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Gerald Parker "Gerald Parker" (Rouyn-Noranda, QC., Dominion of Canada)
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Verdi: Otello (Recorded Live At Gran Teatre Del Liceu Barcelona 2006) [Blu-Ray] (Region Free)
Verdi: Otello (Recorded Live At Gran Teatre Del Liceu Barcelona 2006) [Blu-Ray] (Region Free)
DVD ~ Jose Cura
Offered by Deal Beat
Price: CDN$ 46.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Bleak Staging, but High Drama and Truly Wonderful Singing in All of This Great Opera's Roles, Is What the Viewer Gets Here, Aug. 26 2015
This DVD of Verdi's "Otello", the title role of which is one of the most arduous in the tenor's mainstream operatic repertory, is very satisfying musically and dramatically, especially on the part of José Cura as Otello himself, but also in the other roles. What limits the appeal of Opus Arte's video (the North American the two-DVD set, rather than a Blu-ray, of which bears the catalogue number OA-0963-D, being what I viewed) is Willy Decker's extremely barren staging. Fortunately, while there are almost no real scenery and few props aside from an always present gigantic cross, some swords, a dagger, and not much else, the soloists and chorus are nicely costumed, which relieves a bit the lack of much of anything scenically specific surrounding them on stage as they act and sing. Whatever reservation I have about this, at least this quasi-abstract production is not one of the hideous "Euro-trash" abominations that are so prevalent on stage and on video nowadays.

José Cura sings and acts heroically and with great fervour, whether as military hero or as lover. His large voice never shows a trace of compromise upon his seemingly boundless vocal resources. He is right up there among post-W.W.-2 Otellos as Carlo Cossuta, Giacomo Giacomini, or Plácido Domingo. He does not quite attain the supreme mastery of Mario del Monaco in the title role of this opera, but Cura comes closer to that gold standard than all but very few recent tenors do, and, visually speaking, Cura has a lot of the macho appeal that even handsomer del Monaco so exudes, and Cura's acting and vocal control are wonderful to behold and to hear.

While Krassimira Stoyanova does not efface memories of the likes of Renata Tebaldi or Margaret Price, among other famous interpreters of Desdemona's role, she rises to the challenges, alike in dramatic situations and Desdemona's lovely melancholic and elegiac music in the last act, in which she faces Otello's unjust wrath at her supposèd infidelity and dies at his hands. Her assumption of the role of Otello's luckless wife is utterly satisfying.

The most stunning and surprising successes, however, are baritone Lado Ataneli as Iago, Otello's venal nemesis, and tenor Vittorio Grigolo's Cassio. I found especially impressive in Ataneli's performance the sheer musicality and technical prowess that he has in such abundance. An example, in which he triumphantly shows his Verdian credentials, is how he sings Iago's drinking song ("Inaffia l'ugola") in Act One. The chromatic runs, as he sings them, are not the usual ugly smear to which most baritones reduce them; if the notes as Ataneli sings them are perhaps not quite clear enough to present to a student in an ear-training class as musical dictation, they still are sufficiently distinct not to seem merely to be some kind of downward scoops or swoops! Ataneli's sheer musicality is truly exceptional. He is not visually the most memorable Iago that one can imagine, but his acting is more than passable, as he, regarding his own contribution, has executed the stage director's concepts. As for Vittorio Grigolo's Cassio, his Hollywood good looks, so athletically trim and fit (even as seen shirtless, torso bare from the waist up), allied with his romantically youthful and impetuous acting, make his work to be among the highlights of this staged production. Grigolo's lirico-spinto voice contrasts effectively with Cura's immense dramatic tenor vocal presence and, if Cassio is not a role that offers the maximum for his talents, Grigolo's singing is not that of the usual lacklustre comprimario than one expects to encounter in this part. Cassio, in this performance, becomes much more a centre of interest than I ever would have thought possible, being quite credibly convincing as the rival for Desdemona's love that Otello wrongly suspects him to be.

This is an exceptionally well and evenly cast "Otello", with no vocal weaknesses in any of the major or secondary roles. If it were not for such an austerely bleak staging, this DVD would merit an Amazon full five-star review. The chorus sings acceptably, even if its intonation occasionally leaves just a little bit to be desired, and the Gran Teatre del Liceu's orchestra now has risen to the considerable challenges of Verdi's orchestral writing in a way that it not always has managed to do this competently in the Barcelona company's long past. Credits and notes (including synopsis) are adequate in the absence of the full libretto; there are brief bonus features, including one that explains the opera's action, keyed to the production seen, best viewed prior to playback of the opera itself for those who do not know the work well. The subtitles are good and, of course, quite helpful as well.

