What follows are the DVD/VHS reviews I did for a local Harrisburg PA Gay & Lesbian Newspaper called Central Alternative (eventaully renamed Central PA Voice). My review columns ran for eight issues (2 years) before we mutually parted ways. It was not a paying gig, but it did put me in print.
The Editor was (and is) a friend of mine and his own Poetry has appeared in my magazine, Experimental Forest (1999-2001), as well as stepping in as Guest Editor for our Gay-themed issue #8. These are just little toss-off capsule reviews, nothing deep or intellectual, but I still wanted to reprint them here anyway (since the venue, believe it or not in this day and age, does not have a website to link to).
editor's note: The poster images were not originally part of my columns, those have been added here, for a bit of colour.
September/October 2005 Issue:
My Summer of Love (2004, Pawel Pawelowski, UK)
There may be nothing on Earth more powerful than the love between two teenage girls. Sure, it may be a love that goes beyond the realm of reality - as teenage minds are apt to do more often than not - but that doesn't stop the intensity that ensues. My Summer of Love shows just that unbridled, unrealistic lust that I speak of. For better or for worse, these girls are in it for long haul - or at least for the rest of the Summer. (this film will be released on dvd, October 4, 2005)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975, Sydney Lumet, USA)
Speaking of intensity - Pacino takes it to a whole new level in this bank robbery gone wrong, socially conscience, seventies American New Wave masterpiece. In order to get his lover (Chris Sarandon in the role of his career) the "change" he desires, Al Pacino decides to rob a bank - things can only go wrong - very very wrong.
Far from Heaven (2002, Todd Haynes, USA)
Once there was a man named Douglas Sirk, who made movies in the fifties. In Hollywood. The Hollywood with the straight face and the queer behind. He made films as provacatively subversive as they were kitschily sublime. His masterpiece was called All That Heaven Allows - which somehow (although seemingly tame by todays standards) managed to sneak its way past the censors. In the first year post 9/11, Todd Haynes - the new Queen of The Queer Cinema - created this bitingly (yet loving) homage to Mr. Sirk.
note to my readers: In time for the next issue of Central Alternative, I will be releasing My Greatest Films List upon my website - www.thecinematheque.com - and in conjunction with that, I will be compiling a subsection entitled "Queer Cinema: The Greatest GLBT Films Ever Made". More on that in the next issue...
July/August 2005 Issue:
Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001, Alfonso Cuaron, Mexico)
With longingly aching looks, constant homoerotic tension and even a poolside semi-circle jerk, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna play the yin to each other's yang in this hot Mexican love triangle - yes there is a woman involved too, but just for show we think. A road trip movie about two young men coming to grips with life, love and the closeness of one another - through anger, pain and a long-anticipated yet unexpected drink-induced embrace.
Happy Together (1997, Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong)
Hong Kong provocateur and acclaimed hyper-sensed auteur, Wong Kar-wai, brings us the story of two lovers travelling in South America. It plays like a soap opera on acid, ether, amphetamines and bad tequila. Paced like a cheetah, Wong's film tells of the ups and downs and ins and outs and more ins and outs of these two young men. Highly energized and even more highly eroticized.
Dreamers (2003, Bernardo Bertolucci, Italy/France/USA)
Bertolucci brings the story of a young cinephile to life. Newly planted in Paris in the mid sixties (at the height of the art film movement and the French new Wave), Michael Pitt finds himself embroiled in the middle of a threeway love affair between a brother and a sister and himself. Did I mention these are twin brother and sisters? Permeated with clips of cinematic history and just enough sexual playfulness to garner an NC-17 rating, The Dreamers will blow you away - and you can take that any way you wish.
Camp (2003, Todd Graff, USA)
Fame for the next generation! The story of a summer camp full of just enough social outcasts to become a talent show waiting to happen. Okay, actually it's a camp for the performing arts, and yes it is (excuse this inevitable pun) campy, but still a lot of fun for the not-so-serious filmgoer.
plus a short review of a short film:
Sissy Boy Slap Party (1995, Guy Maddin, Canada)
This short little four minute film - which can be found as a special feature on Maddin's DVD
release of The Saddest Music in the World - is exactly what it sounds like - complete with banging African drum beats.
May/June 2005 Issue:
Bad Education (2004, Pedro Almadovar, Spain)
Hot erotic neo-noir done only the way a filmmaker as exuberantly flamboyant as Almadovar can do. Full of twists and turns, molestating priests and weepy drag queens. From the Bernard Herrmanesque opening salvo, Bad Education plays like Hitchcock as a closet queen - finally coming into full bloom.
