“HUSH”— Dreams and Desires

“HUSH”

Dreams and Desires

Amos Lassen

“Hush” involves one’s dreams and desires. These dreams are the ones you should keep hidden. Jeremy (Anthony Scanish) has everything going for him or so it seems. He has a good job, a wife who loves him, a nice house, a good job and a loving wife (Kristin Ann Teporelli) but there is a problem and it is quite serious. Jeremy is obsessed with his best friend’s wife Suzanna (Melissa Damas). He is not dealing with this very well. In fact, Jeremy is falling apart.

Jeremy is having difficulty seeing the difference between what is real and what is passion. Quite naturally there is now distance between Jeremy and his wife and he is facing the fact that he has no desire for her. The more he obsesses the more he is determined to act on the way he feels. The film r3flects his passion as we watch Jeremy lose all sense of reality and lust seems to take over his thoughts.

Directed by Joseph McGovern, here is a movie that we can all identify with because I am sure each of us has wanted someone he/she could not have. In “Hush” we see the dark side of a man’s inability to control his obsession. We see what can come out of this and through brief visual vignettes with inaudible dialogue, we feel the intensity as it builds. The use of color is fascinating especially how red represents how Jeremy sees himself changing Suzanna from the lovely and devoted wife of his friend into a wanton object of lust. For Jeremy, Suzanna changes from a happy member of a group of friends to a sudden explosion of erotic red turning her into the sex object that Jeremy has control.

This is a film about emotions and the actors all are able to show us how they feel without dialogue. We see animal instincts are present in us and they can cause pain and suffering. This is a hard to watch yet very important film about the ugliness of rape. The timing for this film could not have been better as we witness how women have finally come forward to show us the relevancy of coming forward. No one should have to live in fear of violation.

 

https://vimeo.com/188559066/cb9f8503e4

“THE BEAUTY QUEEN”— What Really Matters

“Beauty Queen”

What Really Matters

Amos Lassen

 Nicholas Goodwin’s 18-minute short is about Christina (Christina Goursky), an adolescent insecure girl who has been labeled as “beautiful.” After she fails at a modeling tryout, she a photographer, Sebastian Schultz (James Jelkin), who makes her look and feel the way that a young girl wants to look and feel. With the help of her father, David (Timothy J. Cox), she realizes what truly matters.

Goodwin tells this story in just 18 minutes. He examines how much social media pressure affects Christina and her body image and shows us that wisdom never goes out of style. I remember way back when that if we wanted advice about something’s, we had two choices— ask one of our parents or ask a friendly high school teacher.

Christina is a bright and intelligent young lady. She has been accepted at the liberal arts school where she applied but she realizes that scholastic success is not enough. She is well aware of the ways that boys look at her glamorous classmates. She is exposed to and influenced by the standards of beauty that are in magazines and portraits by good photographers. Not only does Christina want to be physically desirable, she also wants to know that others see her as such. More than that I cannot say about the plot..

Goursky as Christina is totally real and convincing and I really wanted to shake some sense into her when she is harsh on herself. As expected, Timothy Cox is excellent as her father and we feel his involvement and understanding with regard to his daughter. Jordan Gaches has a small part as a student who really wants to be able to tell the girl how he feels about her but he does not have the courage to do. There is a very strong message here about how the way we feel inside affects the way we appear on the outside Self-esteem comes from the self. We are our own worst critics.

“BLOOD AND BLACK LACE”— 2 Disc Special Edition

“Blood And Black Lace”

2-Disc Special Edition

Amos Lassen

The Cristian Haute Couture fashion house is a home to models, backstabbing, blackmail, drug deals and murder.

Mario Bava set about cementing the rules of giallo with his movie, “Blood and Black Lace”. In doing so he created one of the most influential Italian films ever made and one that that would spearhead the giallo genre, give a prototype for the slasher movie, and have a huge effect on many diverse filmmakers. Now newly restored from the original camera negative and presented here in its original, uncut Italian form, we get a chance to see a major piece of cult filmmaking.

