“SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY”— The Women’s Movement

she's beautiful when she's angry

“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry”

The Women’s Movement

Amos Lassen

Here is a film that looks at the women who founded, NOW,  the women’s movement that existed from 1966 to 1977. It might be surprising to some to see that the movement began with ladies wearing hats and gloves but these eventually gave way to the more radical factions of women’s liberation. It brought together intellectual women and organizations like W.I.T.C.H (Women’s International Conspiracy from Hell!).  The film tells the stories of women who fought for equal rights and as they did a universal revolution began.

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There is no romanticism here and what we see are the beginnings of a movement that began with quarrels and controversy as the issues of race, sexual preference and leadership dominated the early days. The women here were both brilliant and outrageous and went by the idea that “the personal is political”. They brought a revolution and it took place in the bedroom, in the workplace and in all areas of life. The FBI called the women threatening and while their names may not appear in history books, they changed the world.

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While this film is a comprehensive history, it is also a call to action. The younger generation has no idea what it was once like in this country when job postings were segregated by gender, when woman-centric health information and health services were hardly available to women and when women with careers were often denounced. The film gives us a peek at what life was like for women before the mid-1960s and helps us understand the origins of the concept of gender equality that seems to be taken somewhat for granted today. It reminds us that what women won in the past is again at jeopardy that many of us take for granted. We are also reminded that much of what was won decades ago is once again in jeopardy. We see clips from mass marches, meetings, poetry readings, and consciousness-raising sessions. Mary Dore, the director and her staff interviewed many women who became the face of feminism and we see and hear these women’s reflections upon how the movement developed, what issues and what actions galvanized the activism of the time. The women  are passionate, profound, clever and sometimes very funny.


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What many do not know is that the feminist movement was quite complicated and messy with internal political and geographical divisions as well as divisions by race and class. There was homophobia from without and from within. All of this is exposed here and examined.  We are also reminded of the core struggles and the successes and failures of the movement. There were women “in the trenches” in cities such as Boston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and here we see them as they looked back then and how they look today. Many of the heroes of the movement have gone unsung yet alongside the big names such as Friedan, Abzug and Steinem, they made a difference.

beautiful4 “She’s Beautiful When She is Angry is such a terrific documentary and so skillfully introduces the core ideas, struggles, and successes/failures of the women’s movement during the late 60s and early 70s. What I especially love about this film is the way it underscores the key role of those in the “trenches” – the many local organizers in cities like Boston, NY, Chicago, LA, and SF/Berkeley. They are pictured “back then” as well as now, in recent interviews that allow for the rare kind of reflection that a younger audience so greatly appreciates. And these interviews make clear that it was the superb organizing work of “unsung heroes” (in addition to the important leadership of people like Friedan, Abzug, and Steinem) that catapulted this movement to become one of the key social justice forces of the past century.”   

This documentary covers a large area and it is a pleasure to watch. We see the actual people who were personally involved with archival material and we also see and hear current conversations with the very same folks. The film could easily be subtitles, “How to Start a Movement”. It is a celebration o diversity, intelligence, fortitude and creativity and it is inspirational for those who take up the movement today.

 The film opens at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema in NYC December 5, 2014 and at the Landmark Nuart Theatre in LA on December 12.

 

“THE INVISIBLE FRONT”— Resistance

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“The Invisible Front”

Resistance

Amos Lassen

The Invisible Front was the code name used by the Soviet Interior Forces for the armed resistance in the occupied territories of the former Soviet Union. This resistance came to life without almost any outside support in 1940 and again in 1944 and it continued in various forms, armed and unarmed, until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. This film is the story of one of the twentieth centuries most significant anti-soviet resistance movements, told through the words and experiences of one of its leaders, Juozas Luksa and his Forest Brothers.

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We learn here about the dynamics of the armed and unarmed underground resistance through interviews and never been seen before archival footage. The film includes over 50 on camera interviews and they include President Adamkus of Lithuania and President Zatlers of Latvia, CIA operatives and US government officials, as well as the many specific individuals of Baltic Nations who not only fought against Stalin and his regime, but there are also those who fought for Moscow. We get a look at both sides of this war and it was this war that was, in part, ultimately responsible for the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.  We also see the issue of personal choice during times of hardship and repression.

