William Friedkin – Cruising (1980)

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A 1980 psychological thriller film directed by William Friedkin and starring Al Pacino. The film is loosely based on the novel of the same name, by New York Times reporter Gerald Walker, about a serial killer targeting gay men, in particular those associated with the S&M scene.
Poorly reviewed by critics, Cruising was a modest financial success, though the filming and promotion were dogged by gay rights protesters. The title is a play on words with a dual meaning, as “cruising” can describe police officers on patrol and also cruising for sex. Continue reading

Anna Muylaert – Mãe Só Há Uma AKA Don’t Call Me Son (2016)

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Most films—especially taut, lower-budgeted indies—choose one theme or dramatic premise and run with it. Others cross-wire two potent and ostensibly unrelated ideas and bask in the sparks they generate.

The terrifically assured and engrossing Brazilian film “Don’t Call Me Son” is a great example of the latter breed. On the one hand, writer/director Anna Muylaert invites us to contemplate the fluidity of adolescent gender identity via the story of teenage boy who’s testing boundaries by drifting provocatively between male and female appearances. (If this sounds like a topic for a Gender Studies class, fear not: the film is a drama, not a lecture.) On the other hand, Muylaert also probes how much of who we are comes from family, since, additionally, her tale concerns kids who were removed from their biological parents at birth. Continue reading

Fred Halsted – LA Plays Itself (1972)

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L.A. Plays Itself begins as a mock-pastorale, with a steamy woodland encounter between a long-haired blonde guy and a hunky brunette whose face, typical of the director, we can barely discern. This extended hardcore sequence of outdoor sex gives way to images of bulldozers tearing down parts of the city; noisy, car-choked streets; and opportunistic encounters that occur both onscreen and on the audio track, the latter in the form of a conversation between a hayseed from Texas who’s just arrived in town and a predator who pretends to warn him of the dangers of the “big city” as a kind of nervous foreplay ritual. Halsted’s sex is sweaty and desperate, set against images of cruelty and destruction both in the bedrooms, bathhouses, and casual sexspaces where it occurs and in the grim, trashy world looming just outside. The sardonic commentaries of the director, who’s also usually a participant even when only seen in shadow, add unexpected touches of humanity.L.A. Plays Itself is a film of private rituals publicly exposed
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Pedro Almodóvar – Kika (1993)

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Harshly treated by the critics on release, of Pedro Almodovar’s work, Kika is perhaps the one that most benefits from re-viewing and re-assessment.

The story of Kika (an astonishing Veronica Forque), a Madrid makeup artist whose relationship with Ramon (Alex Cassanovas) leads to criminal schemes involving Kika’s maid Juana (Rossy DePalma), Jauan’s amorous, criminal brother Pablo (Santiago Lajusticia) and Ramon’s youth-obsessed father Nicholas (Peter Coyote). Overseeing it all is the muckraking, reality tabloid television show presided over by the formidable Andrea Scarface (a uniquely attired Victoria Abril).

Attracting controversy because of the scene in which Almodovar depicts Kika’s rape at the hands of Pablo with humorous detachment, the scene has since come to be more popularly viewed as further evidence of the director’s tribute to the power of women. Continue reading

François Ozon – Le temps qui reste AKA Time to Leave (2005)

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Diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only a short while to live, a successful fashion photographer embarks on one final journey in the second of three films in a trilogy about death and mourning from French director Franחois Ozon (the first entry in the the trilogy was Under the Sand) . After passing out during a particularly grueling photo shoot, high profile shutterbug Romain (Melvil Poupaud) is shocked to discover that his body has been ravaged by a fully metastasized cancer that will soon kill him. Without revealing the cause for his erratic behavior, the shell shocked Romain commences to alienate his entire family and ditch his handsome young boyfriend before connecting with affable waitress Jany (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) at a roadside cafי while en route to his grandmother’s house. Upon arriving at the home of the one family member he knows will be joining him shortly in death, Romain’s naked vulnerability is met with a gentle ear and sound advice. Once again meeting with the kindly Jany on his way to his ultimate fate, Romain and the waitress strike up an unusual bargain. Continue reading

Urszula Antoniak – Nude Area (2014)

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Love doesn’t unfold like a story. Only the first and the last chapter are known. Love starts from Love and ends in letting go. In between there is tenderness and cruelty, waiting and fulfilment, ecstasy and disappointment. If love is a discourse, these are her figures of speech. An adolescent love between two girls. Childish cruelty is mixed with full blown sensuality. Dreams and life reflect and complete each other. The end is known, the story will be told after the love is gone. Continue reading