June brings summer breezes and vacation nights! We can recommend quite a few: The Amazing Spider-Manfor sheer fun with an undertone of humanity. X-Men Days of Future Pastis spectacle at its story telling trickster best.Polanski’s Venus in Furs sizzles with the kind of sexual tension that S&M games can generate.HBO has a couple of excellent films for LGBT month.The Case Against The 8shows how a Republican conservative and a liberal Democrat joined forces to argue successfully for same sex civil marriage and win at the Supreme Court. Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart,first performed at the Public Theater in 1985,was a brilliant AIDSwakeup call! It has finally made it to the HBO screen. The transformation of the strident, yet timely, advocacy play tittering on melodrama into a deeply moving, historically correct, nuanced representation of how human beings, in particular gay men, were confronted by a pandemic that found little sympathy or concern in halls of government, the pulpits of churches and the homes of most Americans is remarkable. Kramer’s screenplay, in the hands of director Ryan (Glee) Murphy and a superb cast including Mark Ruffalo (playing Ned Weeks the character based on Kramer) and Julia Roberts, has opened up the play in the way that only narrative cinema can. Having lived through the period myself and having personal knowledge of all the characters based on real people, the movie left me suspicious at first. However, it completely brought me back to a time and place of much pain, death, grief, anger, and the awakening of the silent majority in the gay male community to the horror of a plague and the restraints of the closet. Highest of praise for Kramer and the integrity of his script; to HBO for allowing Murphy and his accomplished actors to fearlessly representing gay sexuality and relationships authentically; to expose homophobia and to role model how the lesbian and gay community grew up in the darkest days of AIDS because of demanding activists like Kramer. It all takes place in the years before Kramer and others founded ACT UP. Like Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, the Normal Heart throws its wings wide and embraces all human beings confronted with loss, grief and anger. Kudos to all involved. The Normal Heart is a must watch.
LET’S GO TO THE MOVIES!
Night Movesdirector Kelly Reichardt
Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard play the central characters in the latest film from celebrated US indie director Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff, River of Grass, Old Joy). Here, in her most accessible film to date, Reichardt takes on an activist response to global warming. Loosely based on actual Earth Liberation Front’sactions in the North West, she focuses on the serious nature of commitment in a time of environmental crisis. Jesse Eisenberg, again, proves he has an uncanny ability to mine the depth of a character’s humanity and commitment without a touch of sentimentality. He, the actor, is breathtakingly focused. Principal triumphs inner conflict but at a price. This is not a documentary. It is a beautifully shot narrative with nuanced writing that takes us not only into acts of eco-aggression but, and this is always Reichardt’s trump card, into the interior life of her characters. The discipline of her visual palate locates the drama subtexts in the language spoken. Serious, yes. Visually stunning, yes! Likable, well given the subject, hardly. Important, very.
IDA, director Pawel Pawlikowski
When Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, discovered in her 60s that in fact she was Jewish, America got for the first time on television the experience that many Jewish people knew about and kept quiet. To survive the Holocaust, parents gave up their children and let them be brought up as non-Jews. Ida is set in Poland and tells the story of a young woman about to take her vows to become a Roman Catholic nun when she is sent to meet her only relative, a former Communist Party leader who is a Jew and tells the young nun to be that she too is Jewish. A journey to discover what happened to her family and how she wound up in a convent is the backbone of what may be the most haunting film of the year.British filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski, was Polish born. With touches of Bergman and Goddard, he begins to relive this revelatory story in black and white.Ida is as breathtaking to watch as it is changing to the conventional Holocaust. If you will only see one film this month, see Ida.
