Thursday, February 28, 2013

"The Gatekeepers": Riveting history of Israeli-Palestinian conflict through security chiefs


The Gatekeepers” (or "Shomerei Hs'saf") is a documentary, by Dror Moreh, interviewing the six surviving former chiefs of Shin Bet, the clandestine service agency for Israeli security.  All their activities have been state secrets. The film comprises clips where each of them talk, in rotating sequence, along with many news clips, many of them in black and white, of the war between Israel and the Palestinians as it has evolved ever since 1967.
  
The early part of the film covers the aftermath of the Six Day War in June 1967, where Israel wound up with control over Gaza, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights.  As we know, Israel started a practice of establishing settlements on the West Bank, often expropriating land from Palestinians.  To some of us, not sympathetic to old religious or ancestral historical claims, this sounds like simply occupation and stealing of other people’s property.  Israel probably did not anticipate the level of asymmetric warfare that would result.

The “gatekeepers” often talk about the effectiveness of the suicide bombings, and talk about the desire of both sides to inflict personal suffering on the other.  Being expropriated leads to shame, and shame is a very unacceptable emotion.

The Yom Kippur War would follow in October 1973, resulting indirectly in the Arab Oil Embargo and a world energy crisis.  I do recall the gas lines of the time, the even-odd rationing, and even the day the war started, as I returned from a weekend camping trip in New Jersey.

Much of the film covers the Clinton presidency (often showing Bill Clinton), with the Oslo Accord, followed two years later by the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

The men discuss the decisions that they have to ponder before making an air strike, as to whether innocent bystanders or civilians will be affected.  Often they are, as "collateral damage". 

On December 23, 2012, I discussed, on the International Issues blog, a symposium by George Meek and the Interfaith Peace Builders to address the human rights of people in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The six men say that they feel that their country has indeed behaved as “occupiers”, like Germany did in the Netherlands, but not as conquerors. 

They also mention the level of responsibility that young military draftees soon have for interrogating civilians at border crossings or in raids. Curiously, conscription, while socializing young people, gives them a sense of "power". 
    
There is also some discussion of extreme rendition and torture techniques used.
  
The site for the film is here.  The distributor, Sony Pictures Classics, is obviously connected to the distribution (from Columbia) of “Zero Dark Thirty” (Jan. 11, 2013 here).  Sony should be praised for bringing both films to the public.
  
Wikipedia attribution link for Six Day War map, here

  
The film played at Sundance 2013. 

I saw this at Landmark E Street in Washington DC during the daytime. There was a fair crowd in the largest auditorium. 

By the way, the term “gatekeeper” has another, totally differet connotation in Internet publishing. It refers to companies or agents that try to control what can be put up by amateurs indirectly through copyright legislation and litigation.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"The Blessing" is one of many short films on the LDS church and gay people; also, a short about a Swedish boarding school


I’ve recently discussed a couple of independent films about the Mormon Church and homosexuality (Feb. 18, 2013) and the notorious Broadway musical (Drama blog, Feb. 25).  There are a number of short films  (a few documentaries of some length) on YouTube about the conflict. 
   
One of the most interesting dramatic shorts is “The Blessing” (17 min, 2004), directed by Stephen Williams, from AffirmationLDS (link). 
  
  
A young man visits his family, on wake as the father lies in bed after a heart attack and may be dying.  The young man has an older brother who is more “conservative”, and the family discussion has to deal with whether “Dad” stuck to “the rules” and could accept a blessing from a gay man.  The tone of the conversation is gentle, and the family is trying to deal with this “humanely”.  The film gives a good look at what happens inside an upper class Mormon family, and gives a good perspective on family culture.  The innards of the home seem “temple-like”. 

I didn't really see a connection to the "Jacob and Esau" story in the Bible, although that idea could have been pursued.  
     
Here’s another (not related) short film, “Water”  (“Vattnet”), directed by Marco van Bergen, from Sweden, 14 minutes, link. A teenager’s parents have apparently taken over running a boarding school in southern Sweden, and the teen has his own room in the “dorm” even though he is “family”.  The young man witnesses some bullying outdoors from his window, goes out and finds the victim, and invites him back to the room.  The older student has minor injuries to which the teen tends.  Then they have to deal with one another. 
  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Werner Herzog shows "real life" (Siberian) in "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga"


The latest documentary by Werner Herzog  is a collaboration with Russian Dmitry Vasyukov for Studio Basselberg, “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga”. 

Herzog narrates as he shows the lives of people in a central Siberian village of Bakhtia, population 300, accessible only by bush plane or by river.  The people live in largely prehistoric conditions, in log cabins, with only snowmobiles and a few modern tools,. Maybe coop electricity.

