13 December 2014

California, A Challenge

ME: Lelong, I found this photo when it fell out of the album. It doesn't seem to have a place.

LELONG: Oh. That photograph! It doesn't have it's own place in the album, anak.

ME: Whose photo is it? Where was it taken?

LELONG: Hahaha.  I have not told anyone this story, anak. There are actually three parts or stories that you have to know that make up the true story of this photograph.

ME: Please tell me Lelong.

LELONG: Well, you will be surprised. But I will tell you the true story of this photograph.When I was a little younger than you are now, I signed a contract to work in the sugar fields in Hawaii and left to work in the fields in Hawaii.

ME: You are a Hawayano?

LELONG: Haha. No. Let me explain. I served my three years under the contract in what were slave like conditions. The bosses were Japanese and Hawaiian and mostly mean. They would beat us and treated us like slaves. I didn't go to cockfights. I didn't go to the dancehalls. But I decided when my contract was over that I would go on to California or Seattle. I heard that there were some jobs in California for farming and there were fishing jobs in Seattle.

ME: Seattle?

LELONG: Yeah. Actually, I really wanted to go to Seattle. I always wanted to see snow like I thought it looked in heaven and in a White Christmas. But when my contract came up, I was afraid that I would run out of money if I went to Seattle without a job. A dorm mate had a family member named Tony in California that I wrote to and he said a job would be waiting. So, I went on a short vacation to Honolulu after my contract and stayed with a brother of another dorm mate and his family for two weeks. He was also from Ilocos but he married a Hawaiian and farmed at her family's land.

ME: Wow.

LELONG: As it happened, I almost didn't make it to California. And this is the first story. You see, Doming, the brother of my dorm mate at the sugar plantation, had married a Hawaiian and had mixed children. But the woman, whose name I can't remember, had a large family -- like we had in the Philippines. And she had a brother who was my age and maybe a foot taller than me. He also worked on the farm but would also take the roots and other produce to market. During my stay, he took me to the market with him. We sold all the produce very quickly and so we went on the electric car and he took me around Honolulu. As it got late, we went to a saloon instead of back to the farm.

ME: Wait, lelong. You drank?

LELONG: Haha. Yes. But not really. You see I was not a drinker as I am not now. But the Brother was so nice and friendly. We really got along so well that he kept offering and after I refused a little, I agreed. Well, it only took one drink to make me drunk. And the Brother decide it would be better that we rented a room overnight and then go back to the farm than to try to find a ride or walk since we were both a little drunk.

And I remember so vividly the room was very nice. It was small but very nice. The furniture looked new. The linen was soft and white with a nice fragrance. We got to the room and the Brother was so kind that he help me take off my clothes and then he took off his own clothes. We got into bed and he put his arm around me and closed his eyes. We had not been that intimate but as that kind of thing was quite common in the dorms at the plantation, I didn't think anything of it. I only mention it here because perhaps you are wondering. You see, back in those days, there were hardly any Filipina women there. If you wanted to touch a woman, you would go to a dancehall and pay to dance with a woman. Maybe buy her a drink. If you wanted sex with a woman, you paid for that too. But there were few Filipinas so if you had sex it was with a Japanese, Chinese or Hawaiian. And they were not cheap. The rest of us either did without, used our hands, or each other. Nobody really cared at that time. The only problem was that sometimes the boss wanted something and that, people had a problem with.

So we were in this bed and Brother had his arm around me with his eyes closed. The room was not very dark because of the lights outside coming through the side of the curtains. I turned my head towards Brother and he put his lips on mine and started to kiss me.

ME:  *coughs*

LELONG: Well, I was surprised too. I mean. In the dorms, I had never seen that really happen. And it didn't feel bad so I just let him do it. I didn't really understand at first. I mean, I am telling you now that I'm an old man and understand the world. But at that time, he was just a tall and good looking Hawaiian guy who was nice to me so I thought maybe this was there culture and I wanted to thank him. Even at my age now, I'm too modest to go into so much detail about what happened after, but I think you get the idea. I was drunk and I enjoyed it. The next day, it was back to normal and we returned to the farm.

ME: Wait. It was back to normal?

LELONG: Yeah. We weren't drunk anymore. Anyways, for the next week before I left, I slept with Brother in his room which was really a Hawaiian version of our nipa hut. And every night, we would play our little love game. And I started to think maybe I could just work on the farm and stay with Brother. It was nice. I'd never interacted with someone who seemed to like me the way Brother showed interest and I kind of liked it.

ME: Wait. I don't understand. You kind of what?

LELONG: Well, I was young, of course. But Brother and I never talked about those things. And on the second to last night, I decided I wanted to talk to him about it. You have to keep in mind that I did not speak Hawaiian and he did not speak Ilokano but we could understand each other because we both spoke broken English but there was only so much that could be said. And his response to me talking about the subject was to tell me that my idea to stay would not work out in the long run because he was expected to marry and have children and that his parents had an idea already of who. So this broke my heart a little. I was young and innocent. So the next night before I left, his family and Doming gave me a luau. And there was hula dancing and drinking and then Brother and I did what we did like every other night but with a lot more passion and afterwards, as I fell to sleep, I had a little sadness in my heart. I left for California.

ME: I'm.... I... uhh.

LELONG: It's okay, anak. No one has ever asked me my stories including your father or Lelang, so I have never shared. No one has ever asked me about this photo. So I have never shared these stories. But I am old now. So even if you can't fully understand what I am saying, just remember what I say.

ME: Ah.... okay.

LELONG: So I got to California and it was a lot different. There were also Japanese there but there were a lot of white people. And not just the rich ones that owned the plantations. There were a lot of poor white people who were like us sugar workers and farm laborers. There were Black people and lots of a Mexicans. You see California used to be part of Mexico so there were a lot of Mexicans and some Indians but it was hard to tell the difference between them because they all spoke Spanish.

I worked in the farm ranches. So we moved a lot. The work was not as bad as sugar in Hawaii but the pay and living conditions were worse. Some guys would lose their money to gambling but most gave it up to white prostitutes. It was said that it was illegal to date a woman of another race if you were Filipino so if you went to the dancehalls, to dance with the ladies, it had to be an illegal dancehall, that maybe also sold liquor. And those ladies were real expensive and usually would also be a prostitute for the right fee.

After my experience with Brother, I found myself looking at other men in a funny way. At some point in the year, we ended up cutting lettuce quite close to the coast. And we somehow managed a truck to take all of us to the coast one Saturday night. I don't remember the name of the town, but there were a few shops, a saloon and a diner like cafe. As I didn't drink, I had decided I would go to the diner, buy a magazine and look at the pictures and maybe improve my English.

