Category Archives: Gay

Kapoor and Sons at DYMK 

Attendees: Veronika, Raj, Aaron, Ben, Bien, Thomas. 

We all like the movie very much. All characters are likeable; it’s a movie full of likeable and strong characters, a sympathetic portrayal of all of them. There is much joy and humor in the film, just as there is sadness, as if the director wants the viewers to cry; there is so much sadness that you are bound to identify with one of the character’s plight. We also talked about social class; the treatment and affirmation of sexuality; the feminism; and who is cuter: Arjun or Rahul? 

Thanks Edwin for hosting us at DYMK. 

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Filed under Class, Family, Food, Gay, India, Love

67th Discussion: Eyes Wide Open (2009, dir. Haim Tabakman)

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Kueh lapis, truffle chips, and beer – not very kosher.

You can watch the entire movie here:

eyes wide openSeveral of us found part of the movie melodramatic; the stationary, long takes slow; and homosexual relationship is depicted as physical lust, sinful and destructive to everyday life, not emotionally connected. Daniel also noted that despite the story being set in an orthodox Jewish community, the plot is cliché: a boy comes into a man’s family, destroys his way of living, and eventually they break up.

Themes
1. Religion/Sin: In a rather sadist scene where the Rabbi interprets abstinence as sinful, that we should give into our impulses, but Reb Aaron argues that restraint is a challenge god gives us to feel closer to him, Vishakah cleverly called on the catch-22 situation: there is no way you cannot not be a sinner.

 
a. Violence as fanaticism: The patriarch Rabbi stops the gay bashing of what might have been construed as violence, bordering on fantaticism.

 
b. Homosexuality and Judaism: Reb Aaron claims that being with Ezri brings him closer to god, making him more alive than he has ever felt. In one sense, homosexuality isn’t incompatible with Judaism because the more alive an individual feels, the closer she or he is to god.

 
2. Food: Daniel brought up using food as a form of communication. Raj pointed out that, within the limited power a woman has in the orthodox Jewish community, the Wife uses food to punish the Reb Aaron.

 
3. Water: extensive use of water as motif: spring, rain, burst pipe, etc. Dominic hawk-eyedly observed that the parallels and differences in the two scenes of Reb Aaron at the spring: on the second time, Reb Aaron has changed and comes to accept himself as depicted by his nudity.

 
4. Love: Victoria expounded that the type of love Reb Aaron has has his self-interest at heart.

 
5. Gender: Although the interaction of men with women is minimal, and although, as Vishakah pointed out that women have little rights within the community, Raj argued that even within the limited rights, the Wife is a powerful figure, in charge of the household and when they should have sex. The scene where she holds him like in a pieta demonstrates her power. Even her wig, as part of the mise en scene, allows her space to portray her progressiveness and femininity.

Style:
1. Camera Angles: Vishakah noted the camera acts like we are spying into someone’s world, waiting for something to happen (on that note, read D. A. Miller’s “Anal Rope,” about the camerawork in Hitchcock’s Rope acting as survelliance.).

 
2. Music: Victoria observed that both pauses and music create tension and discomfort, especially the music that is eerie at times, almost like a horror movie.

 
In the end, Dominic drew parallels between the movie and the newly liberated gay men he knows. Victoria and Timmy lauded the realistic and intimate depiction of an orthodox Jewish community. Aaron thought while the ending appears conservative—husband goes back to wife, gay man expelled from community—the movie is in fact subversive, telling the viewers that orthodoxy has but one heteronormative way of life, and doesn’t allow expression of selfhood. You feel for the characters: Sara who marries a man she doesn’t love, the Wife who is stuck in a passionless marriage, Ezri and Reb Aaron who couldn’t feel alive more. Living a life like that is wasted, the film advocates. In this way, the director is very smart, getting funding from Israeli government, and getting away with a subversive message

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Filed under Family, Food, Gay, Israel, Love, Religion

64th Discussion: Kill Your Darlings (2013)

Thanks, Javin, for organizing this!

In general, we liked the coming-of-age film, portraying Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, and Lucien Carr. But Dominic and Aaron questioned the uneven style of the film: Dominic blamed the unevenness on the lighting, switching between a TV style and film, while Aaron thought the style was too “instagram-like,” with random, meaningless tilt-shift. Sharad said the film was fictionalized. Daniel found that the narrative wasn’t strong and was random. Like Daniel, Javin found the film was character-driven and could be more interesting if we were given perspectives from other characters. Javin also wanted a detailed explanation of the murder.

Themes

1. Desire: Daniel and Dominic noted what Eve Sedgwick called the “triangulation of desire,” in which the desires between two men were mediated by a woman, such as the blowjob in the library, and Jack Kerouac’s wife.

1b. Sexuality: Dominic noted the importance of sexuality in the Beat poets’ works. Daniel asked who the gay characters are. Perhaps they were all gay, bi, or straight. They seemed experimental, as like their works to break the mould, to kill the darlings of their literary ancestors.

