James Franco can be accused of anything but never of being a conformist. His documentary fiction from last year ‘Interior Leather Bar’, which was meant to recreate the footage that was censured out of the 1990’s film Cruising, is one such film. The media attention surrounding it focussed on how gay sex was going to be at the forefront of the film and how never seen before things were being attempted. Having viewed the film two days ago, I must summarize in one phrase what the film is trying to do ‘anti male voyeur’.

While Franco and his co-director Travis Mathews have taken the canvas of the 1990’s film ‘Crusing’ as their inspiration, which had an undercover cop (played by Al Pacino) try and penetrate the underground world of LGBT New York, the 21st version has Franco’s close friend (played by actor Val Lauren) play Pacino, marred with discomfort, lack of belief in the project and more than anything deep rooted homophobic tendencies, that are not obviously manifested. But the similarities end right there. This is a mixed critique of the ‘male voyeur’ in popular culture and how gay sex has been so taboo, while female sexualization continues unchecked. 

This forty minute experiment is not a sex overdose, neither is it self indulgent nor shockingly perverse to scare off even the moral police. The film is about Franco’s personal issue with the portrayal or normative sexual representation and violence in cinema. His question is simple, why is LGBT sex excluded from the mainstream of cinema? Why is it ok to show hundreds of people being killed, shot to death, their heads chopped and blood splashing all over the cinema screen, while two men having sex is not? His questions are pointed, hard hitting and very daring. I give him full credit for putting himself out there like this. 

While the film loosely has a plot running through and somewhat interesting nuances of characters and their interaction with each other; its when Franco speaks to his audience, looking straight into the camera, we see his crusade like eyes staring right at us, forcing us to find answers to his questions. 

An average film effort in terms of narrative, wobbly camera movements and somewhat incoherent story telling; this was more a brave effort for a mainstream actor like Franco. 

image source: toutlecine.com

From The Desk Of

Gulaab Gang

Gulaab Gang:

Great concept/idea. The story needed some work as Soumik Sen struggled with the narrative and editing. But the patchy movement of the narrative didn’t completely take away from a story that should be told, a commendable performance by Juhi Chawla and the effort of a first time filmmaker to take on a compelling tale of rural India, politics, corruption, patriarchy, violence against women, women’s empowerment ……. etc etc.

Unfortunately, Madhuri was a wasted talent. She had a restrained performance, but absolutely no character arc. 

image source: entertainment.sandhira.com 

Knowing something about cinema that talks about LGBT issues, I can say this much that LGBT  cinema (i.e. films made on the subject) have struggled to step away from the expected stereotypes. There is either an attempt to bring them into the mainstream of cinema or keep with the ‘usual’ subject that are dealt with (a.k.a. coming out stories, violence and abuse survivors and the like…). 

But then the other day I stumbled upon a randomly interesting film, unexpectedly interesting I thought. On the face of it, it seemed like a jock film, I don’t kid you that’s what it seemed. All these young men in a military academy and then there is a gay story. I was only intrigued by the humour it would bring and my critique that would follow. 

But then I was going to be surprised when I came across Private Romeo. 

First I thought it was Shakespearean dialogue that brought the film to life (which did help quite a bit), but it was also the unpretentious and simplicity of the narrative that drew me in so quickly.

Its a story about these cadets who are left behind at their academy, while the rest of the recruits are away at a training. They all are taking a class in English theatre and each one of them takes turns to read parts of different characters in the play, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The film alternates between the reading of the play in class and the actual acting out of it. It alternates between khakis worn in class to the act out in rich colours in different spaces of the academy. 

A romance develops between two of the cadets, is acted out poetically and with precision by the two lead actors: Sam Singleton and Glenn Mangan. 

The story plays out to the letter of the play. They meet, see each other, fall in love and that’s the beginning of a romantic journey of family rivalry, their yearning to be with each other and finally Romeo’s disbandment from the ‘kingdom’.

For a change a love story stayed a love story and didn’t have anything to do with sexual orientation. Its not to say that sexual orientation shouldn’t be talked about, but this film has two people falling in love and doing it convincingly, while done with the backdrop of a military academy, don’t ask don’t tell anyone??? 

Kudos to Alan Brown’s direction and courage to make a simple film that challenges the typical hetero-normative romance that Romeo and Juliet have always been used to depict. 

image source: lostinreviews.com

50 posts!

50 posts!

#risk #gods #heavens #army #continents #plague #faith #temple #play #fun #die #conquer #domination ancient world

Hawaii is a story about Eugenio and his childhood friend Martin who comes looking for work at his home while waiting to start a job in Buenos Aires in the Summer. Neither of them remember their childhood at first glance, given that they lost contact for many years.