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Mark Ryan, Mark Johnston, Jonas Ohman, and Vincas Sruoginis have spent the past 4 years in the production of this in locations if New York, Washington DC, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. They were able to uncover stories and facts that give an accurate account of this traumatic post-war struggle in Eastern Europe following World War II for the first time.

 Many of those interviewed in this documentary had or actually participated in The Invisible Front or were close to it in someway. The film uses reenactments, archival footage provided by LTV and the National Archives in Washington DC as well as interviews of the actual participants. We see here first time access to the KGB museum to film the actual documents and photos of the era, and we hear the voice of Jouzas Luksa  as narrated by Andrius Mamantovas. Quite basically this is the story of the Lithuanian underground-armed resistance and its tragedy.

One of their most charismatic leaders was Juozas Luksa, an architecture student who  along with his three brothers joined the underground resistance and thereby challenged the Soviets for years to come. “In 1947 Luksa broke out from the Soviet Union to seek support and to tell the tale of Lithuanians desperate resistance to the West.

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When in Paris he met the love of his life, Nijole Brazenaite, and married her. He wrote a touching memoir about the origins of the resistance, which was later published by his wife. Shortly after their wedding, Luksa returned to Lithuania, air dropped by the CIA, for intelligence gathering. Panicking, Moscow launched vast resources to hunt him down, once for all ending the threat from the resistance to Communist rule in Lithuania”.

“The Invisible Front” was one of the twentieth centuries most significant anti-­Soviet resistance movements. The war that was conducted was completely unknown to the public in the West.

 The film will open at the Cinema Village in New York on November 7, in Chicago on November 14, and at the Music Hall in Los Angeles on November 21. A national release will follow.

“The Prince’s Boy” by Paul Bailey— Coming to Paris and Falling in Love

the prince's boy

Bailey, Paul. “The Prince’s Boy”, Bloomsbury, 2014.

Coming to Paris and Falling in Love

Amos Lassen

Dinu Grigorescu is a nineteen-year-old boy who arrived in Paris in 1927 having been sent there from his home in Bucharest. Dinu has literary ambitions and his father wants to expose him to Bohemian life and the pleasures of Paris. Here he was—an innocent young man in a strange city still mourning his mother’s death some seven years prior and now he is encouraged to enjoy Paris by his cousin that he hardly knows, Eduard.

He is secretly attracted to the Bains du Ballon d’Alsace, a notorious establishment that is said to provide the men of Paris, married or otherwise, who enjoy something different, everything they crave. This is where he finds Razvan, a fellow Romanian but a male prostitute, the adopted child of a man of refinement. He is a prince’s boy whose stories of Proust and other artists entrance Dinu, and Razvan will become the young man’s teacher in the ways of the world.

This is a slight book coming in at 152 pages and it covers several universal themes—fascism, anti-Semitism, grief, life and love to mention just a few and it is achingly beautifully written. The emphasis is on the characters and it is interesting that in such a short space we feel that we know them well.


The story is set in the 20s and 3Os (I just realized that it will not be long before we have to specify which 20s and 30s).
 Dinu falls in love with Razvan even though his cousin who has been charged to take care of him does not approve. We learn that Razvan comes from a very poor Rumanian family but has been raised in the lap of luxury by his adopted wealthy prince father. Razvan is some 20 years older than Dinu and everything seems fine until Razvan becomes regularly overwhelmed by depression and melancholy and Dinu finds them difficult to deal with.  At the same time, Hitler takes Romania. I am taken aback by not only the beauty of the language but by the development of the characters and the depth of the plot.

Author Bailey gives us a challenging character in Dinu who also narrates the story. He does so when he is 60 years old and feels that his life is drawing to a close. When he was younger and living in Paris,  Dinu was a sensitive esthete who saw himself as a new Rimbaud, Baudelaire, and Proust as these were his literary heroes. It was then that Dinu wrote bohemian poems. Before he went to the make brothel, he knew why he was going—he was anxious to taste man flesh yet aware that to do so was a crime against nature.  And when he did so he shocked himself but he went back for more. He learns that the man who took his virginity was named Honore who turns out to be Romanian just like him and has the real name of Razvan.

When that summer ended, Dinu returned home but was often inconsolable. In Bucharest, Dinu continues his education but yearns for a reunion with Răzvan and he begins to drink heavily and get into fights. The two meet again in 1935, the pair continue to their affair until tragedy changes everything. The ending is one that makes the reader dry his eyes. At that point I began to read it a second time and found so much that I had missed the first time. I was certainly more aware of the beauty of the words—as if each was especially chosen for the read.

