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interested_observer "interested_observer" (San Francisco, CA USA)

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Close to Leo
Close to Leo
DVD ~ Yaniss Lespert
Offered by 5A/30 Entertainment
Price: CDN$ 66.58
4 used & new from CDN$ 58.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blow-Back for Overprotective Families, July 1 2004
This review is from: Close to Leo (DVD)
"Close to Leo" ("Tout contre Leo") shows the destructive impact on a 12-year old of the decisions made by older family members to hide personal information and feelings.
Marcel (played by Yannis Lespert) is the 12-year old. He has three older brothers, Leo (Pierre Mignard), Tristan (Rodolphe Pauly), and Pierrot (Jeremie Lippmann), all around 20 years old. After some introductory scenes, the movie really starts with Marcel going off to bed but coming back to hear the father of the family (Dominic Gould) ask the others not to tell Marcel that Leo is HIV-positive, because Marcel is "too young."
Marcel is soon acting a bit strangely and asking indirect questions. The mother (Marie Bunel) evades the questions. The other brothers make hints but back off on telling the story. Marcel does get some reassurance and information from the mother of one of his classmates.
Leo takes Marcel on a trip to Paris, where Leo hopes to rekindle a romance with an ex-boyfriend. Marcel hears from Leo that Leo is indeed very sick and very gay. After a while Marcel is able to figure out that that Leo is also very unhappy with his situation and with taking his meds. Leo puts Marcel on a train back home to Finisterre (western Brittany), saying that Leo is counting on Marcel to lighten the atmosphere back home. Then the movie goes on to its brief, unhappy conclusion.
Family life is filled with touching, hugs, kisses, sharing beds (non-sexually), and apparent good humor. Marcel finds himself having to counterbalance this with the adults' rapid mood swings and sudden distancing. The alternation of childhood intimacy and adult discretion, followed by trauma, finally gets to Marcel.
The boys are frequently not fully dressed, and the older brothers go skinny dipping. There is one sex scene for Leo in Paris.
Secrets are damaging, and talking through problems is helpful; the plot is successful, in part because, like Marcel, the audience is not told everything. The main actors, Yannis Lespert and Pierre Mignard, do a fine job.
Other than some trailers, there are no extras. The actors' names are not matched up with their characters' names in the credits. The movie is in French with optional subtitles.

Black Sheep Boy [Import]
Black Sheep Boy [Import]
DVD ~ Stuart Cataldo
Price: CDN$ 25.02
14 used & new from CDN$ 17.02

3.0 out of 5 stars Three Short Art Films, May 17 2004
This review is from: Black Sheep Boy [Import] (DVD)
"Black Sheep Boy" is the first of three short films by Michael Wallin on this Water Bearer Films DVD. All three films present images with voiceovers. There are no extras.
"Black Sheep Boy" (37 minutes, color) presents a number of attractive young men briefly (some more than once) in various states of dress both outdoors and indoors and also presents scenes of two or three modern dancers acting out relationship issues. The voiceover moves generally from observations on boys toward a director's perspective of wanting to limit the behavior of actors and models to keep them mysterious and undemanding. There are lots of jump cuts, nudity, posturings, bare feet, and interesting observations. This was the most visually engaging of the three films; one has to have the discipline to pay attention to the sound track, which is where the real story is told. Low 4 Stars.
The second film, "Decodings" (15 minutes; black & white) assembles historical footage (1940s and 1950s) with a voiceover that encourages one to consider how to be an individual in a mass society. Low 3 Stars.
The third film, "Place between Our Bodies" (33 minutes; color), shows the emergence of a man from an urban porn-centered milieu to idyllic scenes with them man in a positive relationship with a nice guy. There is some nudity and some hand-held shots of vintage pornography. 3 Stars.

