“THE HOUSE ON CHELOUCHE STREET”— During the British Mandate

slush

“The House on Chelouche Street” (“Ha-Bayit Berechov Chelouche”)

 During the British Mandate

Amos Lassen

“The House on Chelouche Street” film traces the hardships that a family suffers in the politically unstable country. They came to Israel from Egypt during the British Mandate over Palestine and this is a nostalgic look at how things were then.

The year is 1947 and the United Nation decided to establish one Jewish state and an Arab one in the British ruled territory named “Palestine”. 
At that time, there are approximately 500,000 Jews in Palestine, large part of whom, resided in Tel Aviv. Among the endless ethnic communities populating the young metropolis, there were Jews from Egypt. 
The plot of the film centers around a 15 year old kid named Sammy (Offer Shalhin), the eldest of a four children family, run by the stern yet sensitive widowed mother (Gila Almagor) in a very credible and moving performance. Sammy was well read but his academic aspirations have to be set on hold as he shared the burden of co-provider of his family. Sammy reached puberty at a time of turmoil for the Jewish inhabitants of soon-to-be-Israel. This was when movements such as Etzel and the Haganah were at their peak of activity against British rule and Sammy was torn between his obligation to support his family and his need to fight against the Arab neighboring countries that launched an attack a day after the U.N. resolution.
To make matters worse, Sammy became involved romantically with a 25 year old librarian of Russian descent (Michal Bat Adam), an affair that for all sorts of reasons, was frowned upon by his family and companions.
The movie is low on plot development or pacing but it’s compensated by a wonderful cast that encapsulate the Jewish-Egyptian state of mind.

 The film was nominated for an Oscar and it tackles the awakening of a teenager as he becomes acquainted with the turbulent socio-political era in Israel. Directed by Moshe Mizrahi this is the story of a destitute mother who struggles to make her family earn a living by washing clothes, though problem arises when her eldest son falls in love with a librarian while being influenced with the unstable condition in the land.

slush1

Director Mizrahi arrived in pre-Israel Palestine, with his family, from Alexandria, Egypt. They were a Sephardic family, who spoke, like the family in the film, Ladino, a language that combines Spanish and Hebrew, just as the Ashkenazim spoke Yiddish. Sephardim are the descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 and went to places such as Greece and Turkey in the 19th century. 
The Sephardic Jews were a large and successful community in Alexandria, part of the vibrant cultural mix of the city before Nasser led a wave of nationalism that all but destroyed the cosmopolitan nature of the city. 
The film is semi-autobiographical, and presents a fascinating picture of this society in the days leading up to independence. Mizrahi was, like many Israeli directors in the ’60s and early ’70s, influenced by the French New Wave, and this film shows the strong influence of François Truffaut, especially “The 400 Blows”. Here he presented his ethnic tension within a economic reality that was much more honest, and critical, of Israeli society. This gives the film a depth seldom seen in Israeli films from that period.
The actor who plays Sammy is the one problem in the film. He wasn’t a professional, and was very weak in the role, especially when cast along with some of the best actors in the history of Israeli stage and film. Yosef Shiloah, who was born in Iraq, and who died recently, was also a brilliant stage actor, who appeared in many lesser know films. Avner Hezkiahu is also well know for his stage work. And there’s Shaike Ophir, actor, pantomime and comic. Together it’s wonderful ensemble acting that puts the young lead actor at a disadvantage. Much of the dialogue, especially around the courtyard, is in Ladino. The older people especially speak it, while the younger ones more quickly go into Hebrew. We do not get much chance to hear Ladino these days.

“THE SHELTER”— In the Shelter

the shelter

The Shelter (“Hamiklat”)

In the Shelter

Amos Lassen

For me this is quite a difficult film to write about since I have spent a lot of time in the shelters when I lived in Israel. Therefore this review will be quite short. Quite basically the film is about an Israeli family of father (Yehezkel Lazarov) and son, Ben (Stav Naggar) who are forced to take refuge in the underground shelter upon realizing that Israel is under missile attack.