But actually most of the film traces the life of a typical fur trapper, who often describes his daily life, in Russian (with subtitles).  He sees his village family only occasionally, with some time to teach his sons his way of life.   The film, starting in Spring, traces the way he manages his system of huts (essentially personal yurts) in a 1000 sq km area originally given to him by the Communists to hunt on in 1970. He is now about 63 but quite vigorous.  He builds everything, including his huts, traps, skis, and other infrastructure by chopping and working with the natural wood and logs in the forest.  He trains his dogs and maintains the appropriate level of emotional involvement with them.  (Again, there is a bit of “Pi” in him.)

The film moves in the sequence of four seasons, starting in spring, as was common with Disney documentaries in the 50s.  Snow stays around until early May, and he actually has to chop firewood in spring so it can dry all summer.  Summer is short, but preparations for winter, which pretty much starts in late October, are grueling. Temperature can get down to minus 50 (the movie didn’t say Celsius). 

When he goes hunting, he is on his own completely. There is no legal system, no help. There is only living, controlling a territory to feed oneself, and carry food back on a showboard to a family.  He has complete “freedom” in an otherwise previously Communist state. 
  
The official site from Music Box Films is here. The film was shot during the year 2010 and is only now in limited theatrical release.  I saw it at the Landmark E Street in Washington.  

The film was shot in handheld dogme digital video, and in a few scenes the resolution is not quite as sharp as one would like, given such breathtaking scenery.
  
One important idea not covered in the film is the possibility of methane releases from the soil with global warming, which may decrease the length and severity of winter in coming years.  Perhaps the methane issue matters more in the actual tundra. But a large methane release could lead to a runaway greenhouse effect for the whole planet, possibly (particularly if ocean methane hydrates break).  While methane has much more heat retention potential than carbon dioxide, it doesn’t last as long. 
  
But the people in this film don’t contribute to the problem. The rest of us do.  The fur trapper explains his simple attitude toward life's meaning, as seen through his relationships with wild animals.  He is rather like the apex predator.
  
Wikipedia attribution link for world map of taiga  

Visitors may want to peruse the article "Stranded on the Roof of the World" by Michael Finkel and Matthew Paley, on. p. 88 of the February 2003 National Geographic, about the Kyrgyz nomads in northeastern Afghanistan, living at 14000 feet in similar isolation. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

"Dark Tide": adventure film about diving around sharks was largely overlooked in 2012



Dark Tide”  (2012, directed by John Stockwell) is an important “adventure” and docudrama-style film that from South Africa and the UK, with Halle Berry as a “shark whisperer” and expert diver, trying to rebuild her life after a dive accident cost her a companion.  With so many companies involved (Lionsgate, Magnet/Magnolia Pictures, Wrenkin, Lipsync. Row 1, and Wrenkin) it’s surprising that is was overlooked for most of 2012. It shares some territory with both “Life of Pi” and “Rust and Bone”, as well as, of course, all of “Jaws”.

Kate (Halle Berry) accepts a job to help a millionaire with his sons on a big diving expedition off Capetown.  It may be that structurally,  the story doesn’t have a lot of space on the boat (but Pi did!)  There is tension in the family. The youngest kid (Mark Elderkin) loves to play with his camera and films but is a bit of a “tender little baby”.  In the meantime, the movie keeps us coming back to thinking about these great white sharks, that really don’t have it in for us like we do for them.  Eventually, dad gets carried away, and the family gets caught in a storm.  The shark gets involved, and the underwater mayhem scenes are riveting, having you wonder who will make it. 

Some of the film story is told through handycam's, in somewhat a "dogme" style like that of Lars van Trier.  The narrative style is a bit self-annotating, like a NatGeo docudrama, which some viewers could find dilutes the tension in the story. 
  
The official site (Japan) is here
   
  
The film should be viewed in BluRay if possible, because this is a movie (2.35:1) where the technical presentation really matters.  Again, it’s a mystery why American audiences weren’t more interested. This cost  $25 million to make. 

During the closing credits, the film makes some recommendations about shark conservation and extinction threat.  For example, sustainable fishing should be considered.  
  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

"Nursery University": getting kids into pre-school in NYC is tough


Nursery University" (2008, 90 min), by Marc H. Simon and Matthew Makar, documents the hoops that parents (in the film, five couples) in Manhattan go through to get their three-year-old kids in nursery school or pre-school, where there are about 15 applicants for every opening in private schools.

Parents deal with lotteries, waiting lists, and skullduggery.  One parent submitted the application on David Letterman’s stationery.  Parents tend to take even not making the lottery personally.

The film livens up when the schools meet with the parents, and then show the actual interaction with small children in upscale nursery schools.  This job would not be for everybody.

Schools shown include the Chelsea Day School and Barrow Street. 

The film also shows how the schools evaluate which kids are best fits, but the process seems very subjective.


The official link (Variance Films and New Video) is here.

In his 2004 book, ”The Cheating Culture” David Callahan was critical of the expense wealthy parents go to in order to give their kids advantages that others won’t have.

The complete film can be rented on YouTube  for $2.99 (or from Netflix).

