Archive for moma

Las Vidas Possibles- Review by Slate

Posted in film, Mr Slate Honey with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

By Slate Honey

Las Vidas Posibles (Possible Lives) is a beautiful, slow-moving film by Argentian director Sandra Gugliotta.  It follows Carla in her journey of loss and denial, as she searches for her disappeared husband, Luciano, in the breathtaking and desolate landscapes of Patagonia.  The morning after his birthday party, Luciano takes off from their apartment quietly and with an air of regret.  Carla wakes up suddenly just as the door of the elevator slams shut, shocked by an intuitive sense of knowing something is wrong.  Days pass and Carla becomes increasingly frantic over Luciano’s absence and her unanswered calls to his cell phone.  She decides to take matters into her own hands after being met with skepticism from the police about beginning a search for him.  Carla drives to the south where Luciano regularly travels for work as a geologist.  In a sleepy coastal town, Carla discovers a man named Luis who bears an eerie resemblance to Luciano.  Carla begins to follow Luis, slowly seducing him under false pretenses just as other evidence emerges about the truth of Luciano’s disappearance.

Director Sandra Gugliotta leaves all matters of interpretation in the viewers’ hands.  Things are unspoken, mood is everywhere thick in the film and and we have only the characters’ emotive expressions to piece together this mystery.  Perhaps Luciano has long lived a double life, sometimes as Carla’s husband in Buenos Aires and sometimes as Luis, husband to another woman in Patagonia.  Perhaps Luciano suffered some accident and lost his mind and memory, becoming Luis and forgetting Carla and his former life.  Perhaps the strange resemblance between the men is merely a coincidence that is convenient to Carla’s holding onto a delusion that will save her from facing Luciano’s death.  Whatever the interpretation, Las Vidas Posibles centers on the experience of loss, the silences and heart aches of disconnected intimacy, and those who wander through their own lives, quietly dreaming of other possibilities.

The extremely subtle messages of Gugliotta’s beautiful and mysterious film take a while to sink in.  Gugliotta favors complex emotional realities and psychological subjectivity to clear conclusions.  Las Vidas Posibles closes with an understated full circle.  At the beginning of the film, we see a man (Luis/Luciano) sanding the side of a large boat in the early morning fog.  He sits down for a moment bearing a look of deep sorrow, his eyes moist with tears.  We do not know this man, or the possibilities of what may be hurting him.  At the end of the film, we see the man again, raising the sail of his boat and drifting off to sea, pensive and stoic.  Even now, we still cannot clearly locate what inner turmoil burdens this man.  Gugliotta leaves us with an emotional question that is more important than possible answers:  Where is it that we go when we leave others in our silence?

Las Vidas Posibles is playing at the MoMA as part of Global Lens 2009 until January 30.

Milk, Gus Van Sant Q&A

Posted in film, Guide to What's Good, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

It’s hard to see it, but that, my friends, is a picture of Gus Van Sant. The Q&A was almost as teary as the film itself with testimonials: from a queer youth who thanked Van Sant for his film-making as activism and from the director of the Hetrick Martin Institute on behalf of his students at the Harvey Milk School. Lessin and Deal the directors of Trouble the Water were also in the house as well as a good crew of Bedstuy qpocs. Unpacking the film with them afterwards was one of the highlights of the night. We all agreed that it was a great Hollywood biopic. Although we loved experimental Van Sant in many of his earlier art house films, we thought that this format and budget were appropriate as a showcase for Milk’s life story. Slate Honey’s previous observation on the problematic portrayal of people of color, was indeed confirmed. However, Van Sant mentioned that many of the people depicted in the film were on set consulting during most of the filming, including the Asian man, who is referred to in the film as Lotus Blossom ( Find out where they are now). Still, I was kind of floored by Jack’s portrayal, it did feel somewhat superficial and unsympathetic. Overall though, I remain highly impressed by Van Sant’s cinematic mastery. If you squint you might be able to detect in my iPhone photo that Van Sant is suitably chill in his down to earth jeans, red sneakers and green socks. He was equally approachable and laid back after the Q & A as he happily talked one on one to folks from the audience. Thanks for putting me on the press list after all MOMA! Bloggers are tops!