I had a nice American dinner and had ordered pie and ice cream for dessert when this young Mexican man came to my table. I had been there a while and most of the dinner crowd had already left. He asked me in Spanish something and I shrugged telling him in my broken English I didn't understand. He laughed and asked me permission to sit in English. I thought it a little unusual since there were other empty tables but I agreed. I thought maybe he wanted to conserve those for other patrons and I had been sitting there for a long time already.

He asked me my name and where I was from. He knew about the Philippines and even said that his grandfather had lived for a time in Jaro. I didn't know where Jaro was but just nodded. I'll just stop here and point out how beautiful he was. He wasn't a Spanish Mexican but was more like a mestizo Indian Mexican. But he was so beautiful. Something about his voice, his eyes. I can still remember. And his name was Francisco.

We talked for a long time. And although it was the plan for me to go back to the saloon and wait for the boys to finish their dancing and drinking, it was the boys who came looking for me at the cafe/diner! In my broken English, we were able to talk for a long time about nothing really. He was also a farm laborer but his group was picking oranges much closer to the town than where we were cutting lettuce. As we had no way of contacting each other, we agreed that we'd meet at the diner/cafe again and then I left with the boys back to camp.

Two months passed before we had the chance to go back to the town. But this time, when I entered the diner, it was Francisco who was there waiting. We ate together and talked and joked. After dessert, he told the waiter something and we went outside. And he showed me a late model Indian motorcycle. It was his older brother's. He asked me if I wanted to go a tour of the coast in the morning on it. I agreed immediately. But then I asked him if he knew the way to our camp. He said that I would spend the night at their camp. We went back in paid the bill and then I went to the saloon to get permission from Kuya Tony. He was unsure and warned me that I could be robbed and it would be very difficult for me to return to camp without money. I assured him it would be okay.

So, Francisco took me on his brother's motorbike and we rode back to his camp. It took a while. The road was not macademized so we could not ride too fast. But it was bumpy and for safety, Francisco instructed me to hold onto him tight -- which I did. The night was warm so the breeze from riding was nice but I really enjoyed holding him.

ME: Lelong, am I understanding all of this correctly?

LELONG: Haha. Anak. Did you think I was just an old man without a story?

ME: Actually, I never really thought about it and now that I am, well, I'm confused.

LELONG: Well, let me finish telling this second story. So we went back to his camp and he lived in real farmer heaven! He had his own room in a wooden little house and a bed. So, it didn't take long. We undressed and started kissing. And well, one thing led to another, very quickly. I don't think I got any sleep that night. Hahah.

ME: Uh, yeah we can skip those details, lelong.

LELONG: Haha. Well, in the morning, he introduced me to his mother and father and brothers. I ate Mexican food for the first time. It was very spicy but the tortilla wrapper was delicious, very buttery. We got on his brother's motorbike and eventually got onto a coastal road No. 60. The ocean in California was a lot different than in Hawaii and very different than in Ilocos. But I enjoyed it because it was with my friend Francisco.

Anyways, we did this for about four months. But then my group moved farther to the South. Because Francisco's parents lived permanently in that wooden house, I would write to him very short notes giving him my address. He would write longer letters which I kept until your father was born. And then after several months, we rotated to a farm ranch quite close to his parents house. And I spent every week for 6 months there. I really saved my money but tried to learn English better because I was afraid we would run out of things to talk about with the few words I knew in my broken English.

ME: You understand English?

LELONG: Haha. Well, I don't think I can speak well anymore, but I still understand. Anyways, I have to say I was quite happy. I considered leaving my group of farm laborers and joining the Mexican group of Francisco so that we could be together all the time. His family didn't seem to mind that he had a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend. I think it may have had something to do with me being from the Philippines.

But then, one Sunday, we were driving on the No. 60 coastal road on his brother's late year Indian motorcycle and decided to pull off by a food vendor. We bought sausage and were eating it on the beach when a group of young whites came to us and accused us of preying on their sisters or young white women at the beach or something. This had no obviously truth to it because, as you may now understand, I was wildly in love with Francisco.

We knew enough not to mention those finer details. But those hoodlums were looking for a fight and I have to say, Francisco and I kicked their asses. But by this point, the local sheriff deputies had arrived. And because we were Mexican and Filipino, we were the ones arrested. As I had nobody to call to help, the deputies rang the telephone of Francisco's parent's landlord who had a servant go to their house and fetch them. They bailed us and it seems that the bail money settled the case - at least for Francisco. I was not a citizen. And I think at first they were looking to deport Francisco too. But his family were long time workers at the orange groves so they dropped it for him. But I was not from around there at all and I had no boss to protect me. Francisco's family had become my family so they came when my return day came at court.

And it was there that I learned that I was being deported back to the Philippines. I was not given a chance to return to my camp and gather my things or my pocket money. They gave me fifteen minutes in a private room at the courthouse where Francisco and I just hugged each other and kissed and cried. It felt like just a moment. But then they came and took me away. The mother handed me a knapsack with some food and an envelope with $20 in it. That was a lot of money back then. I was put on a transport ship. I  returned to Hawaii briefly where the ship picked up more passengers and we returned to the Philippines -- I was dropped off in Manila.

After I got back to Ilocos, I began writing Francisco and we wrote to each other about once a month. Much of the money I had saved I had sent back to Ilocos and had my sister buy land. I no longer had to work hard in the fields because of my lands. But my mother pressured me to get married. It was my duty to have a family. I resisted for sometime. But eventually, I agreed to marry your Lelang.

ME: So you regret that?

LELONG: No. Not at all, but you see, my heart was in California with Francisco. And his with me. I informed him about my mother's requirement and he supported it. He just asked me to promise that one day I would visit him once more. I promised. Then World War II happened. And we lost contact.

But after the war, when your father was born, your Lelang found the boxes with the letters from Francisco and she made me translate them and tell them to her. She could never read. But I told her the truth of the letters. She was adamant that they were really written by my American girlfriend not a Mexican man and demanded that they all be burned.

After your Lelang died, I was able to arrange a tourist visa to the US. I was able to find Kuya Tony who had also married and was also by then a grandfather. I stayed with his family in Anaheim as I looked for any trace of Francisco or his family. One clue led to another and another. And sometimes they just led to dead ends. I found out that his parents died shortly after the war and the owner of the orange groves sold the business to people who evicted the families from the wooden houses. Francisco had joined the military in the war effort and had been injured in the South Pacific. He was discharged and rented a single-man's apartment in downtown Los Angeles for a long time.