This is an incredibly and beautifully sad story and Bailey has allowed his characters the freedom to wallow in it. He never gives in to the fact that many might want a happy ending. There is just so much to love in this book and we indeed learn something about the duplicity of the human mind and nature.

This is a story that is both romantic and full of longing; a story of love that was forbidden and that lasted forty years. As I found myself weeping I was also uplifted by what I read.

“Queer Youth and Media Cultures” edited by Christopher Pullen— Media Representations

queer youth

Pullen, Christopher, editor. “Queer Youth and Media Cultures”, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Media Representations

Amos Lassen

Christopher Pullen has edited a collection of articles that look at the representation and performance of gay (queer) youth in the media—television, film and online media. The focus here is interdisciplinary focus and there is a diverse range of contributions from authors based in and/or writing about the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Turkey, India, Scandinavia and Africa.

The book is organized in three sections: ‘Performance and Culture’, ‘Histories and Commodity’ and ‘Transnational Intersections’.  Themes that we get here run from the context of queer youth suicide and educational strategies to avert this within online new media; the significance of coming-out videos produced online; the historical precedence of television and film representation; the representation of age-different relationships within film; transgender youth and the use of online media; educational video projects involving affirmation; cyber-bullying and hierarchies in new media identity; and include limitations in Scandinavian coming-out films.

“THE GAYS”— “The Family that Gays Together”

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“The Gays”

“The Family that Gays Together”

Amos Lassen

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As I watched “The Gays”, at first I could not decide if I was offended or really laughing a lot. Then I realized that the best fun we can have is laughing at ourselves and that is just what this movie does. Using almost every cliché in the book, director T.S. Slaughter gives us a satirical look at gay life today. On television we have been inundated with those silly sitcoms about the nuclear family but here is a family that far outdoes others and the film about them is irreverent (to say the least),”twisted” and “raunchy” (so much so that I was not sure what I was watching).

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We meet a married gay couple; Bob Gay-Paris (Chris Tanner) and Rod Gay (Frank Holliday)  who are raising their two gay sons, Alex and Tommy, to be good gay men sexually and otherwise. They may not be educated as scholars but they have street sense and definitely know how to be gay. They give their sons the necessary advice to empower them as gay men and as one of the blurb says so that they can “bend the world over, lube it up, and snap one off!”

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On a more serious note, the film deals with the anxieties and pressures to live like we are all the same and sexuality plays no part in who we are. Our married couple has a fascinating relationship because we see in it all the issues we might have to face now that we can marry. Is it really possible to have a monogamous relationship if we become bored with each other? What about the value of stereotypes and the definitions we give to sex? How do we raise kids and do we raise them as gay? The family we have here is an understatement of dysfunctional yet we laugh at what we see because it could be. As gay parents, what do we tell our kids about sex? This film looks at these issues and more and does so very tongue in cheek and filled with camp (I was afraid that now that we have become “mainstream” we would lose our campiness—not so according to this film). And this is the value of this film—we can laugh at ourselves and at those we know because we will find them here in varying degrees (except maybe for Alex’s friend who services his father at dinner and in front of everyone).

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There is full frontal nudity and a couple of really gross moments but they are all in fun. I can guarantee that there will be no Academy Award nominations in acting from this film. But that’s great—the lousy acting makes the movie that much more fun. The best way to enjoy this movie is to forget the rigors of daily life and sit back and let yourself go—it might take a few minutes for you to realize what is happening but that’s ok. Personally, I loved the film and the nerve of those who had anything to do with it.

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“Rest for the Wicked” (A Jane Lawless Mystery) by Ellen Hart— A Solo Case

rest for the wicked

Hart, Ellen. “Rest for the Wicked” (A Jane Lawless Mystery), Bywater Books, 2014.

A Solo Case

Amos Lassen

DeAndre Moore moved to Minneapolis from St. Louis with his own plans however things are not working out for him. He realizes that he has bit off more than he can chew and he is need of help and so he knows that Jane Lawless, his uncle Nolan’s business partner might be just the person he needs. Lawless has just received her license as a private investigator. He called and left her a message but he was knifed to death right afterwards near GaudyLights, a strip club for men. Soon Lawless realized that he was not the only murdered victim.

