Posts Tagged ‘LGBT’

Il Mio Corpo (2020) ****

Dir.: Michele Pennetta; Documentary with Oscar, Roberto and Marco Prestifilippo, Stanley Abhulimen, Blessed Idahosa; Switzerland/Italy 2020, 81 min.

In 2012 Italy had the highest child poverty in Europe and the struggle for these kids to survive and seek a better life is the focus of Italian filmmaker Michele Pennetta. Following in the footsteps of his award-winning compatriot Gianfranco Rosi (Fire at Sea), this thoughtful approach examines lives shattered by conflict, for very difference reasons.

After Pescatori di Corpi, which looked at illegal Syrian fisherman in Italy, Pennetta’s full length documentary hybrid chronicles two parallel lives: teenagers Oscar and Stanley. Stanley hails from Nigeria and is living on a limited visa. Oscar’s mother left his overbearing father Roberto with four children, who are looked after by her sister. Oscar takes the brunt of his father’s anger while his younger brother Marco is the favourite, the family making a meagre living from collecting scrap metal from illegal dumping sites.

The poetic opening scenes see Marco unearthing a miraculously unscathed Madonna in a dump site. They heave her up onto the road, a close-up looking very much like the Jesus statute transported by the helicopter in Fellini’s Otto e Mezzo. Labels are everything in Italy and Oscar hopes to gain social traction with a t-shirt emblazoned “Member of the Club Prive”. But the magic doesn’t rub off. He remains subdued by his father’s animosity and threat to “exchange him for a black man”. An insult as mean as it is racist.

We soon learn the secret of the Prestifilippo family: Roberto accused Oscar of siding with their mother when she snitched on him to the court. The two older brothers (a boy and a girl toddler are always in the background) defend themselves: “Mother beat me, there were no toys promised, no Super Mario, she said ‘I kill you if you don’t obey'”. Roberto relents in the end: “My fault was always caring too much for you guys, your mother’s mistake was leaving for this bastard. If she loved you, she would come back.” But the family dynamics are set in stone, and Oscar will not forgive either of his parents. Later, Roberto tells his oldest son: “The truck is our breadwinner, not you!”

On the other side of the island, life is on hold for Stanley and his Nigerian compatriot Blessed. Both are affected by their visa status and Blessed’s case in still pending. Blessed is critical of Stanley: “If I had a visa, I would leave Sicily immediately”. Stanley’s response is adamant: “You are a parasite, you will be a beggar for the rest of your life.” Stanley has a point: he is eking out an existence doing jobs for the local priest, Blessed just waits for a decision to be made. Eventually the two fetch up at the local tribunal which doesn’t end well for Blessed, Stanley reluctant to translate the  the verdict. Blessed is never seen again in a poignant final sequence.

We end on a scripted passage that finally brings Oscar and Stanley together in a dilapidated farmhouse. DoP Paolo Ferrari takes major credit for the success of this melancholic story: his softly lensed images of the rugged countryside where the sun shines mercilessly, will stay in the memory for a long time afterwards. The strength of the feature lies in the contrast between the magic of this island paradise and the tragedy of its broken inhabitants, locked in a cycle of enforced indolence and resignation. Marginalised, for very different reasons, characters like Oscar and Stanley are wasting their lives away, unable to find a meaningful existence beyond hope and brief interludes of joy garnered from youthful bravado. In this craggy mountain idyl their future will be an uphill struggle. AS


The Hater | Sala Samobojcow Nejter (2020) **** Netflix

Dir.: Jan Komasa; Cast: Maciej Musialowski, Gabi Krasucka, Danuta Stenka, Jacek Koman, Agata Kulesza, Adam Grandowski, Maciej Stuhr, Piotr Biedrom; Poland 2020, 135 min.

Polish director Jan Komasa (here teaming up with again with his script writer Mateusz Pacewicz from Corpus Christi fame), goes from strength to strength, his latest outing Hater, a blend of sexual and party politics, went on to win this year’s Best International Narrative Feature Award at Tribeca.

It follows Tomasz (a strong Maciej Musialowski) who has just been sent down from his Law studies for plagiarism, and is licking his wounds in the company of God parents Robert (Koman) and Zofia (Stenka) and their daughter Gabi (Aleksander) in their plush Warsaw flat. Leaving his mobile behind on purpose so he can eavesdrop on their negative comments about him, he is left deflated. Their relationship goes back a long way, the Krasuckas and Tomasz’ family often holidayed together, and the young man has always carried a candle for Gabi, who is already involved, and has dropped out of university due to drug problems.

Tomasz is hungry for affection from the Krasuckas, but also hell bent on revenge. He joins the social media agency run by the devious Beata Santorska (Kulesza), and soon he is on the staff of liberal politician Pawel Rudnicki (Stuhr), who is running for mayor, Krasucka family are among his main followers. Tomasz wins Rudnicki’s trust, the young man ‘thanking’ him by luring the seemingly bi-sexual candidate into an LGTB club. But the scandal doesn’t impact negatively on Rudnicki. Then Tomasz goes for broke, arranging a march by Rudnicki’s supporters next to a “White Power” demonstration. Failing again, he uses his last ace, Stephan ‘Guzek’ (Grandowski), a mentally impaired right-wing weapons addict. The ensuing bloodbath is nothing compared with the brilliant twist at the end.

Tomasz is a baby-faced psychopath who does everything to undermine the Krasuckas, but still is desperate for Gabi’s love. There is a world of difference between Tomasz’ behaviour at work (where he cruelly dismisses his former boss Kamil, having overtaken him in usefulness for Beata), and his miserable home life. Tomasz is almost reduced to tears when Gabi leaves with her new boyfriend for New York. Komasa shows how social media can become the last resort for the frustrated, masochistic loser, desperate for revenge and needy of love. DoP Radek Ladczuk’s hard-edged images leave nothing to the imagination: Kieslowski would have been proud of his soulless city where superficial consumerism and racist hatred has replaced the drabness of Stalinism. AS



Tremors | Temblores (2019)

Dir: Jayro Bustamente | Cast: Juan Pablo Olyslager, Diane Bathen, Mauricio Armas Zebadua, María Telon, Sabrina de La Hoz | Drama, Guatemala. 102′

The wrath of God comes down on a Guatemalan financier who tries to leave his wife in Jayro Bustamente’s gloweringly oppressive sophomore feature. There is a definite touch of Garcia Lorca to this fraught affair that sees Juan Pablo Olyslager as the good-looking husband to Isa (Diane Bathen) and father of two in a prominent Evangelical family where the matriarch still rules the roost with fire and brimstone. Not quite as enjoyable at the Guatemalan director’s first feature Ixcanul (2015) this will certainly be popular with the LGBT+ crowd and arthouse audiences who have tuned in to the creative wealth coming out of South and Latin America at the moment.

Guatemala City looks strange and exotic in the brooding widescreen images of cinematographer Luis Armando Arteaga, who also lensed Ixcanul. And to complete the atmosphere Julien Cloquet has devised a haunting soundscape that compliments the tremors of the film’s title. It appears to be the rainy season adding to the gloom of this sombre story with its emphasis on machismo and the importance of holding onto your man – if you’re a woman, that is. But also if you’re a gay man. The LGBT+ community are really having a tough time of it in the bars and spas where Pablo (Olyslager) runs into tousled haired loose-limbed Francisco (Mauricio Armas Zebadua), who inhabits these haunts with an air of world-weary nonchalance knowing full well the competitiveness of his game.

Meanwhile behind the tight security of Pablo’s upmarket family citadel a battle rages to get him to see sense and realise the shame he is bringing on the family, particularly his parents, with a scandalous revelation that comes to light in the opening scenes. So serious is the situation that Pablo is also forced to resign his post amid accusations of paedophilia, leaving him a rather sorry figure as he hangs around the spa where Francisco offers neck massage.

His wife is being supported by the family housekeeper (Maria Telon) as she goes about her day trying to gain comfort from her girlfriends who urge her to focus on getting Pablo back, at any cost. This is further emphasised by the overt community prayers at the family’s Evangelical Christian church where the pastor (Rui Frati) and his brisk sidekick  (Sabrina de la Hoz) exhort the congregation into loud praying. There are some flaws in a script that focuses on the atmosphere of dread and wrong-doing rather than the exact nature of Pablo’s wrongdoing and why he agrees to submit to the church’s “conversion therapy programme” – a highly contemporary sounding measure in the traditional and devoutly Catholic country. As a result it all becomes rather telenovela-ish and histrionic. What does emerge from this striking feature though is the vehemence of the community against sexual deviation of any kind. MT


Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy (2018) ***

Dir/Wri: Justin Kelly | Cast: Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, Diane Kruger, Jim Sturgess | US Biopic Dram | 108′

The story behind the literary persona JT LeRoy, created by American author Laura Albert, has certainly had some cinematic mileage. Albert took part in the documentary Author: The JT Leroy Story (2016) that screened a few years ago at the BFI Flare’s Film Festival, Here she is played by Laura Dern in Justin Kelly’s slick and lively re-imagining of one of the most brazen literary hoaxes known to mankind. Albert published three books in the early years of the 21st century, under her nom de plume JT LeRoy. They explored the life of a sexually confused teenage boy, abused in childhood. A gamine Kristen Stewart plays her sister-in-law, Savannah Knoop, who comes to stay and ends up being persuaded by Albert to pose as JT for a promotional photo session. And it doesn’t end there. Dern and Stewart give luminous performances in this seamlessly pleasurable and darkly amusing drama that explores themes of gender fluidity, moral ambiguity and fraud. MT

Noël et sa Mère (2019) **** FID Marseille 2019

Dir.: Noël Herpé; Documentary with Noel Herpe, Michelle Herpé; France 2019, 103 min.
Writer/director Noel Herpé (Fantasmes et Fantômes) stages a soul-searching duel with is mother Michelle, translator, theatre director and actress. Noël is also known for his work as a film historian, particular on Eric Rohmer. In front of the camera the two wrestle with their love for each other, the quarrels often turning vitriolic. He calls Michelle a witch with the face of human mother.
Michelle Voslinsky was in Paris in 1940, being Jewish, she had to hide from the Germans. After losing her mother the age of nine “she felt not entitled to a life like others, meaning no marriage, I was sure, nobody would love me”. Her much older husband Henri (father of Noël b. *1965), was bi-polar, and capable of strange behaviour, often offering his wife to visitors. And sometime Michelle did not need his encouragement, “motherhood was not my strength”.
She raised Noül as a girl, the odd couple produced an old doll, and immediately an argument breaks out as to whether the object could be defined as a doll. Next up is an accident in a pool, when Noël nearly drowned. Although his mother insists he mistook the adult pool for the children’s one, Noël insists on an early suicide attempt at the age of four. This leads to him lamenting the lack of motherly love in general, whilst his father Henri always repeatedly told him:” I love you”.  They then discuss psychological neglect: “We are in a different film”.
Noël casts his mind back to the first film he even saw, running out frightened from the café in Avignon. I was afraid of everything that moved. No wonder I became a film-historian, it is the stillness of the past that attracts me.” The family had bough a property in Poudrigne, and Noël spend many holidays with older half-brother Olivier in the countryside and when he was five, he heard his his mother crying behind closed doors, “so I opened the door”. Since then, he has tried to forget the images – but was at the same fascinated by them. For once, Michelle is contrite: “It was harmful for you, I have to love with the guilt”. Both agree, that Henri was a repressed homosexual. His son Noel would follow in his footsteps, after taking in interest in his mother’s tights, he also borrowed her clothes and jewellery. For Noel it was life-changing: “I felt like becoming my mother”. Michelle comments: “the tights look better on your friend Cyril, who is much slimmer than you”.
A short film “Man” documents young Noel’s entrance into the life of a fetishist. But he rejects the idea of being an exhibitionist: “I am just saying I am my mother. A ghost of my mother”. After Michelle left her husband at he age of 37, Noël moved in with Henri, to look after him. Henri’s mental health was deteriorating. Mother and son agree – for once – that Michelle loved her husband, whose death was never totally explained. Michelle admits still feeling love for him today. Both mother and son worked at the theatre: “it was a period to re-connect with her. We shopped together for dresses”. But soon they argue about details of their stage collaboration, she accusing her son “of being like Trump”. Noel directed his first gay play in 1988, even though both agree that he is “a non-practising gay man.”He later confesses to  “lack any carnal dimension”. They finally come to the conclusion that he will miss her when she is gone, but he ends positing: “I set out dreaming of absolute love”.
Filmed either on a couch or on the stage of an empty theatre by Nils Warolin and Tao Favre, with family photos and old newsreels interrupting the talking heads, Noël et sa Mere, is a psychological striptease, fascinating and disturbing at the same time. Acting much more like frustrated lovers than mother and son, it is a portrait of mixed signals and double-binds. Unique and haunting. AS

Korean Film Nights | Love Without Boundaries

Korean Film Nights continue with a second season for 2019 ‘Love Without Boundaries’ – a programme of titles exploring Korean cinema’s bold exploration of romantic relationships existing on society’s margins.