Taboo (1999, Nagisa Oshima, Japan)
Homoerotic Samurai fantasies abound in this period piece set in a Shogun training camp. Students learn about swordplay - in more than one fashion. Moody and swirly cinematography give just the right blend of mystical layering to this film. A slow deliberate diatribe on love, sex and honour from the man who took the art of erotic filmmaking to a whole new level in 1976's In the Realm of the Senses.
Burnt Money (2000, Marcelo Pineyro, Argentina)
Imagine Bonnie & Clyde redone as Clyde & Clyde (and one other Clyde). The story of a group of criminals running from the law (and taking a few breaks for some hot steamy lovemaking). The closing scene is a frenetic joyride of lust, passion, bullets and blood.
Tarnation (2004, Jonathan Caouette, USA)
A young man (starting from boyhood) compiles a video documentary on his mother and her lifelong bout with insanity. Filmmaker Jonathan Caouette (who created his film using Apple Computer's i-movie software), shows the ups and (many more) downs of his life with his mother and his inability to cope with her ailment. Full of showtune numbers by the flamboyant Caouette, Tarnation is like Rocky Horror meets Mommie Dearest meets Fame.
March/April 2005 Issue:
Torch Song Trilogy (1988, Paul Bogart, USA)
Harvey Firestein creates a labrynthian tour de force of his altered life - at times hilarious - at times tragic - at times completely insane. Co-starring Matthew Broderick and Brian Kerwin as Harvey's lovers and Anne Bancroft as his mother, Torch Song will make you cry, pant, laugh, choke and scream. An emotional experience from a born entertainer.
A Home at the End of the World (2004, Michael Mayer, USA)
Colin Farrell is surprisingly good in this somewhat timid, yet well-played look at a young man on the verge of manhood. A young man confused as to who or what he is. Sissy Spacek also stars in an unfortunately overlooked performance as the mother figure. Although some aspects may get tiresome, Farrell's quiet performance is not one of them.
In & Out (1997, Frank Oz, USA)
Kevin Kline and Tom Selleck kiss - do you need to know more ? Okay, since you insist - the film is based on Tom Hanks' Oscar acceptance speech for Philadelphia, wherein he outed his former teacher. Kline is this film's version of that teacher, who until Oscar night (Hanks has been replaced with Matt Dillon - a fake Oscar may be his only chance) doesn't even realize he is gay. Kline is supurb in the role, and just wait for the fantastic dance number Kline pulls off.
Our Lady of the Assassins (2000, Barbet Schroeder, Spain)
Schroeder gives us the story of an old assassin living in Columbia, who finds a young street hustler and takes him as his mentor - both as an assassin and as a lover. Shot on digital video, the sharpened contrast gives the story a realistic harrowing primal look - showing all the ugly scars of these broken and lost lives.
January/February 2005 Issue:
Boys Don't Cry (1999, Kimberly Pierce, USA)
A gender-confused brilliant performance by Academy Award winner Hilary Swank is central in this overtly erotic and shamelessly frightening artistic triumph. Swank plays a young girl who pines to be a boy, and dresses the part, even fooling his/her new girlfriend, played with swirling emotion by Chloe Sevigny. Tragic in both its style and outcome, not for those that just want mere light fun - a deep psychological tour-de-force.
Prick Up Your Ears (1987, Stephen Frears, UK)
Clever chameleon Gary Oldman plays the wickedly acerbic Playwright Joe Orton, in this brown-toned English Bio-Pic. A fascinating, if not completely foreboding, diatribe on the life of a beautifully ugly madman extraordinaire.
Six Degrees of Seperation (1993, Fred Schepisi, USA)
For those of you who only know of Will Smith through his days on The Fresh Prince or in his popcorn movies Men In Black and Independence Day, then get ready to be shocked, and maybe aroused. Smith, in his film debut, plays a streetwise con-man searching for his real family - and as an added bonus, you get to see a lot of Big Willie.
High Heels (1991, Pedro Almadovar, Spain)
Since Almadovar's newest, and greatest, Bad Education, isn't on DVD yet - but hopefully you can catch it in theatres - I give you High Heels, a candidly pompous look at the stage queens of Madrid's seedier side of life. Beautifully filmed with the garish pomp & circumstance we've come to expect from Pop-Auteur Almadovar, this is one of his lesser-known films, but one that should not be missed. And don't forget about seeing Bad Education with the bulging talents of Gael Garcia Bernal - in theatres now!!!
November/December 2004 Issue:
Love & Death on Long Island (1997, Richard Kwietniowski, UK)
A modern take on Visconti's 1971 film, which in turn was a take on the Thomas Mann original novel. John Hurt is fantastic, both funny and tragic, as the "hero" of this film - a man in love with Jason Priestly (but who wouldn't be). Hurt's uptight English writer accidentally comes across a cheap soft core porn film called "Hotpants College II" and he is instantly obsessed with the young actor that stars in it (Priestly). At times funny, at times hauntingly sad.
