“The Meowmorphosis” by Cook Coleridge and Franz Kafka— Rethinking Kafka

the meowmorphisis

Kafka, Franz and Cook Coleridge. “The Meowmorphosis”, (Quirk Classics) , Quirk, 2011.

Rethinking Kafka

Amos Lassen

  “One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, [he discovered that he had been changed into an adorable kitten].” These are some of the most famous words in literary history and most recognize them as the first sentence in Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” and altered a bit. Here Gregor Samsa is “a humble young man who works as a fabric salesman to support his parents and sister. His life goes strangely awry when he wakes up late for work and finds that, inexplicably, he is now a man-sized baby kitten. His family freaks out: Yes, their son is OMG so cute, but what good is cute when there are bills piling up? And how can he expect them to serve him meals every day? If Gregor is to survive this bizarre, bewhiskered ordeal, he’ll have to achieve what he never could before—escape from his parents’ house”. This edition is complete with haunting illustrations and a provocative biographical exposé of Kafka’s own secret feline life. As we read, we are taken on a journey deep into the tortured soul of the domestic tabby. 

“Meowmorphosis” stays so true to the original, but that may be the flaw. It is almost too true. Kitten and bugs are interchangeable but their actions and reactions should be quite different. Cook Coleridge has taken a classic and spoofed it in a fun and interesting manner. While all the essence of the original tale of the metamorphosis is still intact, the whit and humor of the author is wonderfully evident.

 This is be a excellent way to introduce someone to Kafka’s work especially since so much modern literature claims to be “Kafkaesque”.

“The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart” by Mark Achtemeier— Changing

the bible's yes

Achtemeier, Mark. “The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart”, Westminster John Knox Press, 2014.

Changing

Amos Lassen

In the early 2000s Mark Achtemeier began a personal journey with the Bible and he moved from being a conservative, evangelical opponent of gay rights to becoming an activist for gay marriage and an inclusive church. This book is about that journey and Achtemeier tells us of his change of heart. He writes about exclusion and about what the Bible said that brought him to turn around in support of LGBT people. We see that reading the Bible and taking parts out of context leads to false assumptions and misleading interpretations. A careful reading of the holy texts shows that God’s laws are for everyone and that includes gays and lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.

The strength of this book is the author’s description of his own 14-year discernment process (“testing the spirits”), which brought him to a full reversal of his former views. We can surely see that this book will be met with dissenting opinions by those who support the author.

He tells us that in Galatians, Paul writes of the benefits of living a spiritual lives are joy, love, peace and so on. This, of course, is in opposition to those who have tried conversion therapy the result is usually despair, misery, isolation, and self-loathing because rejecting sexuality is the issue.  Achtemeier reframes the issue by moving it way from sexuality and shows that the Bible has nothing to say about and focuses on love. Differences between Jew/Gentile, slave/free, male/female, gay/straight do not exist in terms of love. We also see that the way the Bible deals with heterosexual marriage is not the same as those who are against gay marriage blow it up to be.  Monogamous marriage is not a Biblical concept and we all know of characters in the Bible that had many wives and concubines as well.

Monogamy came from the Romans, to which Jews and Christians added the idea of exclusive loyalty to spouse, which the Greeks and Romans had not insisted upon (for men).

In 2014, the top legislative body of the American Presbyterian Church  voted by large margins to recognize same-sex marriage as Christian in the church constitution, adding language that marriage can be the union of “two people,” not just “a man and a woman.”

Achtemeier has led the way in his denomination’s barring of gays and lesbians from ordination, but after years of reflection and study, led the denomination to reverse that stand. He has met and counseled h gay Christians over the years and he was struck by the fact that many gay Christians feel constrained by the choices offered by most churches: live a life of celibacy, or attempt to change what they see as a basic part of their nature. Some leave the church altogether, while others choose to accept their orientation and lead fruitful Christian lives.

Homosexuality in the context of a loving relationship is not forbidden and the purpose of marriage is for two people to experience and share self-giving love after God’s model and this is also possible within same-sex marriage.

  ”The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage” is a well-written, well-argued book in which gay Christians and defenders of same-sex marriage will find compelling, useful, and affirming. Christians who reject same-sex marriage may not be convinced, but they will be forced to reflect on and carefully consider their views. This is quite a refreshing deviation from the strict-literal English interpretations and the moral-relativist interpretations that tend to dominate this discussion.

“THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS”— “A fantasia of death, sex, panic, confusion, nipples and razors.”

the strange color“The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears” (“L’étrange couleur des larmes de ton corps”).