Verdi;Giuseppe Otello [Import]
Verdi;Giuseppe Otello [Import]
DVD ~ Jose Cura
Price: CDN$ 47.99
21 used & new from CDN$ 28.74

4.0 out of 5 stars Superb Singing and Acting in Verdi's Great Opera, Even if the Staging Is Too Barren, Aug. 26 2015
This DVD of Verdi's "Otello", the title role of which is one of the most arduous in the tenor's mainstream operatic repertory, is very satisfying musically and dramatically, especially on the part of José Cura as Otello himself, but also in the other roles. What limits the appeal of Opus Arte's video (the two-DVD set of which bears the catalogue number OA-0963-D) is Willy Decker's extremely barren staging. Fortunately, while there are almost no real scenery and few props aside from an always present gigantic cross, some swords, a dagger, and not much else, the soloists and chorus are nicely costumed, which relieves a bit the lack of much of anything scenically specific surrounding them on stage as they act and sing. Whatever reservation I have about this, at least this quasi-abstract production is not one of the hideous "Euro-trash" abominations that are so prevalent on stage and on video nowadays.

José Cura sings and acts heroically and with great fervour, whether as military hero or as lover. His large voice never shows a trace of compromise upon his seemingly boundless vocal resources. He is right up there among post-W.W.-2 Otellos as Carlo Cossuta, Giacomo Giacomini, or Plácido Domingo. He does not quite attain the supreme mastery of Mario del Monaco in the title role of this opera, but Cura comes closer to that gold standard than all but very few recent tenors do, and, visually speaking, Cura has a lot of the macho appeal that even handsomer del Monaco so exudes, and Cura's acting and vocal control are wonderful to behold and to hear.

While Krassimira Stoyanova does not efface memories of the likes of Renata Tebaldi or Margaret Price, among other famous interpreters of Desdemona's role, she rises to the challenges, alike in dramatic situations and Desdemona's lovely melancholic and elegiac music in the last act, in which she faces Otello's unjust wrath at her supposèd infidelity and dies at his hands. Her assumption of the role of Otello's luckless wife is utterly satisfying.

The most stunning and surprising successes, however, are baritone Lado Ataneli as Iago, Otello's venal nemesis, and tenor Vittorio Grigolo's Cassio. I found especially impressive in Ataneli's performance the sheer musicality and technical prowess that he has in such abundance. An example, in which he triumphantly shows his Verdian credentials, is how he sings Iago's drinking song ("Inaffia l'ugola") in Act One. The chromatic runs, as he sings them, are not the usual ugly smear to which most baritones reduce them; if the notes as Ataneli sings them are perhaps not quite clear enough to present to a student in an ear-training class as musical dictation, they still are sufficiently distinct not to seem merely to be some kind of downward scoops or swoops! Ataneli's sheer musicality is truly exceptional. He is not visually the most memorable Iago that one can imagine, but his acting is more than passable, as he, regarding his own contribution, has executed the stage director's concepts. As for Vittorio Grigolo's Cassio, his Hollywood good looks, so athletically trim and fit (even as seen shirtless, torso bare from the waist up), allied with his romantically youthful and impetuous acting, make his work to be among the highlights of this staged production. Grigolo's lirico-spinto voice contrasts effectively with Cura's immense dramatic tenor vocal presence and, if Cassio is not a role that offers the maximum for his talents, Grigolo's singing is not that of the usual lacklustre comprimario than one expects to encounter in this part. Cassio, in this performance, becomes much more a centre of interest than I ever would have thought possible, being quite credibly convincing as the rival for Desdemona's love that Otello wrongly suspects him to be.

This is an exceptionally well and evenly cast "Otello", with no vocal weaknesses in any of the major or secondary roles. If it were not for such an austerely bleak staging, this DVD would merit an Amazon full five-star review. The chorus sings acceptably, even if its intonation occasionally leaves just a little bit to be desired, and the Gran Teatre del Liceu's orchestra now has risen to the considerable challenges of Verdi's orchestral writing in a way that it not always has managed to do this competently in the Barcelona company's long past. Credits and notes (including synopsis) are adequate in the absence of the full libretto; there are brief bonus features, including one that explains the opera's action, keyed to the production seen, best viewed prior to playback of the opera itself for those who do not know the work well. The subtitles are good and, of course, quite helpful as well.