When eleven-year-old Ben awakes the next morning he is shocked to learn from his father that Israel has been severely injured in the attack the night before. Both father and son must now accustom themselves to the new reality of life in the shelter. The film deals with day-to-day troubles of food and water but also with the death of the family’s mother six months earlier and slowly the son begins to realize that there are secrets in the shelter that his father is keeping from him. There is quite a claustrophobic feel in the film as we can well imagine what living in shelter is like.

The rest you will have to find out for yourself.

“Aviya’s Summer”— A Classic Israeli Film

avia's summer

“Aviya’s Summer”

A Classic Israeli Film

Amos Lassen

“Aviya’s Summer” has been an international hit. It is based on a book by Gila Almagor, first lady of the Israeli stage and cinema, and she also stars in and produced the film version. “Aviya’s Summer” looks at a theme that we don’t see often on film—the period of time after the second World War that occurred at the same time that the State of Israel was born. Israel was new to the idea of statehood and was plodding her way while dealing with massive immigration. We get a look at Israel during her early years and we get a special treat in the clothing and the vintage automobiles. The cinematography captures the period beautifully. It is amazing to see the tranquility of the new nation at this early period in her history and we experience, a bit, the immediacy of memories and the feeling of loss as citizens listen to refugee reports on old radios. Israel appears as a real homeland for those ravaged by war and held captive by the Germans and the state, like Aviya (the girl with the strange name) was capable of worthy of beautiful literature and attempting to find out who she really is.

The film follows Aviya as she learns to accept her mother’s erratic behavior. It is the first of a two-film series based on Gila Almagor’s stories about her upbringing in post-Holocaust Israel. Aviya–the character based on Almagor–is raised by her single mother, and she doesn’t know very much about her father. She knows that her mother–remarkably played by Almagor herself–is a Holocaust survivor, but she does not know her mother’s full story.

Throughout her summer break, she observes her mother’s position in their community. Ridiculed for her impulsive and often offensive behavior, Aviya’s mother must cope with her memories on her own. The roles reverse, and Aviya becomes as much of her mother’s caretaker as she can.

The movie is straightforward and it is a look at naive reality. Characters very truthful. Comedy and tragedy live together here. The Holocaust theme is there and you can feel it’s burning under ground. But despite all, life is in every breath of this movie. “Aviya’s Summer” is a beautifully simple movie that concentrates on the relationship of a girl and her mentally unstable mother. It is more than a movie— it is an experience.

“THE DEBT” (“HaHov”)— Responsibility and Recrimination

the debt

“THE DEBT” (“HaHov”)

Responsibility and Recrimination

Amos Lassen

This is the original Israeli film upon which the American version was based. In the beginning t is set in 1964, and we meet Rachel Brener, one of three Mossad agents, who are to capture the “Surgeon of Birkenau”, a monstrous Nazi war criminal. While being brought to public trial, the Surgeon manages to escape. The agents are faced with failure in their mission but they report their captive committed suicide and they return to Israel as national heroes. We move forward to 1997, more than thirty years later and the supposedly dead Surgeon resurfaces in the Ukraine, determined to confess his crimes. Rachel Brener, one of the three Mossad agents, must now track down and silence the Surgeon in order to protect the life and reputation she has built upon her fabricated past.

The Israeli film was released in 2007 and was later remade into an American version that just could not reach the tension and suspense of the original. The Hollywood version focuses way too much time on the love triangle between the female and the 2 male Mossad agents and this did not exist in the Israeli version. The original movie is riveting and tense from start to finish while the Hollywood movie has to have the occasional romantic interlude.

The film’s story goes back and forth between two timelines, 1964 and 1994, and events are traced from the viewpoint of agent Rachel, young and old. The contrast between the young and inexperienced Rachel (Neta Garty) and the experienced and tired one (Gila Almagor) is nicely done. Director Assaf Bernstein’s film is less about action and mystery than characters, especially Rachel, and how they confront with each other and their past, and it works.

