctor hid in plain sight, often under his own name, and this film makes it easy to imagine how that could have happened.

It is unsettling to watch this pathologically self-assured sociopath worm his way into the heart of a sensitive girl and her family. The magnificent, sparsely populated settings underscore the family’s vulnerability, particularly in the beginning, when the doctor’s sedan glides behind their truck on an otherwise deserted highway. But the fictional story is too neatly predetermined to feel truly creepy. Much more unnerving is the nonfictional backdrop against which the fictional story unfolds. What really got to me was when admiring young German-Argentineans who often hovered near the doctor, offering their adulation and support to the man they know to be Auschwitz’s Angel of Death. When the doctor asked one of these eager acolytes for help in escaping the Israelis, the man was thrilled to be of service. “Anyone would be honored,” he said. Such is the world we live in.