Love, in its many guises, has always been a central concern in cinema. From the long-established vision presented in Hollywood studio pictures to the local dialect of any national cinema, romance has always had a place on film. Outside of cinema’s mainstream however, many exemplary filmmakers have long strove to represent a range of transgressive love stories in their work, bucking the idealised view codified in typical cinema fare. Delving deep into the key works from Korean cinema that have pushed against socially-accepted views of love and relationships, our season seeks to offer a snapshot into a diverse range of people and attitudes not typically seen on screens.

Comprised of six unique works from some of Korean cinema’s boldest voices from the past two decades (plus one remarkable early feature from 1956), our season explores representations of love located on the fringes of the cinematic landscape of their time. Challenging preconceived notions of what love should be, these films push up against societal views of what’s considered ‘normal’ to depict a variety of romantic relationships and the powerful human emotions they elicit. Encompassing taboo-busting depictions of same-sex romances and other marginalised individuals, the season offers a range of perspectives on bold, challenging subjects, offering a rare fully-realised and compassionate vision of people struggling for acceptance.

In our current social climate, past norms concerning gender, sexual orientation, and race, are increasingly being questioned and we’re seeing a sustained fight for diversity and inclusion in the film industry, both behind the camera and in front of it. ‘Love Without Boundaries’ aims to show how Korean filmmakers have pushed against societal norms by giving voice to characters who are not out to change the world, but are trying to live their lives and embrace their passions as best they can.

A Girl at my Door 도희야 / Thursday 4th July, 7pm / KCCUK

Screened in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in 2014, July Jung’s directorial debut follows lesbian police officer Young-nam (Bae Doona, The Host) after she is stationed to a quiet provincial town following a personal scandal.

No Regret 후회하지 않아 / Thursday 11th July, 7pm / KCCUK

Regarded as the first South Korean feature from an openly gay filmmaker, No Regret follows the complicated love and working life of a young man after he heads to Seoul and finds work at a factory and as a ‘taeri’- a designated driver for wealthy patrons after a night of drinking.

The Hand of Fate 운명의 손 / Thursday 18th July, 7pm / KCCUK

This melodramatic spy-thriller utilises a visually striking, film-noir style, and acts not only as anti-communist propaganda, but also as a commentary on the shifting roles and expectations of Korean women.

Love Without Boundaries: Shorts Night / Thursday 25th July, 6:30pm / Birkbeck Cinema

Love Without Boundaries presents Queer Love: Loving Outside the Mainstream, a night of short films, revolving around a strong central theme of LGBTQ+ struggles within South Korea.

Wanee & Junah 와니와 준하 / Thursday 1st August, 7pm / KCCUK

Wanee is a disenchanted animator living in the city with her scriptwriter boyfriend Junah, but cracks begin to show in their outwardly peaceful relationship when childhood friend So-yang visits in this taboo-breaking forbidden love drama.

Oasis 오아시스 / Thursday 8th August, 7pm / KCCUK

Burning director Lee Chang-dong won Venice’s Silver Lion for his challenging portrayal of the relationship between a woman with cerebral palsy (Moon So-ri, Little Forest) and a man (Sul Kyung-gu, Memoir of a Murderer) fresh out of jail for manslaughter.

Information supplied by the Korean Cultural Centre | Screenings take place at the Korean Cultural Centre UK and Birkbeck Cinema and are free to attend. More info here


Pier Paolo Pasolini: New Restorations at Bergamo Film Meeting 2019

The cinema of Pier Paolo Pasolini is one of the highlights of this year’s Bergamo Film Meeting taking place from 9 until 17 March 2019 in the ancient city just north of Milan in Lombardia.

PASOLINI AND THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, will consist of an exhibition of the auteur’s photos and the screening of three recently restored films: the delicately erotic Il fiore delle Mille e una notte (Arabian Nights (1974), and his two entographical documentaries: Le mura di Sana’a (The Walls of Sana’a (1971) and Appunti per un film sull’India (Notes for a film about India (1968).

In 1961 Pasolini took a trip to India with Elsa Morante and the writer Alberto Moravia (Il Conformista). Pasolini’s idea was to compare the stark reality of  the appalling poverty they encountered, with the myths and legends of the vast and exotic continent with its multi-faceted cultures. The focus here is Bombay and the extreme poverty of its environs. Sixty years later, the constrast betweet rich and poor appears even more polarised.

In 1971, while filming of The Decameron, Pasolini made this 13 minute documentary serving as an impassioned plea to UNESCO to preserve Yemen’s capital and its ancient construction. The result was this short film The Walls of Sana’a.




Girl (2018) ****

Dir: Lukas Dhont | Drama | Belgium | 97’

Adolescence is a terrible time of bewildering choices, sexual urges and obsession with appearance. Those ardently drawn to find a mate are the most cruelly punished, as others keep quietly buttoned down by insecurity or jealousy. Who knows what is happening physically at puberty, especially when bodies and minds feel confused about gender.

No one has expressed this better and more naturally than Belgian director Lukas Dhont with his latest feature GIRL, about a boy who wants to be a ballerina. This gender fluid teenager is played with thoughtful ease by 15 year old cisgender actor Victor Polster in a down to earth gem that rivals a A Fantastic Woman in every way.

Lara (Polster) has moved with her French-speaking father Mathias (Arieh Worthalter) and younger brother (Oliver Bodart) to study at Belgium’s most famous dance academy. So there are two important episodes that the teenager must face: preparing for transition, since she was born in the body of a boy, and working to become a professional ballet dancer. But Lara has all the support of her entourage including her family and new friends, and this is underlined in a tricky moment when the female students are asked whether they mind sharing their dressing room with their new colleague. This is all handled with consummate skill, and Lara soon settles in.

Dhont rose to fame with his titles Headlong and L’infini also set in the dance world and here he conveys Lara’s struggles through subtle body language and looks – there is a fascinating scene where Lara uses white tape to flatten her pelvic area in preparation for a skin tight ballet costume. While Lara is excited about the upcoming surgical operation, having been prepared by a Flemish psychiatrist (Valentijn Dhaenens), who does not want Lara to suffer any longer in the wrong body, his father Mathias is actually more nervous about his son’s hospital visit and the risks it involves.  

A tense tone sets in in the film’s second half where Lara suspects the hormones are not working, but this is down to impatience more than anything more serious.“You want to be a woman straight away,” Lara’s father says, “but you are an adolescent too”. The two then share one of the film’s most touching tête a tête’s. The film works best during these tender moments when we feel for the characters and their dilemma. These are crucial in preparing the audience for the startling finale, and Girl could have done with more of them. That said, Dhont manages to dovetail Lara’s physical transformation with her emotional adaption – no mean feat. 

This is very much Polster’s film and although the support cast feel natural and well-prepared, what really makes this enjoyable is the actor’s strong background in dance which is elegantly captured by strong visuals from DoP Frank van den Eeden, who focuses on the physicality and agility of the dance moves.MT

In cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema FROM 15 March 2019 

The Man Who Surprised Everyone (2018) **** IFFR Rotterdam 2019

Dir: Natasha Merkulova, Aleksey Chupov | Cast: Evgeniy Tsiganov, Natalya Kudryashowa, Yuriy Kuznetsov, Vasiliy Popov, Pavel Maykov, Aleksey Filimonov, Elena Voronchikhina, Maksim Vitorgan | Drama | Russia Estonia France | 105’

Russian directing duo Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov tackle a thorny subject with deftness in this classically styled and  surprisingly moving arthouse drama that had its premiere in the Orizzonti sidebar at Venice Film Festival 2018

LGBT issues are still viewed with hostility back home in Russia but the leads are completely convincing in their subtlely nuanced and solemn portrayal of a modern couple coping with extremely challenging conditions in a remote rural outpost.

Egor is a respectable family man who we first meet navigating his boat along the Siberian Taiga where he works as a forest ranger looking out for poachers. He and his wife Natalia are expecting their second child when Egor discovers he has terminal cancer but keeps his wife in the dark about his imminent death. But this is not the only secret the thoughtful middle-aged man harbours, and the filmmakers gradually draw us in establishing the couple’s joint and several feelings of joy for her, and mounting grief and unease for him: Egor must bear alone the double burden of his cancer trauma and his nascent sexual yearnings that will certainly require his wife’s forbearance. When he tells Natasha she persuades Egor to seek further help in looking for a cure. But no traditional medicine or shamanic magic can save him. Finally, left with no other option, he makes a desperate attempt to escape the reality of his death by channelling his feelings into self-identifying as a woman with initial alarm to his close community, followed by anger, disbelief and acceptance by Natasha, and we feel for both of them. His family and the local society now have to accept his new self.

Moody rain-soaked settings and subdued interiors add to the feeling of angst and quiet desperation as the couple struggle on trapped by poverty and Natasha’s ageing and ailing father in a scenario that will be feel familiar to many.

This is a grim and provocatively complex tale that needs clever handling and one that could have gone severely awry with disastrous consequences without the skill of a competent directing team. But instead clever scripting, skilful handling of the complex issues at stake and sensitive performances make for an absorbing feature and one with considerable dramatic heft as we wait for the startling denouement that requires a certain leap of faith but one that feels plausible and satisfying in the circumstances.MT


Maurice (1987) ****

Dir.: James Ivory | Writer: James Ivory, Kit Hesketh-Harvey | Cast: James Wilby, Hugh Grant, Rupert Graves, Phoebe Nicholls, Ben Kingsley, Denham Elliot; UK 1987, 140 min.

James Ivory’s second E.M. Forster adaption (framed by Room with a View and Howards End) is a melancholic gay love story, set in the years before WWI. Forster had written the novel in 1914 (two revisions followed), but it was only published a year after his death in 1971, when homosexual relationships were decriminalised in the UK. Whilst sharing a Silver Lion for Best Director for Ivory at the Venice Film Festival in 1987, the public reception was muted – the time for a mainstream feature about gay relationships had not yet arrived.

Starting in Cambridge in 1909, students Maurice (Wilby) and Clive (Grant) fall in love. Maurice is a romantic dreamer, but Clive is much more composed, and certainly draws the line when it comes to physical contact: his idea of a relationship is strictly platonic. He soon settles into his privileged  background, focusing on his career as a Tory MP with his timid wife Anne (Nicholls). Maurice, having been thrown out of Cambridge, becomes a stockbroker in his father’s business, but is still fighting with his gayness. He consults a doctor (Denholm Elliot), who declares him fit for marriage, and a hypnotist (Kingsley) – but he is unable to reconcile his innate feelings. He becomes a regular visitors to Clive and Anne’s estate – just to be near his object of desire – and eventually Maurice falls for a young farmhand Alec Scudder (Graves), who is set to emigrate to Argentina, but soon changes his mind, and Maurice gives up his society life for true love.

James Ivory wrote Maurice with Kit Hesketh-Harvey, rather than his usual writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvla – and repressed love and class barriers are the central themes. Shot at King’s College Cambridge and Palladian House in Wiltshire, these backgrounds assumed increasing importance as the narrative unfolds. DoP Pierre Lhomme (Camille Claudel, Cyrano de Bergerac) lets the light play over the sunny meadows, misty rivers and majestic stately homes. This is the England of the upper classes; where love, and passion, are stifled behind traditional closed doors. There is more excitement during the cricket match than in any of the relationships portrayed: therefore Maurice’s decision is much easier to comprehend. Unable to find satisfaction in his own background, he risks and jeopardises everything for love elsewhere. 

