Tomer Heyman has fashioned a ‘rise and fall’ documentary titled ‘Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life,’ about the gay porn star of the same name (his real name is Elkana Yonatan Langer) I wish I could say that Agassi’s story is quite unique, but I know that this story is a little too common for for gay adult performers. Agassi rose to fame via Michael Lucas’ production company and at one point was the most popular star of the genre, even winning Best Actor at Huslaball awards. The documentary is pretty straightforward and the bet part of it for me is his close relationship with his mother. his low point was a little hard to watch, but it was nice to know that he for the most part recovered from it. As a documentary, it really did not offer much of anything new for me.
I didn’t know what to make of the beginning part of ‘Orpheus Song,’ but I kept on watching. Basically two masc guys working out together at the gym. Then they go to Greece for a vacation, then they have an encounter with a Greek God (I Think the story went there) and then they start to fall in love. Or did they? I loved the last part of teh film when both are faced to confront their feelings, and what do you know, this has a feel-good ending that will make you shout for joy.
For me, it is interesting that after all these years, there are still very interesting stories being told about the second world war. And I myself am more into them like before – perhaps old age has done this to me. I recently saw a film from last year, ‘The Keeper,’ which is an Anglo/German co production. It tells the true story of Bert Trautmann, a British POW who became a football hero for Manchester. It is a great story, and the film, co-written and directed by Marcus H Rosenmuller, is a great watch. It shows how Trautmann overcame being a Nazi sympathizer to become a football hero. There are great performances here, anchored by David Kross’s charming portrayal of Traumtann (In some markets, that is the title of the film) I think I gravitated towards it because of the great love story between him and Margaret, the British woman he married (played by Freya Mavor) I got caught in the story instantly, and I this in the end feels a little more than just a football romance, it gives us a lesson on humanity and love. Much recommended.
There was certainly a lot of thought in Avi Nesher’s ‘Past Life.’ It’s a story of a young woman who finds out secrets from her family history. For me, this is a more interesting picture than an enjoyable one – there is too much exposition and the payoff was a little limp. Still, this has some vivid characters that you will want to know, and some good performances, especially from Joy Rieger as Sophi. I also thought the production values were well done, as this is a period piece set in 1977. It felt like so.
‘Transit’ is one of those movies that challenge me. I was mesmerized by it, but I have to be honest, there were parts that I did nto understand at first, and while some of them made more sense as the film went on, there were also some that were still puzzling after. Directed by Christian Petzold, the film probably warrants a second viewing. But life is too short and I have so much on my to-be-watched plate that I want to do it, but at the same time I don’t have the patience.
But what I got is good. I know it is based on Anna Sagher’s 1944 novel, but is set on present day France (first Paris, then Marseilles) This Paris is not the city of lights, it’s a turbulent one, with chaos and police activity. A man (Franz Rogowski) assumes another man’s identity, then goes to the port city of Marseilles, facing emotional, and political complications. Some of it doesn’t make common sense, but I don’t think Petzold is too concerned about that – the narrative is fluid, combining past, present, 1944, and 2019. It is supposed to be seamless, but it’s messy – perhaps to elevate the chaos of the story. Rogowski, looking like a German River Phoenix, is perfect for the role of a man confused, determined, obsessed. He is mesmerizing to look at. But as I said earlier, this is a tough watch. I cope to having unanswered questions that make me feel slightly dumb. For sure, though, this movie stayed with me. I just don’t know what to do with the fragmented pieces I got.
Since yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, i thought it would be fitting that I saw ‘The Invisibles.’ (Die Unsichtbaren) From Germany and directed by Claus Rafle, it tells the real story of four Jewish people who were ‘left behind in Germany during World War II as they try to disappear and blend in with everyone. The film is told part documentary style, with the four narrating their stories as ‘re-enactments’ are shown. The format reminded me of those old television show wherein a televiewer would send their stories to be told and there would be dramatic scenes so the tales can be visualized. On the biog screen, it minimizes the drama. Still, I thought these stories were compelling enough to get my attention. For some reason, I am now always fascinated with these WWII stories, perhaps this is because Past couple of years, I have visited all these European cities that have been affected by the war. I sitll for the life of me cannot understand how the Nazis were able to do this, but I take a look at the United States today and basically Trump is trying to do the exact same thing. I liked this film, and I thought it was a fitting tribute to remember Holocaust Remembrance Day,
Initially reading the synopsis of ‘Mario’ made me think that this movie, directed by Marcel Gisler what was going to be sport-centric. But I was wrong, and I was glad that this is more a straight-up (yes, pun intended) love story between two Football teammates. And I am glad to note that it is quite touching and heartbreaking, as we see them try to fight the obstacles of falling in the still-conservative environment of European football. This one is set in Swiss-German and it was great to see that setting, one I am a little unfamiliar with. The actors, Max Hubacher and Aaron Altaras were both very effective and you can feel the character’s affection for each other. I like the tenderness that was shown in the backdrop of the rough and gruff world of football, and I couldn’t help but tear up at the bittersweet ending. I liked this movie much more than I thought I would.