From there it got confusing but I got an address for another single-man apartment hotel in downtown Los Angeles but was also told that he had passed away a year or two before. No location for the burial was known. I decided to visit the last known address and see if anyone there knew anything. The building was in the process of a demolition survey. The foreman took pity on whatever story I told him and let me go to the apartment and the photograph, you see, is the only picture I had to remember Francisco. I took it in the room that was his last known address -- although I doubt the calendar or the empty luggages were his.

Photography by Marco-art.

LELONG: So, you see, this photograph has three parts or stories to it like the three luggages: my vacation in Honolulu, finding the great love of my life and the unfulfilled promise to meet him again once more in this life.

ME: So did you love Lelang?

LELONG: Oh! Haha. Of course anak. And I love you very much also. It is also true that I love Francisco. But because of my own lack of courage about that love, this photograph is all that I have to remember him by.

28 November 2014

Movie Review: Getting Go, The Go Doc Project

I actually started watching this movie months ago, but after about ten minutes, I stopped in only to repeat this twice. I finally decided to finish it. The main character, played by Tanner Cohen, main character in Were the World Mine, is a neurotic college student and the first 10-20 minutes are neurotic.

I know that many (but not all) young gay men experience a late teenager - early twenties experience of romantic relationships as extensions of power/control and not love.  Here's the plot:  A shy college undergrad devises to shoot a documentary about the New York City nightlife scene to meet the go-go guy he's obsessed with.

In this convoluted self-imposed head trip, the working glass go-go boy reflects something that is more than just sensation, but something feeling. This neurotic, mental college undergrad is given acceptance and feeling from the go-go boy.

But I'll leave for you whether the mental college boy is able to really embrace his inferior function and learn something about love. The film builds and before the denouement, it does climax in a cuddling and feeling way.

27 November 2014

Book Review: With the Hand

Mels van Driel is a urologist and sexologist attached to the University Medical Centre in Groningen. He also wrote Manhood: The Rise and Fall of the Penis.

There are so many things that can be said about this book. For one, van Driel gives a fairly comprehensive account of the history of hte idea of masturbation in Western civilization.

One long standing confusion I had was why nineteenth century moralizers referred to masturbation as onanism. Onan was the Hebrew in the Old Testament that refused to impregnate the widow of his older brother -- which was a custom in ancient Israel, apparently. They would have sex, but he's pull out before he'd ejaculate. I think the Latin is "coitus interruptus". Anyways, the sin of ancient Israel was that he would "spill his seed" and that would make in ritually impure for a day. The Catholic Church has used this story to justify its opposition to contraception. After reading the discussion on it, I think I understand how masturbation got the American medical name "onanism."

He also discusses the literature regarding masturbation and adolescence. Fascinating discussion. I didn't enjoy the literature section and I thought in someways the discussion regarding how patriarchal customs tend to oppress women. How is it possible that many women are not familiar with their genital areas and how to pleasure themselves?

The version I read was a 255 page cloth published by Reaktion Books on April 15, 2012. ISBN: 978-1861899194. Lowest price seems to be abebooks.com and amazon.com

25 November 2014

Movie Review: Naked As We Came

Okay. Pretty white boy alert (up to two possibly). I was a little confused by the movie at first, but it was well produced. It deals with the subject matter of a dying parent with a gay theme woven into the story. It is really tangentially a gay film. It is rather an interesting rumination on the meaning of dying for a dysfunctional upper class family. If you aren't looking for pretty white boys or ruminations on death, this is not the movie to watch.

24 November 2014

Movie Review: TomGay มึนรักสลับขั้ว

This was an interesting comedy. I'm a big proponent of limiting the feudal power of the clan/tribe/family especially when that power is used to enforce patriarchal values paraded around as cultural norms. *breathing* Anyways, this movie somewhat parodies the lengths to which Chinese-Thai mothers will go to rescue their LGBT children from a life not characterized by procreation.

Plot summary: Young gay man is a training/aspiring life guard at some beach. Small problem is that he hasn't yet learned to swim. In his first "save", he resuscitated a young man who falls in love with the trainee lifeguard. But in his second "save", after resuscitating the victim, the victim turns out to be a tomboy type lesbian named Tom, who punches the lifeguard and they subsequently get into a fight. The local police break it up but arrest both of them.

Anyways, the mothers of these two characters happen to be friends and plot to marry their "abnormal" children to each other. They do this through deception and force and eventually lock them in a room to "mate" chained and imprisoned. 


Through a series of disturbing but funny efforts, the mothers fail. The two are able to eventually escape. In the process of being imprisoned, both break up with their boyfriend and girlfriend, respectively. It's not clear why they do not tell their partners why they were absent for so long (the cause of the breakups). The end was a huge let down as it wasn't funny or dramatic.

23 November 2014

Movie Review: Night Flight 야간비행

All of the marketing material for this movie was misleading, like this poster. The framing conveys one message where, in fact, in the storyline, it is much more brutal and tragic. As Emily Dickenson once noted: 'Parting is all we know of heaven and all we need of hell.'

Having watched so many of the Japanese yaoi television stories in the last year, one forgets about another vision, a dark vision or truth for a gay adolescence where gay love must struggle for life in the dark, horrible world of sadism, patriarchy, heterosexism, abuse of power and greed.

A summary of the story: Yong-Joo is a top student as a high school somewhere in Seoul. His teachers' hope is that qualifies and enters Seoul University. Ki-Woong is the leader of the gang at the high school and also a part-time "enforcer" for the local neighborhood mafia. Yong-Joo and Ki-Tae are like the geeky nerd friends in the high school. Other guys in Yong-Joo's gang pick on Ki-Tae because he's fat and wears thick glasses. Yong-Joo is definitely in love with Ki-Woong and practically stalks him. When a series of events occur that set the stage for the movie.

I won't give away the ending, but what I'm about to say can constitute a spoiler so, stop reading now if you want to be totally surprised. This movie represents a turn in gay Korean cinema. It is violent, brutal and passionate. But in the end, we are given a choice whether we choose power or we choose love. This seems to be the first movie where the characters are allowed to make that choice. A set closer to a life of happiness.

04 November 2014

The Wind-Up, A Challenge

It was late at night. Just as soon as I got in and sat down, my mind began to wind itself up. It must have been well over an hour that he and I were driving on that desolate provincial road. I lost track of time. He didn't say a word while he drove. It was only as we got closer to the end of the roadthat I realized that the radio had also been silent the whole time.