Thirty years after its premiere, Maurice still has emotional impact: like all true classics, it transcends time, and delivers a portrait of a society very much alive still today: behind the beauty of the exterior, lays the same problem: an England which has very little place for intimacy and passion – even though sex has become an commodity, like everything else. And outside the metropolis, homophobia is still a common currency, together with an increasing xenophobia. Ivory excels in portraying the beauty and the spiritual emptiness, side by side: E.M. Foster had to hide his sexual orientation until his death at the age of 91, and all of the director’s adaptations of his novels show protagonists hiding and appeasing society in this green and pleasant land. AS



The Ice King (2018)* * * *

Dir.: James Erskine; Documentary with John Curry, Heinz Wirz, Christa Fassi, Robin Cousins; UK 2017, 88’.

James Erskine’s documentary of the life of British ice-skater John Curry (1949-1994) is told as a classical Greek tragedy – which in many was it really was. Over one thousand letters by Currie and many witnesses tell a story of sporting triumph and a lonely private life leading to premature death due to complications of HIV and Aids.

Born in Birmingham, John suffered from an abusive father who forbade him ballet lessons, and continuously told him “something is wrong with you”. Luckily, John was allowed to take ice skating lessons, since this counted as a sporting activity. John’s father committed suicide when his son was fifteen. Soon John’s talent required him to leave Great Britain, to train in the USA with Carlo and Christa Fassi, a wealthy patron sponsoring his move. The British Ice-skating authorities ware not very helpful, they reminded Curry “not to skate so graceful”. Whilst male ice skating had for a long time been a mixture of running fast and jumping high, Curry innovated the sport by incorporating ballet moves in his free skate programme, a fore-runner of the Torvil/Dean partnership. In 1976 Curry won the European and World Championship and the highlight of his career, the Olympic Gold Medal in Innsbruck. He outed himself as gay shortly afterwards, and retired from the sport, to found his own Skating Company, performing in a West End Theatre and the Royal Albert Hall in 1984. World renown choreographers like Kenneth McMillan were instrumental in Curry’s success. “Scheherazade” (1980), was a great success, but “MoonSkate”, performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1984, was certainly the artistic highpoint of his latter career. Financially, not everything worked out, and Curry also became known to be a difficult director of his shows, particularly with female members of the cast. In 1987 he contracted HIV, and four years later Aids. Before living the final years of his life with his mother, his swansong on ice was a all male show of “The Blue Danube” to the music of Johann Strauss II.

Whilst his professional peers from the amateur days speak highly of Curry, such as Christa Fassi (“He was never a problem, we became friends”) and Robin Cousins (“He revolutionised the sport”). The ice-skater Heinz Wirz, who had an relationship early on with Currie, but stayed a friend and pen partner for the rest of the latters life, tells of Curry’s loneliness. It seems, that he wanted the perfect relationship, like the perfect skating troupe – and neither materialised. He also showed signs of bi-polar, certainly related to his deeply unhappy childhood. Erskine too often oversteps the borders of objectivity and delivers an hagiographic approach, which sits uneasily with the audience, since Curry was certainly not only the victim of others, but was unable to come to terms with the human fragilities of others, expecting always perfection on all levels. THE ICE KING is a moving document of the man who changed ice-skating for the better, and whose Ice Shows were a spectacular delight.AS



God’s Own Country (2017) | Bfi Flare Film Festival 2018

Dir.: Francis Lee; Cast: Josh O’Connor, Alec Secareanu, Gemma Jones, Ian Hart; UK 2017, 104 min.

Francis Lee’s feature debut is often hard watch to watch. This dour and utterly realistic portrayal of a gay relationship in the Yorkshire countryside does not spare humans or animals. But in spite of the gloominess of landscape and relationships, Lee allows a chink of sunlight into this country-noir.

Johnny Saxby (O’Connor) is a lost soul: he works for his stroke-impaired father Martin (Hart) on the family farm, his mother (Gemma Jones) watching his every step. The only entertainment is alcohol and quick sexual encounters in the pub toilet. Josh resents the world – but not as much as himself. Enter Gheorghe (Secareanu), a Romanian farm worker, hired to help Josh with the overbearing tasks of looking after the varied livestock and the land. Josh might be a country yokel, but he knows how to provoke Gheorghe at their first meeting: he calls him a Gypsy – but Gheorghe, who speaks near perfect English, wrestles him to the ground showing he’s no pushover. Gheorghe comes from a farming family experience and shows imagination and knowledge whilst saving a new-born lamb, Josh warms to him, and after yet another wrestling match in the mud, the two become lovers. With his mother growing more and more suspicious of the two young men, Josh’s father suffers a second stroke, leaving him bedridden for good. Stressed out, Josh takes up again with one of his casual lovers, but is caught in flagrante by Gheorghe, who leaves the farm.

DoP Joshua James Richards (Songs my Brother taught Me) beautifully captures the dappled Yorkshire countryside – always changing from light to shadow in support of the moody narrative. O’Connor is brilliant as Johnny, showing both vulnerability and brutal aggression. Secareanu is his equal: his Gheorghe is a much more developed personality than Johnny, but he is traumatised by the events in his homeland – one can only guess how homosexuals are treated in rural Romania, but we don’t know that he is not bisexual. Josh’s parents are trying to hold everything together, but in the end, they are both totally dependent on their son. So Josh, for the first time, gets a chance to be his own master.

God’s own Country has, in contrast with many contemporary British films, an intricate narrative, and a proper dramatic arc: Lee, who grew up on a farm in Yorkshire, directs with assurance, never rushing anything; incorporating the gloomy landscape into the human mire. A great character study, and a visual feast, even though some more delicate souls might have to close their eyes now and again. MT

Screening during Bfi Flare on 1st April |ON BLURAY AND DVD FROM 29 JANUARY 2018

I’m Fat (2017) | IDFA 2017

Dir: Halit Levy | Doc | Israel | 53’

Tel Avivi filmmaker and counsellor Halit is obese and she feels defined by it despite her humour, appealing personality and talent evident in this colourful documentary which she made and narrates herself. She’s happy in her body, and of being a lesbian in love with her life partner Chen, but fat is something you cannot hide – it’s the ultimate taboo, the elephant in the room. I’M FAT is a straight-talking and illuminating film exploring in the issues surrounding obesity today.

The problem is clearly visual, like baldness but unlike sexual identity or even infertility – that are not readily apparent until you delve deeper – fat is literally in your face, and can’t be disguised.

Halit does not feel diminished by her state but she is clearly bugged by it enough to express how it affects her life and describes her journey towards change. Through talking with various therapists what comes to light is fascinating and also tragic: in Halit’s case sexual abuse as a child could be the root cause of her condition, it left her with a deep-seated need for control and self-protection.

I’M FAT is well made and absorbing putting its points across simply and clearly as it debates the questions raised. Reuven Brodsky’s camera gets out and about in the seaside capital offering a rich flavour of the vibrant modern metropolis that is Tel Aviv. The documentary’s psychological insights will be of interest to all audiences helping society as a whole understand the complex issues that often lie behind obesity and at just under an hour it doesn’t overstay its welcome with a positive and convincing finale. MT

SCREENING DURING IDFA | 15-26 november 2017



Heartstone (2016)

Dir/writer: Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson | Cast: Baldur Einarsson, Blaer Hinriksson, Dilja Valsdottir, Katla Njalsdottir, Soren Malling, Nina Dogg Filippusdottir | Drama | Iceland | 129′

In a remote Icelandic fishing village the hostile terrain provides a chilly counterpoint to the sexual awakening of two young teenagers in this movingly thoughtful if overlong feature debut. The young cast of newcomers is really what makes HEARTSTONE such an affecting drama, rather than its meandering narrative. We feel for them in their unsettling changes, but this would have held more more dramatic weight with a tighter edit. This is a small criticism for an impressive start. Writer-director Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson has really marshalled his material and created an impressive film that certainly shows great insight into the kids’ confused state of adolescence.

The story follows best friends Thor (Baldur Einarsson) and Kristjan (Blaer Hinriksson) are who are at a loose end in this remote outpost, and given to bouts of aggression, sadly directed at wildlife, but there is also a tenderness between the boys – and they are only boys – with Thor still really only a child. Despite the country setting, family life isn’t easy and Thor is constantly teased by his older sisters — Rakel (Jonina Thordis Karlsdottir) and the more creative Hafdis (Ran Ragnarsdottir), who has a penchant for Bjork. Their father has cleared off with a younger woman, leaving their mother (Nina Dogg Filippusdottir) unsettled emotionally as she casts around for another man. Kristjan’s father (Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson) is rather butch and macho – clearly a homophobic and hard drinker. The boys have already tried their luck with girls: Beta (Dilja Valsdotttir), and her friend Hanna (Katla Njalsdottir). But their true colours slowly emerge (and I mean slowly) on a spiky camping trip – not least due to the undergrowth. There’s a memorably dramatic scene where Kristjan’s father takes the boys up a mountain side to search for gulls’ eggs but the pace slackens during the final scenes despite a certain poignance in the ending that makes this an impressive first feature. MT


Bfi Flare Film Festival 2017 | 16-26 March 2017

The 31st Edition of BFI Flare is back on 16th March. This year once again promises to be provocative, playful and politically engaged – appealing to both straight and LGBT audiences – a number of World, International and European Premieres are on offer. BFI Flare is absolutely the place to see the best new LGBT cinema first.”

AGAINST_THE_LAW_still_lovey_on_bench copyOpening with the World Premiere of Fergus O’Brien’s BBC Production AGAINST THE LAW (left) at BFI Southbank. The Festival closes with the International Premiere of Jennifer Reeder’s SIGNATURE MOVE at BFI Southbank. The Centrepiece Screening of the 2017 Festival is the European Premiere of TORREY PINES, a psychedelic stop-motion animation about a child grappling with gender identity and a schizophrenic mother. And there will be two World Premieres on offer as Special Presentations: the new UK web series, DIFFERENT FOR GIRLS, a smart, sassy, sexy multi-layered lesbian drama, directed by award-winning Festival alumni Campbell X and AFTER LOUIE starring Alan Cumming as a New York artist whose life is turned upside down by an encounter with a much younger man.

LGBT still people struggle for basic human rights in many countries, so BFI Flare presents a selection of films and events which explore their experiences around the world.

OUT OF IRAQ (dirs. Eva Orner and Chris McKim) is an outstanding documentary about the forbidden relationship of two Iraqi young soldiers at the height of the Iraq war.

THE PEARL OF AFRICA (dir. Jonny von Wallström) follows the story of Cleopatra Kambugu, the first out transgender woman in Uganda (left).

As part of the UK/INDIA 2017 Sridhar Rangayan, the Director of Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival will attend BFI Flare and take part in an event exploring LGBT film and television culture in India, Once again the festival is divided into a trio of strands for ease of reference


H E A R T S includes films about love, romance and friendship. We recommend:

HANDSOME_DEVIL_2 copyHANDSOME DEVIL, fresh from Sundance comes John Butler’s drama which has Andrew Scott as a witty Irish charmer which charts the unlikely friendship between an isolated gay teen and his hunky rugby playing roommate.

HEARTLAND, Maura Anderson’s elegant and assured debut is a powerful examination of love and loss and tells the tale of Lauren, who is forced to return to live in rural Oklahoma following the death of her girlfriend.

DEAR DAD: (dir. Tanuj Bhramar) in India-set a father and son move closer in a bittersweet road movie.

BEING 17: André Techiné’s powerful and affecting tale of two young boys in their last year of high school, co-written by Celine Sciamma (Tomboy, Girlhood) – review

SEVENTEEN: the pain and heartache of young love is laid bare in Monja Art’s hugely accomplished second feature.

B O D I E S – features stories of sex, identity and transformation.

THE UNTAMED: see review

MILES : Nathan Adloff’s winning gay teen movie.

