Archive for January, 2011

A Meditation on Mourning–I love this

When I die give what’s left of me away

to children and old men who want to die.

And if you need to cry,

cry for your brother walking the street beside you.

and when you need me, put your arm around anyone

and give them what you need to give me.

I want to leave you something,

something better than words or sounds,

look for me in the people I have known or loved,

and if you cannot give me away,

at least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind.

You can love me better by letting hands touch hands,

and by letting go of children that need to be free.

Love doesn’t die, people do

so  when all that is left of me is love,

give me away.

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“Finding Me”–self-discovery, affirmation and love

“Finding Me”

 

 

Self-discovery, Affirmation and Love

Amos Lassen

Coming soon from TLA is the directorial debut of Haitian-American filmmaker Roger S. Omeus Jr., “Finding Me”. He film brings together several themes—romance, drama, the black gay experience and the search for identity. Here is an attempt to see the diversity of our community.

“Finding Me” takes a different kind of look at the black gay community and presents it with a pop sensibility.

Our hero, Faybien Allen (RayMartell Moore) has no direction in his life. His father is not only overbearing but homophobic and this does nothing for Faybien’s self-esteem. Things change a bit when Lonnie (Derrick L. Briggs), a macho guy with lots of self assurance, hits on him. Faybein’s friends are pleased. Greg (Eugene Turner) is a bisexual who is both down-to-earth and upbeat and Amera (J’Nara Corbin), a smart and perky “honorary” gay man, hope that maybe Faybien will now finally find himself. However Greg’s roommate, Jay (Maurice Murrell), is a shady and shifty character and is possibly the kind of person that Faybien could become if he makes the wrong decisions. Faybien faces quite a challenge. He must find a way to make peace with his father and come to terms with the overly flirtatious Lonnie.

This is a small budget film but it gives us some new insights into the gay black community. All involved in the film are fresh talent and we seem to have something new coming our way. If “Finding Me” is a sigh of what is to come, than we are very, very lucky.

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“Withered in the Blooming Season”–a family

“Withered in the Blooming Season”

A Family

Amos Lassen

 

Director Cui Zi’en tells a melodramatic and sad family story in “Withered in the Blooming Season” (Waterbearer Film) and in doing so gives homage to the great French filmmaker Jean Cocteau. A twin brother and sister are involved in a relationship and they decide that they want to spend the rest of their lives together. Feng (the brother) discovers that his sister Wen is pregnant with his child, he asks his gay friend Le Le into taking the baby as his own.
The twins are young. Feng is a high school student and he and Wen share everything including a bedroom. His attraction to his sister is obsessive and he truly loves her, However Wen is maturing more quickly than her brother and she is ready to make a life for herself. Feng decides to involve his gay best friend into their relationship because he would be able to control it but he loses control of his own emotions and his plan doesn’t work to his expectations and he discovers that he is in love with Le Le.
Dysfunction only mildly describes this family situation. We watch as our three characters try to gain hold of their lives and the power that attraction has.
Cui Zi’en is noted for controversial films and that is probably the reason that he is regarded as one of China’s most important young filmmakers. Although far from perfect, “Withered in the Blooming Season” gives a great deal to think about.

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“Quemar las Naves” (“Burn the Bridges”)–a family

“Quemar Las Naves” (“Burn the Bridges”)

 

A Family

Amos Lassen

Francisco Franco’s “Quemar Las Naves” looks at a family of three: Eugenia (Claudette Maille), the mother, a former pop singer dying of cancer, Helena (Irene Azuela), her 19 year old daughter who wants to travel the world and become a singer like her mother and Sebastian (Angel Onesimo Nevares) who studies and plays classical music and has the desire to do little more than to move to the beach. The three are stuck somewhere between desire, death and dreams of the future.
Sebastian and Helena develop a special love for each other as they care for their dying mother yet Sebastian also feels sexually drawn to a boy at school. There is tension as well between brother and sister since Helena stays at home caring for her mother while Sebastian can go where he wants and even find a human connection away from home. In this case it is with Juan, the new boy at school. Helena becomes jealous and things at home explode after the death of Eugenia and the future of the family house becomes uncertain.
Into the picture comes Ismael with his repressed desire for Sebastian and Aurora who rents a room in the house. We are given a look at the strange nature of the family as well as the powerful position held by the youngest male and his yen for freedom in a place that is devoutly Catholic.
Every cliché in film appears here—incest, homosexuality, the broken family, abuse and death but Franco handles everything in a way so that it all appears brand new. The plot is not bogged down by these clichés because the performances are all so brilliant. The film glows with beauty and Azuela gives an Oscar worthy performance. This probably could have lapsed into black comedy; Franco guides his film to be a true highlight of Mexican cinema. Because we are never quite sure where the movie is going, we are interested throughout.