The car passed the seemingly abandoned AFP guard post on the right where another dark road winds its way up the side of a cliff to a radar station. The car entered the provincial beach recreational area and he drove all the way to the end. Unusual. There were no other cars parked on the side of the road at that place. He turned the car around and pulled off on the beach side of the road.

He remained looking forward. He was tense. After what seemed like forever, he broke the silence.

“Look.” he said. I held my breath.

“I have a girlfriend now. It's what my family wants.” he said.

“I.....I.....” I stuttered.

“It will never work.” he interrupted me while maintaining his forward stare.

“Do you love her?” I asked. There was a long, long pause.

“It doesn't matter.” he said breaking the silence.

“Do you love her?” I asked again. There was an ever longer pause. I noticed for the first time that the windows had fogged up and I could no longer see the dark ocean out my window.

“But it could never work.”

“Do you love me?” I asked. There was a long pause. He slid his hand over my hand which was resting on my leg. The palm was warm and moist. He was still looking forward. He then turned to face me and a tear ran down his cheek. He quickly closed his eyes as tears began to stream down his cheeks.

He then leaned toward me and put his head on my shoulder and wrapped his arms around me awkwardly. He began weeping uncontrollably. I wasn't sure whether I should try to wrap my arms around him too. But I did.

“I.... I don't..... mean to hurt you.” he sobbed. I started to tear up a little.

He began to kiss my neck. I tried to push him away – at least mentally. He suddenly swung over the gearshift and center console and now straddled me as he kissed my neck. His hands caressing under my shirt. It felt so nice but I wondered if we should be doing this.

As I got the courage to open my mouth a little to express my doubts, he blocked me with his mouth. We began to passionately kiss. And we did this as we caressed each other for a long, long time. We rubbed against each other a little now and then and we were both clearly aroused. But we just kissed and cuddled in the passenger side seat.

After a few hours of kissing and touching, you finally collapsed on me. And the gentle rhythm of your breathing lulled me to sleep under your weight. A delicate dance, a delicate embrace, a requiem for the past that is our present – forgetting the weight and pain of this refrain once more. The mainspring is unwound and I all alone beweep my outcast state.

And then you said, “I love you.”

31 October 2014

Singapore Court of Appeal Refuses to Strike Down Anti-Gay Sex Law

 Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee 
lost the battle but may have won the war

Following the baffling decision of the Indian Supreme Court, the Singapore Court of Appeals ruled that it is up to the legislature and not the courts to repeal the section of the Penal Code that bars same-sex sexual acts. The court also questioned whether legislation adopted during Singapore's colonial period is entitled to the same level of constitutional deference as laws adopted by the national legislature.

This is obviously a disappointment. A ruling that the law violated the due process or equal protection clauses in the Singapore constitution would have had the effect of banning all public forms of discrimination against LGBT people. As it happens, the public prosecutors office has indicated that it will not enforce the section. But the reactionary elements of Singapore society also do not want the provision removed, precisely to subordinate LGBT people in society as shadow criminals.

The Pink Dot movement has continued to grow every year since it started in 2009 and that is the most promising. If China (PRC), Taiwan (ROC) or Vietnam adopt some legal framework for same-sex couples in the near future, it will be all but certain that Singapore will follow. But Singapore activists don't have to wait and neither does Singapore.

The full ruling can be read here.

25 October 2014

Movie Review: The Perfect Plan Kế Hoạch Hoàn Hảo

I've reported previously about the Vietnamese government's efforts to consider approving same-sex marriage. From the party's perspective, there's a practical reason for this. "Property" relations become way too complicated for long term same sex partners with respect to government officials. So they are considering legal changes to accommodate this.


But this movie is not about creeping capitalism in a socialist state. It's about two young men who deeply love each other having to deal with negotiating family expectations of themselves and their future.

Enter Mom. I won't tell you how the story ends so as to disappoint or get your hopes up. I'll just end it here by saying its worth the watch. Especially if you are struggling with complex family issues regarding acceptance of your own singularity and destiny.

24 October 2014

Movie Review: Never Again เพราะรัก...มีมากกว่าหนึ่ง

 Well I have to admit that I was slightly confused by the entire short. But after watching it a second time, my confusion came from ill-advised ill-placed jump cut that almost made the main character, Nhui, look like a big ass player. But actually, it turns out that that was the case. Nhui has a major commitment issue. In the first three minutes of the short, the main character celebrates his one month anniversary with several guys. Then he wakes up from a nightmare with yet another guy.

There is a lot of toggling between various boyfriends. But then Nhui is eating with one boyfriend, Ko, when his next catch, Prince, sits down next to him and that ends that. Nhui and Prince enjoys happiness for about a month and then Nhui decides to rekindle things with Ko on the one month anniversary with the next one. Prince discovers the rekindling on facebook and is devastated.

Nhui continues suffers from nightmares that an unspecified boyfriend is cheating on him.

But then on day in the library, Nhui stumbles upon a guy., It turns out that the guy, Tae, is a long time crush of Nhui. They enter into a cat and mouse type flirting situation.

But the nightmares continue.

Perhaps one of the best gay cinematic scenes of all times

NowTae does not operate as the others have. He does not let Nhui rush into things. He is supersweet on Nhui, just pure sweetness. But in a way that's different than the repeater boyfriends. No sex and no kissing in the beginning. It's overwhelming for Nhui, really.

Things go quite right but then Nhui discovers that Tae and Prince are friends and have been. This disturbs Nhui tremendously. And then, Prince finds out and it gets even more complicated. (I wonder how life would have been if every guy at my school was gay and tended towards melodrama.)

It's quite a thought experiment and its actually interesting that it's based on a true story as told over the radio!

23 October 2014

Movie Review: Dunno Y... Na Jaane Kyon

Indian and Gay? While there is something about it that seems quite natural, you never really consider it in the filmic realm. When I think of Indian movies, I think of Bollywood. I think of a clan or tribe of people dancing in the background as the young maiden lip syncs to Lata Mangeshkar. Some movies push the limit of what I'd call soft porn but you never see full on kissing, as the kids call it these days "lips to lips." But you never see positive representations of gay men in Indian film. The hijra are assigned to the same tacky bakla status of Philippine comedy.

As you know I've written about aspects of gay India, mostly in the juridico-political realm, but also White's Kiss of the Yogini, Reddy's ethnography With Respect to Sex and the now banned-in-India The Hindus, An Alternate History.