Elephant Song / La chanson de l'éléphant (Bilingual)
Elephant Song / La chanson de l'éléphant (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Bruce Greenwood
Price: CDN$ 19.99
7 used & new from CDN$ 14.50

4.0 out of 5 stars An Enigmatic and Deeply Troubled Youth, but One of Many Nasty Strategems, Is the Centre of This Psychological Drama, Aug. 19 2015
"Elephant Song" (in French, "Chanson de l'éléphant") is the sort of motion picture that I usually would avoid like the plague. That is due to my detestation of all that relates to psychology and clinical psychiatry. (Apart from neurology, there is too little in psychology or psychiatry that amounts to much more than gentrified Voodoo.) However, I am a keen and, well, outright addicted fan of the work of Xavier Dolan, the "wunderkind" of Québec and Canadian cinema. (Although this film was made with much involvement of French-Canadians, it is essentially an Ontarian product.) It is rather a shame that this DVD product (Seville/Entertainment One 211433-DV) includes no bonus features, for, given its subject matter, there are some things about the film that remain somewhat inscrutable even after one has sorted things in one's mind in order to understand more fully what the movie and the character of Michael himself are all about.

Xavier Dolan plays the central role of Michael Aleen, a deeply troubled youth with some pretty "savage baggage" to bear regarding his traumatic and emotionally deprived childhood. He has been hospitalised in a mental institution for five years at the time of the film's action. He has taunted and tormented and played mind games on the doctors and nurses of the institution, using his intellect to probe and to wound those who have had charge of him. Dr. Toby Greene (acted by Bruce Greenwood) is taking over his case and makes some very fatal errors in dealing with Michael, who is like a stealthy hunter seeking his prey. Not reading the dossier about Michael, first due to having forgotten to take along his prescription eyeglasses to work, then continuing to neglect that documentation as Michael tricks him into intentionally ignoring it, Dr. Greene falls into some of Michael's insidious and destructive traps and unwisely ignores the warnings of psychiatric nurse Susan Peterson (depicted by Catherine Keener). The result is tragic. To find out how, take either of two (among other possible) steps, i.e., see the film or read the detailed description of it on "Wikipedia".

Despite the usual mumbo-jumbo and inflated trumpery of clinical psychiatry, the film is absorbing and builds tension, especially as it has proceeded by the end of it. The movie is worth viewing also for the sake of the superb acting by its distinguished cast. The cunning, self-destructive patient outmanoeuvres the professional man who has fallen into the trap of being too wise in the conceits and sheer bunk of his dubiously presumptuous profession!

Greg and Gentillon by Anthem Pictures
Greg and Gentillon by Anthem Pictures
DVD ~ Matthiew Klinck
Offered by JnP Store Canada
Price: CDN$ 11.13

3.0 out of 5 stars Two Self-Deluded, Pathetically Bad Stand-up Comedians Face Lacklustre Results of Their Non-Talent on the Entertainment Circuit, Aug. 12 2015
This film is the kind of phenomenon that here in Rouyn-Noranda, Qué., where we have an entire festival of this sort of thing (believe it or not!), namely the "Festival du 'DocuMenteur' de l'Abitibi-Témiscamingue", which annually occurs right here in the Mockumentary Capital of the World, exclusively featuring such "mockumentaries", i.e. faked documentaries, for the sake of the humour of it all. (Just think of that witty French neologism, "docuMenteur", as an English punning word, "docuMendacity".) On those terms the film, which I viewed in one of its North American DVD editions (Alliance 102469) actually works, although it takes awhile to realise what the actors and others involved in producing it are striving for. This is not quite the kind of straightforward comedy, also, admittedly, a "mockumentary", that is only partly an equivalent, for deluded stand-up comedians, of what "This Is Spinal Tap", its sequels, and films and sound recordings imitating that cult classic, are for would-be, inept rockers who are "legends in their own minds" (and nothing more than that). "Greg & Gentillon" documents a friendship gone sour on the road as delusions and failure wreck those lads' relationship with each other. At least both of them still are young, with their adult futures ahead of them, once they come to their senses!