Note: The second picture was taken on Barrow St (by me, recently);  pictures are mine.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

"Satan's Angel": a biography of a burlesque star


I remember back in the 1950s that there were a couple of movie theaters in downtown Washington DC called the Pix and the Art, and they performed “burlesque”.  I thought that was funny as a boy.  Some of the lost titles included “Burlesque in Harlem” and “Um-boy”.

Josh Dragotta has a new film “Satan’s Angel: Queen of the Fire Tassels” (72 min), a biography of the lesbian burlesque performer, Angel Walker and her partner Vic Cotwell.  Angel, 67 at the time of filming (2012), still performs, but her career started in California in the 60s.  She is said to have invented the pyrotechnic fire tassel, which might present a fire hazard in some clubs (given the recent tragedy in Brazil and the 2003 fire in Rhode Island).   

She lived part of her life in Palm Springs, played at an LA spot called “The Gay Nineties” (in Minneapolis there is a big gay disco by that name), and even performed in Finland.

Most of the film consists of cameos, interview clips, and scenes inside clubs.

The link for the film is here


I viewed a screener from Breaking Glass Pictures.  The final DVD (available March 5) will have extended interviews. The film screened at Outfest LA, Seattle LGBT, Scottsdale and Austin GLBT film festivals. 

I did notice in the screener some loss of detail in scenes with less light.  I hope that is fixed on the commercial DVD.  

Second picture: Gay club strip in Palm Springs  CA (mine, May, 2012).  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"California Solo": a legal immigrant faces deportation after some foolish behavior -- but do "I" care?


They tell adult students of “Screenwriting 101” that you have to hook the audience with a “3D” character presented with an urgent challenge, right at the outset.  The new Sundance 2012 film  “California Solo”, by Marshall Lewy, does these things, almost too literally.  I had trouble empathizing with the character or accepting his behavior at all.
  
Laclan MacAldonich (Robert Carlyle), a former and fallen British rocker and pop-star and now middle aged, lives on a green card, working erratically on an organic food farm in the near California valley.  As the film starts, he gets stopped for drunk driving.  That precipitates efforts by ICE and Immigration to deport him back to Britain even though he has a legal green card. 
  
The scenes, in the middle of the film, that depict immigration law and the workarounds attempted by immigration lawyers are indeed quite instructive and interesting.
  
Laclan is told that he can stay in the US if he can demonstrate that someone in great need is dependent on him. So he tries to recruit an aging actress (Alexia Rasmussen) into his efforts.  Of course, she is put off by the dishonesty, but there is a daughter and perhaps a final family secret.

The director says that he is concerned that US immigration policy can indeed nab long time employed and legal US residents if they make slight slips, and somebody with an agenda notices. 
   
I received a screener from Strand, and the film will be available on DVD March 5.  It opened in NY and LA on November 30.  The official site is here.
  
  
I don’ t recall seeing this film play in the DC area.

Second picture, mine (May 2012), near Palm Springs, near location of film. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard": self-help 30 years ago


I can remember, when living in Dallas in the 1980s, that a couple other members of the gay community there actually tried to encourage me to attend a weekend of EST. I can recall going to information sessions on it in New York in the 1970s.  I saw it as another new-age or self-help movement that appeared comparable to Rosicrucianism, Understanding, and even Scientology.
   
There is a 2006 documentary “Transformation: the Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard” (2006, 77 minutes, directed by Robyn Symon), which replays some of the hotel weekend sessions from that period and shows some of the major points of EST. One of the major ideas is that EST isn’t about “getting better”.  It’s about becoming something else.  EST, according to the film, also takes the position that “there are no victims” (or another favorite aphorism of mine, “there is no They”).  That’s offensive to some people.  It also makes people aware of how others see them.  One woman reported growing much closer to her parents and biological family, after separation and psychological exile.
  
The official site is here. It played at Atlanta and Palm Beach film festivals.  The distributor is Eagle Island. The film is available from Netflix.
  
Here is a clip from an interview of Erhard by Charlie Rose.

  
Erhard is now 77 and his original name was John Paul Rosenberg.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"Beautiful Creatures": it seems to invert the premise of "Twilight"


Beautiful Creatures” tells a supernatural story from the eyes of a likable and mature teenage boy., Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), who lives in an isolated South Carolina town looking after his widowed father, and preparing to apply for college.  One day, in a driving storm, another teen Lena (Alice Englert), probably too young to drive, flags him down to stop and help her.

What starts is a platonic friendship with some puppy love, that draws Ethan into the supernatural history of her family, and then even his own.  It’s a little hard to explain, but it is something like witchcraft and reincarnation of spirits that fought a Civil War battle in the area.  In a sense, the film seems like the “inverse” of the Twilight movies.

Quite a bit of the action takes places in a haunted and dilapidated southern mansion, that inside turns into an art deco fantasy, complete with staircase and grand piano ready for Chopin. Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons) drags the pair along into complications.  The story drags in some friends of Ethan, particularly Link (Thomas Mann), who makes a nice sidekick.