 ”A fantasia of death, sex, panic, confusion, nipples and razors.”

Amos Lassen

  “The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears” is a fantasia of death, sex, panic, confusion, primary colors, aggressive music, 60s modern interior design, nipples, blood and straight razors. There seems to be no narrative and much comes across in a disjointed manner.

strange1

Belgian directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani (“Amer”) open their new picture in classic giallo fashion. To electronic rock music We see a man running around his “old world” elegant apartment building looking for his missing wife as electric rock music plays. He buzzes doorbells and finally meets “the old woman upstairs” (represented by a voice and some legs in stockings.) As he explains that his wife has gone, she starts to tell him what she feels is a relevant story. Now we watch a fifteen-minute short film (or it at least feels like that) and interesting symbols float across the screen. Just as we find ourselves engross in the story, the man (who we have forgotten about) is upset that time is being wasted. Similar scenes ensue with other people and with the detective who comes over to discuss the case. It starts to feel like a musical, with each narrative break as a big showcase number.  Must say I had no idea of what was happening here but it all looks so interesting.

strange2

There are split-screens, there are negative exposures, there are extreme close-ups, there’s over-saturated color and there’s black and white. There’s a whole sequence made up entirely of still shots against elaborate sound design. There’s also a scene edited to a “sound-alike” of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (perhaps a wink at how frequently the original is used?)

The man is led on a wild goose chase by cryptic messages from his mysterious neighbors. He becomes entangled in a hellish nightmare as he unlocks their strange fantasies of sensuality and bloodshed. This is a visually dazzling experience takes us on a journey into mystery and blood soaked terror that, I doubt, we will never forget.

strange3

This is not just a movie—it is a sensorial experience, pulling us into an audiovisual trip inhabited by things nightmares are made of. It is complex and shows a serious attempt at multi-layered storytelling. This is abstract film making with a high level of artistry, so with regards to the actual (fragmented) storyline, you might very well still be scratching your head at the end of the film.

 Underneath the surface, the seasoned viewer will spot many more references to the Giallo genre.  The giallo seems to be growing in popularity year by year. A whole new generation of horror fans sees these films.  This is as metaphysical as they come. At times you might think that Klaus has killed his wife, or that she has simply run off, or that he never had a wife at all, or that, perhaps, the entire building is a metaphor for male fear and desire of women. There are no easy answers here. 

strange4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkLXLLymDAM

“’Night and Fog’: A Film in History” by Sylvie Lindeperg— “The Greatest Film Ever Made”

night and fog

Lindeperg, Sylvie. “’Night and Fog’: A Film in History”, (translated by Tom Mes)  University of Minnesota Press, 2014.

“The Greatest Film Ever Made”

Amos Lassen

 Francois Truffaut has said that Alain Renais’s film “Night and Fog” is “the greatest film ever made.” However, due to its subject matter, it is not an easy film to watch. When Renais finished this documentary, with its depiction of Nazi atrocities, the resistance of the French censors was fierce. It has only been ten years since the war ended, and the French public was unprepared to confront the horrors shown in the film—let alone hear about the possibility of French complicity. In fact it would be through this film that many learned “that the worst had only just taken place.

“Night and Fog” is an engrossing account of the genesis, production, and legacy of Renais’s incomparable film. This book shows us that the film that began as part of an educational process became a significant step in the building of a collective consciousness of the tragedy of World War II. Sylvie Lindeperg frames her investigation with the story of historian Olga Wormser-Migot, who played an integral role in the research and writing of the film and whose slight error on one point gave purchase to the film’s detractors and revisionists and Holocaust deniers. Lindeperg follows the travails of Resnais, Wormser-Migot, and their collaborators in a pan-European search for footage, photographs, and other documentation. She discovers creative use of liberation footage to stand in for daily life of the camps featured to such shocking effect in the film. This has raised hotly debated questions about reenactment and witnessing even as it enhances our understanding of the film’s provenance and impact. This is a unique look at the inside workings of biography, history, politics, and film in one epoch-making cultural moment.