Greg and Gentillon (or "G2", played, respectively, by Louis Durand and Thomas Michael) have been childhood friends, great buddies in high school, whom their classmates and the citizens of Aylmer, Québec, enjoy simply for whom they are as human beings, rather than the star entertainers that the warm reception and recognition of their small community lead the lads on to thinking that they can achieve stardom. In fact, they have no real artistic talent at all, which, soon enough and ever more progressively, becomes obvious as things stagnate and worsen for them in Toronto, the big centre which they set out upon graduating from high school, with hopes to have its people adoringly at their feet. Then, so they hope, onwards to Los Angeles and to Las Vegas! However, the two are merely jovial mates whose good-natured camaraderie is something that others in Aylmer cherish for the sweet and modestly pleasing thing that it is. Their antics are not really comic, just youthfully high-spirited fun for their friends and fellow citizens in little Aylmer share in and to enjoy. Greg and Gentillon remind me of guys in the circle of young friends, in their twenties and thirties, who get together in the back yard for barbecues and beer-fests at the apartment building next-door to me where one of the couples lives. Their rowdy frolicking is enjoyable for those involved but not meant for public consumption on stage or screen and, of course, they themselves would be aware of that. Putting such "personal shtick" up on the stage leads to truly "pathetic" results (in the sense of being lame and unimpressive).

In the movie, Greg gets involved additionally in a fourth-rate "bar band", which increasingly draws him into its realm and leads to a gradual rift in his collaborations with Gentillon. A rupture develops in the friendship of the two, things have fallen completely apart in Toronto, and, chastened by experience, Greg, realising that his life (in music as well as in comedy) is going nowhere, returns to Aylmer. The duo's truly pathetic agent, Paul-Emile (acted by Paolo Mancini), a n'er-do-well living in the basement of his parents' house, is just as deluded as G2 themselves are, but he, at least hem, with a glimmer of self-protection, remains behind in Aylmer where he belongs, rather than sets himself up in higher style that only would bust him financially. In the film, both comedy duo and band never do anything beyond provide low-grand stage chatter in bars, eateries, and other such venues as "amateur hour" fare (what, in comedy, is known as "open mic" opportunities) or, in the case of the band in which Greg takes part, provide music also as background sonic fare for customers to drink, to flirt, to cruise-for-sex, to "schmooze" with friends and strangers alike, and, in general, to carouse. As for Gentillon, well, he seems, by film's end, intent on persisting in going solo as a comic, not realising how utterly non-existent his "talent" really is, leaving the viewer only to hope for the best for him, with more than merely uncertainty that he likely will go anywhere far in the entertainment world.

I can think of a good use for this bilingual French-English film (with subtitles when French is the language spoken), which grows increasingly grim as it proceeds. In university, there were classmates as fellow music majors who had either no discernible talent at all or who had it in too little measure to achieve even modest success in music, especially as performers or composers. In some cases a few eventually would manage to inflict themselves as "music educators" upon children and teens, teaching music poorly, blandly, and inadequately. I was one of the few of my class to make a career in music, in librarianship, while others should have sought also to follow related endeavours such the music industry or sales, although very few did so. "Greg & Gentillon" would be a good film for such aspiring musical tyros to see and to absorb the lessons that it (along with some serious discussion with adults after viewing it) could impart to such students of the performing arts, be that in music, drama, comedy, or other areas thereof. Perhaps in that function, rather than as only an intermittently enjoyable movie, "Greg & Gentillon" could serve a much-needed function to curb star-struck youth who really should reassess their genuine potential.

Les Garçons et Guillaume, à table ! (César® 2014 du meilleur film et du meilleur acteur) [Blu-ray]
Les Garçons et Guillaume, à table ! (César® 2014 du meilleur film et du meilleur acteur) [Blu-ray]
Offered by Gray Fox Canada
Price: CDN$ 33.75
10 used & new from CDN$ 32.21

3.0 out of 5 stars A Young Man Discovers, After Exploring Different Female Identies, That He Really Is Heterosexual, Aug. 9 2015
One would suppose that the French (referring most especially to those of France and Belgium, but to other Francophones, too), of all people in this world, know a thing or two concerning sexual identity, about the infinite variety of love and of men and women ("Vive la difference!") who love and lust for each other, and so forth, but that does not mean that they always convey superior worldly advice or (if there be any) offer definitive insights. Maybe they just tend to be right most of the time! But perhaps not in this often tiresomely mannered film, which is rather like a long joke that is just too exquisite for its own good. The North American edition viewed of "Les Garçons, et Guillaume, à table!" (a.k.a. "Me, Myself, and Mum") was Seville/Entertainment One 200533-DV, which includes helpful subtitles in English; there are no bonus features included.

Guillaume, alike the character and the actor portraying it, is just too invariably coy. Essentially, the main male character suffers misunderstandings about what role his mother (and his father) really wish for him to live out. It seems like someone would have to be mentally retarded not to get the message more quickly than Guillaume does, since the comedy so constantly and directly poses it, compared to how even "real life" (whatever that may be) does so. Well, the mother does send mixed messages, as Guillaume eventually figures out for himself by the end of the movie.