HANDMAIDEN: Park Chan Wook’s ravishing oriental upstairs/downstairs tale of deception inspired by Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith

BODY_ELECTRIC_1 copyBODY ELECTRIC (left). Marcelo Caetano explores the casual encounters of a handsome young man in contemporary Brazil.


BELOW HER MOUTH; an entirely female crew create a no holds-barred depiction of what happens in the first few days of two women falling in love.

RAISING ZOEY; Dante Alencastre’s documentary follows a strong family who demonstrate how open mindedness and love can pave the way for a joyful transition for their 13-year-old Zoey.


THE TRANS LIST; Timothy Greenfield Sanders returns to BFI Flare with The Trans List, in which some of the world’s most prominent transpeople, including Caitlin Jenner and Laverne Cox, tell their stories.

M I N D S  features reflections on art, politics and community.

THE SLIPPERS: Morgan White chronicles the world’s most recognisable pair of shoes in this documentary about Dorothy’s iconic ruby footwear in The Wizard of Oz.

TWO_SOFT_THINGS_2 copyTWO SOFT THINGS, TWO HARD THINGS; Mark Kenneth Woods sensitively observes the complexities of LGBT life in Canada’s remote Arctic Inuit population.

LAST MAN STANDING  (dir. Erin Brethauer) is a beautifully made documentary charting the life of eight long-term survivors who live with AIDS.

THE UNTOLD TALES OF ARMISTEAD MAUPIN: a documentary about the much-loved author of Tales of the City

ORLANDO_1 copyORLANDO: THE QUEER ELEMENT: Sally Potter’s delicious visual feast adapted from Virginia Woolf’s tale of gender identity through the ages

BFI Flare also includes a wide range of events, talks and debates.

And music-wise the BFI Flare joins forces with interactive theatre company Clay & Diamonds for Orlando: The Queer Element, an education event which uses Sally Potter’s film and Virginia Woolf’s text to allow audiences to step inside a world that breaks apart traditional boundaries between science and art and explore notions of gender and sex from the Elizabethans through to 2017.

Tickets NOW ON SALE | 16 -26 MARCH 2017 

Multiple Maniacs (1970)

Dir: John Waters | Comedy Drama | 93 mins |US

John Waters’ MULTIPLE MANIACS is a slim but grotesquely bloated comedy caper that could benefit from a general tightening up, not least where its portly central character Lady Divine is concerned. It’s 1970 and the pouting princess of porn is poncing around Baltimore in a petulant fit after she discovers her boyfriend Mr David is being unfaithful with a wannabe star in her own comedy circus, the Cavalcade of Perversions, a disgusting free travelling show that lures punters in on a promise of free access to the most disreputable acts of indecency.

What starts as a fairly harmless peep show rapidly descends into mayhem and even murder in Maryland as the libidinous Divine wreaks havoc in this cheap and tawdry affair made all the more so by its grainy bleached out visuals and racket of a soundtrack. Yet there’s a touching honesty to MULTIPLE MANIACS that makes us forgive the creaky acting and amateurish scene transitions. Made on a meagre budget of $5,000 it was Waters’ second full length feature following on from his 1969 comedy Mondo Trasho, yet doubled its money on the opening weekend clearly marking Waters out as a cult director in the making. The narrative is not as light-weight as it would initially have us believe:  Heavily influenced by the murders of Sharon Tate and her houseguests, Waters likens the freak show minstrels to the marauding gang of Mansons who rape and pillage with tragic consequences. MULTIPLE MANIACS is not for the faint-hearted but it’s still eye-stingingly ludicrous, particularly the episode with the giant crustacean. Raucous and surprisingly watchable. MT

MULTIPLE MANIACS is screening from a new restoration from Janus Films – this restoration will present the Pope of Trash’s full, un-cut version for the first time ever on UK screens.


Rara (2016) | LFF 2016

Dir.: Pepa San Martin; Cast: Julia Lübbert, Emilia Ossandon, Mariana Loyola, Augustina Munoz, Daniel Munoz, Micela Christi; Chile/Argentina 2016, 92 min.

Filmmaker Pepa San Martin delivers a stingingly truthful portrait of family disintegration in her promising debut RARA, where a father uses the sexual orientation of his ex- wife to gain custody of their two daughters. Based on a true case in Chile, RARA is a sad account of judicial prejudice, told often in an ironic tone when describing situations bordering on the absurd.

In the Argentine city of Mar de Plata, Paula (Loyola) has left her husband Victor (D. Munoz) and taken their kids Sara (Lübbert) a maudlin teenager, and her much younger sister Catalina (Ossandon) to form a new family with. Lia (A Munoz). Things come unstuck when Sara tells her father about harassment at school because she lives with “two Mommies”, and Victor, a one time supporter of Pinochet in Chile, starts a court case to get custody of his two daughters, ably supported by a “tame” psychologist and his influential mother.

The catalyst of the narrative is Sara, whose teenage angst is driving her into the arms of her father, sometimes against her own will. Homelife for Paula and Lia is often problematic with the two arguing and causing friction between Catalina and her sister. At school, Sara’s best friend, Pancha (Christi), is everything Sara wants to be: slim, articulate, and indulged by her rich parents. Victor, manipulative by nature, uses Sara’s birthday party to alienate her from his ex-wife – after all, his house is much bigger than Paula’s. When Sara stays out late – just another attempt to copy Pancha – the situation boils over.

RARA, means strange in Spanish, and is certainly the situation finds herself in caused by adults who say something, but mean exactly the opposite. Sara flirts with co-student Julian, her sister is obsessed by a little kitten – their worlds do not meet. On top of it, Victor is a true macho man: when his new partner Nicole tells him to wash his hands before lunch, he immediately hits back, shouting at Sara to take her feet off the sofa.

RARA’s strongest moments are these small observations. The true victim is Sara, who is not only used by her biological parents as a pawn, but also is left to mother Catalina, since her father is hopeless at communicating with his girls and Paula is too engaged in her emotional struggle with Lia to notice, let alone care. Carried by Lübbert and Ossandon, RARE is always lively and tenderly humane as evoked in DoP Enrique Stindt visuals that contrast the two very different family homes, but also create lyrical scenes of the city, where Sara will find her freedom away from the interfering and selfish adults. AS


Moonlight (2016)|LFF 2016

Dir.: Barry Jenkins; Cast: Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Andre Holland, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, Jharrel Jerome; USA 2016, 110 min.

Barry Jenkins’ second feature MOONLIGHT is a mixed bag after the much-praised Medicine for Melancholy. High on atmosphere, but relying too much on atmosphere and restricted by a very episodic narrative, this gay interest drama is carried most of the time by great acting.

We first meet the main character, Chiron, in Miami, first as a small boy in Chapter One “Little”: Chiron (Hibbert) is running away from bullying kids, but his mother Paula (Harris) is not much help, since she is a good customer of the rather sensitive drug dealer Juan (Ali), who takes Chiron under his wing, helped by his partner Teresa (Monae). The dichotomy is that Juan is ruining Chiron’s home life, whilst fathering him at the same time. Chapter Two, “Chiron” sees the teenage boy, played by Ashton Sanders, questioning his sexuality, after an encounter with Kevin (Jerome). Torn between violence and passion, Chiron again ends up as victim. Chapter Three “Black” features the adult Chiron (Rhodes), who is a successful drug dealer, having pumped up his body meticulously in the gym. He meets a man from his past, and again, the quest for his own sexuality is the central answer to this episode.

Adapted from a play by Tarell McCraney by the director, MOONLIGHT leaves very much unsaid – behind the clichés – we suspect, there is a different Chiron hiding. The two main women in the film, his mother and Theresa, are not drawn out enough as real personalities and are mere cyphers, unlike Juan, who makes the most impressive impact on Chiron’s life. DoP James Laxton creates a wonderful mix between social and poetic realism. MOONLIGHT could have easily been set in South America; the glimmering light on the beach being central to the story. But some moments of magic do not compensate for the missing dramatic arc and dialogue which is often trite.

Certainly not a failure, MOONLIGHT nevertheless represents no progress for Jenkins; underlining the truism that any director’s second film is often the most difficult. AS


Theo and Hugo (2016)

Directors: Olivier Ducastel,  Jacques Martineu

Cast: Geoffrey Couet, Frqncois Nambot

97min | drama | France

This ‘boy meets boy’ drama deftly handles tonal shifts ranging from euphoria to anxiety to offer a slightly flawed but engaging experience of gay coupledom. What starts out as an 18 minute unbridled orgy in a Parisian sex dive (severely testing viewers’ attention spans), leads to a breezily romantic nighttime bike ride for Theo and Hugo (newcomers Couet and Nambot) who then make the angst ridden discovery that they have had unprotected sex and this leads to a blow by blow procedural of their medical treatment.

Capturing the freshness realisation of new love this drama will be a winner with the LGBT crowd or those drawn to bold filmmaking. MT


Departure (2015) |

Writer|Director: Andrew Steggall

Cast: Juliet Stevenson, Alex Lawther, Phenix Broussard, Finbar Lynch

108min | Drama | UK

An English mother and son make a final journey to their French holiday home in this intense character-driven debut which will appeal to fans of Joanna Hogg with its shades of Archipelago. In DEPARTURE Andrew Steggall shows impressive maturity in understanding life from the middle-aged perspective of parents Beatrice (Juliet Stevenson) and Philip (Finbar Lynch) and their pubescent son Elliott (Alex Lawther) and teenage friend Clement  (Phenix Broussard). So often English debut dramas can be gorgeous to look but weak on narrative structure, but Streggall excels in a subtly nuanced rites of passage story sensitively rendered in a palette of soft autumn hues that echo a woman’s tristesse at the dying days of her marriage and the last hurrah of childhood innocence. DEPARTURE is full of nostalgia: its contempo themes of sexual longing, emotional loneliness and loss drifting alongside childhood memories and familial attachments as mother and son cling to a past that held high hopes for a rosy future, now shrouded in uncertainty.

As they arrive at the shuttered lakeside home, it’s clear that Bea (50s) and Elliott (15) bring with them a sense of bitterness and uncertainty. Elliott is detached and petulant: too immersed in the stirrings of his nascent gaydom to be aware of his mother’s depressed state. Bea is tearfully preoccupied and overwhelmed with feelings of anger over her sexually ambivalent and emotionally distant husband and the loss of her cherished home. It’s a toxic dynamic handled with gracefulness by Stevenson (in Truly Madly Deeply mode) and impressive newcomer Alex Lawther (who has the look of a character from a Rupert Brooke war poem, complete with the jacket).

When Elliott spys the slightly older Clement (Phenix Brossard – a younger Denis Lavant) diving into the local reservoir, he is immediately drawn to his vibrant swagger, and intoxicated by his bravery – the water is strictly out of bounds. But Clement is impervious to Elliott’s attempts to engage him in conversation as the boy becomes intrigued with his only local (bilingual) friend. What’s more, Clement seems more sympathetic to Bea’s feelings fuelling a spark of jealousy within Elliott as his obsession grows and a curious ménage à trois develops.

