“HE LOVES ME… HE LOVES ME NOT”— In Love with the Doctor

he loves me

“He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not” ( “À la folie… pas du tout”)

In Love with the Doctor

Amos Lassen

Angelique (Audrey Tautou) is a young female student who is in love with a married cardiologist (Samuel Le Bihan). He does not appear for meetings or for a booked journey to Florence. Up to this point we see the situation as Angelique perceives it but then the movie turns back on itself and we see things from the doctor’s point of view.

At first, we see Angelique as a woman scorned and abandoned by her lover until she attempts suicide. The second part of the film follows the doctor and we realize that all is not as earlier seen. This is not a new story or a new idea.

The only difference between “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” and other films is its storytelling, which employs the use of different perspectives to unfold the plot. But this too has been done before.

Ultimately, the storytelling is the film’s downfall. The film relies too heavily on its presumed cleverness to make up for its weak story and rather than unveiling an intriguing mystery, it creates blanks and, upon retelling the story from another perspective, fills them in. The result is a thin plot stretched beyond capacity. When it is all over we are left with considerably less than the sum of its parts.

Angelique’s monomaniacal stalking of her cardiologist could have been a rewarding experience but director, Laetitia Colombani’s just does not do the trick. There are some witty remarks and the ending is a surprise but the film just did not do it for me.

“THE CULT OF JT LEROY”— Writing His Life?

 

the cult of jt leroy

“THE CULT OF JT LEROY”

Writing His Life

Amos Lassen

JT LeRoy was a teen prostitute who was both addicted to heroin and infected with HIV. His therapist encouraged him to write his life story. He eventually published three critically acclaimed books. However, as his fame skyrocketed, e shocking truth emerged: JT was not who or what he seemed. What followed was a spiral downfall that was both tragic and bewildering. Director Marjorie Sturm was a member of JT’s inner circle before the truth came out and with this film and intimate interviews with many that were close to JT, she tries to untangle what really happened, and in the process also looks at how his deception questions not only his writing but our celebrity obsessed culture. The film is ethically charged, controversial, and confusing and we see that JT’s life and death caused a lot of “powerful questions about literature and culture, identity and celebrity, and the reality of the society we live in.”

The story goes that JT (aka Jeremiah “Terminator”) LeRoy had been abandoned by his “truckstop prostitute” mother after a road trip. After years on the street, MJT became involved in drugs and prostitution and when he was just 15, he was encouraged by a therapist to write “as a form of therapy.” By 1994, JT began soliciting long-distance mentoring relationships with established writers, editors and literary agents, all who were at first intrigued by his circumstances and excited and enthralled with his writing.

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In 1999, JT published, “Sarah”, an alleged autobiographical novel and this increased his following. It is a lurid look at an androgynous boy pulled into his hostile mother’s trick-turning lifestyle; white-trash epic. It made him something of a celebrity. There were contradictions in his fiction and real-life history, and he wrote of timely issues— child abuse, sexual exploitation, gender dysphoria, homelessness, and so on and there were just what the media was looking for. JT’s personal story attracted celebrities from all over including Sandra Bernhard, Michael Musto and Susan Dey, rock stars Stephan Jenkins and Billy Corgan. Asia Argento directed a film feature of the based on his supposed autobiographical story collection, “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things” and in 2004 other writings were sold as screen properties.

JT was enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, when some began to question him. He appeared in public in strange outfits—wigs, sunglasses and other disguises and remained androgynous. He had once been a vulnerable, stuttering, schizophrenic kid but he became a “monster of ambition.” Others began to notice that his stories and trauma tales contradicted each other and those who had either lived in San Francisco or worked with the city’s mentally ill and homeless populations during the time he was on the streets found those stories didn’t jibe and that they could not be confirmed by witnesses aside from JT’s adopted family— Laura Albert and musician Geoffrey Knoop, who happily used his fame right along with him.

Then in 2005, articles that ran in “New York” magazine and the “New York Times” showed that there was no JT LeRoy; he existed only as a construct revealed the truth: There was no JT LeRoy, save as a construct. It turned out that Albert had been the actual writer all along, while Knoop’s half-sister Savannah pretended to be LeRoy in public appearances. There was widespread anger and embarrassment from those who’d been pulled in and there was at least one lawsuit. Albert let many questions go unanswered even after she came out of hiding later. It is interesting that the mystery continues even today.

