War Stories (Film Thoughts: BPM)

bpmI am one of the generation who ‘grew up’ with ACT-UP. I remember once going to one of its meetings by mistake. It was at the “Keith Haring Room’ at The Center in New York City in the Mid 80s, and I thought I was going to a group meeting of some sort, and walked in to ACT UP.  And I was scared, I was trembling. It was a whole group of very militant people, all garbed in black. of course, I knew what they were fighting for, but seeing their faces and their hostility face to face was an affront i didn’t expect. I ran out of there right away. I couldn’t handle it – their intensity weakened me. I look back at that now and think, can you imagine being on the receiving end of all that energy? Well, darn right, I could, and it was that rage that spurred the action that was needed at the time. I often saw the news reports of their activism, and then I would kind of shake my hand, but with my eyes now, knowing what I know, and after time has passed, I can only view all of as great bravery – hand battle in the war that is still on going.

BPM captures the Parisian energy of the time. Directed by Robin Campillo from his screenplay (with Phillippe Mangeot) this film is a depiction of a war, in the same vein as one would see ‘Schindler’s List,’ for example. While we are fortunate to be living now in a time where much of what was discussed here as battles won, it is good to see how we got to this place. This film tells the story of the activism in Paris that went on, and the loves and battles they lived through. It has the great performance of Nahuel Perez Biscayat as Sean, who is one of the activists who got the disease from his teacher, and his unlikely partner in Nathan (Arnaud Valois) who is negative. They form a bond that is unflinching in its honesty.

But, like all war films, it’s too exhausting to watch for me. In these times where we see resistance in form everyday, it is a reminder that we never do stop fighting in life. This is the opposite of the feel good movie, and I spent the evening after seeing this in deep solitude. I thought about the friends I have lost, the friends still affected by this. I thought about my life – how I survived all of this, and how I still do not feel completely safe from it. I slept with these thoughts, and this morning still could not figure out how to feel, how to write. I think this film is a great representation of the war a lot of people had to go through, and I hope people see it.

Love And Sex In Belgium (Film Thoughts: Even Lovers Get The Blues)

even-lovers-gets-the-blues-dvd-coverThere’s a lot of sex going on in Belgium. Or so it seems, based on Laurent Micheli’s ‘Even Lovers Get The Blues.” When a group of friends loses one of their own, things go haywire and a lot of bed-swapping goes on. Maybe I am dense, but I found there were a lot of characters in the film, and there was not much (any) exposition to these characters that I was confused a lot of the time about who is who among here. That’s why I really did not care much for any of these people, and when they had the inevitable showdown at the lake, nothing registered. I like some of the artsy elements in the film, but over all I was very much unmoved by it.

Madrid Man (Movie Thoughts: Marica Tu)

41EO0KR2mPL._BO1,204,203,200_‘Marica Tu’  is a movie by Spanish filmmaker Ismael Nunez which is based on a comic book by Julian Almazan. Set in Madrid, it is the story of a gay man Julian who arrives to the city and meets Carlos his first night, and embarks on a relationship with him for two years, only for them to break up because Carlos gets a job in Seville. Julian then embarks on a couple of casual affairs, refusing to commit to anyone.

That description seems slight, and the film is – clocking in at a scant 53 mins. We barely have time to know any of these characters, and we really have no understanding about Julian’s relationship with Carlos, so when he frets over their break up, we don’t care. But all is not lost here – I enjoyed the atmosphere of what Gay Madrid seems to be, although, really, that us probably my only take away from the film.

Love Begins With One Hello (Film Thoughts: Hello Again)

helllo_1507045388I remember seeing ‘Hello Again’ off-Broadway at Lincoln Center many years ago, and I remember disliking it. Even though I liked the performances (Donna Murphy! John Cameron Mitchell!) I really was put off by Michael John LaChiusa’s score. I have always been a purist when it comes to musical theater – I’m old fashioned, please don’t mind me – and it took me a long while to get adjusted to the ‘modern’ composers whose themes are more discordant, and tuneless.

So maybe it’s that maturity that made me appreciate the score now, more than twenty years later, and actually, it really has grown on me, and I even like it a lot now. Or perhaps it’s the MTV effect. Paired with the great visuals in the film, the music resonated more. The show was inspired by Arthur Shnitzler’s La Ronda, and features vignettes of people engaging in sexual acts, all done elegantly, so there’s nothing smutty here.

s592I loved this movie, and I had reservations. It was perfectly cast with a cast with blazing screen presences, voices that life the score, and sensuality that is needed to essay the score. I cannot think of anyone who is a weak link – everyone was perfect. To my eyes, the male cast was perfection – starting with Gerald Nolan Funk and Al Calderone. And has Cheyenne Jackson ever been sexier on film? I was mesmerized by Tyler Blackburn (Where has he been all my life?) and thought T R Knight was best with his scene from the Titanic.