Cinematographer Brian Fawcett (who honed his craft on Venus and Control) cleverly uses his lenses to focus on the subtleties of facial expression and gesture, creating an evocative sense of place in the wooded countryside and local market towns in the ancient terroir of Languedoc-Roussillon. Clement is the breath of fresh air in this buttoned-up threesome, injecting irreverent humour and a sense of combativeness: when Elliott becomes too prissy he comments: “You’re a bit of a cliché – ‘the poet’-  brusquely bringing things down to earth. And when the English couple drift into over-sensitivity, Clement pricks the bubble with his bullish earthiness. But he has a more reflective side to his personality and his occasional outbursts mask a troubled sadness. After the pent up scenes of his father’s visit, Elliott’s emotional epiphany is marked by an inspired slow-motion underwater scene scored to Dvorak, bringing a spurt of fresh energy to proceedings in contrast to Bea’s sad plight. Stevenson delivers an affecting finale that will resonate with many women, offering rare insight into the female psyche that refuses to rant outwardly; tending to internalise emotional pain: in some ways her character is the most complex and underwritten. Lawther, who played the young Alan Turing in The Imitation Game provides another typically English portrait of burgeoning adolescent sexuality; finely-tuned, verging on anally narcissistic. Brossard is fabulously feisty and almost feral, and there is strong but underwritten support from Niamh Cusack (as a neighbour) while Lynch does his best as the typically silent and deadly avoidant male. DEPARTURE is absorbing and watchable, and although it could be argued that Steggall lingers a little too long on some of the scenes, he offers a well-crafted and inspired first feature making him a welcome British talent in the making . MT


Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (2015) | BFI FLARE 2016

Director.: Stephen Cone

Cast: Cole Doman, Pat Healey, Elizabeth Laidlaw, Nina Ganet, Melanie Neilan, Daniel Kyri, Joe Keery, Patrick Andreas

87min | Drama | USA

Stephen Cone made his name with multi-awarded breakout drama The Wise Kids. Still only 35, his 7th feature is a coming-out story that revolves around a family swimming pool party in upmarket Chicago where the aponymous Henry is celebrating his 17th birthday.

In this die-hard Christian community, Henry’s parents and the huge majority of guests and friends are born again Christians, their lives guided by (often ostentatious) thankfulness to the Lord – or so it seems. We meet Henry (Doman) for the first time on the eve of his birthday, in bed with his best friend Gabe (Keery). The boys masturbate, Gabe enthusiastically enumerating the sexual high points if he could seduce the class-beauty – but it soon becomes clear that Henry’s sex object is lying next to him. The next day’s birthday party starts off on a dull note; the adults gossiping about goings-on in the church, where Henry’s father Bob (Healy) is a pastor. But the tempo soon changes when stunning beauty Christine (Neilan) arrives, the boys hanging on her every word, and it’s clearly not Gospel. Meanwhile, Henry’s sister Autumn (Ganet), is still coming to terms with the big wide world outside the God-fearing community, after her first year at college – she is also angry with her boyfriend who had somehow talked her into losing her virginity. Then there is Henry’s friend Ricky (Andreas) who had “got aroused under the showers when seeing the bodies of his mates”. He later tried to commit suicide, and at Henry’s party he locks himself in the bathroom and disfigures his face with a razor. Finally, it emerges that Henry’s parents also have a skeleton in the cupboard: his mother Kat (Laidlaw) had an affair with a popular church leader (now dead) his widow Bob in reminiscing about his ‘great character’. Although Bob has forgiven Kat, she wants to move on, but being the sole family member in on her son’s sexual orientation, she asks her husband to give Henry his blessing.

In this rambunctious drama Cone impressively captures Henry’s hypocritical family background, but tries to involve too so many sub-narratives that Henry’s story submerges below the water line. What floats on the surface is his shyness, verging on blandness, and it’s never clear whether Doman, choses to plays him meek and mild or whether he truly is an emotionless cypher. While everyone else is rising to the bait, Henry seems un-engaged, almost distant. Cinematographer Jason Chiu echoes this mood with some insipid visuals, bringing a suitably voyeuristic feel to the underwater scenes. While empathetic to Henry’s feelings, Cone never really delves into wider implications of the issue, preferring to sketch out a story involving a series of social stereotypes. At such HENRY GAMBLE’S BIRTHDAY PARTY works better as a treatise on life in a devoutly Christian community, than as an involving drama of sexual awakening. MT



Welcome to the House (2015) BFI Flare 2016

Director: Barbara Hammer | Documentary | 79min | US

Barbara Hammer creates an expressionistic portrait of the fascinating early 20th century American poet Elizabeth Bishop, exploring her love life and her outstanding contribution to the literary life of the era (1911-79) through black and white photos, dreamlike collages and an atmospherically eerie and evocative score. Selective talking heads offer informative and enchanting impressions of their charismatic friend and collaborator who was given to peripatetic wanderings to exotic places where she could give full reign to her lesbian lifestyle during ’30s prohibition.

This is a sensuous and often mesmerizing piece of filmmaking and Ms. Hammer, no stranger to the lesbian subject matter, embellishes her largely experimental documentry with charmingly suggestive incantations often accompanying readings of Bishop’s poetry and verses, some of which are impressively avantgarde: “I’m so hot to trot; I’m so hot to trot”.

Early on in Bishop’s life, it also emerges that her mother was committed to an institution leaving her to the care of grandparents in Nova Scotia where her eccentric (for the era) love life involved affairs with women of all ages from her college tutor to her classmates.

Spending many years in Brazil, she lived a bohemian and often toxic lifestyle near Petrópolis with successful architect Lota de Macedo Soares, on her modernist estate. Here Bishop became an alcoholic and Soares eventually committed suicide with an overdose. Later, at Harvard, Bishop eventually managed to relax into her sexuality, and expressed it through suggestive clothing and louche behaviour with her friends – fellow poets Kathleen Spivack and John Ashbery – in the privacy of her home where she played ping-pong in tight leather trousers.

But the most fascinating revelations come courtesy of her Brazilian housekeeper who paints a vivid and vehement picture of one of America’s most imaginative literary doyennes. MT



Women He’s Undressed (2016)

Dir: Gillian Armstrong | Doc 95’

Gillian Armstrong is no newcomer to exploring the lives of fascinating but lesser-known, niche designers: her biopic on Florence Broadhurst – another Australian designer (famous for her exquisite hand-printed wallpaper), and her ongoing documentary experiment with three Australian teenagers (now grown women) such as Smokes and Lollies, Fourteen’s Good and Eighteen’s Better, have received critical acclaim.

Her latest, a documentary WOMEN HE’S UNDRESSED is as much a portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s as it is an exploration of the life of Oscar winning Australian costume designer Orry-Kelly. WOMEN HE’S UNDRESSED plays out as part theatrical chamber piece, making good use of its stylish archival material,  photographs and interviews with well known talking heads sharing pithy and gossipy insights.

There are some stylishly imagined scenes performed by actors (Deborah Kennedy plays Florence Kelly and Lara Cox, Ginger Rogers) that take the lid off the fashion side of Hollywood film industry, giving the documentary an entertaining dramatic twist. Despite being largely unknown in his own country, we learn that Orry-Kelly was a prodigious talent who dressed stars in over 280 films during his lifetime including such legends as Baby Face, Casablanca, Some Like it Hot and 42nd Street. He literally  transformed actresses like Barbara Stanwyck (in The Lady Gambles) and Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca) creating a range of iconic costumes and stylish rigouts.

Clearly Orry-Kelly was gay, yet little emerges here of the costumier’s private life despite his candid efforts to be true to his ideals and authentic to the last: after marrying Randolph Scott, unlike many Hollywood characters, he made no attempt to cover up his sexuality by marrying a woman (unlike Cary Grant, Rock Hudson and so many others). Although not exhaustive, this is a watchable and welcome insight into Orry-Kelly’s life nonetheless. MT




Girls Lost (2015) |Pojkarna | BFI Flare 2016

Director.: Alexandra-Therese Keining

Cast: Tuva Jagell, Louise Nyvall, Wilma Holmen, Mandus Berg

106min | Sweden | Fantasy Drama.

GIRLS LOST is Swedish writer/director Alexandra-Therese Keining (Kiss Me) screen adaptation of Jessica Schliefauer’s prize-winning novel about three teenage girls who escape constant bullying at school courtesy of a magic drink. Keining uses slick ’80s retro styling and ‘CSI’ type computer graphics to portray the body-transfer scenes which are underpinned by a complex narrative exploring the true nature of sexual orientation.

In a macho school environment, three angst-ridden teenagers Kim (Jagell), Momo (Nyvall) and Bella (Holmen) cling together in a climate of sexual bullying from the boys, and a total lack of protection from their blasé teachers. One evening, Bella finds a mysterious seed that quickly sprouts a flower. After a night of fancy-dress partying (with masks straight out of Eyes Wide Shut), the trio imbibe the flower’s sap in a trance-like gender switching sequence where male actors take over their roles. Bella and Momo experience a boost of confidence when they morph back into their female identities during the daytime, but Kim is happier when she’s a boy. When the ‘male’ trio get invited to a football game Kim meets Tony (Berg), a tough guy from a nearby the estate. The two of them go on a burglary spree; Kim falling for Tony, whose harsh persona belies uncertainty about his own sexual orientation. Emboldened by the magic elixir, the girls seem better equipped to fight off male aggression at school: Kim is the only one addicted to the sap and Momo discovers her feelings for the male Kim, but the sap cannot last forever.

What starts as an adolescent-bonding movie soon develops into a serious discourse about the finer points of sexual orientation.  Kim is much more at home in male body than a female one. At the same time, he is drawn to boys, and rejects the female Momo, who has fallen in love with his male identity. What looked like at first as semi-lesbian trio, turns out into something entirely different: The female Momo is clearly attracted to boys (but not the one of the macho-variety she encounters at school), Bella is extremely shy and reticent, and has yet to discover her sexual identity, whilst the male Kim is prone to the male violence his female Alter-Ego hated so much. A big question mark hangs over female Kim’s future.

Keining’s direction is faultless but her script and particularly her dialogue is often trite and over-didactic. That said, GIRLS LOST is a daring and original fantasy drama made watchable by the visual impact of Ragna Jorming’s stunning cinematography. AS


Flare is 30! | LGBT Film Festival 2016 | 17-27 March 2016

FLARE is 30! And to celebrate, the BFI is offering a chance to see the latest films from a flirty selection – appealing to the arthouse crowd and gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender cineastes alike.

summertime-02 Kicking off, quite literally, with the World premiere of THE PASS, Ben A Williams footy-themed drama, stars Russell Tovey and Arinze Kene as Club lovers, in both senses of the word, who come together during an away match thousands of miles from home. And to close, SUMMERTIME  [La Belle Saison], Catherine Corsini’s passionate portrayal of Paris during the ’70s where Cecile de France and Izïa Higelin star as two very different women who fall in love against the feminist street protests in the French capital.

This year screenings benefit from the EASTER BREAK and will continue on the day after this Closing Gala (Easter Sunday 27 March) with a Second Chance Sunday devoted to 2016 Festival best-sellers and a selection of LGBT archive gems from the Festivals’ history. Every ticket on Second Chance Sunday will be offered at the discounted price of £8. As a highlight of the day, the BFI will show the film that tops a brand new critics’ and programmers’ poll of the top 10 global LGBT films of the last 30 years. The result of this BFI poll and all the films screening on Second Chance Sunday will be announced soon.

Mapplethorp - Look at the Pictures  copyBetween 17 – 27 March most screenings will be accompanied by Q&As and a chance to meet and debate with visiting talent including Silas Howard, the first trans director on Emmy and Golden Globe-winning Transparent, who will be in London to regale us with his experiences. Special Presentations include Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, an in-depth and uncompromising portrait of the life and work of the legendary photographer Robert Mapplethorpe by award-winning World of Wonder duo Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (Inside Deep Throat); Rebel Dykes, a work-in-progress screening event of Harri Shanahan and Sian Williams’ documentary which explores the forgotten ‘herstory’ of lesbian punk London in the 1980s. Jacques Martineau and Olivier Ducastel (Jeanne and the Perfect Guy, Drôle de Félix) will also be there in the wake of their Berlinale world prem Theo & Hugo, a finely crafted and provocative French drama.

Of the 50 features screenings, be sure not to miss the following Gala Specials, and highlights from the festival strands HEARTS, MINDS and BODIES.

DEPARTURE British director Andrew Stegall’s touching debut about a mother (Juliet Stephenson) and son Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game) struggling with their relationship. Barak and Tomer Heymann’s touching drama WHO’S GONNA LOVE ME NOW? fresh from Berlinale, which explores the family dysfunction of an HIV positive Israeli finding an adoptive second home in London as a member of London Gay Men’s Chorus. And from the Cult Classic strand CALAMITY JANE at the BFI IMAX will celebrate everyone’s favourite cowboy/girl Doris Day with this dazzling new digital restoration presented on the biggest screen in Britain.

from-afar-06H E A R T S  includes films about love, romance and friendship.

