Tag Archives: israel

Capsule film reviews: Four more foreign LGBT movies

‘Yossi & Jagger’ (Israel)
Release Date:
Aug. 1, 2002
Director: Eytan Fox
Starring: Ohad Knoller, Yehuda Levi and Assi Cohen
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: R for language and some sexual content.
Grade: A

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Photo courtesy of Strand Releasing.

This movie is great — it somehow manages to create vivid and multidimensional depictions of all of the characters (even the background ones) and their connections to one another, although almost the entire plot takes place over the course of a single day. The story follows Yossi (Ohad Knoller), a commander of a company of soldiers in the Israeli army, and his second-in-command officer, Lior (Yehuda Levi), with whom he’s having a secret affair. Lior is quite amusing and endearing, his full-bodied personality and passion for music earning him the nickname “Jagger” among his comrades. Yossi is more reserved and sensible, but their chemistry is obvious, and the film beautifully and succinctly captures the loving relationship between the two. Also impressive are the stand-out performances of Aya Steinovitz and Hani Furstenberg as the company’s two female soldiers who are individually finding their places in a male-dominated field. The 67-minute film is quick but undoubtedly touching and memorable.

‘Weekend’ (United Kingdom)
Release Date:
Sept. 23, 2011
Director: Andrew Haigh
Starring: Tom Cullen, Chris New and Jonathan Race
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: A

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Photo courtesy of Peccadillo Pictures/Sundance Selects.

I remember when “Weekend” was released because it was very much talked-about, and it is still just as good years later. In fact, it’s very refreshing and kind of remarkable in that it’s such a well-made, high-quality gay romance film that does not at all feature a gay panic as a plot device. Both main characters, Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), are already well aware that they’re gay and are out of the closet when the story begins with them meeting in a club and going home together one Friday night. The film follows the slow building of their relationship as they spend the weekend together having meaningful conversations, taking drugs, riding bumper cars and having sex. It is bittersweet, though, because Glen is scheduled to leave for America the following week. “Weekend” is really a beautiful, captivating movie that is romantic and interesting. It’ll move you.

‘Undertow’ (Peru)
Release Date:
Sept. 23, 2009
Director: Javier Fuentes-León
Starring: Cristian Mercado, Manolo Cardona and Tatiana Astengo
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: B+

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Photo courtesy of Axiom Films.

“Undertow” is a pretty well-executed, interesting romance — almost a fairy tale with its melancholic, supernatural twist and star-crossed lovers. It begins with Peruvian fisherman Miguel (Cristian Mercado) sneaking away from his pregnant wife Mariela (Tatiana Astengo) to carry on an affair with a reclusive painter, Santiago (Manolo Cardona). It’s a pretty standard storyline until you remember that this is supposed to be a ghost story: Santiago shortly drowns at sea and returns as a ghost that only Miguel can see. At first, they’re excited and try to make their relationship work, but then they realize that undead love triangles aren’t really any less complicated than everyday love triangles and aim to put Santiago’s body to rest. The story is unusual and enjoyable. “Undertow” does a good job characterizing the entire community and showing development throughout as the plot progresses. Some elements are more difficult to follow (the ghost thing, I mean), but it is, overall, a solid movie.

‘Guys and Balls’ (Germany)
Release Date:
Oct. 7, 2004
Director: Sherry Hormann
Starring: Maximilian Brückner, David Rott and Rolf Zacher
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rating: R for sexual content, nudity and language.
Grade: C+

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Photo courtesy of Regent Releasing.

“Guys and Balls” is both a goofy gay romance and a sports movie! It follows Ecki (Maximilian Brückner), who is the goalie of his small-town football team until his teammates discover that he’s gay and kick him off. After being ostracized in town both because of his sexuality and because of a big mistake he made that cost the team the game, he heads to the big city to put together an all-gay football team with whom he plans to beat his old teammates and redeem himself once and for all. A series of zany high jinks ensue, a lot of which rely on offensive stereotypes, but it all comes together in time for the climactic final scene at the big game. Ecki, at least, is a dopey but likeable character, and the movie is, overall, pretty silly, even though it does attempt to feature some serious storylines. It’s just okay, though.

