Robert Mapplethorpe’s art was shocking and provocative, and I, just like a lot of other people, would love to know what lurked in the mid of the obvious artistic genius. Ondi Timoner’s ‘Mapplethorpe’ tried to shed light on the man, but the filmmaker (and the film) tried to do too much, and accomplished next to nothing. She wrote the screenplay and perhaps tried to be too broad with it that the man depicted int he film seems like a bloody bore, and I refuse to believe he was such. Matt Smith (am I the only one who did not know who he is, never having seen an episode of ‘Doctor Who’) has great physical resemblance to Mapplethorpe. but is saddled with that lifeless script, so all effort is wasted. Patti Smith (played by Mariann Rendon) fares even worse. I mean, I read her book and know she is an interesting complicated character, but the Patti here is some kind of one-note character. To be fair, Timoner said on the Q & A after the film that the real Patti Smith refused to cooperate with the filmmaker. But there’s more than enough material out there.
When we do see the art, though, the film comes alive. I wish I was more acquainted with the richness of Mapplethorpe’s work, and now want to remedy that. It was interesting to see juxtapositions of the photograph with visual of how he shot them. And I give the film points for including some of the more provocative ‘X’ work. If for anything, it is not as shy as I thought it would be. (This ain’t no ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’)
A lot of Christians are very religious, and they can also be some of the most judgmental people you will ever meet. At this point in my life, I have given up in trying to talk to some of them. I will never change their minds, so I will just go to my own corner and hope that we can just peacefully co-exist. ‘At the End Of The Day’ addresses a lot of the Christian bigotry, and by doing that tells a compelling story. Directed by Kevin O’Brien, the film centers on Dave (Stephen Shane Martin) who is left by his wife for another woman. He goes back to his hometown to live with his aunt and teach at a Christian school. The dean of the school connives with him to infiltrate a support group so they can get information on a real estate property the group is also eyeing. You can probably guess where this is going and you are probably right. Though its formulaic, you cannot ignore the film’s core message even as it uses the most common and formulaic tropes. Plus, the film is quite long for what it is and could use a ten minute trim. The saddest part is that the devious Christians of the world will probably not be aware of this film’s existence.
On the surface, one looks at ‘We are Thr3e’ as a film about a threesome. Indeed, Argentinian director Marcelo Briemm Stamm’s film is about three people who starts a relationship. But for me, the film really is about the fluidity not of gender, but of love. You just fall in love with the person, and that is shown vividly int his film. The trio of actors here (Juan Martin Martino, Florenicia Dragonetti, Carlos Etchevers) are very natural in their roles, and I like the way they presented the relationship in a very nonchalant way. And you think the film will end a certain way, but it is smarter than that. This is a very welcome watch.
On May 2017, same-sex marriage was legalized in Taiwan, and I honestly did not realize that the country was that progressive. But I was pleasantly surprised by that, and when I saw that Netflix had acquired the LGBT film ‘Dear Ex,’ I wanted to see it right away. I had read some glowing reviews of the film, saying it was touching and heartbreaking. After seeing it, I wish I could say the same. I really wanted to love the movie, but I barely like it. Directed by Hsu Chin-Yeh, it is just so overwrought and loud, and the performances are same – screechy, and they hit you like a blunt instrument – making all the characters unlikable I didn’t want to spend any time with any of them. Worst is Ying-Xuan Hsieh, who plays the wife/mother who gets short shifted her husband’s Life Insurance payment. She starts the movie screaming, and never lets up – I have never seen such a shrill performance that is so noisy and it’s all hollow noise. By the time the character does something nice at the end, I have long checked out on it. All in all, this was supposed to be a feel-good movie, but I just got so tired of it about half-way through that I felt the film unredeemable at that point. Still, I am glad that Netflix is supporting these kinds of films so I won’t really put it down. I am glad this film exists on this platform and hope more will come. And maybe my reaction is isolated – I see a lot of people connecting with this film, and that’s good.
‘Cola de Mono’ is set at Christmastime, but it’s really not your typical Hallmark Christmas movie. It’s a little bit dark and very very gay. The title is based on a drink that Chileans prepare for the Holidays, and the term is also a gay slur. The film is a about a set of brothers who both come to terms with their sexuality on Christmas Eve. The theme is on the dark side, and even though I had read the film labeled as a thriller, I was very surprised by the turn if events towards the latter part of the film. It is also quite explicit, and director Alberto Fuguet definitely has a very specific point of view that he slaps into the film. I thought it was a very interesting film, even if I really did not enjoy it in the sense that it wasn’t a feel-good kind of film. It’s a little offfbeat for the Christmas season, but offbeat doesn’t necessarily mean bad.
Oh God, do I know 1985 pretty well, a year where I learned a lot of life lessons, so I look at that year with mixed feelings. It was a tough, but I came out stronger from it. I look back and think that this was more than thirty years ago, and the world was different then. Director Yen Tan captures that year perfectly in ‘1985,’ one of those small movies that we used to get a lot more. It’s shot in black and white 116 mm, and the way it looks and sounds adds to its storytelling.
Adrian (Cory Michael Smith) goes home to Texas for Christmas. He has been living in New York City and has not been back in three years. He has a younger brother, Andrew, who seems wary of him. There’s a lot of ‘unspokens’ here. His parents probably know he is gay but won’t talk about it. Furthermore, Andrew is becoming a Madonna fan, and is now interested in theater (he wants to see the movie version of ‘A chorus Line’!) so we all know where that trajectory is going. Most significantly, Adrian’s lover has just passed from AIDS, and it looks like Adrian has it, too, and this trip home may be a way for him to say goodbye to his family – he maxed his card out to buy them expensive gifts. There’s an element of internal heartbreak here, and the actors are all subtle and effective, with Smith leading the way. I was taken by Virginia Madsen who plays his mother. As a mother of a gay man, she is torn between her husband, and her love for her son, and communicates her feelings both sides effectively. The screenplay is spot-on, showing then-topical references accurately. I was very touched by this film, and easily identified with the character of Adrian, who could easily be me at that time (he’s just a little older than me) Gay guys of a certain age now (my generation) would like this film and I hope they find it.
‘Al Berto’ is the biopic of the famous Portuguese poet, and Director Vicente Alves do Ó has pieced together a film culled from the notes and diaries of João Maria, who was the poet’s lover at the period of time int he poet’s life when the film is set. This would be the summer of 1975, when he has come back from Brussels training as a painter. He has reclaimed his family’s mansion, after it being sequestered during the revolution. This is a heady time in the country, where there is an ideological division between the old and ‘the future which has not come yet,’ as one character in the film describes. Ricardo Texeira smolders as the poet – he has a magnetic screen presence that is matched by José Pimentão and together they have scorching sexual chemistry. Since the film is more a character study, though, nothing much more happens, as it is that things happen to them. I found the film visually enriching, but perhaps a little too long. I liked how it gave me a brief insight on Portuguese history, and their gay history as well.