It does seem, that in a few scenes, women can be physically "dangerous" to the boys.  But in their war reenactment, they can become dangerous to each other, too.  
  
There is a climax, with a reenactment of a Civil War battle, a tornado, an apparent accidental tragedy, that gets resolved in supernatural fashion that doesn’t seem that compelling.

The film, for Warner Brothers and Alcon, is directed by Richard LaGravenese (“Freedom Writers”), and is based on a novel by Kami Garcia.  It was filmed in Louisiana.
  
The link for the film is here. It opened on Valentine’s Day 2013.

Monday, February 18, 2013

"The Falls": Two Mormon missionaries discover one another (but a slower film than "Latter Days")


It’s pretty obvious to compare Jon Garcia’s new film about gay Mormon missionaries, “The Falls” (2012, 89 minutes, Breaking Glass Pictures and QC Cinema) with “Latter Days” (2005, by C. J. Cox for Funnyboy Pictures, which I had seen at Reel Affirmations).
   
This new film is slower paced and “simpler” that the former one, and maybe a little pedantic. 

Nevertheless, the film presents the dilemma of modern  “organized” religion: it needs to recruit members and demand loyalty and  obedience to survive.  Sometimes these can be necessary things.

R.J. Smith (Nick Ferrucci) leaves his family in Idaho to go on his Mormon mission, which he (or his parents) pay for.  R.J. is about as solid and good looking a youth as any – until he meets his “Elder” companion, Chris (Benjamin Farmer).  They are put in a Spartan apartment near Portland, OR, in which they study and from which they go out and proselytize their faith.

That’s how a lot of modern people would see it.  A few decades ago, going door-to-door or approaching people on the street to sell anything, from insurance to a faith, was more accepted as the way things get done and even social capital gets built.  I do recall coworkers telling me about visits from Mormon missionaries back in the 1970s.

Chris seems to be the more assertive at first, but is also more easily tripped up by an alert “potential convert”.  Chris starts opening up a little about his true nature, and soon R.J. feels inclined to do the same.

About fifty minutes into the film, outdoors near railroad tracks, the first intimacies happen.

The Church supervision is intrusive, of course (Quinn Allan is quite prissy as “Elder Harris”) and the boys ‘get caught.  The consequences back home for RJ in the family and the church are handled with taste and some ambiguity. 

The website for the film is this.  

There is an interesting anecdote from one of the characters who, the pair visits (and eventually share "weed") about gays in the military during the war in Iraq.
   
  
The film points out that religious morality has two sides, like a chemistry equation to be balanced.  Righteous behavior isn’t just about avoiding sinful acts (for example, causing unwanted pregnancy); it’s also about carrying specific pre-existing obligations to appropriate the deepest aspects of one’s life (sexuality and expression) for ends defined by the community (or faith).  There is literally a moral obligation to become fit to marry and have children, in this world.  In fact, RJ's father, Mr. Smith (Harold Pillips) talks like the Mormon mission is supposed to make him more interested in women and marriage, a bizarre idea.  This is a community that believes it needs an authoritarian structure to survive.

A film about Mormon missionaries from the LDS point of view is “God’s Army” (2000), by Zion Films and Richard Dutcher.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

"56 Up": British filmmakers track adults over a half century every seven years, and they do age (or ripen)!


It’s amazing that a filmmaker could keep track of six adults for a half century.  The British television project behind “56 Up” must have started with Paul Almond and then been joined by Michael Apted.

More than twelve people have been followed since 1964, when they were age seven.  They include both men and women, rich and poor, and at least one black male.
  
The stories have curious turns of fate.  One man was homeless at age 28 but eventually became an influential politician in rural England, and said that he had always wanted to be a writer, but never seemed to get his stuff online.

The film also manages to show how the class divisions in British society are narrowing, and how society has been affected by cutbacks in government since Margaret Thatcher (“The Iron Lady”).
  
The physical changes are striking and rapid with change, especially for most of the men.  Even 28 looks older than 21. 
  
I think it would be interesting, if possible, to project the changes in a man (or, for a heterosexual male, woman) over time, with one minute per year. White men are likely to show beard and leg hair growth first, then arms, then chest (often), and then with age, lose scalp hair and often leg hair.  Women have their own concerns about their timelines and how time affects “attractiveness”, at least in a society concerned with lookism.
  
There is a tendency to look at a young adult and believe that he will always look, frozen, exactly as he does at that moment (as in a bar or disco)l, even if we know intellectually that this is impossible.  Yet, our brains tend to believe that some people are intrinsically old and some always young.  If only we could stop the aging process and turn people into angels!
  
Aging happens not just because of biology and chemistry, but also physics.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics demands that all systems deteriorate with time due to entropy.  Nature counteracts this with conscious living things, which usually have an urge to reproduce to recreate youth.
  
Curiously, though, some of the people in the film say they didn’t want to have children, but then some did anyway.
  