X2000: Collected Shorts Of Francois Ozon [Import]
X2000: Collected Shorts Of Francois Ozon [Import]
DVD ~ François Delaive
5 used & new from CDN$ 88.79

3.0 out of 5 stars Four Films with Ten Ideas, May 16 2004
"The Collected Shorts of Francois Ozon: X 2000" bundles together four early, short films by the famed director. The DVD comes with no extras and with no chapter titles. When the fourth film is over, the first film starts over.
The first film is "Truth or Dare" ["Action Verite"], which shows two teen-age boys and two teen-age girls playing truth or dare. They target sex questions and dares involving kissing and touching. Then one dare produces a big surprise. (4 minutes) 3+ stars.
The second film is the best. "Little Death" [a poor translation of "La Petite Mort"; maybe "Post-Orgasm" is closer] stars Francois Delaive as Paul, a gay photographer estranged from his father and living with lover Martial (played by Martial Jacques). Paul likes to take pictures of men at sexual climax. Paul's sister Camille (played by Camille Japy) gets Paul to visit his dying father (played by Michel Beaujard). When Paul arrives, his father does not recognize him. Paul returns later to take pictures. After the father dies, Camille brings Paul some of his father's own photos. The film has a good emotional resolution. (24 minutes) Four stars.
The third film, "Bed Scenes" on the back of the DVD or "Bedtime Stories" in the film ["Scenes de lit"] presents seven very short bed scenes with different actors for each. Issues of trust, cleanliness, age differences, foreplay, transference, self-absorption, and experimentation appear, as do straight, gay, and lesbian behaviors. (25 minutes) Some are 3 stars and some are 4.
The fourth film, "X 2000", shows the morning after the 2000 New Year, many flights up in a residential suite. A nude man (played by Bruno Slagmulder) gets out of bed to get a hangover remedy. The nude women he is with (played by Denise Schropfer Aron) gets up later to take a languid bath. The man notices two young shirtless twin men sleeping in a sleeping bag, a nude couple having sex a few stories down in a neighboring building, and ants feasting on party left-overs. The man goes back to the woman, who asks what's up and is told that ants are attacking. (8 minutes) I could see this as a transition scene in a larger piece but not as a stand-alone. High 2/ low 3 stars.
It's good to gather all these scraps together. There are frequent skin scenes. "The Little Death" is very good movie. Fans of Jeremy Elkaim ("Come Undone") and Loie Even will be happy. I still recommend "Criminal Lovers" by Francois Ozon.

Don`T Tell Anyone
Don`T Tell Anyone
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 135.72
4 used & new from CDN$ 92.37

4.0 out of 5 stars Square Peg for only Round Holes, April 30 2004
This review is from: Don`T Tell Anyone (DVD)
I endorse Timothy Halkin's comments, currently in the Spotlight.
"Don't Tell Anyone" focuses on Joaquin Camino (well played by Santiago Magill), a young gay Peruvian from a good family, who is trying to get established as an adult. The society as a whole is conservative, with strong family values and Catholic morals. Joaquin has two relationships with men, Gonzalo (played by Christian Meier) and Alfonso Cordoba (played by Giovanni Ciccia), who are both comfortably bisexual. They will each marry and have supplemental same-sex dalliances. Joaquin wants his relationships uncluttered with wives and girlfriends, outs himself to his parents, and tells Gonzalo's fiancee about the same-sex relationship.
When a crisis emerges, Joaquin flees to Miami and lives there a year. We don't see Joaquin trying to meet a kindred spirit. It's just backrooms, tricks, and his cute bisexual roommate, who wants a wife. Joaquin's English is all right, and he is handsome. I just wonder why he didn't try harder to be in a relationship with a fully gay man.
Joaquin's girl-friend Alejandra (played by Lucia Jimenez) gets him to return to Lima, where he graduates from a university. She has some idea of what is happening, but thinks she can help or cure him.
At graduation, both Alfonso Cordoba amd Gonzalo advocate traditional marriage, with boyfriends on the side. It is a possibility that Joaquin might go along with this plan since the only alternative seems to be bachelorhood.
A different way of looking at this movie is to note how unconflicted the bisexuals seem to be. Societies that are very rigid and universal in marriage practices or that frequently use arranged marriages tend to wink at adultery, knowing that the marriages themselves are semi-coerced. This opens a window for bisexuality in Peru that is not acceptable in differently-Puritanical America, where people are expected to marry for love, not convenience.
Politics in the USA have carved out room for straights and for gays. (Joaquin should have done well here.) There are no institutions, programs, or real tolerance for bisexuality, even though more people are bi than gay. Bisexuals are to pick one sex and stick with it, at least serially. The movie shows a Latin American approach. Does the USA really have anything better?