But this movie was surprising. First, I have to admit that I watched it without the benefit of English or Vietnamese subtitles so when the characters go into extended dialogues in Hindi, I had to somewhat guess at what was being said. Fortunately, only the poor, old and other marginalized characters spoke in Hindi. (And surprisingly, the male boss who is a fat, sexist pig, exclusively spoke in Hindi, but because he was so obnoxious and slimy, it was not difficult to grasp what he was saying and doing.)

So, like any good Indian creative expression, there is about an hour of set-up regarding the main character's family. What made it a little confusing was that I think the family or part of it hails from a "Saint Thomas Christian" community -- that is the ethnic group in India that descends from a community of Christian believers from almost 2000 years ago or a "mixed" family of Anglo-Indians. (Yeah, if you didn't know, Christians went both east and west and not all of the communities established in the eastern direction remained in communication with either the Roman or Byzantine hierarchy!)

But what we find out is that, irrespective of those details, they still comport with the major Indian traditions of arranged marriage, blind deference to elders, etc.,. Everyone is miserable. The main character lives with his wife, mother and paternal grandmother in their house. He works as a manager in a corporation. The mother also works. The younger brother doesn't work. The younger brother is in love with the main character's wife. And after an hour of nothing having to do with homosexuality, we find out the main character is a gay.

The story is then about the middle-class bourgeois married guy and his falling in love with a club prostitute who hustles the rich and famous of Bollywood. Things are just lovely. The prostitute breaks up with his regular, famous and discreet tricks to be with this guy solo. The prostitute is an orphan where the middle-class guy has a giant Bollywood family. Then, things start to strain when the police catch them making out in the middle of nowhere. The prostitute tries to stand up to the police harassment and shakedown while our burgis main character takes up the bribe challenge. He then admonishes his lover with "you have no family, you have nothing to lose." They then decide it best to split up. The last 15 minutes were perhaps some of the most interesting.

To sum up the lessons I learned: it's better to be dead than gay in India and the only thing that matters is the good name you give to your family.

It is worth mentioning that the main character, Yuvraaj Parashar, was actually sued by his real parents after the movie came out. Apparently, "it's better to be dead than gay in India" also applies if you only act the part of a gay in a movie because "the only thing that matters is the good name you give to your family." It was reported that his family said that they did "not want to see his face even in death." I thought it a little bit excessive since a majority of the movie dialogue was carried out in English, the people are, for the most part, fair skinned Christians, but what do I know about modern Indian mores.

If you watch it and have no exposure to Hindi, I'd recommend watching it with subtitles. It lacked the customary singing and dancing I associate with Bollywood, but the theme song was sung by Lata Mangeshkar so at least you have that.

22 October 2014

Movie Review: Change : รัก..ไม่เปลี่ยน

This is another short film based upon the radio program of Love Actually where young adults call in about their tragic and sad love life and the DJ calls the other person and asks if they'll be with the original caller or not (answering: true love or one-sided crush).

Change is about Champ (left) and Jay (right). Champ is a young and gentle boy. The boys in school tease him constantly and Jay regularly comes to his defense. The other boys tease Jay calling Champ his wife. They go through their ups and downs but Jay has a genuine affection for Champ.

The story takes place after both have gone to and through college. Champ has become a successful beauty products store owner and has saved for an operation to become a "real" woman. You see, Champ revealed one day to Jay that he liked Jay. Jay said that he was not disgusted or repelled by Champ but that he did not like men. That they should talk when Champ became a woman. For Champ, this was an puerile command to become a woman.

And become a woman Champ did. But as for Jay, whether Jay says yes or no, I'll leave to you.

My only comment is that these are the fairytales, good and bad, that young gays need to be exposed to. These short stories based upon the wildly popular radio program are beautiful in their archetypal reality. The stories end with, what I value, as an appropriate moral for the audience.

And one more thing, Fluke Pongsatorn is adorable. I enjoy the roles he is cast as the meek and sweet gayboy. I identify! haha

 Fluke Pongsatorn

21 October 2014

Book Review: Gay L.A.

Lillian Faderman is an American scholar of lesbian history and Stuart Timmons is another American independent scholar of gay history. This is their first book together about the history of the American LGBT movement with the focus on the county of Los Angeles, California.

This book is the political tour de force that the Gay Metropolis was in tracing the history of the American LGBT movement with the focus on New York City. Whereas the Gay Metropolis was much more philosophical and abstract, social and cultural, Gay L.A. is much more political.

In fact, they don't come out and say it, but if you follow the events of the 1960s from a political and legal perspective, its clear that it was the political and legal challenges launched in Los Angeles that created the circumstances that made the Stonewall Inn riots, the "birth" of the LGBT movement in America -- if that can really be called true and not just myth making for the New York tourism board. All of the significant legal challenges that went to the Supreme Court that allowed for a free LGBT press arose from L.A. cases. The LGBT organizations present in New York City in the late 1960s all originated from 1950s gay L.A.

Philippine Gay History, authored by Neil Garcia, is a fascinating book for its investigation of ideas. But what would really be of use, in a more practical sense, would be more history of the gay Philippines or public sexuality. There are a number of Supreme Court cases where provincial judges had removal cases filed against for being "homosexual." As far as I understand it, the Philippine Supreme Court, as long as it has entertained such cases, has denied them -- saying it was not in itself relevant to holding judicial office. It has allowed individuals diagnosed (medically) with sexual ambiguity to chose a gender and have the birth certificate reflected in that change. Yet, on the other hand, it refused to allow Rommel "Mely" Jacinto Silverio to change her birth certificate to reflect the fact that she had undergone medical treatment and became a woman.

Cinema has provided us with stories of transgenders who suffered during World War II -- Markova: Comfort Gay and Aishite Imasu 1941: Mahal Kita. We have limited accounts of LGBT life in various diaspora contexts.

But what we are lacking is a coherent and broad narrative, much like Gay LA, that can give us a coherent and long-term view of the history of making intelligible same-sex desire starting in the nineteenth century. Even a deeper and more sustained approach to the available documents in the Spanish-language archive and comparative ethnographic materials that can trace all the various lines of how desire was rendered intelligible to help us understand the palette we currently paint from.

Nevertheless, because the American LGBT movement has dominated the drawing of the contours of the global LGBT movements, Gay LA is really necessary reading -- much like the Gay Metropolis -- in telling about the historical and material forces and struggles that shaped the American LGBT movement.

It is fascinating to consider the story of police persecution repeat itself for over 50 years and how the persecuted and persecutors respond to each other over time -- culminating in the 1960s! Even without such militant activism, the material experiences of the gay Filipino over the last century have created the current conditions. Let's know what this history is.