In Sturm’s film she lets those seduced tell their own stories and how they felt when the truth came out. Not everyone agreed to take part in the film (Albert and Knoop). There are re-enactments and archival footage. Because Arnold chose not to defend herself, she comes across as without a conscience. Some of the questions that still remain are whether Albert was just a grifter who managed to find fame in obscurity, was the construction of JT deliberate and was it just a performance or was the persona really therapy for someone who was indeed disturbed deeply like Terrance Owens, the San Francisco psychiatrist maintained when he faced a court-deposition?

This is an amazing and absorbing film that will keep you thinking long after it is over.

boston lgbt

“OYLA’S LOVE”— LGBT in Russia

olya poster

“OLYA’S LOVE”

LGBT in Russia

Amos Lassen

Director Kirill Sakharnov takes us into a world we know very little about. He introduces us to a lesbian couple living in Russia. Olya is a fighter and an active member of the LGBT-community while her partner, Galiya doesn’t want to let politics rule her life. Nonetheless, they are very much in love and want to have a child. However, the Russian Duma does not agree with their lifestyle and sets forth discriminating laws against homosexuals. This make Olya start to fight even more and this puts Galiya’s and Olya’s love and relationship to the test.

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This is the Russia of today, of Vladimir Putin where two members of the political punk band Pussy Riot are put in prison and the Russian parliament adopts controversial anti-gay legislation. We follow enthusiastic Olya who is in her twenties and struggles constantly for equal rights for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people. She organizes exhibitions and coming-out events and demonstrates actively on the streets. She is often right on the front line between demonstrators, riot police and opponents. But she also loves her partner very much.

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We see a beautiful scene in which Galiya and Olya stand before the clothes closet in their small, Moscow apartment and ponder what to wear for the demonstration that they are about to go to. They have been a couple for two years and not only openly declare their love but they also participate regularly in marches and gatherings protesting Russia’s anti-homosexual laws. Whereas Galiya, who is from the Urals, tends to keep more in the background, Olya, a city-girl and Moscow native is the driving force, in more than just their romantic relationship. She is an active member of the LGBT-movement, gives speeches, organizes events—and wants to demonstrate her love to Galiya with their own child.



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Director Sakharnov accompanies his two protagonists through their everyday life that is determined mainly by the events on the streets of Moscow and conversations at home. What strongly characterizes this film is its clever overlapping of private and public, especially within the context of a restrictive social system. We wonder and we see to what extent are the freedoms that one fights for everyday, also possible in one’s relationship? When during a demonstration Olya persists in talking to a policeman who remains silent, then her voice seems to collide against Putin’s state apparatus yet she is determined to make her voice heard and does so. She knows each step to democracy, no matter how small, is important and this is true regarding her own and Galiya’s happiness.

oyla's love

This is an intimate film in which close-ups are preferred to an overview. The film moves at the tempo of its protagonists, and sometimes they even hold the camera. The film is shot much like a home video and this emphasizes just how personal it is even though it deals with a highly politicized issue. Olya learns to use the camera herself so she can film in the intimacy of her apartment – while her girlfriend is fitting a wall socket or they are talking with friends about having children. The private footage is interspersed with material shot by an external cameraman (often rough material from the street, just when something is happening such as beatings not only during the demonstrations in front of the Duma, but also on the escalator in the metro, where women are attacked by members of an anti-gay group). By letting the camera into her life, Olya shows us the cost of standing up for your sexuality is in today’s Russia. Yet, above all else this is a film about love in the time of resistance.

boston lgbt

“POPULATION BOOM”— Seeing the Future

population boom

“Population Boom”

Seeing the Future

Amos Lassen

“Population Boom” is a by filmmaker Werner Boote in which he travels the globe and examines a stubborn view of the world that has existed for decades. But he sees a completely different question: Who or what is driving this catastrophic vision? The film deals with the questions of “How many people are too many? And who’s one too many? Is this even the right question to ask?” Just 25 years ago, there were five billion people living on earth. Today there are some seven billion. Resources are dwindling, toxic waste is growing, hunger and climate change are prevalent as a result of the growing number of people on earth or is it? Boote travels all over the world to look at the myths and facts about overpopulation.