Eistein of Sex, the
Eistein of Sex, the
DVD ~ Kai Schumann
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 271.38
9 used & new from CDN$ 15.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Depiction of the World of a Brave Researcher, April 29 2004
This review is from: Eistein of Sex, the (DVD)
"The Einstein of Sex" shows the life of Magnus Hirschfeld, a German Jew who helped pioneer the scientific study of sex. Hirschfeld became so famous for his work that he could joke that Einstein might be better known as the Hirschfeld of Physics. After achieving his greatest successes in the 1920s, Hirschfeld's Institute in Berlin was shut down by the Nazis in 1933, with Hirschfeld dying in exile in France a couple of years later.
Three actors portray Hirschfeld - one for the ten-year old sex sketcher, one for the student and young doctor, and one for the middle-aged doctor and institution head. The latter two are immersed in a world of male sexuality.
The audience gets to see a parade of attractive, freqently unclothed men, who appear as patients, nudists, hyper-masculine patriots, transvestites, or as other examples of early twentieth century marginal groups. Some scenes look like recreations of photographs from the period. Seemingly modern activities like "outing" or fighting sodomy laws were being done a long time ago.
Hirschfeld himself is shown trying for years to stay celebate and focus on his work, despite various temptations. He develops a relationship with a cute assistant, Karl Giese (played by Olaf Drauschke), that lasts for many years (though the film telescopes this). Toward the end Hirschfeld takes a long trip and cheats on Giese, although this is not explored in depth. So there is some personal journey mixed in with the wide social survey.
The camera work and sets give the movie an inexpensive feel, although the acting is servicable. I especially liked Drauschke (Giese), Gerd Lukas Storzer as Baron von Tauschenberg (a young, early assistant to Hirschfeld), and Gerry Wolf (as Hirschfeld's conservative uncle).
A big plus is that there is a 30+ minute documentary on Magnus Hirschfeld and director Rosa von Prauheim. This gives more background on the history and on the director's views. There is also some documentary footage in the main film.
The photo gallery has some hot photos not in the film. Some of these appear on the back of the DVD case (with suitable alteration).
I upgraded the film a bit for the idea that Hirschfeld managed to do sex research on a scale unequalled before or since. (Kinsey was an honorable second.) Nowadays, the US Federal government resists funding any sort of sexuality study; having a finding that gay or bi sexuality is normal would outrage too many. Since the Nazis destroyed the Institute's records (forcing future researchers to start from scratch), this unique movie and accompanying documentary is a reminder of what is useful and possible. "The Einstein of Sex" is a worthwhile DVD to watch or own.

Class Trip (Version française) [Import]
Class Trip (Version française) [Import]
DVD ~ Clément van den Bergh
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 216.03
4 used & new from CDN$ 59.65

4.0 out of 5 stars Alpine Suspense, April 28 2004
"Class Trip" ("La classe de neige") is a psychological thriller about fourteen-year old Nicolas (very well played by Clement van den Bergh), sent to a school in the French Alps. Although his teachers are supportive, Nicolas is withdrawn. He gradually develops a friendship with fellow student Hodkann (played by Lokman Nalcakan). Nicolas seems consumed with shocking memories, or are they wild fantasies? Artificial limbs, children abducted for organ harvesting, paramilitary attacks on the school, freezing to death in a car, his own funeral, missing children, hostile fathers, and monkey paws granting wishes all make appearances. Nicolas quietly tells Hodkann and some others parts of the story. What is true and what is not? What to do about it? The suspense builds quite masterfully to a satisfying conclusion.
While this film seems to be marketed as a gay film, it is really a thriller. Nicolas may have a mild crush on Hodkann, but it doesn't go further than that. The two skin scenes are not gratuitous and are tasteful.
The acting (especially by van den Bergh), the interesting screenplay, and the fine cinematography all make this a suspenseful psychological thriller.

Party Monster [Import]
Party Monster [Import]
DVD ~ Macaulay Culkin
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 169.11
8 used & new from CDN$ 4.98