At the heart of this mystery is the desperation to retrieve a diary that contains far too much information. To cover up the death of its author, a few other women had to die. This was a smoke screen, a distraction meant to confuse and befuddle the authorities.

At the time this film was made, it might have seemed brutal and extreme. By today’s standards, it is quite tame. The cinematography (Ubaldo Terzano) is incredible as is Mario Serandrei’s editing and the art direction. It is very stylish and stylized with a great use of color, light, and shadow. The story is routine and the actors tend to be stiff and formal, which is not helped by the dubbing process Nonetheless there is something about this film that is quite compelling.

Every frame is interesting and this Blu Ray is packed with features. Almost three hours of good documentaries about Giallo films in general. Like all movies of this Genre it’s a hybrid of slasher and murder mystery films. There is no real protagonist, but there are plenty of misleading suspects and victims, and the violent deaths have a fetish quality that could easily put someone off. The gore is minimal, and I will say there is plenty of sympathy for the victims. The main reason to see this movie is the visual storytelling. The Giallo is sort of an inverted noir where suspense and corruption are set in a hyper colored beautiful environment that plays off the psychological state of the beautiful people that inhabit that world. Based on plot alone it’s a well-paced, inventive film. This is a well paced, entertaining film shot in a style that most would associate with the art house Italian cinema. combines some of the art house aesthetic with the pacing and simplicity. There are a few tense moments but overall the tone is somewhat light and it remains engaging and entertaining nearly throughout

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:

Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations

Optional Italian and English soundtracks presented in original uncompressed mono PCM audio

Newly translated subtitles for the Italian audio

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack

Brand new audio commentary by Mario Bava’s biographer Tim Lucas

Psycho Analysis a new documentary on Blood and Black Lace and the origins of the giallo genre featuring interviews with directors Dario Argento (Suspiria) and Lamberto Bava (Demons), screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (All the Colors of the Dark) critics Roberto Curti and Steve Della Casa, and crime novelists Sandrone Dazieri and Carlo Lucarelli

An appreciation by Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani, the creative duo behind Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body s Tears

Yellow the much-acclaimed neo-giallo by Ryan Haysom & Jon Britt [Blu-ray exclusive]

Gender and Giallo a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring the giallo s relationship with the social upheavals of the 1960s and 70s Panel discussion on Mario Bava featuring Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava and Steve Della Casa, recorded at the 2014 Courmayeur Film Festival

The Sinister Image: Cameron Mitchell an episode of David Del Valle s television series, devoted to the star of Blood and Black Lace and presented in full

The alternative US opening titles, sourced from Joe Dante s private print and scanned in 2K especially for this release

Original theatrical trailer

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys

Collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Howard Hughes, author of Cinema Italiano and Mario Bava: Destination Terror, an interview with Joe Dante, David Del Valle on Cameron Mitchell and more, all illustrated with archive stills and posters

“YESSONGS”— 40th Anniversary Edition

“Yessongs”

40th Anniversary Edition

Amos Lassen

YES has always been considered as a unique rock group and progressive rock legends. They were constant innovators and covered the entire spectrum of music from symphonic to rock. YES has been at the forefront of progressive rock and became a major force in popular music selling over 30 million albums and reaching platinum status multiple times worldwide.

During the late 1960’s YES were famed and renowned for their live performances culminating in their seminal album and film of the same name, YESSONGS. Filmed in 1972 at London’s Rainbow theatre. This feature film was released theatrically in the UK the following year with a quadraphonic sound track. It features their new line-up of the time Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and Alan White. The songs performed here are:

All Good People

The Clap

And You And I

Rick’s Solo

Roundabout

Yours Is No Disgrace

Wurm

Unfortunately the video is not the best that it could be but it has been remastered and put on blu ray making the picture as clear as possible.

I understand that many feel that those were great days for music, bands and the industry in general. YES will always be among the best bands of all time. Period. They were truly talented, all the way around and original, creative and powerful.