Boote questions the conventional wisdom. From Kenya’s slums to Dhaka in Bangladesh to New York City, China, Japan and elsewhere, he speaks with everyone from demographic researchers to environmental activists, and arrives at a surprising conclusion. It is not overpopulation that threatens humanity’s existence… it is the developed world’s patterns of over-consumption and constant pursuit of immediate profit that looms over our future. So now we can only wonder if overpopulation is a myth with the sole purpose of covering up larger and far more important problems, and making the world’s population the scapegoat of a far more complex issue. “It is not about how many of us there are, but about how we treat each other,” Boote states. “Population Boom” starts with this as the basis for a debate, and becomes a cinematic journey with the masses between myth, facts and politics.

“THE DOVEKEEPERS” by Alice Hoffman is a New Miniseries— Women at Masada

the dovekeepers

“THE DOVEKEEPERS”

A New Miniseries on TV–Women at Masada

“The Dovekeepers”, based on Alice Hoffman’s 2011 novel about three women during the ancient siege and fall of Masada, will premiere over two nights on CBS. Its producers are the same people who brought you The Bible (including Touched By an Angel star Roma Downey). What could go wrong?
The trailer is out, and it’s action packed. There’s sex! White people (and a few Latinos) portraying Middle Eastern Jews! Asking “Yahweh” for rain! Women disguising themselves as men! More sex! Josephus Flavius as played by Sam Neill! Even more sex!

The first part premieres March 31. 

CLASSICS COMING FROM FILM MOVEMENT

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FILM MOVEMENT LAUNCHES CLASSICS LABEL WITH
ERIC ROHMER RE-RELEASE AT FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER

March 19, 2015 (New York, NY) – Film Movement (www.filmmovement.com), the New York-based film distribution company, announces today the launch of Film Movement Classics, a new label the company will use to restore and re-release out of print but highly sought-after films from the recent and distant past alike. The first two films to see theatrical re-releases in vibrant HD restorations are Eric Rohmer’s acclaimed FULL MOON IN PARIS, screening at Film Society of Lincoln Center, and THE MARQUISE OF O, which will see a theatrical release in select cities alongside Jessica Hausner’s AMOUR FOU.
The new label, launching with four titles scheduled for release in 2015, is the latest evolution for Film Movement since Michael E. Rosenberg joined the company in 2014. “There are so many wonderful, important films that are not available in the US,” Rosenberg said. “Launching our Classics label allows us to expand how we can serve our audience. Our core business will remain with highly-acclaimed new independent films, but now we can also bring back favorite titles from decades ago, newly restored.”
FULL MOON IN PARIS is the 1984 relationship drama about a young woman balancing several romantic interests; called “the very best of Eric Rohmer” by the New York Times on its original release, the film opens April 17 at Film Society of Lincoln Center, part of the complete Comedies and Proverbs series – six films Rohmer made between 1980 and 1987, each based on a proverb of Rohmer’s own creation. Pascale Ogier, who would die tragically young just months after the film’s U.S. release, won Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival that year. Film Movement also premieres a brand new U.S. poster and trailer for the film Time Out London calls “elegant and incisive.” See both here.
With the March 18 theatrical release in New York (March 20 in Los Angeles) of Cannes Film Festival darling AMOUR FOU, Jessica Hausner’s meticulously executed observation of the love and death of writer Heinrich von Kleist, Film Movement also announces the release of Rohmer’s 1976 adaptation of von Kleist’s THE MARQUISE OF O, winner of the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival that year. This classic period piece starring Bruno Ganz, called “witty, joyous and so beautiful to look at” by Vincent Canby of the New York Times, will screen in select arthouse theaters across the country alongside AMOUR FOU’s modern retelling of the end of von Kleist’s life. It will also stream on Fandor before releasing to wider On Demand platforms.
Other Film Movement Classics titles will include THE TALL BLOND MAN WITH ONE BLACK SHOE, Yves Robert’s 1972 blockbuster French comedy about a bumbling violinist mistaken for a secret agent, and Peter Greenaway’s THE PILLOW BOOK, the 1996 erotically-charged homage to calligraphy starring Vivian Wu and Ewan McGregor. Film Movement will release each restored title on DVD an Bluray, as well as include exclusive bonus content on each; THE PILLOW BOOK includes a newly-recorded director’s commentary from Greenaway. Home video release dates and additional special features for each titles will be announced as each release approaches.
“We are proud of the first several films we are able to restore and make available again, and we look forward to many more to come,” said Rosenberg.