Jane starts to investigate who killed DeAndre and if and how his death was connected to the others as well as why he had come to Minneapolis. This is her first case as a licensed private investigator even though she had done some amateur work in the past. As if the case is not enough, Lawless’ girlfriend dumps her and Lawless is confused and lonely but not for long. She meets Avi, a good-looking bartender who sends the detective’s blood rising.

Lawless goes to the club and meets the owner, Vince Bessetti who tires to get her to forget the murder and invest in the club. She is not ready for such a thing and focuses on Georgia, a law student/stripper and on Shanice the head of food service. She gets help from Avi who Lawless is interested in. I forgot to mention Cordelia, Jane’s best friend who also has advice to give. I realize that the plot sounds quite difficult to understand but I assure you that it is not and everything comes together beautifully. It is beautifully written and despite what I have written above the story moves along fine.

Hart gives us some fascinating characters here especially Jane Lawless who now as a licensed PI, discovers that owning restaurants and a sleuth can be quite hectic. The main plot of the murder actually is due to something that happened years before the book begins and there are also subplots. At this point I must stop for fear of spoiling this for someone.

“Such Good Girls: The Journey of the Holocaust’s Hidden Child Survivors” by R.D. Rosen— Defying Death

such good girls

ROSEN, R.D. “Such Good Girls: The Journey of the Holocaust’s Hidden Child Survivors”, Harper, 2014.

Defying Death

Amos Lassen

We seen to know a lot about the Holocaust but there is also a lot that we do not know or ignore. There were survivors among the young and R.D. Rosen tells us three true stories of young girls in Poland, France and Holland, Sophie Turner Zaretsky, Flora Hogman and Carla Lessing, who survived and are still alive today.

Rosen examines a silent and silenced generation—the last living cohort of Holocaust survivors. He provides rich, memorable portraits of a handful of hunted children who, as adults, were determined to deny Hitler any more victories, and he recreates the extraordinary event that lured so many hidden child survivors out of their grown-up “hiding places” and finally brought them together.

What we see here aside from the survival of the girls is their ingenuity, their nerve, their luck and their courage and the revelation of the “kindness of strangers that saved many, many children in Europe when the world was falling apart and a million children disappeared forever. Author Rosen was very lucky in that the three now adult women shared their recollections, photographs, and documents with him even though it was painful for them to think about what they had been through.

We read about a ghetto in Lvov, Poland in 1942; a convent in France; and to the home of a Dutch family with seven children. We read how Sophie’s mother, Laura, taught her daughter catechism so that they could pose as Catholics right under the noses of their Nazi oppressors. Flora was baptized in a monastery after her mother died. She was later taken to several hiding places until a Frenchwoman and her Swedish husband took her in for the duration of the war. Carla, along with her brother and mother, stayed in cramped quarters on the third floor of a Dutch house until their city was liberated.

We can only imagine how hard it was for these three girls to leave their families and perhaps never see them again. They also had to give up their childhoods and youthful dreams, take on new names and identities and religious beliefs. They had to pretend to be what they were not and they had to lie to authorities and they paid highly for what they endured—they suffered guilt, stress, depression, anxiety and so on.

This could easily have been a sentimental book but the author does not use that approach. We not only learn about what happened during the war but also how the lives of the girls continued and interestingly, the three meet occasionally at conferences. They realize that they could have been emotionally crippled by the past but they also learned that by openly talking about what they went through instead of repressing it, they could better deal with it. The book is an inspiration as well as a tribute to those who were able stay alive during that terrible time as well as the Europeans and others who risked their own lives to save lives of the innocent.

“Sophie Turner-Zaretsky didn’t even know she was Jewish until 1948, so successful was her mother’s life-saving charade of living as Catholics right under the noses of the Nazis. Her mother even worked for one. Sophie went on to become an esteemed radiation oncologist and cancer victim activist. Flora Hogman, orphaned by the Nazis and rescued by a convent and a succession of Christian families in Southern France, emerged from the war without an identity, but fought to find one as a psychologist who pioneered the study of other hidden child survivors. Carla Lessing, like Anne Frank, was hidden with her family—in the house of a Dutch barber who cut the occupying Nazis’ hair ten feet away in his first floor shop. After the war, Carla married a man who had cheated death several times while hiding with partisans in the forest. They are grandparents now, and Carla helps run the international Hidden Child Foundation in New York “.