FROM AFAR – Lorenzo Vigas’ Golden Lion 2015 winner at Venice Film Festival;

THE GIRL KING – Mika Kaurismäki’s 17th century lesbian costume drama, set at the court of Queen Christina; CAROL Toddy Haynes’ masterful lesbian screen version of Patricia Highsmith’s novel stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara; DESERT HEARTS a cult classic lesbian ’80s love story as vibrant as ever, the only lesbian film shown at the 1986 edition; WHOSE GONNA LOVE ME NOW a gay Jewish man’s journey to find acceptance and stability amid the perils of hard drugs and HIV

sworn-virgin-01B O D I E S  features stories of sex, identity and transformation.

THE CHAMBERMAID LYNN – Ingo Haeb’s disturbing German story of a hotel-cleaner who becomes a fetish sexworker; NASTY BABY   a Brooklyn-set adoption story with a tragic twist; SWORN VIRGIN – Laura Bispuri’s startling drama stars Alba Rohrwacher as an Albanian whose transition to living as a man involves complex cultural traditions..

M I N D S    features reflections on art, politics and community

welcome-to-this-house-02THE TRIAL OF SIR ROGER CASEMENT a chance to catch a rare screening starring Peter Wyngarde as a man executed for treason in the ’60s; WELCOME TO THIS HOUSE Barbara Hammer explores the life of Pulitzer prize-winning author and lesbian Elizabeth Bishop; WOMEN HE’S UNDRESSEED a  genius Hollywood costumier’s life is told through the stars he dressed and undressed: Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe; KA BODYSCAPES Jayan Cherian’s sophomore drama explores themes of oppression and rebellion in the southern Indian province of Kerala, through the adventures of a young bohemian artist on the cusp of fame

While films and film cultural are at the heart of the BFI, the atmosphere at Southbank brings people from far and wide. This year the hugely popular BFI Flare Club Nights return (Fri 18, Sat 19, Thu 24, Fri 25 and Sat 26) at Benugo Lounge and Riverfront with our favourite DJs and newfound friends including Pitch Slap!, Sadie Lee and Jonathan Kemp, Pink Glove, Club Kali, and for Closing Night Bad Bitches and Unskinny Bop.


The Surface (2015) GFEST 2015

Director: Michael J. Saul

Cast: Harry Haines, Michael Redford, Nicholas McDonald

USA 2015, 81 min.

The line between art and caricature is a usually a fine one, but Michael J. Saul (Crush) has managed to cross the line with this wrong-footed romantic drama THE SURFACE.

Set in contemporary California, where the sun always shines, two high school students, Evan (Haines) and Chris (McDonald) live together, their beautiful bodies permanently on show, director Michael J. Saul doubling up as DoP. Chris is rich, and Evan is an orphan, always on the search for his identity. One day, he buys a 8mm camera from an old man. When he returns to see the man, his son Peter (Redford) tells him that his father has died. Peter gives Evan old home movies, shot by his father, and Evan re-edits them for a school film festival. He falls in love with Peter, and moves in with him. But said search for his identity starts to muddy the waters…

The only value of THE SURFACE is as a vey badly-acted soft porn movie. Dissolves and slow-motion are reminders, and not by chance, of the bad taste of some 1970s films. But it is the dialogue which takes first prize for sheer awfulness . When Peter philosophically states “people leave your life or they don’t”, Evan answers soulfully “I think that is sad”. Evan’s musings are equally deeply felt: “I don’t even know what happiness is, but it is not so important as people think”. And finally, he leaves us with another gem: “Some people find themselves when they are young, some, like me, take a lifetime”.

To say that THE SURFACE is an amateur production, is a slap in the face to amateurs. AS

The Surface screens at ArtHouse Crouch End on Tuesday 17 November as part of the LGBT ARTS FESTIVAL | GFEST FROM 9 NOVEMBER – 21 NOVEMBER 2015 | LONDON UK

The Falling (2014)

Wr/Dir: Carol Morley | Cast: Maisie Williams, Maxine Peake, Monica Dolan, Florence Pugh | Drama, UK, 102 min

Drenched in gothic and supernatural intrigue but with the pique of a spicy black comedy, Carol Morley, director of the haunting quasi-documentary Dreams of a Life, has sculpted a compelling film about a series of fainting fits that plague a 1960s all-girls school.

Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones fame stars as Lydia, a 16-year-old in a traditional countryside school in 1969. Lydia is inseparable from her best friend Abigail, the smarter, sexier, dominant partner in their friendship. But when Abi loses her virginity, a psychological barrier forms between the two of them. It seems to be a case of awe and insecurity rather than jealousy for Lydia, the two girls now separated by a sexual sea change, Abi having crossed the rubicon. She toys with the idea of a possible pregnancy – and soon starts vomiting in the morning and fainting in class: but is it really a pregnancy or just a psychosomatic reaction to her rite of passage. Then tragedy hits the school and Lydia and her friends start to experience the same symptoms, finding themselves rocked by supernatural force.

Morley slowly ratchets up the tension without forcing the pace. Something cruel bubbles beneath the surface of these characters. In her debut, Florence Pugh is convincing as Abi, a difficult first role which she handles with subtlety, and her singing voice echoes Britt Ekland’s Willow in The Wicker Man. Maxine Peake strikes just the right tone as Lydia’s spiky, near-silent mother, a hairdresser who works from home, too afraid to venture outside because of her own brush with a mysterious terror in the past.

Lydia’s brother Kenneth (Joe Cole) talks of magic and the occult being “just what’s hidden” – perhaps the mysterious stream that flows under the school or the magnificent oak tree in the grounds have some pagan significance. Monica Dolan gives an impressive turn as Headmistress, Miss Alvaro, bringing a certain style to the part that feels real to anyone who attended an English High School in the late 1960s.

This is a film that embraces the tradition of the Female Gothic of British letters: suppressed feminine sexuality, hysteria, insecurity and the supernatural – and Morley does her best to create a wildly witty drama from this superb premise that carries the film through some minor script flaws and a rather unsatisfactory plot resolution.

Lydia and her friends are 16 and their sexual coming of age reflects on the state of Britain on the cusp of the 1970s: a country finally facing up to its demons so successfully kept under wraps during the dreamy drug-addled haze of the 1960s; now politically unstable and unprepared for the future. These girls were the offspring of mothers who grew up during wartime and were raised by Victorian parents who were often repressive and certainly a great deal less permissive than today’s generation.

Morley had enjoyed a run of well-regarded shorts when the The Falling, her third feature, made its way onto our screens in 2014. The subliminal images cut into the film feel more gimmicky than revelatory, and some of the early progressive music choices feel out of tune with these teenagers who would more likely have been listening to The Osmonds, David Cassidy or David Essex, or even David Bowie. That all said, The Falling is a brave and ambitious attempt to capture a game-changing era in a psychodrama with a really stunning British, predominantly female, cast. MT





52 Tuesdays (2013)

Director: Sophie Hyde

Cast: Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Del Herbert-Jane, Mario Spate, Beau Travis Williams, Imogen Archer, Sam Althuizen

120min  Australia  Drama

Newcomer Tilda Cobham-Hervey gives a dynamite performance as sixteen-year-old teenager, Billie, in Sophie Hyde’s fresh and frisky drama about female sexuality. Just as Billie is ready to discover boys, her divorced mother (Del Herbert-Jane) has decided to become James, in a challenging transformation that will take a year. To make things easier, Billie goes to live with her father Tom (Beau Travis Williams) but this change of circumstances leaves a gaping hole in Billie’s emotional life, just when she needs her close female role model the most: they shared everything and James’ promise to spend every Tuesday with her offers little comfort. Tom is in a new relationship and offers little help or support as a dad.

Sophie Hyde is best known for her documentaries and here she makes use of that experience with docu-drama style that takes the form of a video diary through which Billie records her emotional journey. In order to retain a feeling of authenticity, filming took place chronologically over the period of the year during which James’ amazing transformation (with incipient to full beard) provides fascinating food for thought as well as engaging factual information about female-male transition. But it’s Billie’s emotional state that really strikes the most meaningful chord as we witness the fragile mother-daughter dynamic slowly degenerate. James’ focus on his own burgeoning sexual desires leave little room for his focus as a ‘mother’: it’s a big leap of faith to expect Billie to suddenly understand an adult male’s issues when she herself is undergoing so much disorientating change from being a little girl to a woman, with hardly any guidance.

52 TUESDAYS asks the evergreen and universal question: do we have a duty of care to our kids when they really need us most, or is our own happiness of primary importance in best equipping us to provide this valuable emotional succour. Obviously it’s a question without an answer, and Sophie Hyde’s observational style offers a non-judgemental snapshot. As Billie, Hervey-Cobham is tender, endearing and vulnerable as she manages her life as cheerfully and as intelligently as possible in challenging circumstances. Sadly Del Herbert Jane as James, much as we want to understand him, never really convinces us or engages our sympathies in his own transformational journey. MT



Of Girls and Horses (2014) | DVD release

Writer| Director: Monika Treut

Cast: Ceci Chuh, Alissa Wilms, Vanida Karun

82min. Drama. German

Troubled teenager Alex is sent as an intern to a German horse ranch, in the hope that the space will give her time to think and sort herself out. At first the wildly remote location away from her friends seems like a nightmare but gradually, as her instructor Nina teaches her to train the horses, she starts to enjoy the fresh air and peace in the company of beautiful animals especially when Kathy arrives. Treut  teases out natural performances from all three girls in this sumptuously filmed drama that has just enough tension below the surface to pique our interest in the simple but seductive storyline. MT


Girlhood (2014)

Director: Céline Sciamma

Cast: Karidja Toure, Asse Sylla, Cyril Mendy, Idrissa Diabate

France 2014, 113 min.

After Water Lilies and Tomboy, GIRLHOOD is Céline Sciamma’s third portrait of female adolescence. The heroine Marieme (Toure) lives on an estate in Saint-Dénis, a Parisian suburb – it being France this is not just an ‘estate’, but an HLM (Habitation è Loyer Modéré), or rent-controlled housing; but the high-rise blocks are just a dump for everyone who cannot pay the exorbitant Paris rentals. Her brother (Mendy) is a brute who pushes her around, and her mother, who works as a hotel cleaning lady, has dumped her youngest daughter on Marieme. No wonder that Marieme’s grades are not up to standard and she has to choose a vocational course – which she hates. Closed in on all sides, Marieme meets three older girls, who hang out and look rather menacing. Lady (Sylla) is the leader of the pack, Fily and Adiatou are her obedient sidekicks. The mini-gang has recently lost the forth member to motherhood, and Marieme joins, at first, rather reluctantly. But after a night in a hotel, gorging themselves on pizza and trying on all the beautiful clothes they have nicked in Paris, the quartet is reborn.

The strict hierarchy of the girls is threatened when Lady looses a fight with another girl, and Marieme takes the victor on and defeats her, cutting off her bra like a trophy. But Marieme’s life is still in limbo: her boyfriend Ismael (Diabate) wants to marry her – but early motherhood is not on Marieme’s agenda; the leader of a gang makes her sell drugs before she stops before getting caught – but any real professional outlook is dim. Sciamma leaves GIRLHOOD open-ended: Marieme wondering, like the audience, what to do with a life, which has dealt her such a hopeless starting position.