There are some amusing moments in this film. The farcical depiction of the English (Guillaume being packed off at one point in the movie to an English boarding school) with all of their world-famous eccentricity, is funny. So are Guillaume's absurd dealings with gay men. (To this film's credit, the real gays with whom he comes into contact, unlike those whom Guillaume has imagined for himself, are just too relentlessly strong and masculine for him to identify with!) Anyway, there is enough to enjoy in the film to make watching it worthwhile. That is so despite the many boring stretches, due to too much preciosity, which really should not have been needed. Guillaume finds, after all of these battles of the sexes, those especially within himself, that he is a man, an heterosexual one, at that. How and in what way, in spite of the overbearing mother whom he also portrays, is left here for the reader to discover for himself!

Greg & Gentillon
Greg & Gentillon
DVD ~ Louis Durand
Offered by e-moveo
Price: CDN$ 6.24
9 used & new from CDN$ 2.49

3.0 out of 5 stars A Better "Mockumentary" Than It Promises to Be Earlier in This Film about Two Failing Stand-up Comics, Aug. 8 2015
This review is from: Greg & Gentillon (DVD)
This film is the kind of phenomenon that here in Rouyn-Noranda, Qué., where we have an entire festival of this sort of thing (believe it or not!), namely the "Festival du 'DocuMenteur' de l'Abitibi-Témiscamingue", which annually occurs right here in the Mockumentary Capital of the World, exclusively featuring such "mockumentaries", i.e. faked documentaries, for the sake of the humour of it all. (Just think of that witty French neologism, "docuMenteur", as an English punning word, "docuMendacity".) On those terms the film, which I viewed in one of its North American DVD editions (Alliance 102469) actually works, although it takes awhile to realise what the actors and others involved in producing it are striving for. This is not quite the kind of straightforward comedy, also, admittedly, a "mockumentary", that is only partly an equivalent, for deluded stand-up comedians, of what "This Is Spinal Tap", its sequels, and films and sound recordings imitating that cult classic, are for would-be, inept rockers who are "legends in their own minds" (and nothing more than that). "Greg & Gentillon" documents a friendship gone sour on the road as delusions and failure wreck those lads' relationship with each other. At least both of them still are young, with their adult futures ahead of them, once they come to their senses!

Greg and Gentillon (or "G2", played, respectively, by Louis Durand and Thomas Michael) have been childhood friends, great buddies in high school, whom their classmates and the citizens of Aylmer, Québec, enjoy simply for whom they are as human beings, rather than the star entertainers that the warm reception and recognition of their small community lead the lads on to thinking that they can achieve stardom. In fact, they have no real artistic talent at all, which, soon enough and ever more progressively, becomes obvious as things stagnate and worsen for them in Toronto, the big centre which they set out upon graduating from high school, with hopes to have its people adoringly at their feet. Then, so they hope, onwards to Los Angeles and to Las Vegas! However, the two are merely jovial mates whose good-natured camaraderie is something that others in Aylmer cherish for the sweet and modestly pleasing thing that it is. Their antics are not really comic, just youthfully high-spirited fun for their friends and fellow citizens in little Aylmer share in and to enjoy. Greg and Gentillon remind me of guys in the circle of young friends, in their twenties and thirties, who get together in the back yard for barbecues and beer-fests at the apartment building next-door to me where one of the couples lives. Their rowdy frolicking is enjoyable for those involved but not meant for public consumption on stage or screen and, of course, they themselves would be aware of that. Putting such "personal shtick" up on the stage leads to truly "pathetic" results (in the sense of being lame and unimpressive).

In the movie, Greg gets involved additionally in a fourth-rate "bar band", which increasingly draws him into its realm and leads to a gradual rift in his collaborations with Gentillon. A rupture develops in the friendship of the two, things have fallen completely apart in Toronto, and, chastened by experience, Greg, realising that his life (in music as well as in comedy) is going nowhere, returns to Aylmer. The duo's truly pathetic agent, Paul-Emile (acted by Paolo Mancini), a n'er-do-well living in the basement of his parents' house, is just as deluded as G2 themselves are, but he, at least hem, with a glimmer of self-protection, remains behind in Aylmer where he belongs, rather than sets himself up in higher style that only would bust him financially. In the film, both comedy duo and band never do anything beyond provide low-grand stage chatter in bars, eateries, and other such venues as "amateur hour" fare (what, in comedy, is known as "open mic" opportunities) or, in the case of the band in which Greg takes part, provide music also as background sonic fare for customers to drink, to flirt, to cruise-for-sex, to "schmooze" with friends and strangers alike, and, in general, to carouse. As for Gentillon, well, he seems, by film's end, intent on persisting in going solo as a comic, not realising how utterly non-existent his "talent" really is, leaving the viewer only to hope for the best for him, with more than merely uncertainty that he likely will go anywhere far in the entertainment world.