As Marx noted, "Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionizing themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle cries and costumes in order to present the new scene of world history in this time-honored disguise and this borrowed language."

Let us know what traditions our meaning making has conjured up as spirits of the past to our service. And for that, we need practical history.

The version I read was a 464 page cloth published by Basic (Perseus) on October 2, 2006. ISBN: 046502288X. Lowest price seems to be abebooks.com and amazon.com

20 October 2014

Movie Review: Secret Love รัก ลับ หลัง

This movie is apparently part of a series of short films called "Love Actually". It is based on a radio talk show where someone calls in, tells the sad love story with a conflict. The DJ then calls the other party and asked them, at the count of three, whether they will be with the original caller.

Secret Love could be used as a textbook example of what NOT to do in an employment situation. The story begins with Wan and Tar who are boyfriends and live together. As I gather, Wan lives with Tar at his apartment. He has recently graduated from college and we start the story where Wan has been hired by a prestigious ad company.

Wan is introduced to his co-workers and then Ohm, the creative director. Now Wan is the happy guy who goes along by getting along -- a happy-go-lucky chap.  And Ohm wants Wan. It's not clear if Ohm is in love with Wan or just wants to win a game that involves Wan as a problem.

In any event, Ohm pulls out all the stops with Wan. As his superior, he engages in what can only be understood as classic sexual harassment. Wan informs him that he has a boyfriend but it doesn't stop Ohm. Meanwhile, Tar is at home pining and worrying about Wan. Wan becomes distant. It's not initially clear if its just the fact that he is now working or something else. But as Ohm continues to put the moves on Wan and Wan relishes the flattery, a nothingness appears between Wan and Tar.

This nothingness culminates in the shocking climax of this story - which also was the opening scene of the short. I won't give it away. It was an interesting story and I liked the ending. A series of these story is just what the young gay needs to see and here. These melodramatic high-school type stories is chicken soup for the young gay soul. More please.

19 October 2014

Movie Review: My Bromance พี่ชาย

I had some skepticism going into his movie. Actually a lot of skepticism. My mind could only conceive of a few plots that could embrace the topic without getting creepy-Japanese-incest or boring Catholic-Bishop-inspired milquetoast.

In short, Golf is a Thai teenager who has spent much of his adolescence alone as his father makes lots of money as a constantly traveling businessman. He returns from a long absence with a new wife, much to the displeasure of Golf. But in addition, the new wife also has a same-aged son, Bank. Bank is very gentle and mild mannered. He immediately starts using the honorific "older brother" moniker on Golf. Golf is wildly annoyed by the submissive, gentleness of Bank. And let me be honest, in my years on this earth, Bank was not giving Golf the idolizing look at first eye contact. It was much more along the lines of when Tong met Uncle Jonbert.

Golf throws tantrums, humiliates Bank and is just an ass while Bank just perseveres as the gentle, mild but consistent steady charmer. Things start to get clear for everyone just around the time campus heart-throb starts putting the moves on Bank. Bank is polite with the attention.

 A new life as step-brothers

But I guess at some point one must ask oneself: if one's parents can't accept homosexuality, could they accept it between step-brothers?

 Two very happy step-brothers

I'll leave you to imagine how this plot thickens (or better go and watch it) but I'll let you know I cried at the end. Yeah, pretty gay. If you liked Love of Siam, you'll like this for sure.

18 October 2014

Movie Review: Timeline เพราะรักไม่สิ้นสุด

 This is the official movie poster for the movie.

So this is not so much of a feature length movie as it is a collection of three shorts that may or may not in the very end, sort of come together as one narrative. Still not sure.  The first short was my favorite. There is nothing more exhilarating that experiencing a story of discovery and openness to vulnerability in love and sex with age-appropriate peers. So I liked it very much.

Pictoral sum-up of the First Short

The second short turned out to be a thriller-horror type film and would have been interesting if the director had 80 minutes to flesh things out. But it ended up just being weird after the first short. There really is only so much one can do with allotted time and having to use a two minute flashback to explain the entire short, is well, unfortunate.

The third short would have been nice if it ended differently. I understand the martyr theme and they did it well. But what was weird at the end when the martyr ends up in the negative father complex twilight zone. Even if its not literal daddy incest, it certainly is symbolic and well its just weird. Especially after the psychologically pleasing first short. Maybe the director just needed another 10 minutes?

It's worth watching for the first feel good one and there are a lot of pretty young men so at least on the second two you aren't bored with ugly and bad actors.

17 October 2014

Book Review: A Queer History of the United States

Michael Bronski is an American professor of Women and Gender Studies at Dartmouth College. He's written extensively including The Pleasure Principle: Sex, Backlash and the Struggle for Gay Freedom.

Much of the "history" I read as an adolescent about LGBT life fell into two categories: (1) major excavations in the historical archive to find a continuous "gay" identity in the remote past and (2) modern narratives of living "gay" identified individuals. This book is as conservative as I think it can get, yet it is radical in that its ideological commitment is to anarchism and transgenderism. It starts with Thomas Morton's break with Plymouth Colony in the 1620s to start Merrymount which embraced same-sex desire, atheism and interracial marriage.

This book does not just challenge American history, it also challenges American LGBT history and the joint project of liberal and conservative American LGBT  historians who do not challenge the major historical mythologies of America in their quest to normalize or naturalize LGBT movements, persons and desires, through the ages.

Bronski's Queer History constructs a narrative of America where sodomy laws were ineffective as much as political movements in eighteenth and nineteenth century America had a strong focus on the regulation of sexuality in general. In this way, he shows that LGBT identity is much more universal to the American narrative contrary to the various persecuted minority narratives that have dominated LGBT historiography.

I read the 312 page cloth version (ISBN-13: 978-0807044391) published by Beacon Press on May 10, 2011. It was heavily discounted and likely can be found at abebooks or amazon.

03 May 2014

Movie Review: Geography Club

The overall theme of this movie is thus. If you're in the closet, a high school student and want to connect with other high school students, create a student group that nobody will join like the Geography Club.

The protagonist of this story is Russell (below, left) who tries hooking up with someone anonymously online by agreeing to meet him at the local park. The person never shows but he does bump into and meet Kevin (below, right) who is on the high school football team. Kevin also has his best friend Gunnar who is overweight and hoping to leave high school not a virgin.

Russell and Kevin end up connecting at some kind of school camp situation and make out in the open one night by Min, a fellow student. That puts Kevin into panic mode and he gets Russell onto the football team to avoid blowing his cover. That occurs through another unlikely series of events.