2. Homophobia? While we thought the characters were portrayed negatively, they were also portrayed honestly, and in this sense, there was no homophobia. But the montage depicting the pit-bottom of the characters–Ginsberg’s anal sex with random stranger, Carr’s murder of David, Burroughs’ abuse of substance, and death of Kerouac’s friend–linked anal sex with other negative acts. “Is this scene homophobic?” Aaron asked. There were no easy answers, but Daniel noted that Ginsberg picked up a stranger who looked like Carr. Sharad observed that all four scenes involved penetration of some kind, and Dominic expanded, saying the penetration, the act of breaking skin represented breaking boundaries.

3. Failure: Daniel argued that the film suggested that to fail a person was to allow space for growth. Such as Ginsberg’ dad failing the mother, allowing her to grow; Ginsberg failing Carr, allowing his growth. Failure was neither positive nor negative.

4. Suicide. Perhaps linked with the theme of failure. The cat in oven was a reminder of Lucien’s failed attempted suicide to gas himself.

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Characters

1. Lucien Carr: A fascinating character whose talent, Dominic said, laid in his manipulation. Because Carr had no literary talent. Sharad noted that Carr was complex because he manipulated others but needed them, couldn’t give them up. Daniel found that Lucien Carr was portrayed as a typical closet case that couldn’t come to terms with his sexuality. Whether Carr had loved Ginsberg or not was implied but not explicit.

Style

1. Lucien Drowning David: A haunting and beautiful scene that suggested baptism and pieta.

2. David & Ginsberg: David was what Ginsberg might have become if he didn’t let Carr go. They were foils of each other.

Overall, there are many reasons to love this film. Javin had his favorite intense scenes. Daniel liked that the film gave an insight of homosexuality at that time. The film motivated Sharad and Dominic to read the Beat poets. Aaron thought it was a very tight, well-constructed film, very likable, toeing the line between commercial success and art.

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Filed under Bisexuality, Class, Family, Gay, Love, USA, War

63rd Discussion: Plan B (2009)

From youtube: “Bruno is dumped by his girlfriend; behind a calm, indifferent expression, his mind plans a cold, sweet vengeance. He befriends her new boyfriend Pablo, with the idea of eroding the couple, either by introducing Pablo to another woman or by seducing him himself. Thus emerges Plan B, a perilous romantic journey that calls his own sexuality into question.” 

Just a note to say, we watched the movie for our Sept discussion.

 

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37th Discussion: Comme Les Autres (2008)

We were too lazy to stick around for an in-depth discussion and decided to do it online. Here are some questions that you may want to consider and leave a comment. If you have other questions or other ideas about the movie, please feel free to comment too.

1. Why is the French title “Like the Others” change to “Baby Love” in translation? What is the significance?

2. There is a straight sex scene (to which the female movie-goer who sat behind me turned to her friend asked, “So he is straight?”). Why do you think there is a straight sex scene?

3. The gay sex scene is only implied while the straight sex scene is rather explicit and long-drawn. Is it homophobic?

4. Is it believable that a man would give up his long-term stable relationship for an unknown (in this case, the unknown is a future baby)?

5. Who else thinks Philippe is hot as hell?

6. What is the portrayal of class issues in this film?

7. What is the portrayal of family in this film?

7a. Every time the young boys ask difficult questions at the dining table, they are asked to leave. What do you make of this?

8. How would you characterize the love between Emmanuel and Philippe?

9. When Cathy asks Emmanuel to sit in her office, he first suspects that he has HIV before he figures out he is infertile. Is this homophobic in any way?

10. Emmanuel lives in Belville, a district with various races but how many non-White characters are there? Why?

11. Why is an illegal immigrant the surrogate mother? Do you think she’s being used by Emmanuel or even the director just as a plot device? What issues of illegal migrancy are brought up? Putting the film in Singapore context, do you think the director is for or against migrants?

12. What is the depiction of gender in the movie? Are there any caricatures of women?

13. In the last scene, it is suggested that Cathy sleeps with the black man. Is

14. Do you find this film funny? At which scenes and why? Are we laughing because of the loss in translation or is the humor universal? If you think that the film is funny, why do you think the director injects humor in a film with a serious theme?

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Filed under Class, Family, France, Gay, HIV/AIDS, Love, Politics, Race

33rd Discussion: Weekend (2011)

Touted as the great gay love story ever told. Although we neglected to mention that the power from this movie comes for its contemporariness–instead of drawing stories from the past such as Brokeback about 1950s cowboys–we did talk about how realistic it is. Amit called the film aptly “the gay Before Sunrise.” The disparaging remarks of the group on the film–slow and boring (Glenn and Javin); presents nothing new (Raj); too much dialogue (Javin)–were counteracted by Sudev who stated the importance of the dialogue is not in the words but more in the actions, a showing and not-telling, and by Aaron who claimed it takes great skills to transform a mundane every weekend to something of a moment of beauty. Instead of being pretentious, as most art films can get, Aaron commented that  the film is sublime and moving without being mawkish.