“MELANIE: FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY”— First Time on DVD

“MELANIE: FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY”

First Time on DVD

Amos Lassen

I am amazed that I had completely forgotten Melanie as a singer and as I thought about her (after having received this DVD, I remembered how she had conquered Woodstock with just a guitar, a voice and a message. Melanie was the first solo pop/rock artist ever to appear at Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera House, the Sydney Opera House and she had record sales of more than eighty million to date and her songs have been covered by singers as diverse as Cher, Dolly Parton, and Macy Gray. Although UNICEF made her its spokesperson, she has continued to tour worldwide, but not in Britain. Her last sell out British gig nearly 20 years ago before this appearance at the Meltdown Music Festival. Jarvis Cocker invited her to open the festival at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London in June 2007.

This DVD showcases that intimate evening’s performance with Melanie who sings all of her hits including Brand New Key, Beautiful People, Peace Will Come, Hush A Bye, Ruby Tuesday, Alexander Beetle and many more.

”When Melanie Safka was just 22, she arrived at the site of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in August 1969, she admits that she was ”terrified out of my mind.” So much so that when the rain came falling down, she breathed a sigh of relief, hoping that the crowd would turn around and go home and that she wouldn’t have to perform. But perform she did and her performance made her an instant star. Today, almost 50 years later, she is still writing songs, performing live and making new music.

Here we get a tiny glimpse of what it must have been like to be part of Woodstock, and the movements of the 60’s that defined Melanie’s career and life.”

”Melanie creates for me the most important illusion in a performer: belief.” It’s important to believe her because she is singing about herself. None of these girl troubadours reveals herself so personally.” –Bill Graham

“Valley Blues” by Cher Guevara— An Epic Poem

Guevara, Cher. “Valley Blues”, Writing Knights Press, 2018.

An Epic Poem

Amos Lassen

One of the things I love best about reviewing is watching writers mature both in content and in style. A young poet named Walter Beck approached me in 2012 and asked if I would be interested in reviewing his work and of course I agreed as I always do with new writer. Between 2012 and 2015, I wrote thirteen posts about young Beck and then quiet. I just assumed that the well was dry and besides I had so much to do, I didn’t really think about it. Then one day, I noticed a familiar face on Facebook and I realized that Walter Beck had become Cher Guevara.

“A cold voice,

what are you doing here, Beck?

My spirit replies,

I’m hearing the beautiful music

From the dry hills

And my name is Cher”.

I must say that I was not really surprised by the physical transformation. I had always thought of Beck as someone quite radical and I felt that there would always be surprises. His poetry was always radical but I must admit that I had not thought about the poet (I am trying to be careful with pronouns) and gender but that was my problem and not Beck’s.

“Valley Blues” is an ambitious undertaking just as changing from Walter Beck to Cher Guevara is ambitious and they both succeed. I love that Cher, the person, stands up for what is right and I certainly saw that in Beck’s early poems which now seem to me to be more angry that what I read in “Valley Blues”. Do not misunderstand me, there is anger but it more like being discontent than really boiling.

I understand that Cher wrote “Valley Blues” while in the western desert and I cannot think of a better place to find one’s stream of consciousness. I remember when I was a young (and good-looking) graduate student having gone to spend some time in Arizona for a Proust weekend. With great people and a little help from some substance, I appreciated Proust more than I had before or since. I have often wondered if when becoming someone else. One has to destroy the former being. If I understand Cher correctly, the new being came about as a result of destruction and self-discovery. Cher uses images that hit close to home:

“Dressing in fishnets and make up

in the July moonlight…

An old friend calls

tells me home is burning

The land of my rebirth

Is collapsing in chaos.”

This is the saga of the search for a road out of an exile that has lasted nearly a decade. Cher Guevara is from Avon, Indiana , not place where I imagine there are many gender queer people living so I can’t help but see him as a marked person and I can only imagine what life must be like for the poet. Nonetheless, Cher has made a name as a poet of the Indiana underground. Believe it or not this is his tenth book and in my opinion, the most mature of them.

There is a great deal that I can say about what the poetry brings us but I do not want to ruin the reading experience for anyone else. This is not just a read but a full and total experience. Cher mentions that they have become selfish over the years and would like some credit for the many changes that have come about. This, for me, was the only place I saw indulgence. What I do see more than anything else is a cry for acceptance. While we may not all be the same, there is humanity that unites us and we want to revel in that freely and liberated.