3.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous on the Surface, Feb. 8 2004
This review is from: Party Monster [Import] (DVD)
"Party Monster" the movie draws from James St. James' book "Disco Bloodbath" and from film shot for the "Party Monster" shockumentary. The "Party Monster" movie purports to tell the tale of the rise and fall of Michael Alig, using trained actors and screenwriters. There would be adjustments to the story to suit the film market. The results of this are mixed.
Some pieces worked well.
Strengthening the James St. James part (played by Seth Green) brought a hazy character from the shockumentary close to the center of the film. James becomes the drug-addled conscience of the movie. (There is an offsetting loss of Angel Melendez's brother, Johnny, the hero of the shockumentary.)
Using real Club Kids and their actual costumes helped bring enthusiasm and energy to the film.
The Peter Gatien character (Dylan McDermott) was more of a presence in the film than in the shocumentary, giving more background on the economics of hosting the Club Kids.
The role of drugs in Alig's downfall was made clearer in the movie.
There was a downside too.
I just can't believe this Michael Alig (played by Macaulay Culkin) would be able to convice Peter Gatien to give him a chance. The real Michael Alig of the shockumentary (charismatic even behind bars) had the charm and drive to pull it off.
While frequently showing Michael Alig, James St. James and others camping it up, the film takes too much care not to show Michael Alig acting on his homosexual drives. On his way to giving a first date kiss to DJ Keoki (Wilmer Valderrama) inside a garbage dumpster (don't ask), the camera cuts to skyrockets. Michael and James dance once and touch carefully, but that's all. In the shockumentary, Michael is arrested at his new boyfriend's place in New Jersey. In the movie he and girlfriend gitsie (Chloe Sevigny) take a bubble bath together, deep kiss, and are spooning as the police arrive. Mustn't frighten the audience.
The death, disposal, and investigation of Angel Melendez (Wilson Cruz) were more complete and understandable in the shockumentary, although the film showed enough for me. Freez was scarier in the shockumentary. Cruz did a convincing job.
Michael Alig has skin shots; there are discrete skin flashes from some Club Kids.
There is an ok directors' commentary and brief actor interviews.
If you really want to know what happened, read the book or see the shockumentary. If you want to see a focused story, this movie is all right. Also, if you like Seth Green here, take a look at "The Attic Expeditions."

My Life on Ice (Version française)
My Life on Ice (Version française)
DVD ~ Ariane Ascaride
Offered by 5A/30 Entertainment
Price: CDN$ 63.69
10 used & new from CDN$ 36.40

4.0 out of 5 stars Smile for the Camera! Oh, Have You Had Sex Yet?, Jan. 31 2004
"My Life on Ice" (Ma vraie vie a Rouen) shows how a 16-year old French student and figure skater uses a gift digital camera to explore his world and his relationships, allowing him to make some decisions and forays.
Etienne (played by Jimmy Tavares) gets along very well with his widowed mother, Caroline (played by Ariane Ascaride) and his step-father's mother, Granma (played by Helene Surgere). When Granma wins a digital camera in a lottery, she passes it on to Etienne at the start of the movie.
Etienne figures the camera out immediately and takes pictures of what matters most to him - his mother and grandmother, his skating, his best friend, Ludovic (played by Lucas Bonnifait), his geography teacher, Laurent (played by Jonathan Zaccai), and his skating partner (played by Nicolas Pontois). The picture recording becomes obsessive. Etienne tries to keep the proceedings fun and natural but is able to take advantage of Ludovic's vanity to have him answer questions on the sex he has when dating girls. Eventually Etienne's movie stars ask him to leave them more of their privacy.
Early on Ludovic hears Etienne's proclamation that the coming school year is the Year of Love, when he will fall in love and have sex. Well, maybe he will have to compete first in the French ice skating championships (in which he comes in second). Later on Ludovic remembers and suggests that Etienne get a move on in courting the ladies.
Etienne does finagle an early meeting between his mother and the geography teacher, who hit it off and become a couple. Laurent makes an easy-going father-figure, but what does Etienne really think of that, especially since Laurent has been making observations of his own.
After Laurent has an accident, Etienne asks Ludovic a dangerous, leading question, triggering a logical next step and leading to a happy, unexpected conclusion.
Etienne is not a trained photographer; so the picture shown has technically poor editing, lighting, and composition from time to time. The quality picks up as Etienne improves and uses a remote control. The movie's makers do produce order from the quasi-amateur efforts; so it's all right.
While Etienne is a friendly, endearing fellow, he does not verbalize his inner self. He uses his camera to explore his interests and draws his own conclusions. Unlike what traditionally happens in this type of movie, there are no soliloquies, journals, class essays, or sobbing to sympathetic female classmates or family members. Etienne is following a normal coming-out process, but relying on an unusual prop. He does push his luck. The is curious and exploring. The audience has to work a little bit.
The ending was abrupt, elliptic, and happy. Maybe there could be a sequel?
While Etienne takes some skin shots of his skating partner, of Ludovic (thrice), and of Laurent, the main character goes the distance himself more than once, earning extra points for looks and bravery.
All the main actors are good. Jimmy Tavares and Nicolas Pontois do their own expert figure skating. The sets and Normandy locations (Rouen, Dieppe, the coast) are attractive. It was nice to have a cameo from Frederic Gorny of "Wild Reeds."
The extras include a very good commentary from the two directors (Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau, who also did "The Adventures of Felix"), a trailer, and previews of three other movies.