About Film Movement:
Launched in 2002, Film Movement is a full-service North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films, based in New York City. Film Movement has released more than 250 feature films and shorts from 50 countries on six continents, including top prize winners from Sundance, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, Tribeca and other prestigious festivals. Film Movement releases its films through numerous distribution channels, including thousands of art-house cinemas, universities and libraries; home video; television outlets; Cable Video on Demand (including its very own branded cable VOD platform—Film Festival on Demand—available in over 40 million US homes); In-flight Entertainment, and broadband outlets. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com.

“THE KING OF MASKS”— Like a Fable


the king of masks

“The King of Masks”

Like a Fable

Amos Lassen

 Wang Bianlian (Zhu Xu), an aging street performer is known as the King of Masks. This is his story. His wife left him with and infant son over 30 years ago. When his son died at just 10 years old. Wang was terribly depressed and hoped for a son who would learn art. When a famous master performer of the Sichuan Opera offered to bring him into his act, Wang jumped at the chance fame and a possible fortune, but he decided to stay a simple street performer. One night, he buys a young boy from a slave trader posing as the boy’s parent. He thus found joy in life as he makes plans to teach “Doggie” (an affectionate nickname often used for young children in China) his art. But then he discovered that Doggie (Zhou Ren-ying) is really a girl.

Wu Tianming directs this film about an old man who opens his heart to an orphan. As much as he tries, Wang can’t stop loving the kid, even with all the trouble she stirs up. The story is reminiscent of Charles Dickens in the treatment of the father and child. Despite the humiliations Doggie has to endure, she is resilient girl and stays on as Wang’s cook and apprentice acrobat.We see what Doggie is willing to go to demonstrate her love and loyalty to the man she cherishes. In one of the film’s most poignant moments, she picks up a goddess statue on his boat and points out that he worships her.

When Doggie is kidnapped by a band of street thugs, presumably intent on selling the child into slavery, Wang is inconsolable, though when she returns with a real male heir in tow, he finds his fortunes looking up. But things get bad again. Wang needs love and affection and this story is told to us with beautiful direction and excellent performances. This becomes a story of redemption that shows us the alleyways and snaking trails of turn-of-the-century China, where child slavery was commonplace as starving families. Families often regarded daughters not so much as family members but as family members but as meal tickets.

“The King of Masks” pulls us into its simplicity, beauty and surprising emotional power. It benefits by the survival of ancient ways into modern times. Today a street performer might be scorned, but in the 1930s, he was seen as a member of an elite fraternity. Wang has a certain fame in the cities where he appears and gains respect from his colleagues–even the female impersonator who is a great opera star, doted on by army generals.. The story is something of a fable (the changeling, ancient secrets), but gains weight because we know that to Wang it makes a great difference whether Doggie is a boy or a girl.

“YOU’RE CUTE FOR A BLACK GUY”— Race and Racism in Gay Dating

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“You’re Cute For A Black Guy”

 Race And Racism In Gay Dating: 

 Filmmaker Cameron Johnson examines the role of race and racism in the world of gay dating from the perception and vantage point of gay black men.

The documentary  begins with Johnson speaking of his own experience of being told by a white love interest, “I’m really into mulatto guys.” Statements like this and others  led him to look at the issue in depth and his  documentary became a way for him to confirm that he wasn’t the only gay black man hearing racist and objectifying remarks from gay white men. J

In an article in the Huffington Post, he said, “I made this piece because I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t crazy. I couldn’t be the only gay black man who white dates have said insane things to, so I ventured to find others who shared my experiences. What I discovered is that my story isn’t uncommon, it’s just untold.” His film fills in where the stories have been unrelated and he hopes, “I hope that my work will help to broaden the discussions of what it looks like to be a gay man in 2015, and give people insight into worlds they haven’t understood. Also, seriously never say any of these things to black men again.”