“Forget ‘em”.

Don’t let the bastards

Get you down.”

The poetry comes with wonderful pictures of Cher. He see him on his voyage and we are with him when “he keeps his blues songs alive”. Don’t miss this chance to meet a dynamic voice about the way we live.

“Bowlaway” by Elizabeth McCracken— An Unconventional New England Family

McCracken, Elizabeth. “Bowlaway: A Novel”, Ecco, 2019.

An Unconventional New England Family

Amos Lassen

In “Bowlaway”, Elizabeth McCracken tells the story oft three generations of an unconventional New England family who own and operate a candlepin bowling alley. It all began with when Bertha Truitt was found unconscious in a New England cemetery and all she had with her were a bowling ball, a candlepin, and fifteen pounds of gold on her person. She had always been an enigma to everyone in Salford, Massachusetts. She had no past to speak of, it seems, or at least none she was willing to speak about and this is scandalous and intriguing to her fellow townspeople. Then there was her choice to marry as does her choice to marry Leviticus Sprague, the doctor who revived her after she was found. Bertha is both tenacious, and entrepreneurial, and the bowling alley she opens quickly becomes Salford’s most defining landmark and popular attraction and Bertha became Salford’s most notable resident.

But, alas, Bertha dies in a freak accident and once again her past resurfaces with the appearance of a heretofore-unheard-of son, who arrives in Salford to claim that he is her heir. It becomes clear that, even though Bertha is dead, her defining spirit and the implications of her unwillingness to share anything about her life live on and affect future generations through inheritance battles, weird paternities, and hidden wills.

Beautifully written with wonderful and sharp humor, this is a family saga of twentieth century America complete with myths and secrets, its passions and betrayals, and the ties that bind and the rifts that divide. There is a hint of magical realism with plenty of down-to-earth wisdom. 

When Bertha sits up in the cemetery and explains that she’s the inventor of candlepin bowling, the townspeople, on one hand, are perplexed and mesmerized by her and, on the other hand, are delighted with her candlepin bowling alley, where they can bowl away their problems. The bowing alley becomes a place of camaraderie. In fact, every character under the spell of Truitt’s Alley has their own demons, agendas and desires. As the years pass,  the bowling alley changes with the times as well as the aims of those who run it. We have love stories, stories of loss and beautiful tenderness. In case you do not know what candlepin bowling is, it involves thinner pins, 3 rolls per frame, and a different scoring system. If you are like me, you will come to love it and everything else about “Bowlaway”.

“MAKING MONTGOMERY CLIFT”— A Troubled Life

“MAKING MONTGOMERY CLIFT”

A Troubled Life

Amos Lassen

“Making Montgomery Clift” is a new documentary that gives us a unique look beyond the self-destructive and tortured soul that we have come to associate with the late Montgomery Clift. The film focuses on the happier parts of Clift’s life.

The film was produced and directed by Clift’s nephew, Robert Clift, and his wife, Hillary Demmon “I was always aware that there was a disconnect” between the public perception of Clift and the man his loved ones knew, Robert Clift says. “It was just never addressed in any systematic manner. This film gave me an opportunity to explore that.”

Those of us who remember Clift know that he was a contemporary of Marlon Brando and James Dean and starred in such iconic films as “The Misfits”, “From Here To Eternity”, and “A Place in the Sun”. He was rumored to be gay or bisexual and he was plagued by drug and alcohol addiction for much of his life. He suffered poor health and died of a heart attack at age 45.

Probably the reason that Montgomery Clift has been viewed as a tragic case was the publication of Patricia Bosworth’s 1978 biography, where his image became set as an innovative and very beautiful gay or bisexual actor who destroyed himself due to the external pressures of society.

However, his nephew Robert Clift seeks to give a more nuanced portrait of his uncle in “Making Montgomery Clift,” that is based around a collection of audio tapes and other memorabilia kept by Robert’s father Brooks, who was Clift’s older brother. The Clift remembered here is not the doomed victim but a “highly intelligent, mordantly funny man who successfully fought to keep his creative and sexual integrity intact.”