I can think of a good use for this bilingual French-English film (with subtitles when French is the language spoken), which grows increasingly grim as it proceeds. In university, there were classmates as fellow music majors who had either no discernible talent at all or who had it in too little measure to achieve even modest success in music, especially as performers or composers. In some cases a few eventually would manage to inflict themselves as "music educators" upon children and teens, teaching music poorly, blandly, and inadequately. I was one of the few of my class to make a career in music, in librarianship, while others should have sought also to follow related endeavours such the music industry or sales, although very few did so. "Greg & Gentillon" would be a good film for such aspiring musical tyros to see and to absorb the lessons that it (along with some serious discussion with adults after viewing it) could impart to such students of the performing arts, be that in music, drama, comedy, or other areas thereof. Perhaps in that function, rather than as only an intermittently enjoyable movie, "Greg & Gentillon" could serve a much-needed function to curb star-struck youth who really should reassess their genuine potential.

Me, Myself and Mum / Les garçons et Guillaume, à table! (Bilingual)
Me, Myself and Mum / Les garçons et Guillaume, à table! (Bilingual)
DVD ~ tba
Price: CDN$ 23.99
11 used & new from CDN$ 12.95

3.0 out of 5 stars "Vive la différence!" Yes, Men and Women Are Different, but Just How That Is So Takes Young Guillaume Some Time to Learn!, Aug. 7 2015
One would suppose that the French (referring most especially to those of France and Belgium, but to other Francophones, too), of all people in this world, know a thing or two concerning sexual identity, about the infinite variety of love and of men and women ("Vive la difference!") who love and lust for each other, and so forth, but that does not mean that they always convey superior worldly advice or (if there be any) offer definitive insights. Maybe they just tend to be right most of the time! But perhaps not in this often tiresomely mannered film, which is rather like a long joke that is just too exquisite for its own good. The North American edition viewed of "Les Garçons, et Guillaume, à table!" (a.k.a. "Me, Myself, and Mum") was Seville/Entertainment One 200533-DV, which includes helpful subtitles in English; there are no bonus features included.

Guillaume, alike the character and the actor portraying it, is just too invariably coy. Essentially, the main male character suffers misunderstandings about what role his mother (and his father) really wish for him to live out. It seems like someone would have to be mentally retarded not to get the message more quickly than Guillaume does, since the comedy so constantly and directly poses it, compared to how even "real life" (whatever that may be) does so. Well, the mother does send mixed messages, as Guillaume eventually figures out for himself by the end of the movie.

There are some amusing moments in this film. The farcical depiction of the English (Guillaume being packed off at one point in the movie to an English boarding school) with all of their world-famous eccentricity, is funny. So are Guillaume's absurd dealings with gay men. (To this film's credit, the real gays with whom he comes into contact, unlike those whom Guillaume has imagined for himself, are just too relentlessly strong and masculine for him to identify with!) Anyway, there is enough to enjoy in the film to make watching it worthwhile. That is so despite the many boring stretches, due to too much preciosity, which really should not have been needed. Guillaume finds, after all of these battles of the sexes, those especially within himself, that he is a man, an heterosexual one, at that. How and in what way, in spite of the overbearing mother whom he also portrays, is left here for the reader to discover for himself!

Too Much Flesh
Too Much Flesh
DVD ~ Jean-Marc Barr
Offered by King Of Trade
Price: CDN$ 19.96
3 used & new from CDN$ 16.97

3.0 out of 5 stars The Most Sexually Explicit -- but Far from Best -- Part of an Erotic Trilogy, Aug. 6 2015
This review is from: Too Much Flesh (DVD)
This peculiar film, in which rather a lot more fairly experienced and reputed actors and other contributors took part than seems evident in the totality of the end product, is an European-American production, apparently made with telecast on cable TV (especially in Europe) as its natural outlet. "Too much Flesh" is part of an erotic trilogy, the other highly sexual films of which are "Lovers" and "Being Light", constituting together the "Freelogy" (rhyming with "Threelogy" for "trilogy" about, at least among other things, "free love", get it? a conceit a bit too convoluted for its own good!). At least "Being Light", for its own part (one less fixated upon sheer eroticism), is guaranteed an individually long existence on the market for the sake of the presence among its cast of Romain Duris, one of Europe's greatest (and sexiest) male cinema celebrities, hugely popular in the French-speaking world.