“The Debt” is a spy thriller with more focus on characters and their psychology. The screenplay is well written and the acting is excellent all around. This is a complicated adult thriller that works on many levels and absolutely stunned me when I first saw it. A complex narrative featuring alternate timelines, it highlights a tale of responsibility and recriminations across decades and international borders. Serious political thrillers can oftentimes be antiseptic or too aloof, but this hard-edged story covers a lot of ground while still remaining an intensely personal experience. At its heart, it is about individuals with a strong sense of duty battling with the morality and ethics of the position that they are put into. Emotionally and intellectually challenging, this is a film of unrelenting tension that had me enthralled throughout its running time.

 Starting in 2007, the film opens with an ex-Mossad agent played by Gila Almagor stepping up to receive accolades upon the publishing of her account of an infamous case thirty-five years in the past. As a young agent, she was part of a team that took down an infamous war criminal. All, however, might not be what it seems when it comes to this momentous event. Through a series of tensely escalating flashbacks, we are clued in to what really happened in 1964–and it does not match the official accounting. Still struggling with the truth, Almagor is given a very real chance to face the repercussions of her decisions as a youth. She decides to put herself on the line again out of a combined sense of duty and guilt, and the picture continues to play out as a timely and relevant morality play. The two timelines are seamlessly integrated and this is a movie that will keep you thinking. On a personal note, I know almost everyone in the film so watching it was like a reunion of friends for me.

“PARADISE NOW”— The Enigma of the Suicide Bomber

paradise now

“Paradise Now”

The Enigma of the Suicide Bomber

Amos Lassen

Suicide bombers are impenetrable enigmas to the mind of the west. Most of feel that we cannot possibly understand how a young person who is healthy in mind and body can throw away his/her life just to kill a few people who are not really party to the conflict for which he/she is engaged. We can understand a soldier who sacrifices himself as he runs along a beach into the line of fire because his death is not the goal but a consequence and/or the people being killed on the other side are also soldiers. On a more personal note, having lived in Israel, a country that has had to deal with suicide bombers, I must say that I do not have the ability to understand how these bombers can think that what they do does any good for either side—an enemy willing to destroy himself to destroy innocents on the other side is not an enemy that can be dealt with rationally. We have certainly seen that each suicide bombing drives us farther and farther from the belief that negotiation and peace are even possible.

The film, “Paradise Now” shows us some signs that there are people among the Palestinians who understand that suicide bombings are acts of impotent rage that do more harm than good, if they do any good at all, for the people left behind. There is no sacrifice, just revenge.

Suha (Luba Azabal) is not the main character of this movie, but she is the key character for western audiences. She is a French-born Moroccan activist, and brings a secular, outside view of the bombings— she sees the damage they do to the cause of Palestinian statehood. For us, she represents the voice of reason. What we do not know about her is how she is seen in the West Bank and Gaza and that remains an open question.

paradise1

Before I continue, it is important to understand that this film is completely one-sided in sympathizing with the Palestinian side of their conflict with Israel. The Israelis are seen as faceless occupiers and oppressors. The question of this movie is not whether they are the enemy but rather how to deal with that enemy. The film explores and examines, with a fascinating level of prosaic detail, what will presumably be the last day in the lives of two lifelong friends, Said (Kais Nashef) and Khaled (Ali Suliman). They have been selected for a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Their handlers let them spend one last night with their families, although they can’t tell them anything about what they’re about to do. It is here that we see the human side of suicide bombing.

The two do not really feel the idea that we have in the West about the way we picture suicide bombers to look like and this gives us the idea that anyone at any time can become one. When we meet them at first, they are working in an automobile repair shop and we see them taking breaks, smoking a water pipe. Khaled seems to be quite the hothead and because of this we see him lose his job; Said on the other hand is cool and reliable. He has a girlfriend, Suha, whose car is being fixed and she is as attracted to him as he is to her. She impresses Khaled because she is the daughter of a famous Palestinian hero.