And of course, Audra McDonald. She sizzles on screen as she does on stage. You cannot take your eyes off her, and when she sings, angels would take notes. I hadn’t known that Rumer Willis (of Demi and Bruce) was good like this good, and Martha Plimpton always delivers.

The vignettes, to me, played like music videos, and probably better suited for this medium. Some of the sexuality seems tempered, but I guess that wasn’t really the point of the film. But to me, the whole was very enjoyable, and when the credits started to roll, I wanted more.

Gallivanting I: Germany and France (Movie Thoughts: Die Geschwiter/Basier Caches)

Some quick hits on some flicks.

diegI really liked Die Geschwiter (Brother and Sister) which is set in Berlin and touches upon a couple of issues. Written and Directed by Jan Kruger, it is the story of a gay man who finds himself involved in the life of a brother and sister who are illegal refugees from Poland and Russia. He initially gives them a place to stay, then he gets romantically involved with the brother, but are they really just brother and sister? And is he really gay, or is he just being used? We never really get direct answers for some of these questions, and that’s not the point perhaps. We get a glimpse of life where refugees are discriminated, and I learn here that this type of thing doesn’t just happen in America. This was thought provoking and also engrossing.

baiserFrom France comes Baisers Caches (Hidden Kisses) which is about a gay teenager from suburban France. It is a story about young love, homophobia, bullying. This was really disturbing to me – do these stories still exist in this day and age? I thought the younger generation now do not care about the sexual orientation of people their age? While the film does provide a nice ending, I was really bothered by some of the bullying scenes. At least it gives a positive message for this younger generation.

 

 

 

Love Among The Lambs (Film Thoughts: God’s Own Country)

gocI was lucky to be in Los Angeles, because ‘God’s Own Country’ had a very limited release schedule and I was even able to use my Movie Pass to watch it. Directed by Francis Lee, this movie is set in Pennine Mountains, in England, which is a farming town. Johnny (Josh O’Connor) takes care of the herd, and he is somewhat of a lost soul, as well: he goes drinking every night at the local bar, probably to forget the fact that he is hiding his homosexuality from his parents. When Romanian Gheorghe arrives to help out (a handsome Alex Secareanu) he is met with hostility by Johnny, who is wary of him.

And they they fall in love. And what happens next is kind of sweet. Some have compared this movie to ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ but the scope of this film is smaller, and the love story is more pointed, and sweeter. One can’t help but get involved in their love, amidst the picturesque landscape. The latter part of the film is on the predictable side, but the pay off ending doesn’t feel tacked on, thanks to sensitive acting by the leads. The languid pacing can be argued, but I just take it as indicative of how slow the pace of life in those parts. But the real get here is the sense of genuine affection the two characters have for each other that was essayed by the movie. This a small film with a big heart.

I Feel the Body Electric (Film Thoughts: Corpo Electrico/Body Electric)

corpoI always love when a film goes deep into the heart and soul of a city and I think the film ‘Corpo Electrico’ (Body Electric) by Marcelo Caetano does that for the city of Sao Paolo.  This film stars Kelner Macedo as Elias. he works for a clothing manufacturer company in the middle of the city as an assistant designer, and in his work interacts with the workers. He is told by the big bosses not to be too friendly with the lowly workers, but he ignores that. He parties and interacts with them. He is comfortable with his place in the world – he has an older lover who takes care of him – but through his interactions with these people he explores his sexuality and sensuality.

I have seen this film described as a ‘mood piece,’ designed to celebrate the diversity of Brasil. I know there are some discrimination by light and dark skinned Brasilians, but this film shows that there can be harmony amidst that. Elias shows that through his interactions with these people, he can embrace himself fully, and can better get in touch with his most authentic self. And that’s about it – there seems to be no other discernible plot here, as the film shows more a slice of Sao Paolo life more than anything else. Initially, that bothered me (is this film going anywhere, I ask myself) but there are times a film doesn’t need to. It showed me a glimpse of real life of real people, and that’s more than fine with me. Isn’t film a reflection of life anyway?