The film was compiled from a TV series (ITV) and the narrative style shows the “reality television” show origin.
  
It’s also long, running 144 minutes.  It played to a sold out crowd in a large auditorium at Landmark E Street in Washington DC today.  (Also, Landmark, for some reason, your $7 cake tart concessions were stale!)
  
The official site from First Run Features is here

  
Much of the early footage is in black and white and some of the older footage does look a bit faded.  

One of the more interesting men played piano as an avocation, and in one scene (at age 21) practices a passage from the first movement of Beethoven's Piano Concerto #1 in C.  

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"Safe Haven" is not to be found just in a Harbor


Let me confess something from my warped mind.  When I went to Regal Cinemas in Arlington VA to see “Safe Haven” (Lasse Halstrom’s new film), I asked for a ticket for “Safe Harbor” (actually a 2009 TV film) because of the “DMCA Safe Harbor” concept on the Internet.  One could make a movie about that (and one may soon, given a recent tragedy). But what I found with “Safe Haven” was a pretty conventional romantic thriller, a rather formulaic concept, and pleasant for people who like coastal living (despite hurricanes).  One film for comparison, in the 90s, is “Cape Fear”.  This new film from Relativity Media (“I am Rogue”) is based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, who says he really doesn’t write his novels for the movies with premeditation.  (Yet Sparks has his own movie production company.)

As the film starts, Katie (Julianne Hough) is “escaping” from a domestic violence incident in Massachusetts (involving “rogue” cop husband (David Lyons), and gets set up in a tiny, toy-like “cabin in the woods” in the swamps near Wilmington (a movie making center) and Southport, NC.  She quickly meets a store owner and fisherman, widower Alex (Josh Duhamel) with three small children.

It isn’t too hard to imagine a linear plot – the cop puts out a “wanted” notice and accuses her of a murder which did not happen.  Then, in his rage, after getting fired, he drives down to the Carolinas to set up the final confrontation at a Fourth of July celebration.  The film seems, in retrospect, like a chilling replay of a little bit of what just happened in California with fired LAPD copy Christopher Dorner, but here there is no written manifesto.
  
Katie has to keep a very low profile (no Facebook, please), and at first doesn’t like Alex’s calling attention to her.  But Alex is an attentive father (as he needs to be), and another mysterious woman (Cobie Smulders) seems to be bringing together.  To say more would provide a spoiler, but there is a touch of the supernatural.  Maybe this is not quite “another Earth”.
  
The official site is here.
  
I guess this is a film about “family”. 

Picture: near Elizabeth City, NC, Great Dismal Swamp (mine, 2011).  

For today's short film, an excerpt from John Adams's composition "Harmonielehre", ("Study of Harmony") NYC, on Vimeo (embedded on my Twitter feed) , here. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"Going Down in LA-LA Land": What you have to do to make it in Tinsel Town


Going Down in LA-LA Land” (2012, 104 min) dramatizes what it takes to make it in Tinsel town. 
    
Adam Zeller (Matthew Ludwinski) is a nice, wholesome and physically robust gay kid (maybe 23) who comes to LA to make it as an actor.  Through a series of various encounters and small jobs, he learns the ropes.  You have to “please” the right people (and I could state this more bluntly if I didn’t have to keep this blog itself in PG-13 land).
    
He gets fired from his first job when he tries to “be right”, but soon he learns the practical ropes.  Slowly, he slips into escort service and occasional porn.  A man who wants to be his lover hires him , and then that man’s business has to deal with its own star’s “offline reputation” when one of his images hits the cover of a supermarket tabloid.  This is a story that could have happened well before Facebook (which is never mentioned, although smart phones abound). Paparazzi seem to rule the world here.
  
Matthew plays the part of Adam with a good deal of charisma – something performers need, but people seem to need it to keep the sharks ([particular those who use or deal drugs) at bay.  He can tell people to f-off toward the end.  But then, once, he stumbles, with drugs and alcohol himself, in a scene that really seems out of place to me. Will he recover his own strength of personhood? 
     
One familiar song, “Hold on to me” plays in the credits.  Followed by “Downtown Down in A-LA Land”, which I’m pretty sure I’ve heard in discos. 
    
The official site is here. The film is directed by Casper Andreas (“The Big Gay Musical”), for Embrem Films.  Imdb shows Pro-fun as the only distributor.  The film is available on Netflix Instant.  The film can be rented on YouTube for $3.99. 
   

The photography does dawdle on Adam quite a bit, as he is the film’s only really likeable character.   It’s a lot easier to start out your adult life if you’re physically attractive and strong than if you aren’t, given how competitive the world has gotten.  This is one of those movies where chest hair does not exist for men under 40.  Perhaps our whole culture has a fetish for “immaturity”.  There’s even a scene, as Adam prepares for a porn shot, where an assistant uses the “clippers” – remember that line in “Aline 3” where Sigourney Weaver was offered the same?  