Clift himself might have enjoyed the title “Making Montgomery Clift” because of its double meaning; to “make” someone, in old-fashioned slang, is to sleep with them, but this is also a movie about the making of Clift’s posthumous image, and Robert Clift very carefully separates fact from fiction or misrepresentation here. He moves beyond most of the sub-Freudian interpretation of his uncle’s life that seemed reasonable or fashionable 40 years ago.

We hear audio recordings of Clift’s mother Sunny speaking to Brooks about the first biography of her son and she is angry and upset and urges Brooks to correct the “untruths” in this book, and we also hear her say that anything he could write would be “superior,” a hint of the high opinion she had of herself and her family.

What we learn of Sunny doesn’t necessarily contradict the books that depicted her as a domineering parent, but we do hear a bit of audio between Sunny and Monty that lets us understand the way he dealt with her — with humor. The film makes it apparent that the screen legend was a very funny guy and that people felt lucky to know him.

Clift’s friend and lover Lorenzo James declined to appear on camera, but we hear him saying that “Monty’s personal life didn’t bother him as much as people thought it did.” From the late 1970s to today, the myth of the “tragic gay star” has been used to define him. As early as 1958, Clift was being confronted by interviewers about his supposed urge toward self-destruction, and he deflected this with humor, saying to one of them that he “enjoyed jokes” too much to kill himself. “

The film fleshes out the actor’s creative integrity and we can see just how much of his own dialogue he edited and re-wrote himself for movies like “The Search” and “From Here to Eternity.”

We also see photos he took during his early theater days of stars he worked with, like Tallulah Bankhead and Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, and a portrait emerges of Clift here as the complete actor as artist. The movie ends at the cemetery where Montgomery Clift is buried (in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, which is not open to the public) and we see that Monty is next to his brother Brooks, who was such a key ally both in life and after his death.

Instead of being a straight-out biography, the film looks at the danger of misconstruing even the smallest of details in someone’s life and behavior. In what feels like a personal, familiar, curious, and compassionate piece, Robert Clift shows us the treatment of a man at the top of his game when gay during the golden years of cinema.

When Montgomery Clift refused to play the studio game in the ’40s and ’50s, it was the only game in town for actors. He wouldn’t sign a contract, he dropped out of Sunset Blvd. just before shooting began, and he turned down many films. His talent was as dazzling as his beauty and Hollywood met him on his exacting terms, and even with a “filmography that numbers fewer than 20 features, his groundbreaking screen performances (four of them Oscar-nominated) are indelible.”

However, the legacy of one of the screen’s greatest actors gave way to tabloid melodrama with his death at 45: Clift became the embodiment of tormented homosexuality, reportedly conflicted over his identity and committing “slow suicide” by booze and pills. Blurring the line between his life and his work, some people were convinced that his anguished performance in “Judgment at Nuremberg” wasn’t acting; it was a nervous breakdown caught on film.

Both Montgomery Clift and his older brother — the filmmaker’s father, Brooks Clift obsessively recorded phone calls, providing a wealth of material for the documentary. The recordings include Brooks’ conversations with Patricia Bosworth, one of the film’s interview subjects and the author of a 1978 biography of Clift that became the mother lode for future chroniclers. Her book, with its questionable conclusions and careless conflation of homosexuality with pederasty, has been the inspiration for many unproduced biopics.

This film unravels the accepted wisdom that Clift’s life was one of inner conflict and painfully guarded truths. In footage of him at leisure, his happiness lights up the screen. He might not have been “out” but his intimates testify that he was anything but closeted. By refusing to sign a studio contract, he was not only maintaining his artistic independence but also protecting his private life from a show marriage, like Rock Hudson’s, that the Hollywood publicity machine insisted on for gay stars.