I have to admit that the fascinating thing about this movie is the theme of the conflict between what Russell thinks is "true love" and his integrity. This is definitely a great date night movie.

02 May 2014

Movie Review: The Happy Sad

Marcus and Aaron are a young black couple living in New York. Annie and Stan are a young white couple living in New York. This story revolves around the stories of these two couples and how they intertwine. Marcus and Aaron decide to open up their relationship at the time that Annie breaks up with Stan at the cafe that Aaron works at. Stan demands to know who the other man is and Annie says its her fellow schoolteacher Mandy.

Marcus and Aaron begin their awkward open relationshiphood and Marcus ends up landing a hookup with Stan. At the same time, Annie ends up getting much closer to Mandy and they end up having sex. Mandy is having a life meltdown.

The story swirls and swirls and finally calms to a "happily ever after." I'm not sure I really like the resolution but perhaps because I couldn't easily identify with the experiences of the characters. I was never a twenty-something in New York City. It's an interest study of the current life of twenty-somethings in New York.

01 May 2014

Movie Review: G.B.F.


If this movie had come out when I was in high school, it would have been almost incomprehensible. In fact, my life in and around high school -- in my backward province -- was much more like Gregg Araki's Totally F**ked Up. But in an alternate reality, this might have been more like my high school experience.

Brent, Tanner, Sophie and Glenn are the central barkada of this feature film. Brent and Tanner are gay. Sophie is their faghag friend while Glenn is the straight Asian who is assumed to be gay because he hangs with the gays. The group supports Brent's interest in looking for a boyfriend. Somehow he uses Tanner's cellphone to sign up for Grindr or a similar service and that phone is confiscated by a teacher of Brent's. Meanwhile, the popular, mean girls in school Fawcett, Caprice and 'Shley have decided that to be the most popular, they need a "gay best friend." They also sign up for Grindr or a similar service. 

Tanner finds out Brent had Tanner's phone confiscated and goes to the classroom to retrieve it. It is there that the mean girl trio use Grindr to find Tanner's phone and Tanner at the other end of it. At this point, Tanner is outed to the entire school. The trio fight to become the GBF of Tanner and in that process, he distances himself from his barkada -- including getting into a major fight with Brent. The movie revolves around the conflict of popularity in high school and his organically developed barkada.

This movie is along the lines of fairytale fantasy but is definitely a date night movie.

24 January 2014

Movie Review: Love Free or Die

This is Gene Robinson, and the documentary Love Free or Die, is the telling of the story of troubles in the Anglican communion through the biography of Gene Robinson. In 2003, Gene Robinson was elected bishop of the (Episcopal) diocese of New Hampshire, USA. In 2008 when Rowan Williams convened the Lambeth Conference for all the bishops in the Anglican Communion, Robinson was not invited. Robinson went anyways and held dialogs with those bishops at the conference who would listen.

Robinson's consecration sparked a crisis for the Anglican communion when conservative American bishops withdrew from their dioceses and attempted to establish a non-local all-USA diocese of conservative churches. They attempted to take their Anglican church property with them and learned, as did Gregorio Aglipay in November of 1906, that hierarchical churches, such as Roman Catholicism and even more loosely hierarchical churches such as Anglicanism, are the title owners of their church property and the existence of a particular human bishop only holds a beneficial, possessory interest even if legal title to property resides in the name of a particular bishop. In other words, you can leave but the church stays, father.

It should be noted that in 2006 Anglican Americans elected a woman to be primate, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United State, Katharine Jefferts Schori. She was the first woman to be elected to such a post, further infuriating conservative Anglicans.

Subsequent to the Lambeth conference in 2008, American Anglicans installed Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian as a suffragan bishop of the diocese of Los Angeles. This led to outrage by the conservative African bishops. Americans went a step further to adopt a policy permitting the consecration of openly gay bishops and permitting the blessing of same-sex unions where recognized by law.

This is a great documentary that tells this story with narrative focus. It's worth watching as a matter of understanding and history how those with strong religious beliefs deal with their brethren with regard to sexuality.

23 January 2014

Movie Review: Let's Get Frank

Barney Frank served in the US House of Representatives from 1983 to 2013 and is considered to be the best known openly gay politician in the United States. In 1987 he came out of the closet and shortly thereafter, he referred a relationship he had with a male prostitute to the House Ethics Committee to clear his name. The Committee cleared Frank of any wrong doing that had been lodged against him by his ex-boyfriend although it did recommend a public reprimand for helping his ex boyfriend fix 33 parking tickets. Before 1987, he was seen as the prime candidate to be the first "Jewish" Speaker of the House. However, after coming out, that prospect became dim. Some Republicans, led by then Representative Larry Craig (later becoming famous in 2007 for his arrest for lewd conduct involving "foot tapping" in a bathroom stall in a Minnesota airport), pushed to have him censured and expelled from the House.

Frank ended his career as the Chairman and then ranking minority member of the House Financial Services Committee.

Okay. Enough with the history lesson which summarizes most of this movie. The movie actually focuses on another special role Frank had in the history of the US House of Representatives. He was a ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee when it proceeded to recommend filing articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton. Frank was Clinton's most vociferous defender.

This is a documentary about Frank's life from the vantage point of Clinton Impeachment Period.

22 January 2014

Book Review: Love, Sex and Tragedy

Simon Goldhill is Professor in Greek Literature and Culture and fellow and Director of Studies in Classics at King's College, Cambridge. He is also Director of CRASSH, the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities at the University of Cambridge.

After reading this book, I feel like my eleven years and several advanced degrees in graduate school could have been compressed in half had I read this book when it was first published. But I guess the real question would be, would I have understood the implications?

One of the things I find entertaining is discussing the existence of God with people who believe in it with certainty, especially when my interlocutor is highly intelligent. When they are not intelligent, its boring. This book expands the topics with which one may discuss the existence of something believed to be eternal, immutable or universal. He adds love, sex and democracy to the equation.

For example, the ancient Greeks are one of the "great" origin civilizations of modernity. In debating issues involving sexuality, it never fails for both sides of any debate to raise the ancient Greeks. The theory goes that Greeks engaged in homosexuality on a fairly universal scale and thus, it cannot be deemed "evil" but only bad because of recent historical developments regarding cultural norms. The opposing argument is that Greek civilization "fell" because of its shortcomings and permitting and promoting such "rampant" homosexuality was one of those causes.