Picture (mine): View from the rooftop restaurant at the Angelino Hotel on the 405, May 2012.  Bel Air and Santa Monica Blvd, leading to West Hollywood, are nearby.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"The Fields": An eight year old boy is confronted with possible horror on his grandparents' farm


The indie  rural suspense flick “The Fields”, from Breaking Glass, is based on an incident in the boyhood of the screenwriter (Harrison Smith) in rural eastern Pennsylvania.  The film is directed by Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni.  The story takes place in the early 1970s, and the filmmakers recreate a world as it looked then, pre-Internet, filmed often at the eye level of a boy.  
  
Joshua Ormond plays Steven, the eight year who experiences the “mystery”.  The film is perhaps a little closer to “To Kill a Mockingbird” in substance than typical horror,  This is a about how real events, criminal and horrific, are perceived in the mind of a child. 
  
When Bonnie (Tara Reid) has a falling out with her husband, she takes Steven to live with the paternal grandparents – a sign that she has some issues as a mother.  The grandmother  (Cloris Leachman) is very protective.  The kid feels surrounded by the farm, especially the dead corn that is everywhere.  A raven flies down to the kid and screams, as if to warn him.  (A crow did that with me in October just before Hurricane Sandy, which did no damage where I am; but it seems that birds  -- especially corvids which are intelligent and sociable -- know when something is wrong and will try to warn people.)
  
Steven starts hearing stories about Charles Manson, and meeting a few possibly unstable characters around town.  Soon, noises and forms appear outside the windows of the house, and tension mounts.  Is the house haunted, or is there someone demented on the loose?

Steven’s father returns to the scene, but can he prove himself a responsible dad?  And is the terror real?
  
The official site for the film is here. There are several production companies, including Expressway Productions, Mr. Big, and MazWa.  


The DVD has a lot of very cursory extras. 

The music score by John Avarese has a lot of interesting brass work. 
  
Somehow, the corn fields reminded me of Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn” (1984), which I saw in Dallas. 

Picture: Mine, Gibson PA (2012), in the Poconos, near the site of the film, I think.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Abe Lincoln in Illinois" is a quick biography on TCM, supplements Spielberg


Last night, Turner Classic Movies aired the 1940 biography, “Abe Lincoln in Illinois”, directed by John Cromwell, from RKO Radio Pictures (an old studio, whose trademark was recently revived for “A Late Quartet”, with this link). 
   
The film stars Raymond Massey (I wonder if there is any distant relation to “Days” young star Chandler Massey) as an affable Abe, somewhat soft-spoken but able to explode when challenged, as in an early fight scene based on his early Kentucky years.  Everyone seems to want to promote and elect him (even to postmaster in New Salem, Illinois, where the mail comes once a week).
  
His physical presence, as a tall man who may have Marfan’s Syndrome, is handled well.

As he marries Mary Todd, gets elected  to Congress and eventually nominated for president with the young, anti-slavery and “pro freedom” party, the Republicans Party, which can point to a proud origin.  Toward the end of the film, Lincoln engages in some debates and gives some speeches, including a striking passage where he talks about the paradox that nature never makes people exactly equal, but that we must learn how to treat them as free and equal nevertheless.  The speech maps through several apparent logical contradictions. 
  
A 110-minute film cannot, of course, do complete justice to the complex history of the man, and of the way he had to promote himself to earn his place in history.
  
The film makes appropriate viewing in a year when Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” for Disney is aiming for Best Picture. 
  
The black and white cinematography is crisp and sharp for its time.
  
   
The film was preceded with an odd short film, “How to Sleep”, by Jack Kinney (Disney, 1953, black and white).  Don’t get in bed with a man like this with bare buttocks.  The film has a David Lynch feel, with mention of warm milk.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Side Effects": Shrinks and "The Cheating Culture"


Steven Soderbergh likes dramas based on institutional or corporate corruption of some kind, and “Side Effects”, ultimately about the collusion between the mental health establishment and pharmaceutical companies, fits his mold. The trouble, for me at least, is that none of the characters is very likeable.

The film opens as Emily (Rooney Mara) finds her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) stabbed in their posh Manhattan apartment.  The film shifts back three months, and soon we learn that Rooney was being treated for depression (by Dr. Siebert, Catherine Zeta-Jones) and that her husband was getting out of jail (not free like in Monopolyu), after doing countryclub time for insider trading (he probably made a profit by shorting all those mortgage derivatives).  She tries to end herself by slamming her car into a parking garage wall (sorry, there’s an air bag).  She gets a mild concussion, and soon falls under the treatment of the psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). 
m
This is probably a good place to mention the 2004 book by Princeton professor David Callahan, “The Cheating Culture” (Book review blog, March 28, 2006). Callahan discussed the pressure physicians come under from drug companies to prescribe new and exotic medications and sometimes overmedicate the patient.  A dentist once hocked a $100 waterpik device on me. 