Here is the Table of Contents”

— Foreword 
Jean-Michel Frodon

— Acknowledgments

— Introduction 
Abbreviations 
Prologue: Olga Wormser-Migot, the Missing Link

— Part I. Inception: A Breakdown of Gazes 
1. The “Invisible Authority”: The Stakes of a Commission 
2. The “ Merchants of Shadows”: A French–Polish Coproduction 
3. A Journey to the East: Research and Documentation 
4. Writing Four Hands 
5. The Adventurous Gaze 
6. The Darkness of the Editing Room 
7. Suffocated Words: A Lazarian Poetry 
8. Eisler’s Neverending Chant

— Part II. Passage and Migration 
9. Tug of War with the Censors 
10. The Cannes Confusion: Dissecting a Scandal 
11. Germany Gets Its First Look 
12. Exile from Language: Paul Celan, Translator 
13. Translation Battles in the GDR 
14. A Portable Memorial 
15. Shifting Perspectives: An Educational Institution 
16. Constructing the Cinephilic Gaze

— Epilogue: Olga’s Tomb 
Notes 
Index

20TH ANNIVERSARY SALE: ALL KINSEY SICKS MERCHANDISE IS HALF-PRICE FOR THE MONTH OF JULY!

 

20TH ANNIVERSARY SALE:
ALL KINSEY SICKS MERCHANDISE IS HALF-PRICE FOR THE MONTH OF JULY!
PLUS: SEE NEWLY-UNEARTHED FOOTAGE FROM THE KINSEYS’ DEBUT PERFORMANCE (AT A SAN FRANCISCO SUBWAY STOP!)

 

With twenty years of performances, 8 albums, 2 DVDs, T-shirts, posters, and refrigerator magnets, The Kinsey Sicks have ended up with a lot of crap in their closets! Won’t you help the girls tidy up by filling YOUR shelves with their Dragapella® detritus?
America’s Favorite Dragapella® Beautyshop Quartet has never unloaded their crap for less money and never will. So, celebrate The Kinsey Sicks’ 20th anniversary by doing your Fourth of July/End of Ramadan/National Grandparents Day/Yom Kippur/Christmas shopping now while their prices (and your standards) are the lowest ever!
And speaking of low standards, here’s your chance to see footage from their first-ever public performance – at a street corner by the MUNI (subway) stop in San Francisco’s Castro District. See young Winnie with a beard and no glasses! Watch Rachel appear shockingly elegant and without her trademark bow! Catch Trixie admit her shortcomings! Meet Trampolina’s mother, Vaselina! Witness the elusive fifth Kinsey: Begona! All this and more in a special #ThrowUpThursday clip await your viewing pleasure:
To view, click the image above or go to: youtu.be/ruMERi9cSyA
For a 20th anniversary, please send gifts made of or in China,
The Kinsey Sicks
PS  You’ve waited twenty years and you want to get off of the Kinsey list NOW? Fine. Simply celebrate the Supreme Court’s visionary decision in the Hobby Lobby case by choosing a sincere religious belief of your choice (feel free to make up a new religion) and the law it will enable you to force your employees to obey or ignore. (In The Kinsey Sicks theology, for example, campaign spending limits, contraceptives, and/or bathroom breaks are sins, while sex with sheep is a sacrament.) Whoever comes up with the most devoutly oppressive faith-based imposition of ideology will win expulsion from The Kinsey list and a head start of 200 delegates to the Republican National Convention in 2016. You can also click on the unsubscribe link below if you’re godless, promiscuous, and deserving of an unwanted pregnancy. (Or if you’re simply a loser who’s an employee and not an owner.)

“JAMIE MARKS IS DEAD”— A Paranormal Romance?

jamie poster

“Jamie Marks Is Dead”

A Paranormal Romance

Amos Lassen

The body of teenager Jamie Marks (Noah Silver) is found by the river in a small town during the winter. Adam (Cameron Monaghan), the jock star of his school’s cross country team becomes fascinated with Jamie who was a boy that no one really knew or had anything to do with except maybe to bully him. Then Jamie’s ghost begins to appear not only to Adam but also to Gracie (Morgan Saylor), his new girlfriend and the person who found his body. Adam finds himself between two worlds. He has a new romance with Gracie but he also feels a deep connection to Jamie, who brings him closer to the world of the undead.

Gracie found Jamie at the river when she was looking for rocks for her collection. Jamie had been something of a nerd who others joked about and really had nothing to do with. The boys bullied him in the gym locker room. Nevertheless when the news got out that Jamie was dead, Adam was deeply affected. He feels really bad that he had not intervened on Jamie’s behalf at any time.

jamie marks is dead

Jamie’s death brought Adam and Gracie closer together—they were both concerned how his death was treated by the community and through this they became boyfriend and girlfriend. Their relationship was not what we would consider solid and it was tested even more when the ghost of Jamie began to appear to both of them. The ghost was in its naked and bruised state. Adam becomes curious and then Jamie’s ghost begins to emerge from his closet and Adam feeling very guilty befriends him and the two become close. But Jamie isn’t Adam’s only problem. His mother was recently paralyzed in a car crash and her perpetually drunk best friend who had caused the accident now feels obliged to hang out at their house. There is also his older jerk of a brother who is on his case too.