As for "Too Much Flesh", the movie in some ways is under-produced, badly in need, for example, of more adequate sound crafting or engineering, feeling too empty without the kind of ambient or suggestive sound, as well as some discreet background music here and there, which would give "sonic body" to the film and help in continuity. There is music, mostly country-western, downright bluegrass, and white gospel music, styles which arise from the same American cultural currents. Speaking of that, the clumsy free-form dancing to the bluegrass and country music that occurs would be okay enough, but, really, dancing also to white gospel music?!? That seems rather implausible for this Midwestern setting of farmland Illinois, only one of many gaffes in portraying rural American culture and folkways.

Despite so many French names among the cast and contributors, the acting does seem convincingly American, maybe even Midwestern enough for the film's setting, with no French or other European accents anywhere to be heard. Jean-Marc Barr, co-director and actor in the principal male part of Lyle, a man with "too much flesh", i.e. of abnormal penis size and shape, like all the rest of the cast, speaks without even the faintest trace of accent. In the case of French actress, Élodie Blouchez, who plays Juliette, the French girl whom Lyle's rather handsome gay brother, Vernon (portrayed by Ian Vogt), a writer, brings back with him from Paris, she (ironically enough) would have been more believable if she had let some of her native French colour her English, which in this movie sounds totally free of any trace of French accent!

The plot, not to give too much of it away, concerns a couple, Lyle (acted by the Jean-Marc Barr, also director of all three films in the "Freelogy") and his wife, Amy (played by Rosanna Arquette), both of whom have complexes which inhibit sex in their till-now chaste relationship, due to Amy's frigidity and to Lyle's misguided idea that his abnormally large and profuse penis would make love-making impossible (even though he masturbates quite happily and with ease, as some scenes in the film demonstrate). When Juliette appears in town and on his farm, Lyle and she start up the sexual relationship which she ought to have been having with Vernon and which Lyle should have been having for all of those years with Amy. They draw into their circle Bert, a lad in his late teens (played by Ian Brennan, who, believe it or not, was quite handsome in a near James Franco lookalike sort of way, before turning into the wonkish-looking gargoyle into which he morphed for later films). Their threesome relationship and love-making, with bisexuality a component for Lyle and Bert, needless to say, shock the local yokels, whose (in some cases hypocritical) prudery lead to conflict, ostracism, and, ultimately, to tragedy (for the details of which, see the film itself!).

The concept of this film is great; it is in the details and in the apparently low-budget realisation of which that prevent this movie from being more satisfying than it is. The sex is quite explicit, with lots of nudity (just short of viewing past their pubic hair to the genitalia of Lyle, Bert, and of Juliette). The dialogue is an additional rather flat element of the work, even downright lame at times, which is a pity, given the scenario's potential. The last stretch of the film picks up in pace and intensity, however, making its conclusion quite satisfactory (better than the rest) as cinema.

Around the Block by Random Media
Around the Block by Random Media
DVD ~ Sarah Spillane
Offered by JnP Store Canada
Price: CDN$ 44.69

4.0 out of 5 stars Saved from Mediocrity and from Some "Politically Correct" Silliness by Magnificent Acting of Young Actor, Hunter Page-Lochard, Aug. 3 2015
The assessment of "Around the Block", for Amazon-U.S. and Amazon-Canada, that "Movie Guy" made is right on the mark. The film is enjoyable, for the most part, but not a first-class effort or production. It is one of those "life parallels" films to a Shakespeare play, this one to "Hamlet", rather than, as so often, to "Macbeth", "King Lear", or "Romeo and Juliet", and so on. The parallels are just a tad too heavy-handed and obvious to be considered as artistically satisfying. So are the social, sexual (including lesbian), poverty, and other issues that the film tackles, with varying success. I certainly can vouch that the movie's editing was wise to exclude the deleted scenes which one sees among the DVD's bonuses; those bits of the film, had they been included, only would have weighted it down with even clumsier didacticism and with yet heavier doses of the sentiments which, in already too great supply, flaw so much of that which appears elsewhere in the movie.