This simplicity of the narrative is what’s so intriguing and gripping about the story. The soft romance that seems to linger as an omnipresence is what makes you sit and watch these two people on screen the entire length of the movie. I sat and watched and wondered and appreciated how wonderful soft, tender, budding, unspoken emotions and romance can be.

Eugenio is taken by Martin instantly and hides his feelings very well. He is very unsure of where Martin stands and thus does not come out to him. They slowly piece the family ‘puzzle’ together and how they grew up doing things, playing, being naughty, at one time even stoning a cat to death under a bridge; all of which firms up their connection.

Its strange how the fast paced nature of our everyday living has taken away from small, subtle, gentleness of things. In the movie all you see is Eugene touching Martin’s back carelessly, to show affection, you sit up and take notice. When all you see is these two people sitting by the bank of a ravine and reminiscing about their childhood, you enjoy the tenderness they share. Hawaii is all of this and a lot more of human sharing.

Barring the sporadic slopiness of the camera (or maybe it was meant to be the cinematographer’s style of filming) this was a wonderful surprise of a movie.

image source: filmstarts.de


Spinning plates is a great documentary that brings to you three contrasting lives, through their common human struggles. Three different restaurants, three different sensibilities, but the thing that binds them together is their desire to express through food and hospitality and bring to the lives of their customers a memorable experience.

Aliena (in Chicago), Gabby’s (in Tuscon) and Breitbach (in Balltown) are all struggling to survive through the different odds that they confront. While facing their challenges head on, they never once forget that in the end it is not about them…and it is not about winning, but about continuing to persevere and being part of a passion to be who they are. 

Joseph Levy’s film is simple and a peek into the lives of three extraordinary people. 

image source: http://www.spinningplatesmovie.com

#frost #window #morning #wait #voyeur

From The Desk Of

HER - Not her … its us..

       HER was an interesting and challenging experience. With a compelling script, Spike Jonze was able to stir up issues and themes that we often don’t confront. They are obviously consuming us, but we don’t seem to recognize them. Its like everyone walking down a street is immersed in their world, their laptop, their smart phone, their little tablet and there is a complete disconnection from everything and everyone around. And while the story went along casually on screen, with subtle nudging, the filmmaker was constantly pushing to test our limits….with every scene, with every new revelation.

       The film takes this very modern day problem of everyone being consumed by everything technology. And then Jonze takes it to another level; his protagonist Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix) is recovering from an impending divorce and while he grapples with his loneliness and misery of having lost his love, he is completely taken by a new operating system (OS) he installs on his computer. Through the course of the film the OS begins to evolve and take new form, new emotional shape in Theodore’s life. It interacts with him, begins thinking for him, doing things for him, sharing with him, having sex with him…and soon is a ‘real’ part of his life. Theodore after some hesitation tells himself that he is dating this OS, (who is identified as Samantha, with brilliant voice-over by Scarlett Johansson).

      A full relationship starts to form, that lacks only one thing: that Samantha does not have physical form and is artificial intelligence working from/in a computer.

     The strength and weakness of this relationship is that it lacks/requires no definition. Its only when Theodore (and to some extent Samantha) start referencing their relationship to the only other they know (human relationships) they are destined to fail.

     The film lacks any dramatic moments that would make you sit and take notice. There are no over the top dialogues, histrionics or crying. The sullen nature of the narrative, makes you follow along, with this all pervading question of .. where are we going? What is happening to our human relationships, why are we finding more comfort with these gadgets, these ‘unreal’ things who now have identities and names. And how did we move on from talking to our pets to talking to machines and calling it ‘interaction’?

     The story peeks and perhaps is the critique that Jonze wants to bring to us: when human failings of judgment, inconsideration, impatience and jealousy creep in, even a relationship with an OS becomes like any other, and goes through a spiral of emotional meltdown. Theodore becomes jealous that Samantha talks to other people, while she is with him. She even confesses of loving over six hundred people, though she claims to love him too.

     The two most poignant moments of the film are when Theodore comes face to face  with his ex-wife (played by Rooney Mara) and she confronts him of being insane, coz instead of dealing with a real wife, a real life, he sought refuge in a relationship with a computer. And second when for a brief moment the OS stops responding owing to a malfunction, Theodore is seen running around like a chicken without a head, not knowing what to do, as he thinks Samantha is gone and having been so accustomed and dependent on her, he couldn’t imagine living without her. 

    HER is about us, about who we are as people and how the core of our human experience is that, our human experience. I just hope we make films about it and realize that we are headed down a dangerous path, than make films, watch em and continue to live like nothing ever happened. 

image source: hollywoodreporter.com 


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