L.I.E. (2001, Michael Cuesta, USA)
The story of an emotionally lost boy who falls prey to the world of teenage prostitution. He also falls prey to Big John, played with pedaphiliatic glee by Brian Cox. At first kind to the boy, Big John grows more and more obsessive and controlling. L.I.E. may pander a bit near the end, but overall this is a tightly wound psychodrama.
Edward II (1991, Derek Jarman, UK)
A take on Shakespeare with a Gay twist (not that the old Bard didn't already have that twist). With minimalist sets and purposely stilted dialogue, Jarman's masterpiece plays like a vacuum of quietude, just on the verge of going supernova.
ps- This title is only available on VHS (sorry no DVD yet). It can be rented at The Bare Wall Gallery on Green Street, Harrisburg
Entre Nous (1983, Diane Kurys, France)
Isabelle Huppert plays a woman who marries a man in order to escape death in occupied France during WWII. After years of mundane married life she needs more - and finds that in the form of the beautiful Madeline, played by Miou-Miou (yes that is her name). Huppert gives (of course) a great performance as the unfulfilled wife. Huppert can say not a word and she shows more true emotion than other actresses who never shut up. The film is worth it just for her performance alone.
September/October 2004 Issue:
HIGH ART (1998, Lisa Cholodenko, USA)
A luridly sensual and oft times seductive tale of one woman passing into the life of another and not knowing what has become of her old self. Ally Sheedy, who all but disappeared after her Brat Pack hey day, gives, easily, the best performance of her career, showcasing her talents at being a bewildered novice to the Lesbian lifestyle. A hot steamy affair full of smoky lust and a powerful, and sometimes dangerous bond.
THE OPPOSITE OF SEX (1998, Don Roos, USA)
A genuinely funny sex farce (half homo / half hetero) that never settles for the easy laugh or the bathroom humour usually associated with the genre. Roos has crafted a witty esplenade of craziness that never once slows down - and even when you think it might fall into a sappy sentimental mess - you're knocked out of it by the bitter voice of Christina Ricci's jaded lead character.
FOX AND HIS FRIENDS (1975, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany)
Probably the most tragic of 1970's Gay Autuer, Fassbinder (who also plays the title character). Fox is a lonely street hustler who only wants to find love, but instead seems to be destined for a life of heartbreak and desperation. Fassbinder, who created 44 films in just 15 years, before taking his own life in 1982, was the quintessential Director of the Gay image in his lifetime, and this film was one of his best.
THE MONKEY'S MASK (2000, Samantha Lang, Australia)
This film played at the first ever Gay & Lesbian Film Festival at Harrisburg's Midtown Cinema in 2002. A sultry murder mystery from down under where the lady detective investigating the case is drawn into the dark lair of its main suspect/seductress. Tense and taut, this film plays like an old film noir - for the Lesbian set.
July/August 2004 Issue:
YOSSI & JAGGER (2002, Eytan Fox, Israel)
Beautifully done love story between two soldiers in the Israeli Army. Electrically charged camera work, all done with a hand-held camera, manages to bring the drama right into your face, and right into these lover's faces as well. There is one scene, the "big" love scene, which is one of the most tender moments ever caught on film, and the whole time war is raging all around these two men, a war that will inevitably either rip their love apart or make it even stronger than ever before.
THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT (1972, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Germany)
The master of the uber-male homoerotic melodrama, here turns around and gives us the intertwining story of women in love (and lust) and the power one woman holds over another. With a camera that twists about the set like a snakecharmer seducing his prey, this film is a classically spectacular work of Cinema. Everything from the elaborately ornate set decoration to the haunting musical score makes this Fassbinder's greatest work of art.
PARAGRAPH 175 (1999, Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman, UK/Germany/US)
Everyone always heres of the Jewish genocide that was the Holocaust, but what is usually hidden benaeth that is another persecution: that of the Homosexual of Europe. Dressed in their pink triangles (yes, it was Hitler that gave us that symbol) these gay men and women of Europe are rounded up and sent to concentration camps. This Documentary delves into the Nazi's Paragraph 175 proclamation and brings forth sad, bitter tales of what happened in Europe in the 30's and 40's to the Homosexual. Bothe exhausting and enrapturing.
JEFFREY (1995, Christopher Ashley, US)
Funny. Sad. Tender. Bawdy. Touching. Erotic. Sobering. Funny. Who ever thought, while watching Wings on TV, that Steven Weber could have this range as an actor. A film with all the touches that a romantic comedy should have, without any of those over-sentimental cliches (okay, there are some cliches, but here, they're funny as hell). A film that any self-respecting Gay Man can't do without seeing. Funny. Sobering. Erotic. Touching. Bawdy. Tender. Sad. Funny.