Closing out Pride month, I am writing about, for me, the best ‘gay’ film since last year’s ‘Call Me By Your Name.’ Written and Directed by Ofir Raul Graizer, ‘The Cakemaker’ is one of those movies that got to me. After seeing the movie, I wanted to just get home and think about it in silence. It’s the story of a German baker Thomas (Tim Kalkhof, looking like a German Jonathan Groff) who falls in love with an Israeli businessman who travels monthly to Berlin. When the businessman suddenly dies in a car accident, Thomas flies to Jerusalem and gets involved in the life of the man’s widow Anat (Sarah Adler)
This is a great example of how grief ties people together. There is a lot of softness and delicacy on the film, and I was engrossed from the first frame. It speaks to me about how a connection (or disconnection) can make a lasting impact in one’s life, and the different ways we deal with grief. Thomas changes Anat’s life for he better, and while there’s a certain plot point in there that I theoretically did not believe in, thee are fine actors that I swallowed it whole. Kalkhof is fantastic here, muted and passive, yet expressing powerful emotions in a nod and a glance, and Adler a formative match, vulnerable, determined, sympathetic. It shows us realities in modern day Israel – the dichotomy of being religious and liberal, of tradition and acceptance. By the end, I was sobbing, and I didn’t know why. Of course, I knew it was because of the sheer beauty of the film.
I wanted to really like Chris Miera’s Ein Weg (Paths) and it took me a while to do so. It’s painfully slow, and I am not really averse to slow films, but it’s opening chapter could lose a lot of people, and it almost lost me. The film is a story about a couple. Andreas and Martin (Mike Hoffman and Matthias Reinhardt) who are separating after decades of being together. You can feel the intimacy, but not really much if the pain…until you get to the second chapter and Miera shows you how they got together and fell in love. This is one of those instances wherein editing makes a difference – you do not feel much empathy for the couple in the beginning part of the film because you do not have anything to go by. The slowness of the film really felt like a burden, and there were numerous times I thought about abandoning the film. But I finished it, and I wish I felt it was more satisfying.
It is always refreshing to find gay coming-of-age flicks, and I am always fascinated how our stories are always similar, but set in our different geographical and cultural elements. ‘Center Of My World’ (Die Mitte der Welt) is set in rural Germany and is about Phil,(Louis Hoffman) a teenager who experiences his first love when another kid from out of town (Nicholas, played by Jannik Schumann) moves in. But Director Jkob Erwa’s film is a little more than that. Adapted from the German novel by Andreas Steinhofel, it also deals with Phil’s familial issues – he grew up in an ancestral castle-like house without a father, and his sister can talk to animals. I didn’t like that part of the story. to be honest, and wished it had centered more about the tender romance between Phil and Nicholas. When they got torn apart at the end, I was quite touched, although, really, their story did not have much depth. I credit more the performances of the actors, especially Schumann who has a wide-eyed vulnerability that expresses more than the screenplay gave him. I also thought the film was a little overlong, with self-indulgent shots that are unnecessary. Your mileage may vary here, but for me, it’s a marginal thumbs up – mostly for the acting.
Some quick hits on some flicks.
I 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.
From 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.
‘Toni Erdmann’ was Germany’s submission for the Academy Awards last year, and I think it is easily one of last year’s best movies, regardless of what country it came from. It is also one of the funniest movies I have seen in a long time as there were times I found myself literally laughing out loud while watching it.
Written and Directed by Maren Ade, the movie is about a father, Winfried (Peter Simonischek) and his adult daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller) They have a very complicated relationship, and it has gotten to a point where Winfried thinks he has ceased to know his own daughter. So he visits her in Buacharest, where she is working, and starts to stalk her, at times disguised as his alter ego Toni Erdmann. But the movie is much more than that, it i an exploration of how we as adults treat and disregard our parents. Remember when we were kids and everything our parents did embarrassed us? Well, magnify that situation hundred-fold – that’s one of the premises of this movie. You see Winfred’s character and I have to admit that in the beginning I found the character a pest, as he inserts himself into his daughter’s life coarsely. Simonischek wisely plays the character without too much charm, and as the film unfolds, we get to see what he is doing and where he is coming from, and it happens organically. Not that Hüller’s Ines is an angel, either – we see her as a very strong independent modern woman, and is also a damaged one. We see both characters heal each other.
There are a couple of situations here that are laugh out loud funny. I won’t spoil it, but they involve Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Love You,’ petit fours, and a naked brunch. This film is both enjoyable and contemplative, and depending on your mood, will hit your heart and your funny bone both. I read somewhere that Hollywood is planning to remake it with Jack Nicholson, and that idea both scares and excites me, depending on my mood.