Violence dominates GIRLHOOD, mostly male-instigated, but Lady (whose real name is Sophia) and even Marieme herself, resort to it when pushed. And yes, they do enjoy it – at least a little. In the opening scene an all-female American Football match sets the tone for what is to follow: these girls and young women are no shrinking violets. Architecture too is brutalist: The high-rise blocks look like awesome spaceships, where aliens might lurk behind the often blacked-out windows. “You can kill people with housing as well as with an axe”, said the Berlin journalist Zille in the 1920s – and this was as true as it is today. The camera is vey innovative in finding new angles to follow the fast moving action, always contrasting with intimate close-ups. But most brilliant are the actors, particularly Karidja Toure, who carries the film, which sags a little bit here and there, not justifying a near two hours running time. AS


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Praia do Futuro (2013) | Futuro Beach


Writer|Director: Karim Ainouz

Cast: Wagner Moura, Clemens Schick, Jesuita Barbosa

106min  Brazil | Germany   Drama  Subtitles in English

With some of the most captivating colour photography of Brazilian and Berlin skylines recently committed to film, Karim Ainouz’s leisurely-paced mood piece is sadly let down by a slim story and poorly fleshed-out characterisation of its three protagonists, who we hardly get to know at all. Appearances can be deceptive: after stunning opening sequences that generate a potent atmosphere, we discover that Praia do Futuro is one of the most beautiful but deadly beaches in Brazil. It also has the saltiest water, making it a hostile place to live. When his close friend is drowned in an accident, a Brazilian lifeguard follows his lover back to Berlin to discover a new life that’s both liberating and bewildering. Ainouz creates a palpable sense of place and identity in both cities but sadly the narrative floats around untethered in a sea of plotholes after a while, failing to generate enough momentum or feeling for his characters or their lives to carry it through to a meaningful conclusion. A missed opportunity to explore themes of isolation, adventure and migration. MT

OUT ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 7 MAY 2015 Reviewed during Berlinale 2014

Dior and I (2014) | London Fashion Week

Director: Frédéric Tcheng | France, Biopic 99′

In early black and white news footage of Christian Dior and his creations, shown in the opening sequence of Frédéric Tcheng’s documentary the designer comes across as a timid, elegant, family-loving man who “hated noise”. But this is all we really discover about a legendary icon who founded the House of Dior in 1946, only to work there for 10 years. Tcheng then shows how the brand still lives on with its clear and powerful mission to create ultra feminine designs.

In the contemporary Paris atélier we meet Raf Simons (ex Gil Sander) the new creative director and a minimalist who started life as an industrial designer, and who is now set to take over the house, attempting to modernise the haute couture side while also staying faithful to the Christian Dior ethos. He has just 8 weeks to prepare for the premiere launch.

As Raf steps up to the grand stage, it is hoped he will embrace this feminine image with all its embellishments while taking it into the 21st century. Tcheng intercuts his documentary with frequent news footage of the Dior’s early years, showing how he created the “New Look” celebrating the end of rationing to create a full-skirted female silhouette as couture took on a more womanly and floaty profile in the post war fifties’ return to voluptuousness after the austere, masculine, structured look of the forties.

We see how Raf Simons works quickly and formally to create his vision for a new dynamic woman, producing 12 looks that are then taken up by each of the seamstresses, who each chose their favourite design and then get to work on the launch. This is a stressful, pressurised time, running to deadlines and balancing creativity with practicality: but the house has ample finances to draw on thanks to its ownership by Bernard Arnault (billionaire Chairman of LVMH).

Raf Simons feels an increasing empathy with the late designer: reading his memoirs and even visiting his childhood home for inspiration. Dior and I works best when focusing on this theme of creativity and the essence of fashion genius, giving valuable insight. Sadly this fascination fades as Tcheng draws his focus towards the hurly burly of the premiere and to pleasing Dior’s illustrious clientale and members of the Press. This is a process we’ve seems many times before in his recent Diana Vreeland and Valentino outings, and the Carine Roitfeld documentary Mademoiselle C in 2014. Although Simons appears confident and in control during the design process, he quails away from Press interviews and claims he ‘would faint’ if required to walk down the catwalk.

While starting promisingly Dior and I descends into a clichéd affair of air-kissing celebrity. Insight into the conflicts, personal dynamics and professional relationships are buried under a deluge of tears, Champagne and roses once the premiere is underway and Tcheng draws the focus away from the more engaging topic of Simons’ creative strategy and the real Mr Christian Dior, who sadly remains an enigmatic character. That said, this is an upbeat, well-paced and compelling introduction to the elegant and sophisticated House of Dior.  John Galliano is nowhere to be seen. MT

| DIOR AND I on DVD courtesy of Dogwoof Films | Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival 2014



Frangipani (2013) | BFI Flare

Director|Writer: Visakesa Chandrasekaram

Cast: Dasum Pathirana, Jehan Sri Kanth, Yasogha Rasaduni

90min  Sri Lanka  Drama  Singhalese with Subtitles

The best thing about this debut drama, the first LGBT film to come out of Sri Lanka, is its simplicity and ravishing cinematography capturing the exuberant lushness of the island’s countryside, its vibrant colours and the exotic beauty of the frangipani blossom that is used to decorate the local temple. A straightforward narrative unfolds against the natural background of a traditional Sri Lankan village community and is told through expressive performances from a sensitive cast and minimal dialogue.

Chamath, a young Sri Lankan man makes a living by embroidering and designing saris. His dream is to escape to the city to look for a better life, but he is being hotly pursued by a wealthy local girl, Sarasi, who he meets while preparing a sari for her wedding. Sarasi fancies Chamath and wants him to rescue her from a traditional arranged marriage. But Chamath finds himself attracted to Nalin, a young welding mechanic who come to work in the Temple, and the two begin a physical relationship. Sarasi is determined to find love on her own terms, and when Chamath spurns her, she turns her affections to Nalin. The undeclared love triangle remains secret but gradually the two men are pressured by the local community into making a decision, despite their strong feelings for one another. Five years later they all meet again to question whether they’ve lost out on the chance to realise their true happiness or ruined their lives forever. A delicate ambient soundtrack of local birdsong accompanies Viksakesa Chandrasekaram’s tender and affecting love story. MT


I Am Michael (2015) | FLARE London LGBT Film Festival 2015

Director: Justin Kelly

Writer: Justin Kelly |

Cast: James Franco, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Carver, Emma Roberts, Daryl Hannah, Avan Jogia

98min  US   Drama Biopic

The ubiquitous James Franco is either behind the camera or in front of it these days, playing both gay and straight roles and in  I AM MICHAEL he does both with this inspired foray into the life Michael Glatze, a gay magazine editor who becomes heterosexual after finding God, and transforming into a Christian pastor with unsettling undertones.

Gus Van Sant has financed the debut feature from writer-director Justin Kelly, which is based on a real-life story with  Zachary Quinto and Emma Roberts lending able support as his boyfriend and subsequent fiancée. This is not a straightforward film but one that offers much food for thought in a nuanced and cleverly-scripted narrative (based partly on a New York Times article about Glatze’s life) that  insightfully explores the nature of sexuality, love and belief.

The story opens as Glatze (James Franco) is editor of a gay magazine in late nineties San Francisco and happily involved with lover Bennett (Zachary Quinto), who persuades him to move to Canada so he can take up an important post in Architecture. The relationship with Bennett is natural and totally convincing and both actors seem entirely at one in their performances. But Glatze is jobless and soon bored with the life in Nova Scotia, despite meeting Tyler (Charlie Carver) who adds spice to the couple’s love life and is soon sharing their bed. Glatze launches a new magazine aimed at the ‘coming out’ market whose sexual beliefs are being compromised or constrained by their religious beliefs, and the trio start shooting a documentary entitled Jim in Bold. At this point, we’re persuaded that Glatze’s real raison d’être is to help humanity. James Franco’s forceful presence and hard-eyed gaze melts, on occasion, and particularly when Glatze comes across Jacob Loeb.

But the emergence of regular panic attacks seem to indicate that he’s not happy with his life or his relationship, and these also stem from the fear of a heart condition that cut short his father’s life as a young man. His close relationship with his mother is also a motif running through the film, and he regularly visits her resting place to reinforce his convictions and reminisce. transformation is fleshed out on a blog with voiceover describing his religious zeal. Unable to see himself or his ambitions clearly, Glatze emerges a troubled and confused soul and, while Kelly in no way seeks to condemn or judge him, James Franco reflects this accurately and powerfully in a performance that’s both compelling and subtle but also indicates the presence of a mild personality disorder – it’s a tremendously difficult role which Franco pulls off with remarkable aplomb. After a Buddhist retreat in Wyoming where he meets the gentle Nico (a fine turn from Avan Jogia) he ends up in Bible School where he falls in love with Rebekah Fuller (Emma Roberts) a naive yet appealing young Christian girl.

Christopher Blauvelt’s camerawork is competent on both the widescreen and on more intimate moments but the score occasionally overdoes it, producing an intrusiveness that makes contemplation impossible – and there is a great deal to take in and process in Glatze’s transformation. By the end though, we are more than convinced that this man has by no means found his way in life and those who stray onto his complicated path will continue to find themselves in emotional danger. MT


Out To Win (2015) | BFI Flare

Directed by: Malcolm Ingram

With: Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and others

102min  Sport Documentary  US

OUT TO WIN is a full on in ‘your face’  affair that focuses on LGBTQA World class athletes as they share their ‘coming out’ stories to the camera. There’s nothing new here revelation-wise, for most of us, but the combined force of these heartfelt stories serves as a full scale slap in the face of the anti-sentiment that traditionally spread through the heartlands of America’s sporting life. Sporting communities are not as enlightened or as accepting as the creative arenas of film, theatre and the Arts, and most are reinforced by diehard traditionalists and often dominated by a macho male following, who are, by definition gay-phobic – particularly when it comes to the locker-rooms.

One after the other, talking heads of famous Athletes pop-up ‘close and personal’, to share their emotions and often their tears about being gay in the world of Sport: Wade Davies, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Brittney Griner, David Kopay, Jason Collins, Charline Labonté, Conner Mertens, and John Amaechi to name but a few. It emerges, not surprisingly, that many were scared to reveal their true sexuality for fear of losing valuable sponsorship or community support.

Without doubt, it’s a crying shame that these talented individuals have had to suffer in the name of sexuality. Filmmaker Malcolm Ingram is known for his documentary award-winning doc: Small Town Gay Bar. Here he has assembled an impressive array of news stories and archive footage to serve his hard-hitting story that doesn’t even give lip service to creativity in its camerawork or style. Often, the film is edited to repeat soundbites, like an advertisement, blaring out and reinforcing his message, over and over again so it feels like a list of examples instead of a cogent narrative. Rather than appealing to our hearts and minds, we feel pistol-whipped into commiserating with these confessions, worthy though they undoubtedly are, in telling a story of pain and gradual acceptance has come about due to the trailblazing efforts of the early lesbian and gay sporting pioneers.  MT


Appropriate Behaviour (2014)

Director: Desirée Akhavan

Cast: Desiree Akhavan, Rebecca Henderson, Scott Adsit

90 min. US  DRAMA

After being voted ‘the ugliest girl’ at her school when she was fourteen, first time writer/director Desirée Akhavan wrote a play about it and from then on found a way to cope with life’s setbacks: “Telling stories is how I process life”. Her first feature APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR shows that there is a great deal to process.

Shirin (Akhavan) is the daughter of upper-middle class Iranians in New York. Whilst her family display all the outward appearances of success, Shirin struggles with her bi-sexuality and keeps it a secret from them. This may be have been one of the reasons her relationship with Maxine (Henderson) came to an end, since her ex-partner tried to push Shirin to “come out”. Most of the film is dedicated to this relationship and its aftermath. Shirin’s hunger for sex leads her into awkward situations: picking up a rather compliant male, she demands to be dominated, and the man takes flight. On another occasion, she is picked up by a couple but the ménage-à-trois never gets going, the other woman suggesting they play “Monopoly” instead. Shirin’s professional life is equally in disarray: she is supposed to teach a group of six-year-old boys how to make a video, but is overwhelmed by their obstructive and chaotic energy – whilst next door the girls of the same age group are only too willing to stage a remake of Hitchcock’s The Birds. Not surprisingly, Shirin’s class finishing film is titled The Fart. The gags come fast and furious, but utter absurdity and old-fashioned melodrama don’t always go together. And when Akhavan finally takes a breather in the last scene, it feels like a cop-out.