We do not sense that Khaled and Said are political and neither do we feel that they are religious. This makes it all the more surprising when their friend, Jamal (Amer Hlehel) comes to bring them the news that they have been selected for the next “operation in martyrdom” and they seem to be very pleased about this. Following this is a surreal sequence as the two men are prepared for their suicide mission. There are a few surprises here in that what could have been very seriously portrayed is actually given to us with some character-driven humor. As Khaled makes his farewell to the world video, he stops it to remind his mother to buy filters for water. This to me was quite shocking—here is a man about to die for “a cause” and he worries about his mother. Another interesting aspect is the bomber’s last meal that is staged like DaVinci’s painting of “The Last Supper”. It takes a director with moxie to bring together suicide bombing and Christian religious iconography. For me this is director/writer Hany Abu-Assad’s error in that he went a step too far with this metaphor.

The mission is aborted and the two men are separated and it is here that we learn what brought them to this point. Khaled is more political, driven by feelings of powerlessness against Israel. To be a bomber makes the Israelis powerless against him, leveling the playing field in a perverse way. Said’s motives are more personal, revolving around his father’s execution for collaborating with Israel.

At this point Suha comes back into the film and while he is not allowed to offer up any constructive alternatives, she at least is able to argue the valid point that the bombings simply make life worse for those left behind.

Characters like Jamal, the shadowy handler guiding Said and Khaled down the road to self-destruction, seems outwardly sympathetic but ultimately insincere. Maybe I’m just projecting my own opinion onto these men, who I see as the worst cowards in the whole affair. If they are so committed to this cause, why aren’t they the ones strapping plastic explosives to their bodies, rather than sending more impressionable young men off to die in their place? I’m at least hopeful that Abu-Assad views these people in a similar unflattering light.

“Paradise Now” will not persuade anyone who is not already sympathetic to the Palestinians, but it is a well-written, well-acted and unblinking look into a world completely alien to western eyes. For that reason alone, it has value. It might have come down more strongly against the violence or offered more concrete alternatives, but Abu-Assad has the right to make his own movie, just as I have the right to say I disagree with his choices.

This is a movie that epitomizes risk—and not just from a commercial perspective. Making this film was a heroic undertaking; the movie was shot on location in Nablus, as well as Abu-Assad’s hometown, Nazareth, with the filmmakers dodging near daily firefights and missile attacks while walking a cautious line between the Israeli occupying army and various Palestinian armed factions. The politics are similarly ambiguous or, rather, complex.

“OLD DOG & NEW TRICKS”— Season 3 : The gay-themed web series is back in November

old

“Old Dogs & New Tricks”

Season 3 : The gay-themed web series is back in November

The WeHo escapades of middle-aged gay best buds Nathan, Brad, Ross & Muscles continue beginning Nov. 12, 2014, when popular gay web series Old Dogs & New Tricks returns for its long-awaited third season.

The season premiere picks up one week after the events of the show’s recent Halloween-set “mini-movie” WeHo Horror Story, with Nathan reeling from Damian’s disappearance and Ross preparing for his impending gay divorce. But this year, the show expands its scope:

“We still see the guys’ romantic misadventures,” explains show creator/writer/star Leon Acord. “But this year, we also see more of their successes and mistakes in their professional lives. We may have fewer sex scenes this year, but the ones we have are more outrageous than ever–including the show’s first bare ass!”

The new season also features guest-star appearances from Rutanya Alda (Mommie Dearest), who plays Nelson Van Eddy’s haughty personal assistant Barbara Fierce in four episodes. Mo Gaffney (Absolutely Fabulous) appears in the season premiere as Ross’ divorce attorney, while Kathryn Leigh Scott (Dark Shadows) plays Muscles’ mom, Lily Anne, in the season finale. Jim J. Bullock (Too Close for Comfort) makes a cameo as Nathan’s latest celebrity-quack therapist.