Memento (Widescreen Limited Edition) [2 Discs] [Import]
Memento (Widescreen Limited Edition) [2 Discs] [Import]
DVD ~ Guy Pearce
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 62.69
16 used & new from CDN$ 11.87

5.0 out of 5 stars I See I Have To Kill Someone. I Had Better Hop To It!, Jan. 22 2004
Memento is a terrific movie with excellent acting, complex structure, and fine editing. It reveals new layers even after many viewings and is an empathetic depiction of unfamiliar memory-centered medical and ethical problems. I really recommend the movie. Guy Pearce gets the audience to appreciate the character's situation and sympathize.
Still, Leonard Shelby (Pearce's character) is shown killing three people and beating up and kidnapping a third. One of his persistant acquaintences, Teddy (Joe Pantoliano), claims Leonard has killed yet a fourth person. Leonard is neither remorseful nor restrained by religious feelings. He might be considered a smiling psychopath, even allowing for the memory deficiency. If he doesn't get his inciting tattoos removed, he might be serial killing for the rest of his life. This Guy is something else!

DVD ~ John-Michael Lander
Price: CDN$ 28.98
16 used & new from CDN$ 18.71

3.0 out of 5 stars Remember Me?, Jan. 1 2004
This review is from: ALL THE RAGE [Import] (DVD)
All the Rage" focuses on the behavior of a successful gay Boston lawyer, while displaying a range of hook-ups, dates, and relationships, primarily in the gay community. Christopher Bedford, a trust and estate expert (played by John-Michael Lander), is a cute, buff Don Juan with a box of phone numbers from all the tricks who get no second opportunity. Christopher has a number of confidantes, including co-worker Larry (played by Jay Corcoran), real estate agent Dave (played by Paul Outlaw), Dave's wealthy lover, Tom (played by Peter Bubriski), and straight real estate agent Susan (played by Merle Perkins). The movie's action is triggered by matchmaking Tom arranging for Christopher to meet unbuff, rebounding book editor Stewart (played by David Vincent) at a dinner party.
The group has a certain wonderment when Christopher and Stewart hit it off for a few months. Still Stewart keeps living with a handsome gym bunny quite attractive to Christopher. Eventually this leads to trouble. Almost immediately, Christopher takes home a back-room trick, John (played by Jeff Miller), and gets a surprise when the trick has an additional agenda, forcing Christopher to face his past behavior. After the climax, both Christopher and John are shaken.
Playing this (as a tape) has been a guilty pleasure. The dialogue gathers together most of the nasty, insensitive things ones hears (and maybe says) in the course of cruising and tricking. The main character is in the center of this, but the other characters know the story too and play along with each other's illusions. There is no easy way out. The gay couple has communications problems and uses a wacko therapist. The straight woman gets a series of hopeless dates (and also uses the therapist). Christopher gets to absorb the audience's frustrations with unproductive tricking with hunks. There are many skin scenes with many attractive characters. There are several beautiful outdoor scenes in Boston, a favorite city of mine.
The movie intercuts several short scenes showing a shirtless Christopher curled up in a chair, speaking his real thoughts. The scenes are shot in black & white as a contrast to the rest of the movie. This technique works well, although his chatter on the ideal body grows tiresome.
In general the acting is average, though several supporting characters and cameos were more impressive. I especially liked Jeff Miller's and Paul Outlaw's performances. For me the biggest dissonance was the performance of the lead. Christopher's lines and monologues suggest a vesting in his transaction-driven character. The actor usually delivered the lines in an ironic manner, with a laugh hidden behind the smile, suggesting the character's non-existent inner awareness of the difference between his behavior and his real self. At the end there was room to wonder if he had a revelation or was annoyed at the ripping off of his mask.
The DVD version is all right with acceptable extras. There is a commentary by director Roland Tec and actor Paul Outlaw. There is a twenty-minute group discussion on "Men, Dating, and Sex".
This is a useful movie. The gay community does not look often at the ethics and manners one member should offer another. This movie asks a lot of the questions, although it doesn't really deliver the answers.

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