Capsule film reviews: Four foreign LGBT movies

‘Plan B’ (Argentina)
Release Date: March 27, 2009
Director: Marco Berger
Starring: Manuel Vignau, Lucas Ferraro and Mercedes Quinteros
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: A+

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Photo courtesy of Rendez-vous Pictures and Oh My Gomez! Films.

“Plan B” is a great film — a Spanish-language romantic comedy with a strong emotional, dramatic element. The pacing is perfect as the plot progresses toward an excellent and satisfying conclusion. The storyline is almost Shakespearean in its use of plotting and scheming, zany high jinks, and secret identities: Manuel Vignau excels as Bruno, who is set on exacting revenge after his girlfriend (Mercedes Quinteros) leaves him for another man, Pablo (Lucas Ferraro). First, he aims to befriend Pablo, infiltrating his world and possibly setting him up with another woman. But, when that doesn’t work, he decides to go with “plan B,” which is to just do the seducing himself. But as silly as the set-up is, the story is sweet and romantic with effective rising tension leading to a touching resolution. The script is well-written, the acting believable, and, again, this film is a great one.

‘Water Lilies’ (France)
Release Date: May 17, 2007
Director: Céline Sciamma
Starring: Adèle Haenel, Alice de Lencquesaing and Warren Jacquin
Genre: Drama
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: B-

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Photo courtesy of Balthazar Productions.

This French film centers on three girls during the summer they are 15 years old. Primarily, the focus is on Marie (Pauline Acquart), who is captivated by Floriane (Adèle Haenel), the captain of the girls’ synchronized swimming team. And, although Marie is dealing with her first personal sexuality crisis, she’s quite often expressionless and emotionless, which drags the film on a bit. More interesting are the other two girls, Floriane (who is negatively perceived as promiscuous by her other classmates, doesn’t get along well with girls and is anxious to lose her virginity to some creep) and Anne (Louise Blachère, who is Marie’s heterosexual childhood friend she finds herself now drifting away from). The minimalistic cinematography is a little boring, but the storyline certainly is not, and “Water Lilies” is an interesting look at female sexual awakening.

‘Eyes Wide Open’ (Israel)
Release Date: Feb. 5, 2010
Director: Haim Tabakman
Starring: Ran Danker, Zohar Strauss and Tzahi Grad
Genre: Drama
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: C

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Photo courtesy of Peccadillo Pictures.

Unfortunately for me, I had to start and stop this movie several times in order to make it through. I wanted so badly to not find it boring, but I managed to do it anyway. “Eyes Wide Open” is a film, in Hebrew, that centers on an Orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem. Zohar Strauss stars as Aaron, a married father of four, who hires Ezri (Ran Danker) to work as an apprentice in his butcher shop and eventually falls for him. The consequent crisis of faith and social ostracizing are the most compelling elements of the film, posing questions such as, “Is Aaron’s faith hurting or helping him? Is following his heart a good decision or a bad one?” But the acting is just so-so. Neither Danker nor Strauss is particularly compelling or convincing in their respective roles. Also, you know what’s weird about this movie? The promotional picture on the cover features a guy who is not really even in it (he appears in two scenes, I think).

‘North Sea Texas’ (Belgium)
Release Date: November 2, 2012
Director: Bavo Defurne
Starring: Thomas Coumans, Nina Marie Kortekaas and Nathan Naenen
Genre: Drama
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: C-

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Photo courtesy of Kinepolis Film Distribution and Strand Releasing.

There was probably a time I would have loved “North Sea Texas,” a Belgian coming-of-age film about a boy living with his good-for-nothing lounge singer/accordion player mother. Pim (Jelle Florizoone) carries off some amazingly angsty scenes dressing in his mother’s clothing and collecting mementos that remind him of the neighbor boy, Gino (Mathias Vergels). His mother (Eva Van der Gucht) does some lousy parenting, and Gino does some lousy boyfriending as he struggles with his own sexuality and his bleak family situation. It’s all very run-of-the-mill gay drama stuff, and that’s why I found this film to be so tedious. It’s well-acted, and it’s even emotionally-captivating. I just feel like I’ve seen this movie a million times over, and there are so many more diverse and interesting queer stories that could be told instead.