A Family Learning to Love
Charlie (Tobias Segal), Adrian (Jimmy Heck) and Michael (Eddie Kaye Thomas) are brothers who are now unlearning everything they have been taught by their parents. Michael’s wife Vivian (Thora Birch) is a cynic who learns that she is pregnant; Charlie’s boyfriend George (Michael Urie) is involved polyamorously with Robin (Brittany Snow), a fitness guru; Adrian is suffering from his addiction to sex. Felicia (Christine Lahti), the mother and Percy (David Rasche), the father are trying to decide if they should find a spark in their relationship or give up on it and start all over again.
This is one dysfunctional family that is one the verge of breaking apart and having a nervous breakdown. Each family member must deal with his/her misgivings about life, love and relationships. The film is cynically humorous and boldly honest and it shows a quiet sense of hope. Set against some very odd characters, the story is quite funny and has witty dialogue. We meet people as they are and try to understand them as they learn to come together to heal and to hope as well as to accept themselves and others.
They have flaws but learn to deal and live with them as best as they can. Charlie Petunia is a constant nervous wreck but this could be because he is the youngest and most conciliatory Petunia. His parents never fail to mortify him as does the rest of the family in their crassness. His mom and dad do not speak to each other. Charlie, the youngest, sees their marriage as a reason to stay single and celibate yet the rest of his family disapproves of this. They all seem to get into some kind of trouble because of sex. Michael, the oldest sibling has just married but it seems as if he has made a mistake. His wife, Vivian still wants to party and when she finds out that she is “with child”, she feels no maternal instincts. She is really not sure who the father is—it could be her husband or his brother Adrian, a sex addict who has diagnosed himself with “Love’s Tourette” which causes him to tell whomever he is sleeping with that he loves them just as things get really passionate. Even though he is against romance, Charlie is involved with George who just happens to be Vivian’s cousin who not only lives in the same building but a floor below. George lives with his wife Robin who suppresses rage by jogging and anorexia which she is able to develop whenever her husband neglects her and has gay affairs.
The performances are uniformly good and I can imagine what fun the cast had making this film. We get to see many different kinds of neuroses and family dysfunction which could alienate an audience quickly but that does not happen here. There are some wonderfully funny moments just as there are some sensitive sad ones. We see Ash Christian’s progression from “Fat Girls” to “Mangus” and now to “Petunia” which is a film that you will not forget soon.
”Bert Stern: Original Mad Man”
An Unconventional Documentary
Bert Stein is the original mad-man photographer and here he talks openly about himself for the first time. He began his career as a mailroom clerk at Look Magazine and he met and became friendly with Stanley Kubrick. This was during that period known as “The Golden Age of Advertising”. His first major campaign was “the Driest of the Dry” for Smirnoff and more vodka was sold than anyone could have imagined and in fact, this is what really introduced vodka to this country. Stern was then only 25 years old. He was sought after by Madison Avenue and he became known as (by his own term) as the concept photographer and soon his star rose in Hollywood and internationally as a fashion photographer. He soon became a star himself. The creative revolution was going on and Bert Stern was in the middle of it. He captured some of the world’s most beautiful women—Jean Shrimpton, Suzie Parker, Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Twiggy, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. He married Allegra Kent, a ballerina and protégé of Balanchine and he seemed to be unable to do wrong. He tells us of his life and of his loves and what caused hi fall from grace. Filmmaker Shannah Laumeister not only looks at Stern here but also her unique long time relationship with him. We see Stern as a man, who created himself; who rose and fell and then reinvented himself and we see his creativity, his celebrity and his desires. He was a man who got almost everything he ever wanted.
We see Stern rise from blue-collar Brooklyn to a hero of the art world and his fall because of philandering and substance abuse. The film is also a look at Stern’s relationship with the director of the film who he had photographed as a teen but now their relationship is personal. It is fascinating to watch America’s pop culture as it grew but Stern, unlike those who have posed for him is not exciting to see. There is no charm or zest for life there.
Stern first tells us that his mother was a beauty and he says that he has only been obsessed by two women—Marilyn Monroe and his wife, Allegra who left him. However we do not learn more about his marriage or his two stays in mental hospitals.
The Bert Stern that we know is the legendary advertising and celebrity photographer, a man with a singular eye for feminine beauty and unforgettable composition, building his career on iconic pictures, most notably of Marilyn Monroe just before she passed away in 1962. However, the Bert Stern of the “Original Madman” documentary is an older man with limited patience, allowing his longtime infatuation, director Shannah Laumeister, to track his life and career, interviewing the subject seemingly whenever she could find five minutes of his undivided attention. The movie I candid but there is no warmth.
“Original Madman” is loosely structured, following Stern’s lead as an uncomfortable subject, unprepared to inspect his own history after a career spent mingling in the lives of others. Laumeister doesn’t push Stern to confession, instead setting a casual mood of conversation in numerous locations, playing on the comfort of their extended relationship as photographer and longstanding muse (their 40 year age gap is noted repeatedly, thought the pair is quiet about their romantic connection), which allows the director to pull out blunt commentary on Stern’s battle with unfulfilling marriages, lustful intentions, and professional disappointments. The subject is aloof but aware, playing the role of a friend to Laumeister, giving his fixation the time of day when few others could dream of the same treatment.