Goldhill gives us much more context on this issue. For example, the exemplary homosexuality of ancient Greece is not the exemplary homosexuality of late capitalist modernity. The favored homosexuality of today assumes that two partners are equal or near equal in status, social standing, age, etc., and that a long-term committed partnership will develop into a same-sex marriage.

The favored homosexuality of ancient Greece was of older men (free, slave-owning citizen kind) leering at post-pubescent, pre-facial-hair teenage boys/gym bunnies (the sons of free, slave-owning citizens). The older men would engage in a lengthy courtship of these teenage boys and in the end, usually engage in sticking their cocks between the boy's thighs to get off. If the boy was virtuous, he would not be aroused by this activity. When facial hair appeared, he would cease the activities and at some point become the pursuer. The older men were supposed to "mentor" the teenage boys on virtue and being an upstanding citizen. Being what we would call gay, as a free, slave-owning citizen, was disfavored not because of the gender, but because of the focus on desire - which Greeks saw to be mostly dangerous. Having sex with your wife for pleasure was a greater sin. And the greatest Greek sin of the time was to be a bottom. As a highly misogynistic and patriarchal culture, a man receiving man love was the ultimate violation of manhood. Of course, as a slave or other non-citizen, there was no real violation because you weren't an embodiment of symbolic manhood. But for a citizen to bottom, that was the most unvirtuous thing to be done.

Anyhow, Goldhill goes into many topics related to sexuality today. He looks at the origins of romantic love. He also spends about a third of the book going into the origins of Christianity -- as a reaction to Greek and Roman cultures in antiquity. If you don't know anything about early Christian views of the flesh, this would be a great introduction. Then he moves onto politics and democracy -- which was the slowest part of the book for me, surprisingly. Nothing like nineteenth and twentieth century European politics to bring things to a bore.

The version I read was in English at 352 pages in cloth published by the John Murray Publishers Ltd (May 10, 2004) with an ISBN-10 of 978-0719555497. The least expensive version I found online was at amazon.com

21 January 2014

Movie Review: Yossi

Yossi is the sequel to Yossi and Jagger. It was filmed and takes place a decade after Yossi and Jagger. In this film, Yossi has left the Israeli Defense Forces and is a closeted doctor at a hospital and has gained some weight. He struggles with his homosexuality. One day, he notices a fellow doctor will be performing some kind of examination on someone he wants to do the examination for. He does and the woman vaguely recognizes him but doesn't.

As soon as she leaves the examination, he tries to run to her in the elevator but misses the door. He runs down the stairs, gets in his car and offers her a ride home. She accepts. He drops her off. We come to learn that this woman is Jagger's mother. He eventually decides to go to Jagger's parents' house and tell them the truth about he and Jagger before his death. The father accepts it while the mother asks Yossi to leave.

Yossi decides to go to Sinai for holiday -- where the security situation is lacking. Along the way, he watches some young soldiers interacting, with one that is gay, and invites them to ride with him until their destination. Against the rules, they do. They encourage him not to go to Sinai and after denying their entreaties, he decides to book a room at the resort they are getting their R&R at. He is smitten by the gay soldier, Tom. Eventually after some majorly awkward closet-gay stalking, Tom and Yossi go on a sort-of-date which ends when Tom, having stripped, frolicking in the ocean naked, steps on a sea urchin. They go back to Yossi's room where he takes the spikes out and maybe sews up something.

This has to be the longest part of the movie especially given Yossi's social awkwardness regarding dating, courting, etc.,. I will leave the ending for you to see for yourself, but this is much a better ending that the extremely tragic Yossi and Jagger.

This movie very powerfully presents how the closet deforms the soul and creates social and developmental disabilities for those trapped in its prisons. But it also provides hope that such deformations can be remedied.

19 January 2014

Movie Review: Christopher and His Kind

This movie was BBC made-for-television bioflick. It's about the story of British-American writer Christopher Isherwood during his time in Berlin of the early 1930s. Isherwood was a mentor of another famous British-American writer, W.H. Auden, who has occasionally been described as the most important writer in English of the twentieth century.

Isherwood follows Auden to Berlin where the Nazis are on the rise. He makes friends and tutors English to make his living. He tutors a wealthy Jewish store owner who encourages him to take a stand against Nazism, which Isherwood refuses to do because it is outside of the artistic "sensibility." Isherwood has fallen in love with a street sweeper named Heinz. Because he helps Heinz financially, Heinz's mother tolerates the relationship and Isherwood's other friends. But when she leaves for the sanitorium, Heinz' Nazi sympathizing, unemployed older brother, bans Isherwood and his kind from the house. Nazism becomes more prominent in the story. The wealthy Jewish store owner's house and stores are ransacked and subject to a Nazi boycott, etc.,. Isherwood decides to leave Berlin and take Heinz with him. When Heinz is unable to secure permanent residency in Britain, Isherwood promises to get him back.

(Douglas Booth plays Heinz)

The movie fast-forwards to the early 1950s where Isherwood and Heinz reunite in Berlin. Heinz is now married and has named his son after Isherwood. Heinz says his wife is understanding and will accept Isherwood "joining" the family so that he doesn't have to grow old alone.

Isherwood declines but they remain in contact until Isherwood publishes this very autobiography to which, we are told at the end of the film, causes Heinz to end his communication with Isherwood. Isherwood entered into a life-long partnership in California, around the same time as reuniting with Heinz, with Don Bachardy who is a now well-known artist.

Since I didn't know much about the life and times of the literary greats of the twentieth century, this movie was interesting. I had only vaguely heard of Isherwood's name before watching it so I felt like it was education. My only concern is the narrative inevitability of Nazism's rise in 1930s Germany. Isherwood was disengaged from politics and much of social life at the time until he witnessed book burning and had an awakening. I would like to see more filmic work on the conditions of Nazism's rise. This movie provides some of that but more is needed.

One last note, Matt Smith does an excellent job performing a socially awkward, nerdy Isherwood.

13 January 2014

Movie Review: Yossi and Jagger

I actually reviewed this film several years ago but for one reason or the other, it wasn't posted -- hiding among the posted blogs receding farther and farther down the list of posts until it had fully disappeared.

Yossi is the commander of a fighting unit in the Israeli Defense force, Lior is his second in command -- although the unit calls him Jagger because he sing and imitates like Mick Jagger. The two engage in a secret love affair on the front lines. One day a colonel appears with two women -- his lover and another -- with plans of a night time attack. Yossi opposes the attack plan because it will occur on a full moon night. The plan goes ahead where Jagger is fatally wounded. In Yossi's dying arms, Jagger freely and completely expresses his love of Yossi. Sad, but worth the watch.