When he can no longer handle life at home, Adam takes off and hides out at an abandoned farmhouse that Jamie suggests.  There they encounter yet another ghost and when Adam mishandles her, it looks likely he could end up condemned to a life amongst all these dead people too. The film is a charmer even with some of its problems.

The relationship between Adam and Jamie is uneven and although Jamie obviously develops a very definite crush on Adam, it is never clear if he in return feels anything other than guilt. There is also the issue that whilst it toys with a supernatural theme it falls short of being either a horror movie or a thriller. We never really know what caused Jamie’s death and while there are hints, nothing is conclusive. No one really seems to care that Jamie died and in a classroom following his passing, not a single person can recall a memory with him.

jamie2

 Director Carter Smith has crafted visceral, frightening scenarios. There is a sense of gloom in the film and this is true for both the living and the dead. However, when the relationship between Adam and Jamie deepens, Smith seems to hold back on what could have been a fascinating narrative of homoeroticism, with Adam not wanting to move further with Gracie as he gets closer and closer with Jamie. Somehow this point was missed.  What we do get is an affecting, poetic, character-driven ghost story.

Adam treats Jamie like a real person. He takes sympathy on Jamie who clearly knows that he’s dead and feels completely alone. Wanting to make up for the loneliness felt in Jamie’s life, Adam spends a lot of time with Jamie, which is also an opportunity for Adam to escape his own stressful home life. The more attached Adam gets to Jamie, the more detached Adam gets from the real world, so it’s up to Gracie to try to help Adam move on from helping Jamie move on.

 The cinematography of a rural New York town is beautiful and the performances from the relatively young cast are fine and the director managed to avoid turning this into a melodrama. I had a bit of a problem with the metaphors and allegories about being lonely and being in love. I did, however, like that here is a ghost story in which the ghosts are treated like everyone else. Some of the film is quite intense and by and large, it is an enjoyable experience.

“Ceruse: A Cover-Up Extraordinaire” by Robin Anderson—Hell Bent on Revenge

Ceruse

Anderson, Robin. “Ceruse:  A Cover-Up Extraordinaire”, ADS, 2014.

Hell Bent on Revenge

Amos Lassen

Here we go with another Robin Anderson adventure that includes two male models, a Sophia Loren lookalike, a vindictive international photographer, a garrotte, a mysterious white paste and Queen Elizabeth the First. Now once you saw that list of characters I would not even have to tell you who wrote this book—Anderson always manages to get together the unlikely and the fantastic. The plot has something to do with revenge—-it seems that there is this agent who is determined to get back at someone for something. We are not sure what.

There are clues everywhere and we only know that whatever it is it has to do with “raunch” and “universal” so going to Venice and/or to jungles in the Amazon makes for no never mind. There is this art student who finds acrimony much more interesting than art and what about that Sophia Loren double?

 

Blame it all on the words RAUNCH or UNIVERSAL, otherwise why and how do the paths of an agent – hell bent on revenge – two males models, a Sophia Loren lookalike, a vindictive international photographer, a garrotte, a mysterious, white paste and Queen Elizabeth the First inevitably cross and sometimes double cross?

One clue may lie in Venice, another in Udaipur or even the Amazon jungle, but it all follows a vicious encounter between the Sophia Loren lookalike and an art student more interested in the delights of acrimony than art.

Add to this a champion “rugger bugger,” a fashion designer with a chip on his shoulder bigger than any “Dynasty” shoulder pad and the nail biting “fun” starts to unravel!

I cannot say anymore about the plot without spoiling the read so just get a copy, sit back and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

“A STABLE FOR DISABLED HORSES”— A Surprise Party

a stable for

“A Stable for Disabled Horses”

A Surprise Party

Amos Lassen

Kanoute (Daniel Simonsen) decides to move back home to Norway and his beast friend, Benny (Daniel Swan), throws him a surprise party for just the two of them. We realize that Benny has a secret to share with Kanoute but we do not know if this something he wants to hear.

This is one of those rare films that is both humorous and perceptive at the same time, Fabio Youniss both wrote the screenplay and directed and he does so as if we are eavesdropping on a conversation in which one man tries to express his real feelings for another who just happens to be his best friend.