Is isn’t too hard to predict where this can go.  Or maybe it is, unless you believe the sleepwalking defense (which has been covered on 20-20) – here as a “side effect” of the meds (as well as vomiting).    Emily winds up in an “institution” as an “m.p.”, gets persuaded by watching an electroshock treatment, and pretty soon has to connive with the doctor. 
  
Banks lives the high-life, dealing with divorce and putting his son through a private school (to learn the “Gossip Girl” values),   and will do anything to meet his own economic ends.  He had come over to the US from Britain because, across the pond and under a salaried National Health environment (to the pleasure of Michael Moore), patients didn’t get better. 

That the conniving would be allowed seems a little hard to believe.

The link for the film (Open Road) is here.  
The last shot is rather telling as to what kind of life an institutionalized "not guilty" patient can look forward to. 

I saw this at the late show Saturday night at the AMC Courthouse in Arlington VA, small auditorium, sold out, with reclining seats.  The earlier show had been sold out when I got there.  

The film could be compared to "The Constant Gardener", 2005, Focus Features, directed by Fernando Merirelles.  That film hit a little harder. 

Friday, February 08, 2013

Joe Dante's 3-D thriller "The Hole", and what lies beneath


Joe Dante’s “The Hole” (originally in 3D) sounds a bit like a dream, the sort of story a middle schooler might write for English class. 
  
In a rural Pennsylvania town, perhaps in the Laurel Highlands and probably around shale fracking country (and that is significant), an enterprising teenager Dane (Minnesota-born Chris Massoglia, 16 when the film was shot) and his younger brother Lucas (Nathan Gamble) stumble on a padlocked cellar in their basement, hidden for years by rugs, furniture and hoarded junk.  When the kids, an neighboring teen Julie (Haley Bennett)  open it and investigate, the “darkness” is unleashed into the home.  This comprises all kinds of bizarre puppets and clowns, at least for Lucas.  In time, we learn that the manifestation of “the darkness” is specific to the beholder.

Eventually, Dane “falls” into the Hole, and winds up in an artificial world that anticipates “Inception”.  Surprisingly, we learn that his own demon was earlier physical cowardice and ability to protect his brother , even though there has been no hint of such earlier. Dane always seems in command of all challenges and initiations now.  It seems particularly "evil" to attack someone to make someone else prove that he can "protect" the potential victim. He and his brother are being raised by a single mom and are transplants from the city, but that aspect is downplayed.  

At the end, the moviegoer is invited to question his own crawl space.


The official site (Bold Films and Big Air Studios)  is here.The film was shot in LA, Vancouver and apparently Pennsylvania.  
    
Don’t confuse with the Disney film “Holes” (2003), by Andrew Davis, introducing Shia LaBeouf.   

Thursday, February 07, 2013

"Burzynski": Did the government fight progressive anti-cancer treatment to benefit the pharm industry?


Burzynski” (2010), is an independent documentary (108 minutes) by Eric Merola about cancer researcher Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, who took on the FDA for almost two decades to win approval for his revolutionary anti-cancer treatment.

The film opens with a half-hour prologue about the medicine of cancer and oncology.  There has been debate for some time as to whether there could be a single “cure for cancer” (which would certainly be a popular notion).  Burzynski’s work has to do with turning on certain tumor suppressor genes, and turning off genes that can make cell lines immortal. 
Hospital companies like “Cancer Centers of America” advertise their treatment as if cancer had some fundamental root cause.  Nevertheless, even that company notes that it typically recommends “surery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy” in its television ads.  However compassionately given, these treatments can be brutal.

In the prologue, a woman gives an account of how her daughter, with a brain stem cancer, underwent brutal radiation and chemo, lost much of her hair permanently, and was told her daughter would be a vegetable anyway. 

During the film, various people present accounts of how they or their children were helped by Burzynski’s radical treatments.  Nevertheless, from the 80s on, the Food and Drug Administration went after him as a quack. Burzynski was told that he could only treat patients if he aligned himself with a major pharmaceutical company, and would not be allowed to continue working on his own.  Imagine if that concept were applied to Internet publishing!

The FDA prosecuted him relentlessly, and for a time Burzynski would be challenged to raise the funds it took to defend himself.  It seemed as all of this persecution was motivated by the desire to protect the big business interests of the pharmaceutical lobby, even if it led to suffering by patients.  This film certain has a “libertarian” message, against regulation.

The overzealous prosecution reminds one of what happened to Aaron Swartz.

Even when Burzynski started “winning”, the government started awarding patents to “copycats” of his work from the big drug companies, fitting into today’s discussion of “patent trolling” as with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Toward the end, there is an anecdote of how a doctor was pilloried into suicide in the Nineteenth Century for recommending that surgeons wash and scrub before surgery, patients died after surgeons who had just worked on autopsies turned around and operated on live patients.  
   
The link for the film is here.  It can be seemed by instant play on Netflix.

The entire movie can be viewed free on YouTube right now.  