“The Hour of Living”
Looking for Dad
When Theo’s mother dies after a long illness, he goes looking for his father. He found, among his mother’s belongings, some film that shows his dad as a young man. His father looks happy in the shots. However, his mother could not have been the photographer since she is also in the film and Theo wants to know who that is. He soon gets to the Alps where George, his father, has been living a reclusive life. Theo thought that he lost his father when he was just ten years old in what may or may not have been an accident and now he wants to get to know him so he looks for whoever was behind that camera. He eventually gets to George who was the man behind the camera. George was his dad’s lover and who feels responsible for his death. As the two men to know each other, they also get to know themselves.
Theo sees something in George that is a bit more than just getting to know about his father and they spend a lot of time together. Sebastian Michael wrote, directed and edited this very talky film and it is the cinematography of the two men’s faces that moves the film forward. It is a bittersweet look at two guys who are able to let memory heal their wounds.
Learning to Surf
Fuerteventura is an island paradise and Andi (Andre Dignity) has come there to see his father Chris. Chris left the family years ago and came to live on the island. Even though Chris has not been heard from, Andi wants to have some kind of relationship with him. However father and son have never met before so the “friendship” is strained. The local group of surfers is glad to have Andi with them and he quickly falls for Tina, (Alexandra Sydow) the surfing instructor and also becomes friendly with Pedro (Benjamin Martin), a good-looking and mysterious surfer.
Andi is blinded by Pedro’s good looks as he enjoys the new freedom he discovers on the gorgeous island. Soon Pedro is the object of Andi’s affection and as the two get to know each other, old secrets threaten to destroy whatever is touched and turn the world upside down. Andi’s emotions begin to run wild.
“He’s My Girl (La folle histoire d’amour de Simon Eskenazy)”
Jew and Arab Together and In Love
Simon Eskenazy (Antoine de Cauens—his performance brought him a Cesar nomination) has a full plate. He is trying to finish a record as his ill mother tries to move in with him. His ex-wife, Rosalie, has turned up with their ten-year old son; his agent is making demands as is his lover, Raphael.
The film is a sequel to “Man is Woman” (1998) and it is a charming love story. Simon is a famous clarinetist known for his jazz solos and his life in Paris is good until he meets Naim, an Arab cross-dresser, and they fall in love. Naim decides to help Simon with his mother who as no idea that she is a man and Simon is in no hurry to tell her so. Simon’s relationship with Naim causes him to deal with his fears and preconceived notions about Arabs. Simon is Jewish and he has been taught things about Arabs but now his is forced into overlooking them because love just kind of happens. At night Naim becomes Rose and works as a waitress.
In the earlier film, Simon had to come to terms with his homosexuality and we see here that he did just that. Now his is open about whom he is and in fact is even a bit stereotypical. However, his relationship with Naim is difficult to describe and both men struggle with it.
Naim is determined to take care of Bella, Simon’s mother but Simon does not want her around and especially not since she is bed ridden. Naim poses as a female law student to care for her and this causes Simon to reevaluate his home life. There is a lot of fun to be had watching this film but it is not to be taken too seriously.
Scott, Lukas. “A Happy Finish: Male-Male Erotica”, Renaissance Book, 2013.
Twelve Erotic Stories
I have said it several times—good erotica is difficult to write. There are only so many ways sex can be described. Lukas Scott has chosen to combine the imaginary (or the fantasy) with the believable thus giving us stories that could actually be true. He tells of events that could actually happen—“the sexy teacher might well be gay, the nurse might just give you one at the hospital, the horny soldier might just miss his missus and shoot his load…“. He shows that erotica is about both imagination and possibilities as we can become sexually aroused anywhere and at any time. Featured stories include “Scar”, “A Ring on His Finger”, “The Builder’s Crack”, “There’s More to Love (Than Boy Fucks Girl)”, “Buttcam”, “Chasing the Egg”, “The Butcher’s Boy”, and “A Happy Finish”. Lukas Scott has either had a very lucky life and/or a very bold imagination or both.
“Only Always You”
A young artist is at the center of this short film by Anthony Aguiar. He escapes into his thoughts as he thinks about the man he yearns for and sketches his desires on paper. The film is a wonderful example of telling a story and the music and the idea are perfect. To say anything more would ruin the experience so just have a look and enjoy.
“Follow Me” (“Sigueme”)
A Man Named Paco
Ruben (Jacinto Bobo) and Julia (Mary Melero) are a couple. Julia practices yoga while Ruben is off to the beach. As he walks along the shore he meets Paco (Daniel Enriquez). Evidently Julia has no idea that her boyfriend also likes men and Ruben and Paco have sex behind some rocks on the beach. What occurs next are a series of surprises that you will only know about by watching the film.
“Fair Play” (“Blessure”)
I am always amazed by what some directors are able to do in a short film. Belge director, John Vancauwenbergh in 8 short minutes manages to tell an entire story. Marie and Steven are a young couple that is happily married. However, when Tom, one of Steven’s football team comes over to return Steven’s athletic bag, we see that Marie does not really know her husband as well as she thought she did.
We have seen and heard this story before several times. Here is the loving wife who is unaware that her husband has another life. In this film the emphasis is on Marie, the wife and the woman who discovers her husband is not really the man she thought she knew and when husband and wife confront each other is left open. In fact, Marie is somewhat mute and the only verbal exchange that takes place is between the two men. Steven’s gay lover says that his second place days are over. We have a sense that the film is unfinished as some of the questions go unanswered. Then again, maybe Marie did know but kept it inside. It is up to us to decide.