Slate Gets Milk- Gus Van Sant’s new Film

Posted in film, Guide to What's Good, Mr Slate Honey, People of Color, politics, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Great review and thoughtful Analysis of Milk by Mr Slate Honey. Van Sant is giving a Q&A tonight at MOMA- hopefully I’ll get tickets and be able to report back tomorrow.-R

It seems everybody and their gay dads saw Gus Van Sant’s Milk as part of the Thanksgiving routine this year.  I was warned to go equipped with tissues and to be ready for problematic portrayals of the few characters of color in the film.  (Thanks lover, for the forewarning by the way.) I went prepared with a dewey heart and my critical lenses on.

I have been a committed Sean Penn fan ever since I saw Dead Man Walking when I was a little mister.  And I got on the Gus Van Sant train a bit late but his recent films Elephant, Last Days, Paranoid Park have served my grungy emo-homo skater-boy obsession very well.

Cinematographer Harris Savides and Van Sant make a great visionary team.  They previously worked together on Elephant, a film with a very precise, clean cinema verité style that transforms violence into real-time horror and renders its viewers innocent witnesses.  In Milk, Savides and Van Sant play with perspective, creating layers of consciousness for Penn’s character.  Switching perspective and cinematic style, and weaving archival footage into the film, Savides and Van Sant reveal a determined, emotional man at the center of a violent socio-political setting.  A particularly lush scene that is classic Van Sant perspective comes early on in the film.  Harvey and Scott (played by James Franco) fall in love in a soft-focus dreamscape of close movement, shot all in extreme close-ups set to the soundtrack of their tender conversation.  Gorgeousness.

Overall, Milk is very historically accurate.  Activist Cleve Jones and friend of Milk’s was on-set during production and connected Van Sant with screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who had long been preparing a manuscript. Milk serves as a good personal portrait counterpart to the 1985 documentary The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, directed by Rob Epstein.  I had the feeling watching MILK that I could trust the filmmaker team’s attention to detail and the solid sense of collaboration gave the narrative a documentary quality.

So the accuracy and detail of the film bring up a pretty big concern on the race-politics front.  I was charmed by Sean Penn’s old-school New York accent and faggy gestures, seduced by James Franco’s flirty eyes and mini handlebar moustache and increasingly worried as Josh Brolin’s character’s passive aggressive repression began to seep out.  And the constant influx of characters served well as a distraction from the tragic and narrow development of the few characters of color.

A member of Milk’s activist dream team includes an Asian man who is only referred to as Lotus Blossom despite his many appearances.  Random folks of color magically appear in the crowd every time Milk gets a further push forward in the political machine.  During an acceptance speech near the climax of the film, a black woman with a classic 70s look complete with afro smiles enthusiastically behind Harvey.  She promptly disappears behind a shower of balloons as soon as Harvey wraps up his speech.

Leaving the theatre, my mom suggested that the race politics of the film merely mirrored the San Francisco scene in the 1970s.  There just weren’t that many people of color, she argued.  And there were barely any women in the film, she added.  Historical accuracy?  (And, I might add, how much has the San Francisco gay scene departed from a mostly white gay male playground thirty years later?)

The seldom appearance of people of color is one thing.  I suppose you can reason this with some argument about accuracy.  What is more troubling is the passiveness of the characters of color.  Black and Asian extras dot the activist scenes, always with their thumbs in the air and big smiles.  Lotus Blossom doesn’t seem to wince at his nickname.  And finally, Jack, the one Latino character that makes it on-screen for more than thirty seconds is portrayed as an irrational, mentally unstable, co-dependent, infantile wifey.  Jack’s tragedy becomes expected and you can almost hear the characters whispering under their breath “She brought it on herself.” This is fodder for post-colonial theory.

So my warnings were well-heeded.  In the end, I cried like a baby, just as hard as I cried when I watched ‘The Life and Times of Harvey Milk’.  I left the theatre thinking about the fearless work of an older generation of queer activists that laid some ground for young folks to make demands relevant to what it means to be queer and fight for rights today.  I also left thinking about how race politics have systematically been swept under the rug by a white gay and lesbian rights movement in the 70s.  I thought about what work that has left contemporary queer activists of color.  And how truly far-thinking activists never get comfortable and only keep pushing and questioning.  Finally, making my way out of the city back to Brooklyn, I meditated on queer love as freedom, queer survival as civil rights, and a beautiful fearlessness that comes naturally to us.