Themes:

1. Society: The theme of society is highlighted in the outdoor settings of the movie, such as in the carnival where families go. Three scenes that stand out on the film’s subtle critique of homosexuals and society are (a) when Glen–one “n” to differentiate from our member, Glenn, with two “n”s–talks loudly about his sex life in a straight bar and is confronted by two (straight) men. Are they homophobic or is Glen just talking too loudly because he’s insecure about his sexuality that he has to overcompensate?

(b) The kissing at the train station signals, Raj said, Russ coming to terms with PDA although Russ gets defensive at catcalls and being called “ladyboy.” This scene is a pointed critique of the homophobic society. The film suggests that the society is somewhat homophobic (scene b) but one has to be comfortable with one’s sexuality and not get aggressive like Glen in scene (a).

If gay people are comfortable with themselves–speak freely but not aggressively–then people will accept them for whom they are, as evidence–pointed out by Glenn–at the swimming pool where two men towel off each other.

2. Friendship: Javin noted that their friends reflect their characters as Russ, with his married friends, seems more well adjusted and ready for a relationship, while Glen, with his loud friends, is not ready to settle down. Furthermore, Jill–Glen’s good friend–is contrasted with Jamie–Russ’s good friend–as Jill is unsupportive, unlike Jamie. Javin thought that Glen’s relationship on Jill reflects that Glen cannot have a “real” relationship.

Aaron wondered aloud if it is that simple to typecast them according to their friends; after all Russ goes to clubs too and hasn’t gotten into any relationships before while Glen has an ex-boyfriend whom he loves very much but has to leave him because of his infidelity. The beauty of the film is that it doesn’t fall into cliches–why would the director typecast the characters via their friends? Russ’s stability and Glen’s loudness have more to do, Aaron thought, with the fact that they are both uncomfortable with their sexuality: Russ dares not come out while Glen’s constant loudness is overcompensating for his insecurity.

3. Drugs – Some of us felt that the drugs in the film are a (homophobic) stereotype of gay people but Aaron thought that the drugs is an unflinching realistic portrayal and besides, the film doesn’t take a moralistic stand on drug use; the film doesn’t show them using drugs to party or for wild orgies. What the film presents is that they use the drugs quietly in their apartment as a form of establishing a connection, affecting no one else.

4. Sex – Should a relationship begin with sex? Javin–and probably Ernest–said no; Aaron said yes; Raj said it doesn’t matter either way.

Is the sex real? Raj said the sex scenes–from the 1st one without any sex to the last one with penetration–show the progression of their love for each other. Aaron said the portrayal of such hot sex is important because how else can you differentiate a between a gay and straight relationship? Sex shows the opposite of homophobia.

Why do both of them record their sexcapades? Sudev said that the recordings represent insecurities about themselves and the giving of the tape to Russ means Glen is never coming back. Raj saw the gift that Glen doesn’t need the recording to remember Russ. Javin remarked that the sexperience has become so personal to Glen that he couldn’t include the tape in his art project. Aaron argued that sex isn’t about sex when it is so implicit: the sex shows the loneliness and the need for human connections, which is why the recordings of sex emphasize mostly on relationships, rather than the act (eg: Married Guy  and Paul Smith). While this may be a simple point, the film’s artistry makes you work hard to reach the point, thus making a statement against the stereotype of having ONS.

5. Love: While Javin said it is not possible to love anyone within 3 days, the other members more or less claimed that they love or have strong feelings in each other. Raj claimed that Glen’s not wanting a relationship will be a stumbling block should they continue. However, the general consensus is Glen wants a relationship although he says not; his saying so only shows his jadedness–like many gay men.

6. Social Class: Sudev said that their social class reflects on their attitudes towards life: the middle-class, trapped in the rat race, longs for sex alone, jaded about love while the blue collared wants stability. Aaron was concerned that the middle-class is the top, ie, the middle-class screws the blue-collared–abuse of social power?–while Raj saw their sexual positions as body images, the macho, taller, fit one is the bottom.  Thus it was concluded among us that the top/bottom, power/powerless dynamics don’t apply in this case.

We were also saddened that while such unions are possible in UK and USA, they are not possible in Singapore, with the amount of materialistic gay men in Singapore.

Motifs

1. Travelling: Many scenes show them on buses, trains and bicycles. Sudev decided that these public scenes contrast the intimacy and freedom they have at home while Aaron said that these scenes are metaphorical of a life’s journey. Sudev ties this usage of space to the time of the title, Weekend.

The three repeated scenes that show Glen walking away from Russ’s apartment, Raj said, demonstrate Glen’s growing affections.

2. Armpits!!!

After the discussion, Raj thought that the film is really quite good and we all have to agree with the journalist at The Independent: “Haigh’s picture is one of the few movies that capture modern attitudes to sex without falling into the cliches that come with the cinematic tendency to frame morals into a pseudo-religious spectrum of love, fidelity and marriage.”

This is a great film and if you haven’t watched it, you should. 

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