Kanoute is delighted to be with Benny but he becomes increasingly concerned over the direction that Benny’s conversation is heading, in particular when his going away present happens to be a T-shirt with a photo of the two of them on the front of it.

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Daniel Swan who packs an emotional punch as Benny; a scruffy individual, ever stumbling for the right words to say. Yet behind his rambling dialogue lies a poignant insight into a life filled with pain; from a devout father who saw his love to dance as unmanly, if not the work of the devil, to the incessant verbal abuse he’s subjected to at work; a homophobic environment tolerated so as to be with his co-worker and friend Kanoute.

This is an intimate film and I suspect that it is filmed in black and white to let us know that this is serious stuff here. Yet this is not a serious film—we get all of the emotions as if we are on a roller coaster going through them. There are some wonderful one-liners with great transfer value but there are also very sensitive parts of the film. Benny relates his dream of opening a stable for disabled horses, one where they can be free just as he would like to be with Kanoute. Benny sees the occasion as the last chance he has to tell Kanoute how he feels realizing that this could end their friendship.

With a premise as simple as this, the pressure is on for this short to deliver on substance. It does so wonderfully. The pacing perfect, keeping the momentum going as the jokes are delivered with expert timing. Daniel Swann’s charm and slight creepiness guides Daniel Simosen’s impeccable cluelessness to unease, as it becomes obvious that there is more to this friendship in Benny’s eyes. The movie was improvised throughout and the director allows the actors to go where they want. He just paces them as befits the subject. This is a comedy but with a darkness that looms in the distance and falls upon the audience so unexpectedly and so smoothly that it takes you completely unawares. Youniss lets the camera run as Benny tells Kanoute about his father, and how he reacted to Benny’s love of dancing. Daniel Swann’s performance in this short time keeps the humor going while unsettling you in your seat. The insecure Benny is unveiled as a rich, nuanced character, ultimately endearing and subtly tragic.

Everything is understated, genuine and touching and it is also intelligent and funny. It does exactly what it sets out to do: make you laugh and make you think. 

“TEENS LIKE PHIL”— Bullying

teens like phil

“Teens Like Phil”

Bullying

Amos Lassen

Phil (Adam Donovan) is a shy teen struggling with his sexuality and soon is bullied by his ex-best friend Adam (Jake Robbins) who also happens to be the guy he loves. Adam wants to be in the “in crowd” with the “cool” students so Phil decides to do something drastic.

The film explores the complicated and painful circumstances surrounding Adam and Phil’s relationship in as a way to better understand the bullying epidemic and from where it comes. Phil’s story is one of survival and transcendence from this cycle of abuse.  The movie is ominous from the moment it begins and of course it was inspired by real life tragedies that were the result of bullying and suicide.

teens like phil1

Phil is a likeable guy who struggles with his homosexuality even more so after Adam taunts him. Adam has his own issues as does Phil’s Uncle Mike who has been ostracized by the family and now has nothing to live for aside from the memories of a relationship with another guy when he was younger.

This short film is about self-acceptance and co-writers and co-directors Dominic Haxton and David Rosler have a good deal to say about it.

There is violence here and the movie is at times cruel but it is also quite proud. With increased coverage of LGBT teen suicide, it’s undoubtedly an important subject, but one that can be difficult to handle on film without great intentions coming across as verging on manipulative. Teens Like Phil teeters on the edge of that with its story of Phil, a shy American teen who is struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. He has a complicated relationship with former friend Adam, who brutally lashes out as Phil due to a mix of his own identity issues and the humiliation he receives at the hands of his brother. This treatment leads Phil towards  a dangerous decision. It’s clear that “Teens Like Phil” has the right intentions and in the early stages, it manages to look with great insight into the issues of being young and gay and at the complicated emotions of teenagers and the role of authority figures in all this, but there are also moments that rely too heavily on pathos and don’t feel quite as true.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TA_IaExurEg

“LET’S FALL IN LOVE”— A Short Short

let's fall in love

“Let’s Fall In Love”

A Short Short

Amos Lassen

It is hard to believe how many emotions we feel in the 3 minutes of this movie. It is basically about two boys in love who show their affection for each other in public by the simple, loving act of holding hands, only for one thereafter to have second thoughts about such a display of sexual openness.

Pappi Corsicato masterfully directed this very sweet look at young love. He shows that love is what it is despite sexuality or gender. We all should have the right to express the way we feel for someone else publicly in non-offensive ways. The film has a twist at the end but I am not about to reveal that. You will have a smile on your face the entire three minutes and realize how wonderful love can be.