“A Fairy Tale” by John Saul (Writing as S. Steinberg)— Aunt Sylvia and Solly

a fairy tale

Saul, John. “A Fairy Tale”, ADS, 2015.

Aunt Sylvia and Solly

Amos Lassen

Solly Steinberg is in his thirties and his Aunt Sylvia is worried that he is not married. What was Aunt Sylvia thinking about her nephew who lives in San Francisco in the 70s where there are many unmarried men. She is determined to not only get him married but to a nice Jewish girl and she wants it taken care of by his next birthday. She does not understand that Solly has no problem getting married to someone Jewish or Catholic or Buddhist or any religion as long as it is a male. Sylvia is very upset by this and when Solly tells her that she sends

Uncle Hymie “to straighten their nephew out.” Many things do get straightened out, but Solly isn’t among them. Yes, this is the same John Saul that writes thrillers but this is not one of them. Rather, this is the story of what life was like for a lot of gay men nearly half a century ago in San Francisco, barely after they became vocal with Stonewall but still long before AIDS.

Saul writes about coming ‘out’ as a gay man in the 1970s, which means he’s been ‘out’ now for almost four decades. Now he comes out to his public and it is good to welcome him “home”. This is a very funny read, for me especially, since it mirrors sp much of my life and what I went through as a gay man in a Jewish family at a time when we were referred to as faigeles.

Solly tells his aunt all the time that he is gay but she stays in denial and then when she realizes that this is who he is, she reminds him to stop being who he is (whatever that means). Uncle Hymie is a sensitive and delightful character that goes to visit Solly (at Aunt Sylvia’s prodding) to understand what being gay is all about. Solly is now Murray and Hymie meets his friends and even dresses in drag not to be too conspicuous around the “feigeles”. Uncle Hymie remains non-judgmental, looking for the positive aspects of his nephew’s gay life and gay friends.

Then there is the necessary scene with the psychiatrist, Dr. Coleman and this is an aside to a more serious topic on the nature of homosexuality and what happens to those who fall in the “trap”. “There’s no framework for their lives, they make a lot of mistakes.” What we get is insight into the tormenting issues that gays of both genders have had to deal with.

But then, and the same happened to me, the handsome Dr. Coleman, who just happens to be handsome, admits that he himself is gay. Though he and Murray are increasingly attracted to each other, both are shy, and make no headway in starting a romance. It is only through the subtle conspiring of Uncle Hymie and Aunt Sylvia, (making the two men share a ‘queen’ bed in the guest room) that they finally become lovers. This is Aunt Sylvia’s coming-out, her way of saying she finally understands, and she accepts Murray’s way of life.

Once Aunt Sylvia accepts Murray’s ‘gayness,’ she becomes lovable just like Uncle Hymie and they decide to help other gay men come out of the closet. This is a fun light read and recommended. You will laugh and you will tear up and you will also have a good time reading.

“New Boy” by William Sutcliffle— Who Knew London Has a Bagel Belt?

new boy

Sutcliffe, William. “New Boy”, Penguin UK, 1998.

Who Knew London Has a Bagel Belt?

Amos Lassen

 I was surprised to learn about London’s Bagel Belt—I new there were many Jews in London but just never thought of the Jewish community there being anything like the way we live here. “New Boy” is a dark modern comedy about the hormonal angst of a Jewish lad growing up in northwest London’s that is known as the bagel belt. “

William Sutcliffe is a wonderful writer who manages to be funny and interesting as well as totally informative. He writes with gritty realism and obviously knows something about the mind of young adults.

We meet Mark, a self obsessed boy who is in a relationship with the new boy at school, Barry. Mark worries about his own sexuality, especially as he feels strongly about Barry. While the title of the book is “New boy” and that refers to Barry, the book is actually more about Mark, but only a small part of the book is actually about the new boy, Barry. Mark tells us as we read about him that what he says is not really what happened. He says that he makes up stories because telling the truth would make the book and the stories in “too boring” and this happens in chapter after chapter. He is willing to humiliate others so that he can be “one of the boys” and sees nothing wrong with it unless the victim turns out to be stronger than he is. He generally feels nothing for other people and he feels that the world revolves around him.

The book is basically about what it was like to be a student in an all-boys school in the mid-1980’s and there are some very funny scenes. But there is not much plot and the main character is offensive.