No Night is Too Long (UK: 2002): Forgettable mystery involving a lad who no one can forget (apparently)

Lee Williams and Marc Warren: Blink and you'll miss the acting

Lee Williams and Marc Warren: Blink and you’ll miss the acting

The whole effort is blandly acted and forgettable. Need proof? I had forgotten I had watched it before.

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The Imitation Game (US/UK: 2014): Turing tells tall tales about himself.

The Imitation Game is framed as a story relayed by Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) to a detective (Rory Kinnear) to prove that he is human. I guess that would explain why the events presented in the bio-pic stray so far from actual events. Thinking machines can do many things, but deception, self-aggrandizement, and distortion aren’t among them just yet. When machines can take facts and think to themselves, “you know it would make a better story if we reordered them and maybe introduced a tragic flaw” then we will know that our days are numbered. Based on that standard, we’re safe or a few more decades. We want machines to solve problems that are too complex for us to solve, not machines that can do things we’re perfectly efficient performing. We can take comfort in the fact that we can still beat machines when it comes to story telling. But I am not so smug in my comfort as to let screenwriter Graham Moore and director Morten Tyldum off the hook for this parody of the life of Alan Turing.

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Gerontophilia (Canada: 2013): The Subtle Side of Bruce LaBruce

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To start with, let’s dispel the idea that Bruce LaBruce’s Gerontophilia is somehow the “Gay Harold and Maude.” Since there aren’t that many comedies, or dramas for that matter, about the subject of young men romantically linked to senior citizens, I can see why looking for a comparison to the best-known example on film would be natural, but these really aren’t the same film. I guess one can say that in both films a rather distant young man learns about life from an a senior citizen lover so they are loosely equivalent. But I think that the fact that we make such comparisons points to the fact that there aren’t many films out there on the topic. Just because the pairing of Lake (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie) and Mr. Peabody (Walter Borden) happens to be of two men doesn’t diminish or increase the unease we may feel about their relationship. LaBruce isn’t making a “gay” anything here. Instead he’s making a fairly straightforward film about a type of relationship that isn’t often put on film. Unlike Harold and Maude the young male isn’t learning to appreciate life, but trying to understand and act on his desires and learn how to deal with the trials of dating men in their 70s and 80s.

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REC (Korea: 2011): The night belonged to them

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The trailer I found actually isn’t very helpful to understanding REC, Joon-moon So’s 2011 short film about two men on their fifth anniversary. Young-joon (Sam-dong Song) and Joon-seok (Hye-hun Jo) have rented a hotel room and in their own little world, make a video recording of their night. They joke that in gay-relationship years, one year equals ten years of heterosexual marriage, so in a sense, they have outlasted most marriages. In the first half of the movie, they are happy, a little too playful, even. Beyond a record of their sexual encounter, they interview each other about their feelings. Joon-seok’s disappointment with his partner is that he never gives in for choices of restaurants and movies, a fairly common complaint for all couples. His biggest fear however comes from the fact that even after five years, Young-joon still believes that this relationship is only temporary. That offhand joke about gay relationship equivalent years isn’t actually so funny in that context.

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Voyage (Hong Kong: 2013): The final journeys of love and depression

Warning: Trailer contains nudity

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Voyage is Hong Kong director Scud’s fifth film.  Audacity would be a good one-word summary of Scud’s output to date, and those who have appreciated that about his films will not be disappointed. Like his previous films, Voyage has plenty of obscure and sometimes idiosyncratic symbolism and allusions, abundant full nudity, saturated colors, explanatory texts, and a very negative story about love. Scud is not a director for the modest. The film is a series of shorts on the themes death, depression and and the afterlife, framed as stories being written by a psychiatrist (Ryo van Kooten) as he travels on his yacht with the intention of determining whether or not to take his own life.

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I am Happiness on Earth (Mexico: 2014): My Patience is Wearing Thin

If someone were to ask me what kind of movie I am Happiness on Earth is, I would respond that it is a Julian Hernandez film. I suppose that I could say that he makes “art house” or “festival” films, but he also belongs in that category of director where the style and subject become established patterns such that their films are classified off by themselves. No one makes films like them.

If you haven’t seen one of his movies, I don’t know if I would recommend this one, but Happiness does follow what I’ve come to expect from Hernandez. He is very good at creating stories of attractive men pursuing sex with each other – in fact he probably has no equal in that. There is a certain style to these pursuits in his films that evoke  a very raw sexuality that barely even rises to the level of Eros. It is more instinctual than Eros, which should involve some passion and pleasure. Men (and in this movie, women, too) in pursuit of sex are like animals in heat. They prowl. Stare. They crawl on all fours. Consume as if they aren’t certain whether what they hunt is prey or a rival beast.  Since there is hardly any dialogue in this film or any of his films, the actors must physically convey this animalism as well as any emotional states they might have. It makes sense then, that part of this movie involves an affair with a dancer since modern dancers are trained in the art of physical communication.

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Pride (UK: 2014): Too many good performances can be a problem

Pride is a film about empathy and building solidarity between groups coming to recognize that there is more to an alliance than a common foe. An enemy’s enemy is not really one’s friend until one actually comes to understand what their battles are about. The movie is set during the UK Miners Strike of 1984/85. It is a fight that we know the miners will lose, which makes the scenes of solidarity heartbreaking and uplifting. There wasn’t enough to the story to maintain my interest for the entire film. I kept wanting to feel good, but after an hour I wanted the makers to stop introducing new characters and instead have the ones already introduced do something other than have mix-and-meets.

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