The entire principal cast returns for the new season. Besides Acord as neurotic talent agent Nathan, the show stars Curt Bonnem as hedonistic Brad, Jeffrey Patrick Olson as wholesome Muscles, David Pevsner as struggling actor Ross & Amanda Gari (in an expanded role) as Nathan’s wise-cracking “girl-Friday” Lydia Lasker. Bruce L. Hart appears in three episodes as resident villain Nelson, as does Parnell Damone Marcano as Ross’ estranged spouse Neal.

New episodes debut each subsequent Wednesday at www.OldDogsNewTricksTheSeries.com and the show’s YouTube channel (youtube/OldDogsTheSeries).

“I’m very proud of this season,” says Acord, “Our cast and crew all brought their A-game, and it shows. I can honestly say its our best yet. I can’t wait to see what our viewers think!

“Damage Control: A Memoir of Outlandish Privilege, Loss, And Redemption” by Sergei Boissier— Love, Delusion and Redemption

damage control

Boissier, Sergei. “Damage Control: A Memoir of Outlandish Privilege, Loss, And Redemption”, Argo-Navis, 2014.

Loss, Delusion and Redemption

Amos Lassen

When I first started reading “Damage Control”, it felt like I was reading another egoist going on about the wonderful sex he has been responsible for providing for others and a look at his many sexual escapades. All of us are familiar with stories of this kind that are usually the search for love by a guy who has an abusive mother. But I was surprised; as I read on I discovered that this was indeed a different kind of story and one that is very sincere and poignant. I have read so many books that eventually all seem to be the same so I was very surprised to find something new here. This a tale of loss and a coming-of-age story of excess and entitlement but it is also a look at delusion. The setting goes from pre-Castro Cuba to the lavish French countryside to the metropolitan streets of New York City. Quite basically it is the story of one guy and his family that contains all of the emotions (sometimes simultaneously) and it is very sensitive and moving.

The underlying motif is a mother and son finding each other after a separation of many years. It is also gay man’s journey through the joys and perils of his generation, coming out in the early eighties while the AIDS epidemic was devastating so many and his surviving tremendous loss culminating in his decision to adopt a child as a single parent.

Sergei was a psychotherapist who had been living in Paris when he learned his mother was terminally ill. He left his practice and his life to be by her side hoping to heal the bitterness and discord between them before it is too late. His mother had been a glamorous woman whose life was one of great elegance and luxury but also one of disillusionment, grandiosity, seduction and self-destruction. She spent her young years in pre-Castro Cuba which was then a mythical island paradise. When she was 18 she married a dashing young Swiss and they went into exile. She tried to create a mythical life of her own and pass on the traditions of aristocracy to her children yet all the while leading a double life and suffering feelings of intense longing and frustration and guilt. These eventually cause her to destroy it all and walk away from everything that she had been taught to want and expect out of life.

Reading this made me we are often glad that I did not live a life of privilege. we haven’t been granted such a privileged life. My heart broke and my eyes filled with tears several times during my read. Boissier bares his heart and soul and does so wonderfully. He introduces us to fascinating characters and then he tells is how he felt about those that were part of his life. He takes us through his cycle of life and it is so moving to read of his saying goodbye to a parent so he can say hello to a child as he finds grace and redemption through a mother’s love.

Boissier’s prose is sincere, elegant, unpretentious, and brave and this is not a book that you will be able to walk away from easily. It takes us into the entanglements and dysfunction of his own family and then shows us how and why he was able to deal with it all. We feel his pain, confusion, forgiveness as well as his love.

 

 

 

“The Jews of Boston” edited by Jonathan Sarna, Ellen Smith and Scott-Martin Kosofsky— Jewish Boston

the jews of boston

Sarna, Jonathan, Ellen Smith and Scott-Martin Kosofsky (editors). “The Jews of Boston”, Yale University Press, 2005.

Jewish Boston

Amos Lassen

Whenever I find myself somewhere new, I see what I can learn about the two communities that I align myself with and in Boston I am very lucky in terms of both the Jewish and the LGBT groups.