The book also deals with many more hidden children, and discusses their feelings and fears as survivors. It also looks at what happened when they started getting together as adults, meeting others who shared their horrifying experiences. It is interesting that sexual abuse of children by those who hid them is touched on and this is something we have not heard much about as it is not usually mentioned in other general writings about these children. Religion, and how the surviving children see themselves as religious individuals is also looked at carefully. Many of the children were hidden by Catholics and were being raised Catholic during the war and one became a priest.

It is important that we share these stories so that we can better understand and while this is an emotional read, it is an important one. It includes 16 pages of pictures, a bibliography, and list of documentaries and films.

“Male Sex Workers in Society” edited by Victor Minichiello and John Scott— Looking at Men in the Profession of Sex

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Minichiello, Victor and John Scott, editors. “Male Sex Work and Society”, Harrington Park, 2014.

Looking at Men in the Profession of Sex

Amos Lassen

This is the first volume to look at male sex work from different perspectives and disciplines from social studies to the humanities. Of late, this has been become quite an interesting field of study. Male sex work was, at one time, conflated (great word) with homosexuality and while women in the sex trade have been studied, by and large, men have not. It is certainly not news that men do work in the sex industry and have done so in the historical past. At one time, male prostitution was considered to be a deviancy and a pathological illness of some form. We now know that this is not true. It also seems that in the past we have ignored such aspects of the sex trade such as the taking care of female clients (where the man is referred to as a gigolo) or the escorting service and both of these have become quite popular of late and are not being paid attention too. There are the areas of literature and film where men work in the sexual aspects.

It is the goal of this volume to make the way we view male sex workers clearer and the sex trade here is taken as commerce. We also look at the men themselves. The contributors included here explore the field from both historical and cross-cultural points of view. The areas included here include public health, sociology, psychology, social services, history, filmography, economics, mental health, criminal justice, geography, and migration studies, as well as others. The editors introduce the selections and help us to understand the data, the implications and the conclusions that we are reached by the various researchers and writers.

The research alone is staggering and the findings are comprehensive and it seems to me, at least, that this is the authority on the subject. It is a deep and intense look at male prostitution from every possible angle. I need to emphasize that this not a book to be read for pleasure—it is a very serious study. The researchers go back into history and look at the present to give us the most complete study possible.

It also deals with the way that society looks at male sex workers throughout history. I understand that the writers used all of the research material that was available but there is still material out there I believe since no one has really accessed it before. I am sure that with time and because this book has broken ground that there will be more coming.

 I learned here that male sex workers are not a particularly good subject for scientific research and this has to do with the various stages of sexuality.  Some men lie about their line of work so as not to find disapproval. Yet there is good money to be made and some feel that this gives legitimacy to their work.

As complete as this volume is, it could cover everything especially in countries with different laws and traditions. To do puts both the researcher and the subject in danger. Of course, it is important to take know of the technology of today’s world that has made sex work so much easier.

I am sure that as we move forward there will be more studies but for an introduction the book fills the need and wonderfully so.

 

News from the Kinsey Sicks

“LITTLE GAY BOY CHRIST IS DEAD”— Changing Forever

litttle gay boy is dead

“Little Gay Boy, ChrisT is Dead”

Changing Forever

Amos Lassen

 In this short film by Antony Hickling and Amaury Grisel we meet Jean Christophe (Gaetan Vettier) who lives with his mother (Amanda Dawson), an English prostitute in Paris. He dreams of becoming a model. Over the course of a day, JC endures a series of abusive encounters that will change him forever. He goes from innocence to experience as he and his dreams are destroyed by those around him.

This is a sexually in-your-face short film that deals with degradation and the emotions surrounding it. Jean-Christophe finds himself in a downward spiral of humiliation. On the Paris metro (subway), he’s subjected to the homophobic abuse of a fellow passenger, then he is urinated on by his employer, before ending up in a sexual sling in a darkroom somewhere in the backstreets of Pigalle, a far cry from the sacred purity of the Sacré-Cœur. There are also scenes in which he’s forced to fend off the incestuous advances of his English prostitute of an obese mother, subject being whipped by a dominatrix, and he is duped into stripping naked by a so-called fashion photographer.

little oneThe film juxtaposes S&M imagery with religious symbolism. This is an odd film and it’s never quite clear how much Jean-Christophe desires these degrading experiences (and if he does, why), or if he’s simply being subjected to many of them.