For the most part, the mainly Australian cast speaks understandably enough for a Canadian or American audience to understand easily. Nonetheless, in an edition aimed at the North American market, subtitles definitely would have been helpful, the more so for those, like myself, who are somewhat hard-of-hearing, but, at least on the edition viewed (Ramdom Media RM-4400), they were not provided. It helped me, as compensation for that, to read the reviews, which reveal much of the synopsis of the movie, that I found readily enough on the Web, done by Joe Leydon for "Variety" magasine's site and another written up for "The Hollywood Reporter" by David Rooney. What one finds about the film on the IMDb (Internet Movie Database) and on Wikipedia simply, in each case, is too skimpy to offer much help. The reviews referred to both were quite negative, too much so in my view, especially for a film showcasing so well the extraordinary talents of Hunter Page-Lochard, the young Australian Aborigine actor who depicts Liam Wood's character, the one who is in the school production cast of "Hamlet" in the title role of Shakespeare's play.

I first saw Hunter Page-Lochard in "The Sapphires", an Australian musical film in which he played a bit part. Even in that context, it was clear to my eyes that this cutely attractive young dude is very gifted as a film actor. Here, in "Around the Block", the script gives him magnificent opportunities to shine; his dramatic intensity and boundless involvement in the film make the best of even the most over-the-top excesses or uncomfortably smarmy sentiment in the script of his scenes. Page-Lochard acts all of his part, the good and the tawdry alike which writer-director Sarah Spillane provided for the motion picture, so well, with such magnificent screen presence, that he raises an otherwise mediocre film to a cinematic work of genuine and gripping interest. For comment on the contributions of the other actors in the cast, what the clutch of good reviews on Amazon, on its U.S. and other national Web sites, have to say suffices, therefore I shall not prolong my own comments on the movie to deal with their contributions. For Hunter Page-Lochard's sake, this movie definitely is worth viewing!

Around the Block
Around the Block
DVD ~ Christina Ricci
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 16.24
21 used & new from CDN$ 14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars This Motion Picture Is a Triumph for Australian Aborigine Actor, Hunter Page-Lochard!, Aug. 2 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Around the Block (DVD)
The assessment of "Around the Block", for Amazon-Canada, that "Movie Guy" made is on the mark. The film is enjoyable, for the most part, but not a first-class effort or production. It is one of those "life parallels" films to a Shakespeare play, this one to "Hamlet", rather than, as so often, to "Macbeth", "King Lear", or "Romeo and Juliet", and so on. The parallels are just a tad too heavy-handed and obvious to be considered as artistically satisfying. So are the social, sexual (including lesbian), poverty, and other issues that the film tackles, with varying success. I certainly can vouch that the movie's editing was wise to exclude the deleted scenes which one sees among the DVD's bonuses; those bits of the film, had they been included, only would have weighted it down with even clumsier didacticism and with yet heavier doses of the sentiments which, in already too great supply, flaw so much of that which appears elsewhere in the movie.

For the most part, the mainly Australian cast speaks understandably enough for a Canadian or American audience to understand easily. Nonetheless, in an edition aimed at the North American market, subtitles definitely would have been helpful, the more so for those, like myself, who are somewhat hard-of-hearing, but, at least on the edition viewed (Ramdom Media RM-4400), they were not provided. It helped me, as compensation for that, to read the reviews, which reveal much of the synopsis of the movie, that I found readily enough on the Web, done by Joe Leydon for "Variety" magasine's site and another written up for "The Hollywood Reporter" by David Rooney. What one finds about the film on the IMDb (Internet Movie Database) and on Wikipedia simply, in each case, is too skimpy to offer much help. The reviews referred to both were quite negative, too much so in my view, especially for a film showcasing so well the extraordinary talents of Hunter Page-Lochard, the young Australian Aborigine actor who depicts Liam Wood's character, the one who is in the school production cast of "Hamlet" in the title role of Shakespeare's play.

I first saw Hunter Page-Lochard in "The Sapphires", an Australian musical film in which he played a bit part. Even in that context, it was clear to my eyes that this cutely attractive young dude is very gifted as a film actor. Here, in "Around the Block", the script gives him magnificent opportunities to shine; his dramatic intensity and boundless involvement in the film make the best of even the most over-the-top excesses or uncomfortably smarmy sentiment in the script of his scenes. Page-Lochard acts all of his part, the good and the tawdry alike which writer-director Sarah Spillane provided for the motion picture, so well, with such magnificent screen presence, that he raises an otherwise mediocre film to a cinematic work of genuine and gripping interest. For comment on the contributions of the other actors in the cast, what the clutch of good reviews on Amazon, on its U.S. and other national Web sites, have to say suffices, therefore I shall not prolong my own comments on the movie to deal with their contributions. For Hunter Page-Lochard's sake, this movie definitely is worth viewing!

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