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“Spring Fever”–a menage a trois

“Spring Fever”

A Ménage a Trois

 

Amos Lassen

“Spring Fever” is Lou Ye’s first film after having been banned from making films in China because of his explicit sex scenes. Unfortunately it is not very good. He takes a look at gay sex this time in the film he made in central China and he attempts to create an atmosphere by which his characters who are caught up in a metaphysical fever, become involved in sexual situations. We watch a time of year when nature seems to take over and there is a lot of rain and haze. It as if we are to think about the relationship between nature and man.
The film begins with nudity. Wang Ping (Wu Wei) is married but he has a male lover, Jiang Cheng (Qin Hao) and he does not know that his wife, Lin Xue (Jiang Jiaqi) is having him followed by someone who takes pictures of the two men together. The three have dinner together and the wife attacks the husband for his unfaithfulness and then she humiliates him at the place where he works. There are wonderful scenes but the rest of the film never again reaches that level. Complications ensue and the film seems to never want to end. The director is filled with poetry, some of which seeps onto the screen and the film looks at how cruel emotions can be.
The music is wonderful and fits the film perfectly. There were times I felt I was watching a documentary because of the way the filming presented the ideas to us. I also found myself to be at one with the characters, occasionally, but by and large I was isolated from them. Melancholy takes over the film and what could have been very strong and powerful becomes like a television soap opera. I believe the film is meant to be impressionistic and this is something that is very hard to capture. Here it was not.

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“Happy Together”–loneliness and alientation

“Happy Together”

 

Loneliness and Alienation

Amos Lassen

Two young Asians, Yiu-Fai and Po-Wing arrive in Argentina from Hong Kong and start their holiday. However, something happens and their relationship turns sour. Yiu-Fai decides that he should return home and starts working in a tango bar so that he can buy a plane ticket. Suddenly Po-Wing appears and he is bruised and beaten. Even though Yiu-Fai shows empathy, he cannot enter into a romantic relationship with his friend. Po-Wing, unlike his friend, is not ready to settle down. After changing jobs, Yiu-Fai meets a young guy from Taiwan, Chang and his life changes again while Po-Wing is shattered.
Kar Wai Wong directed this little gem of a film about the nature of loneliness. It is a non-linear film that shows the truth about modern relationships. Here is a story about emotion and love and it challenges the title it was given. It is about those difficulties that surround a relationship on the skids. Alienation both within and outside of the relationship is what dooms it. In the beginning we see that the two young men cannot find equality or balance together and this leads them to despair. When Po-Wing had been ill and had to be cared for, their relationship thrived but as his health improved, Fai drew away from him and refused any attempt at intimacy. Now that Wing was well enough to do for himself, the balance of power between them shifted, Po-Wing slowly slips away from the guy he loved and entered the world of street hustling.
Each of the men are devastated by the loss of love. We sense the alienation between them as well as the alienation they feel in society. I am not sure that this is necessarily a gay film—the lead characters just happen to be gay but this is a story that can apply to anyone—loneliness is universal as is the melancholia that comes with it.
The actors are wonderful in their roles and we feel what they feel—making this not an easy film to watch. The film is basically a look at a couple falling in and out of love—their sexual identification does not matter. They guys are lost souls who are lonely and longing and lovelorn. Their escape to Argentina proves to be their undoing but it would have happened anywhere. Argentina physically represents their relationship—claustrophobic and oppressive, something that might have been beautiful yet becomes a symbol of escape.
What really makes this film so absorbing is the emotional authenticity. The director aimed at the heart and he hit his target.

“Happy Together” is also available on blu ray.

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“Nu Regret”–love and politics

“No Regret

Love and Politics


Amos Lassen


“No Regret”, a romantic drama about two Korean gay men that interweaves the beauty of love with the harsh politics of distinctions between classes.
Sumin at 18 years old is no longer eligible to stay at the orphanage where he has been raised. He is on the street with only a backpack and money to buy a train ticket. He is an industrious teen and he heads to Seoul where he gets a job in a factory, attends night school and sets about building a life. He rents a small apartment with a friend from the orphanage. He feels that his roommate is attracted to him but he suffers from the insults that he throws at him. Like other men who are deeply in the closet, this is first encounter with the attraction/revulsion syndrome.
Things are not easy for Sumin financially and he takes an additional job at a limousine agency that caters to the late night party people. One of his first clients is Jaemin, a wealthy and successful yuppie who is in the process of using alcohol to drown his troubles. On the first outing Jaemin claims he has forgotten his wallet and asks Sumin to come upstairs to be paid. After sharing a nightcap, Jaemin makes a pass at Sumin which is rejected but Sumin smiles to himself as he leaves.
Sumin learns that Jaemin’s father is the CEO at the company where he works and where downsizing is going on. Jaemin saves Sumin’s job and when the others tease Sumin he quits, takes another job and gets fired because of his poor attitude. Sumin is broke and takes a job as a sex worker at a gay bar. Sumin tries to save money for college but spends foolishly. When Jaemin comes to the bar and requests Sumin he is rejected again and again and after a bitter scene one evening Sumin takes Jaemin home and succumbs to him and his own desires. All is fine until Jaemin’s fiancée catches them and Jaemin realizes that he must conform to class expectations and marry. Schemes follow and one plan almost ends in tragedy as possessive obsession overtakes one of the men but in the end all is worked out. To tell anymore would ruin the viewing for you.
What is interesting about “No Regret” is that it was made before other films dealing with gay life in Korea came to the fore. It is an unconventional film by Korean standards but it is an important film in the tradition of others who have made melodramatic films. It is a contemporary look at Korean gay life as well as a realistic depiction of class conflict and romance. It is powerful and emotional with excellent direction and beautiful performances. The characters are honest and real and the plot is well developed.

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