I learned a great deal about the Jewish community from this wonderful book that was published to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the first Jews to arrive in this country. It is made up of wonderful essays written by distinguished Jewish historians and scholars (Boston has no lack of scholars). Being originally from New Orleans, I was aware already of the history of the Jews of the south and I thought some of them to be very special but the history of the Boston Jewish community is breathtaking just as is the city of Boston. There are some 110 rare photographs here that trace the community from its quite shaky beginnings in colonial Boston through its emergence in the twentieth century as one of the most influential and successful Jewish communities in America. I suppose I had forgotten about the Puritan past of New England but it all came back to me here.

The book also gives very interesting information about the synagogues of Boston and the Jewish neighborhoods and we get quite a look at the evolution of Jewish culture in Boston and the United States.  The essays (including those by Brandeis University’s Sarna and museum curator Smith and a host of other scholars) are scholarly yet totally accessible to general readers who are interested in the history of Boston’s Jews. From the first recorded Jew in the city (Solomon Franco, in 1649) to the 21st century, this volume tells off and organizes the Jewish experience into chronological and thematic order, with various essays addressing important Jewish issues such as assimilation, synagogues, philanthropy, Zionism, education and culture. We see images of community centers and synagogues and we also see Jewish life in action—customers waiting outside a kosher butchery in Brookline (two blocks from where I now live); a multiracial klezmer musical troupe at the New England conservatory; a ladies’ auxiliary of Beth Israel hospital in 1915. There is an essay by Boston College historian, Thomas H. O’Connor on Jewish/Gentile relations but first “Sarna begins with his essay on the historical perspective of the Jews, followed by two essays by Smith. The first, on the Jews of colonial Boston, goes back to 1649, when the first Sephardic scholar and trader arrived from Holland. Her second essay focuses on Jewish immigration to the city between 1840 and 1880 and how the Jews began to prosper in the late 1870s. Other essays discuss the emergence of a unified community, 1880 to 1917; the period from 1917 to 1967, when the Jewish population grew from an estimated 75,000 to 176,000; and the period between 1967 and 1994, a time of social change. Others focus on Boston’s Jewish neighborhoods, Zionism, and the city’s synagogues. And there are essays assessing Boston Jewish philanthropy, education, and culture”.

The information about Jews in colonial America is fascinating and learning that the first Jew to come in Boston in 1649 did not stay here but left after just three months. There was only one Jew in Boston in 1695 with New York seeming to have a monopoly of Jews in the New World. A permanent Jewish community was established in Boston in 1843 when enough emigrants had come and a minyan was certain. I found it so interesting that Protestants in America including those in Boston actively recruited Jews from Central Europe to emigrate in the early 19th century. They hoped and expected that these Jews would convert to Christianity and saw themselves as saviors doing God’s work in saving Jewish souls. Reality proved otherwise.

While the book is not a complete history, it is wonderful and compared to others I have read of other places, this is a fine book of which the Jews of Boston can be very proud.

“THE SAMURAI”— Iris Festival Review

samurai

The Samurai (Iris Prize Festival 2014 Review)

The Samurai comes from director Till Kleinert, a previous winner of the Iris Prize for his brilliant short film Cowboy, and with this film he stays in unnerving territory.

The title character in this film is a homicidal maniac wielding a katana and wearing a pretty white dress (played to mind-searingly chilling heights by Pit Bukowski). He’s slowly destroying the community and sanity of policeman Jakob (Michel Dierks), whose dogged attempts to capture and subdue him slowly become an obsession.

It’s dark. It’s scary. It’s intense in many different ways. It’s a great film. Anyone watching this movie will realise quite early on exactly why it sold out at the FrightFest Film Festival in London recently.

The game of Cat and mouse between Jakob and The Samurai, as the former attempts to halt the maiming and killing of the latter becomes almost a dance; they move together through pich-dark forests, lit only by the police-issue torch in, some incredibly atmospheric and nail-biting scenes.