Before You Know It director PJ Ravel
It happens. One day, despite whatever voodoo you use, you wake up and you are …uh …er .. um ..oh ..well …OLD! It is a particular survival moment for gay men who lived through the AIDS pandemic. No matter how hard you try not to see the truth, the body does not lie.In any case you feel it. Surviving is an act of courage and wisdom. PJ Ravel is a still young, Filipino-American filmmaker who is gay. He is best known for Trinidad, his expose of the sexual reassignment surgery mill inColorado; for being the cinematographer on the Academy Award nominated Katrina documentaryTrouble in Water and producer/director of the Christene music videos.
Ravel started to think about what happens to gay men when they get old. Not the ageless, rich one’s like Sir Elton, but the old gay men who you don’t see out in the bars or in page 6 spreads. So, he went looking for old gay men to film. Before You Know Itis the result. Three old gay men. One owns a bar in a beach town in Texas that caters to older gay men and aging drag queens who perform in the bar, the regulars who consider this their chosen family. A second man in his late 70s livesin a trailer park in Northern Florida, lonely since his wife of 40 some years died…and he has a secret. The third is a very energetic black man from Harlem who works as a community organizer for SAGE, an organization founded to help elderly lesbians and gay men. Yet this man refuses to tell his age.
No one is rich like in the public imagination and each takes PJ into their intimate life and on their journey of growing old. Funny, it has a very universal appeal about aging, (if we do live that long) and a very specific critique about being an old homosexual in America.Trust me, you just might fall in love with one of them.
Human Rights Watch Film Festival June 12 -22nd Lincoln Center
In its 25th year, the Human Rights Watch Festival is the essential documentary film festival that travels the world with its finger on the pulse of change and conflict be it government or in the family home. Nowhere else can one get the insight that disciplined and committed documentary filmmakers contribute. Provocative, insightful, disruptive and dangerous, these are the films that have the energy of people and society in conflict and change. Look at the descriptions in the online schedule. Here are four that I recommend:
- E-Team. The Sundance award winner takes us on a fact finding trip into Syria and into places no journalist officially can go. This is what Human Rights Watch teams do. Neutral and just after facts, not propaganda. We follow three workers including a husband and wife as they refuse to be intimidated by danger and like the best of action heroes, fearlessly do their job. Yet this is real life, real time.
- Return To Holms. This year’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner makes personal the battle of Syrians in a fight for freedom from an oppressive government. We follow a small group of Syrians including a charismatic young professional soccer player who walks away from the game to fight for freedom. Documentary filmmaking at its bravest. We actually almost become through the lens embedded with them and experience vicariously what the conflict is like on a personal in your face landscape.
- Private Violence. Four women a day are murdered in their home by an abusive husband or their ex or boyfriend. In CynthiaHill’s film, we learn about this hidden fact and meet two women. One is a victim and the other is an advocate for stopping domestic violence by bringing it into public consciousness and out of the shadows. It answers the simplistic question of “Why don’t they just leave?” with an in-depth exploration of a very complicated condition.
- To Be Takei.When George Takei,Star Trek’s cult figure and Asian role modelcame out in his late 60s, his fans, whilenot surprised, seemed not to care. He was and remains a Trekkie hero. Yet George did not just sit back and sign autographs. He became engaged in the fight for lesbian and gay rights. InJennifer Foot’s documentary, we follow him and his dutiful husband Brad as George puts a famous Asian face on the same sex civil marriage national fight. There seems to be no stopping Takei in this telling of his story of success and the power of the closet. Foot also tells the story of Japanese internment and migration within the US. Takei himself is a piece of work; To Be Takei is a warm look at social injustice and the Asian immigrants’ quest for fame.
I would be remiss if I did not also mention The Green Prince, Nadav Schirman’s film that had people arguing after it screened at the NY Film Festival and at Sundance (won the audience award). I did not like it, nor have I liked the director’s other work. To me it is highly crafted propaganda here hidden in a sensationalist report on the teen-age son of Hamas leader who is turned by the Israeli secret police while in jail (and that alone deserves a whole separate discussion) and becomes an informer from inside the center of Palestinian resistance movement.
(cc) jim fouratt 5.23.14 email@example.com