Playing the lead in her own drama – far from being ugly and a brilliant actress to boot – Akhavan’s debut feature suffers mainly from its weak screenplay, which is rather unstructured and episodic, the numbers being often hilariously funny in themselves, but lacking any dramatic coherence: it is more a revue of the funniest/saddest moments in the life of Shirin. The rather clumsy and prudish sex scenes do not help. Overall Akhavan shows that her heart is in the right place, but that an emotional outcry is not enough to make a successful feature film. AS


Eastern Boys (2013) Bfi Player

Dirr/Wri: Robin Campillo | Olivier Rabourdin, Kirill Emelyanov, Daniil Vorobyov, Edea Darcque, Camila Chanirova, Beka Markozashvili | 128mins  French with subtitles   Drama

Transeuropean migration and the nature of homosexuality are the themes that coalesce in this genre-bending French thriller that cleverly draws us into a web of intrigue its fast-paced opening sequences. Eastern Boys is the slick and provocative second feature from writer-director Robin Campillo, a long-time collaborator of Laurent Cantet (Vers Le Sud, The Class).

Eastern Boys copy

In the Gare Du Nord in Paris, gangs of Eastern European migrants hang around looking for opportunities for work and sex. One of them is the alluring Marek (Kirill Emelyanov) who catches the eye of Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin), a middle-aged business-man cruising for company. What follows is a shocking and thought-provoking thriller, an immersive love story and a disturbing police drama that feels entirely plausible yet at the same time exotic and beyond belief. MT

NOW ON BFI PLAYER | EASTERN BOYS WON BEST FILM in the Orizzonti section at the 70thVenice Film Festival




Boys on Film 11 – We Are Animals Now on DVD VOD

84e040bcadc723713d42a52df4d598f3BOYS ON FILM is an ongoing DVD series offering a selection of daring and diverse LGBT drama shorts from all over the World. These pithy and poignant peeks attempt to challenge and explore sexuality from differing points of view.  The eleventh bumper edition is particularly interesting on trans-generational relationships. THREE SUMMERS: a daring and unlikely love story emerges when a divorced woman gets to know a teenage boy developing over the course of three years (Denmark, 28min);  the groundbreaking issue of physical disability is tackled in FOR DORIAN: that deals sensitively with the nascent sexuality of a Down’s Syndrome boy, seen from the perspective of his father  (Canada, 16min) and LITTLE MAN; a physiological drama that centres on 30 year-old Elliot and his track record of emotional avoidance and uneasy relationships with his older brother and the strange man next door (by award-winning Israeli director Eldar Rapaport (AUGUST).


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Interior. Leather Bar (2013)

Directors: James Franco/Travis Mathews    Writer: Travis Mathews

Cast: Val Lauren, Christian Patrick, Brenden Gregory, Brad Roberge

60mins  US     Docu-fiction

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INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR was inspired by William Friedkin’s original drama CRUISING (1980) that saw Al Pacino’s rookie policeman ‘going underground’ in search of a gay serial killer in New York.  In order to pacify the censors, Friedkin cut 40 minutes of salacious footage from CRUISING and this has never been seen in a public screening.  So this experimental collaboration between Franco and Mathews attempts to re-imagine the missing footage with a  look at how male gay sexuality is portrayed in film.  The resulting docu-fiction outing mixes reality with fantasy in contemporary LA.  The piece has a loose and laid-back vibe to it as Franco tries to coax his lead and friend (the very heterosexual) Val Lauren, into a gay bar to help him in his mission to scope out the full spectrum of gay behaviour from cruising to sex within a committed relationship. His reactions to overt gay males all butched-up to the nines in leather bondage gear  are revealing as he states after the first day’s filming “I’m not the same guy as I was this morning”.

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Naturally Val Lauren is rather back-footed by the whole project and this comes across in spades, as is intended by Franco. The two engage in endless banter and displacement chat about his role as a straight man entering such a premises in the 1980s. He seems uneasy about it all and chats to his girlfriend on the mobile, for re-assurance.  Allegedly this dialogue is scripted but it has such an authentic feel to it that one can’t help thinking that most of it was ‘ad lib’.  The essentially waffly dialogue is intercut with stylishly ‘re-created’ scenes of how Franco imagines the lost 40 minutes of original film footage may have played out back then and offers a provocative and erotically-charged twist to the proceedings with some ‘no-holds-barred encounters between cruisers and a couple who are in committed relationship.

At just 60 minutes this latest Franco outing is not long enough to merit a full theatrical release but nevertheless merits a watch if it comes to a film festival or one-off screening near you. MT









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Derek Jarman Retrospective at the BFI February – March 2014


Two events are celebrating Derek Jarman in London in 2014. “Pandemonium” Exhibition at Somerset House, WC2 and a Retrospective at the BFI 5.2. – 31.3.)

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Derek Jarman died twenty years ago at the age of 52 but was undoubtedly the most innovative director of the British cinema in the second half of the 20th century and arguably the greatest visionary since Michael Powell. His films are always the opposite of the traditional English ‘masterpieces’ featuring the heroes of the past – he turned the glorious history into a macabre sideshow. And he was obsessed with death, from the very beginning. And death never comes easy to Jarman’s heroes: SEBASTIANE, the title hero of his first feature (co-directed by Paul Humfress in 1976), dies a slow, agonising death, bound to face the penetrating arrows of his torturers. Needless to say, that for Jarman, Sebastiane was not a Christian martyr, but a gay anti-hero. Ten years later it is the turn of another title hero, the painter CARAVAGGIO to die a horrible fever death in black and blue. The youthful hero in THE LAST OF ENGLAND (1987) dies a small, dirty little death. And death rules the WAR REQUIEM (1988), this time in glowing pink. Laurence Olivier in a wheelchair, as a war hero in his last film role. And in between shots of bombing raids by Jarman’s pilot-father, which he took with his camera in WWII.

Edward_II_1 copyIn EDWARD II (1991) the title hero perishes with a red hot poker in his rectum – in the arms of his tender murderer, whilst Annie Lennox sings Cole Porter’s “Every time we say goodbye, we die a little”. Jarman always re-mastered the originals of the classics into something demonic, obscene and really evil: He transformed the magic island from Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST (1979)  into an labyrinth of terror, and the Sonnets of the Bard into a witch’s Sabbath in THE ANGELIC CONVERSATIONS (1985). And he shows contemporary England – JUBILEE (1977 and the aptly titled THE LAST OF ENGLAND – as an island out of hell – just the opposite of what Margaret Thatcher, with her ideas of a strong, back-to-the-Empire orientated country, had in mind. And Jarman’s own death, foretold with BLUE a year before he died, blind from the medications which did not cure Aids, but a peaceful BLUE nevertheless: a final work without pictures, just words. It is the viewer, who projects his pictures on this film – not uncommon for Jarman’s work, since he was always more interested in the creative process than the result: “The end-product is not important, it is only the witness of a creative process”.

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Jarman studied painting at the Slade School in London, but his interest in stage design made him collaborate with the Royal Ballet and the ENO.  His first work for the cinema was the Production Design  for Ken Russell’s THE DEVILS (1970). Then he wandered around London with his ‘Super 8” camera – home movies, but also first documents of the gay community. The difference between fiction and documentation did not exist for Jarman. “Life is Art”, the title of a documentary about Jarman by Andy Klimpton (they met first in the early 80s) is by far the best description of Jarman’s life and work. His garden and wooden cottage near Dungeness was his last refuge, much more than a hobby. Four years after being diagnosed with aids in 1986 THE GARDEN shows a gay couple, being seemingly senseless tortured and murdered, whilst a Madonna (Tilda Swinton) is harassed by paparazzis, Jesus looks on painfully and Judas’ death is exploited as an advertisement for credit cards.

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THE LAST OF ENGLAND is perhaps the best example of Jarman’s work, because it is as personal as it is political. The ‘home movie’ fragments, which his father and grandfather shot, show the small world from which Derek was going to escape. We see innocence, but it is only superficial – the “Kodak” family always smiles. But behind the smiles is the soldier father, who repressed his children. When we see little Derek playing ball, the innocence is undercut by the security fences, and we also hear the noise of the war planes in background. Cut to the scenes in Brixton, where police and demonstrators show a new meaning of war: the total civil war. It is a dark portrait of a nation rotting away. If one thinks of an equivalent in literature, one would choose  Baudrillard’s “Kool killer”. The apocalypse is already here, it is happening before our very eyes. The present as future, Science Fiction as the new reality. As proven in JUBILEE, where Elizabeth I asks her court magician to show her the future of her domain, 400 years on, during the reign of Elizabeth II.

Derek_Jarman_Portrait_1 copyIn DEREK (2008) a homage to Jarman, by Isaac Julien and Bernhard Rose, Jarman’s muse, the actress Tilda Swinton (‘Caravaggio’, The last of England’, War Requiem’, ‘The Garden’, Edward II’ and ‘Blue’) reads her ‘letter’ to Jarman ‘in the sky’. She misses his contra-poison to the disco-light of a culture where everything is for sale. And: “Derek, this is what made you a real artist – you worked from your ‘soup kitchen’, which was your life” And in this ‘soup kitchen’ the private, the intimate and the public life touched each other, present and history. Jarman never wanted to build borders between these spheres. Like the painter Caravaggio, who painted a Madonna like a prostitute, and holy men as rent boys.

Derek Jarman was not only a leading figure of the independent British film but also of the gay movement. He fought energetically against Thatcher’s anti-gay policies, like the Paragraph 28, which forbade any information in schools about homosexuality. He was a creative figure, a dreamer, an eccentric and a militant poet with his brush and his Super 8 camera. He was a minimalist too, his WITTGENSTEIN (1993) was shot against a black background. And it is no accident, that the philosopher Wittgenstein, one of Jarman’s heroes, said “that philosophy ought to be written as if it was poetry.” Derek Jarman’s films were always poems, close to the heart. AS

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A Map for Love (2012) DVD

Director: Fernandez Constanza

Cast: Andrea Moro, Francisca Bernardi, Francisco Pizarro, Mariana Prat

81min   Drama   Chile

A subtle and sophisticated story of emerging lesbian love and generational conflict that navigates choppy waters, exploring the relationship of three woman: a mother, her daughter and girlfriend, embarking on a sailing trip on the Chilean coast.

Using water and the shifting weather patterns as a barometer for the myriad emotions that emerge during the trip is a clever metaphor for confusion, calm and conciliation in this immersive debut feature from writer and director Fernandez Constanza.

Roberta (Andrea Moro) wants to develop her relationship with her actress girlfriend Javiera (Francisca Bernardi) but is concerned about her conservative mother Ana’s (Mariana Prat) approval.  As the three get to know each other more deeply during the holiday, initial awkwardness gives way to a raw intensity as intimacy develops and sins of the past emerge to complicate matters.  Set against a backdrop of  stunning seascapes and scenery in Santiago de Chile, the trio are gradually divested of artifice; personalities and thoughts laid bare to the elements.

Rich and full of interesting insight and dramatic punch, this is a film worthy of its subject-matter and should appeal to both LGBT audiences and the art house crowd.    MT


In The Name Of – W IMIE (2013) Berlinale 2013

Director: Malgoska Szumowska   Writers: Malgoska Szumowska and Michal Englert
Cast: Andrzej Chyra, Mateusz Kosciukieiwcz, Lukasz Simlat, Maja Ostaszewska

Malgoska Szumowska’s second outing after the acclaimed Elles centres on Adam, a celibate Catholic priest who works with delinquent teenagers in a village in rural Poland.

As Adam, Andrzej Chyra is well cast and generates a profound benevolence and warmth that’s the nearest feeling to true goodness that one can possibly imagine. He embodies unselfishness, empathy and kindness but also commands respect and authority  in a really moving performance.  Michal Englert’s soft summery visuals heavily mingled with striking imagery from Christ’s Passion render the hazy bucolic setting in a powerful yet soothing way as Adam’s calming presence gradually deepens into something more heavy and unsettling.

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Despite sharing a resonating chemistry with one of the inmates Lukasz, a young simple country lad, Adam rejects his advances and also those of Ewa a blonde alcoholic, stating that he’s already spoken for (by Jesus).  But he also experiences moments of despair, repression and lonliness in this moving portrait of confused emotions and abstinence and the journey towards self-discovery and self-acceptance.

With its atmospheric soundtrack this is an absorbing and emotional drama that echoes Brokeback Mountain in its intense and delicate subject-matter. MT

IN THE NAME OF is on general release from 27TH September 2013 AT THE CURZON SOHO AND THE ODEON PANTON STREET.





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