The directors acknowledge Clift’s problem with alcohol and drugs only slightly and likewise dismiss ideas that he could be difficult to work with. They offer Brooks’ theory that his downward spiral was not a reflection of self-loathing but, in large part, the result of a lawsuit by John Huston over the film “Freud” and a legal bind that essentially prevented a committed artist from doing what he loved for four years. But the filmmakers also let us hear the troubling defensiveness, bordering on incoherence, in Clift’s voice when he discusses the matter on one of those taped calls.

The focus is shifted from Montgomery Clift as a portrait of self-destruction to a serious assessment of his work.

“Burnside Field Lizard and Selected Stories” by Theresa Griffin Kennedy— Five Short Stories

Kennedy, Theresa Griffin. “Burnside Field Lizard and Selected Stories”, Oregon Greystone, 2018.

Five Short Stories

Amos Lassen

 Theresa Griffin Kennedy introduces us to quite a cast of characters in the five short stories that make up “Burnside Field Lizard”. I must admit that I am not much of a short story reader and that could probably be due to having to tech so many that I longer find pleasure in short reads. I was therefore surprised at how much I enjoyed these stories. What we really see here is a look at Portland, Oregon through the unusual characters that live there; people who are both damaged and insightful and who see so much more than we do. Our characters are the less privileged inhabitants of Portland who are marginalized by either gender, class or sexuality or even by all three. Writer Kennedy uses them to look at greater universal issues ultimately examining “what people are people willing to take from others in order to survive and what does it mean to be human in such a landscape”. There is something very gothic going on in Portland.

The stories are honest and they are sad and happy, sometimes at the same time. Kennedy explores the Portland that most are unaware of either by choice or not caring. Here is the sordid and seamy “underbelly of Portland’s dark side.” We see Portland as wet and dark, a place inhabited by broken people who struggle and are defeated and angry that there seems to be no place for them. But these same people have hope that will achieve redemption and/or salvation and that it is within reach. We see that there is humanity in all people, even among those that we pretend are not here and those that we choose not to see.

As I sat down to write this review, I had not yet decided whether to review each story separately or to review the book as whole. Summarizing each story as I usually do when I review anthologies often causes me to write spoilers thus taking away from the reader’s discoveries in the text and I would rather that each reader have the chance to form his own opinion. Kennedy is a new author for me and I am anxious to hear what others have to say about what she has written here. I personally enjoyed the read and I have never been to Portland and do not see myself getting there anytime soon. (It’s hard enough being a southerner in Boston where people make fun of my accent). I believe that this collection brings back the local color that was once so important in our literature but slowly disappeared. We all live in different places and we are all different yet as Kennedy shows us, we are united by humanity.

“Hard Drive: The Best Sci-Fi Erotica of M. Christian” by M. Christian— Our Sexuality Makes Us Human

Christian, M. “Hard Drive: The Best Sci-Fi Erotica of M. Christian”, Sizzler Editions, 2018.

Our Sexuality Makes Us Human

Amos Lassen

I have been reading and reviewing M. Christian for about twelve years now and regard him as one of our finest erotica writers today. His importance is in how he sees our sexuality as that which as far as they go and he does this once again in his new collection of cyberpunk adventure, “Hard Drive”. His sexual stories are outrageous and therefore great fun. This collection contains story that M. Christian selected these stories from other erotica collections and not only are they celebrations of sexually explicit cyberpunk science fiction, they are also examples of what good writing is. We go to the “outer reaches of BDSM, gay, lesbian, and straight sexuality in the near and far future: worlds of brilliant imagination, relentless passion, and supernova heat!” It is really exciting to have the stories that he considers his best all on one volume. Now I go through the volume and say something about each story but that takes away from the element of surprise you get when you read.

Christian is very frank in his descriptions of intimacy and he has the ability to draw characters with whom we can easily associate because they are like us—they are searching for what they do not have sexually.

Physical and sexual pleasures are part of our lives even though they are transitory and perhaps that is why some of the stories here may indeed shock you. I am not sure why we are shocked when we are daily being bombarded by new technologies. The anthology is made up of seventeen stories and I can honestly say that I do not know when last I had such a good time reading before this. A word of warning—- I became so engrossed in what I read that I made the mistake of starting in the afternoon and then staying up all night reading.