Dierks plays the role of Jakob with accomplished ease, pulling off the demeanour of nonplussed-but-committed policeman, whose mental state slowly crumbles into a state of fear and obsession in an utterly convincing and enthralling way. Bukowski is mesmerising in his role as The Samurai, with elements of The Dark Knight’s Joker, embracing chaos and animalistic instincts; and also the merciless sword-swinging of The Bride from Tarantino’s Kill Bill films.

However the titular character transcends a mere homage to either of these, being a fully-realised and chilling enntity in his own right, moving animalistically and silently, appearing here and there in the woods as the hapless Jakob attempts to track him. As the plot progresses, both the viewer and Jakob begin to question just how real The Samurai is and how much of this is some kind of nightmarish fairy tale.

If it were necessary to find something to criticise about this film, it would be that Jakob seems to be the only on-duty policeman in the whole of Germany, and insists upon following a madman into the dark unarmed. But since this is a horror film, such tropes are not only forgiven, but expected. Don’t expect these ticked boxes to betray a by-the-numbers horror movie: it’s not cheesy or easy to guess, and the simultaneous attraction and repulsion felt between the two characters pretty much drips off of the screen.

Not for a moment does the tension lift, and the fear of what may be hiding in the dark; not knowing whether to stay still or to move become quite real to the viewer, and is only emphasized by the otherworldy element Bukowski brings to his character; his smile alone could keep one up all night.

 Beautifully executed, The Samurai contains some moments of gleefully dark and terrifying filmmaking. A masterpiece of tense and weird sexual energy. 

“THE THIRD ONE”— Iris Festival Review

the third one

The Third One (Iris Prize Festival 2014 Review)

This tale of a modern-day sexual encounter starts with an online flirtation between Fede, a young gay man, and an older gay couple whose relationship is several years old. They flirt on webcam and MSN Messenger, teasing the viewer and each other with a little nudity and eventually decide to meet up.

3-1

Fede goes around to their flat and they have dinner together. It’s a very relaxed and unrushed sexual encounter that shows the characters taking a little time to get to know one another, which is nice to see rather than just jumping into bed together. As they talk, the relationship between the older men opens up, as does Fede when talking about himself, and both the characters and the viewer understand a little more about how neither side’s situation is as perfect as it seems from the outside.

The most remarkable thing about The Third One is the threeway sex scene that goes on for quite a while, perhaps even too long, actually. It’s all very artily done; all shot from the waist up and nicely teasing. While the scene is titillating, very little would have been lost from the narrative of the film if it had been shorter, or not included at all.

The Third One is very 21st Century. It’s very honest, quite open and not ashamed of itself. There’s nothing sinister or clandestine about their encounter, and there’s an all-round air of respect and general tenderness that doesn’t immediately come to mind when one thinks of a gay couple recruiting a younger third to join them for the evening.

3-2

The dialogue is very well written and swoops with ease from flirty, general chatter over dinner to deeper things that definitely move away from the impending sexual encounter they’re all anticipating. It seems very true to life to see the conversation move in a different direction after a very innocent question ends up having a different answer to what’s expected, or an offhand comment becomes the focus of the conversation.

The film hangs together well; the sex scene was hot, the actors confident and comfortable in their roles and the cinematography throughout was inventive enough to keep conversation around a dinner table entertaining without being pretentious (keep your eyes open for the bottomless bottle of wine). However there were some moments with the three characters interacting that were poorly paced; it could have been tighter in that regard.

3-3

The sexual elements of the flirting in the first 10 minutes are interspersed with videos of hardcore porn, all showing sex from the waist down, very anonymous, graphic and animalistic, which next to the actual sex that the three of them have seems much more human and enjoyable as the audience is shown a sexual interaction between three people, not just three sets of genitals.

Intimate and interesting film about love, relationships and sex in the 21st century, and how unconventional sexual arrangements don’t have to be anonymous and shame-filled, but instead can be something fun, sexy and very human.