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

"Newseum" presents "March to Justice" with panel discussion


Tonight, Wednesday February 6, 2013, I attending a screening of the 45-minute film “March to Justice”, by Kerry Kennedy and the Investigation Discovery Channel, at the Newseum  in Washington DC., in the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater.   Screening was limited to members of the Newseum.  It will be aired on Investigation Discovery later in February. 2013.  It was produced in part by NBC News.  That means that a theatrical release, if it happens, would probably go through Focus Features or possibly Relativity Media and “I Am Rogue”.   This film definitely should get shown in a place like Landmark or the West End Cinema later. 

The website for the film is here.  The first two or three minutes seemed like a trailer than the beginning of the real film.  
   
The film traces the history of the Civil Rights movement from 1961 to 1965, until President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.  It gives details (including a lot of black and white footage) of a school integration attempt in Louisiana in May 1961, the bombing of a Birmingham AL Baptist church in September 1963, and most of all the Selma march in 1965, which had to be attempted three times. The film has a lot of original footage at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. 
  
Particularly interesting was the difficulty that the Kennedy and then Johnson administrations had at first in getting law enforcement to honor Supreme Court rulings and federal laws.  In Selma and at other demonstrations, police showed up and beat demonstrators or sometimes used water hoses.  One woman says that the water hoses could cause injury and remove hair.
  
The film showed the huge crowd at the 1963 March on Washington, but only briefly.  I recall that Washington Senators baseball games were postponed for two days (and then the Senators lost a double header the next day!)
   
The film was followed by a panel discussion by Kerry Kennedy, John Seigenthaler, and Carolyn McKinstry.  They were introduced by Jim Duff and Henry Schlieff (from Investigatiom Discovery).
    
I got to ask a question.  I identified myself as a gay white male who had always been impressed with the importance of conforming and paying attention to the needs of others in my own immediate family and community, and “keeping a low profile” else risking other family members, even if I didn’t have children. Kerry Kennedy related to the question, and said that MLK had faced threats on his own family all the time.  Black churches in Birmingham had faced repeated threats in the early 60s. 
  
Although the film doesn’t cover it, three young white men were murdered in Mississippi un 1964 for helping blacks register to vote.

"Public Domain Footing" offers this video on Selma:

  
Other persons from the audience asked about full representation for Washington DC, and another asked whether full racial (and religious and gender-related) equality had been achieved despite our having an African American president.  One daughter of one of the Selma marchers also spoke from the audience (she stood right behind me). 
  
Wikipedia attribution link for 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. I visited the city in 1985.  I’ve also been in the state in 1989 and 1994 (in Huntsville and in the "mountain" areas).  

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

"North Sea Texas": coming of age gay drama from Belgium


North Sea Texas” (Dutch title, “Noordzee, Texas”) refers to a bar along the Flanders coast,  where a single mom (Yvette, Eva Van der Gucht) raises her artistic son Pim (Jelle Florizoone) but wants to play the field, particularly with a mechanic, Etienne (Luk Wyns), whose 18-ish employee Gino (Mathias Vergels) has befriended Pim.

That’s the setup for a simple new film by director Bavo Defurne, making the circuits of LGBT film festivals, to be available from Strand on DVD Feb, 19.

The film appears set maybe in the 1960s, with older technology like simple radios and a rather simple, isolated look.  The rest of the world doesn’t seem to matter.

The prologue for the film shows a young Pim teasing himself with knickknacks that suggest cross dressing, although that’s mostly in his imagination.  His mother says “Pim has his own world.”

Pim, as a teen, becomes quite attached to Gino, who then, despite giving Pim some attention, moves away and starts dating girls.  In the meantime, Gino’s sister Sabrina (Nina Marie Kortekaas) wonders why Pim isn’t more interested in her.

Tragedy strikes both families, to the moms.  Pim has become a man, and will burn his little box of souvenirs on a beach. 
  
Yet, there remains the question, what happens when Gino comes in from a storm.  Is it like Jacob and Esau?  It seems that Pim, while not interested in venturing into bisexuality, has become the assertive young man, now suddenly grown up, able to command what he expects in a relationship. 
  
The official site (from Indeed Films in Belgium) is here.  The film is in Dutch, with subtitles.

In the YouTube video interview of Jelle (who studies ballet in real life) playing a solid gay character, Dutch sounds almost like an accent of English. (I think Dutch is the closest of all languages to English, much like German.)  You can get by without subtitles if you listen. 
  
As to what the film actually shows, it is within “PG-13” territory, although more is sometimes implied.  I don’t see a rating published.  

Wikipedia attribution link for picture along Belgian coast. My only visit was in 2001. 

I reviewed the film from a screener.  

Monday, February 04, 2013

"Happy": a documentary presenting happiness as social connectedness


The film “Happy”, by Roko Belic (77 min, 2011), certainly fits well a supplementary viewing following the 2013 Academy Awards Dcoumentary Shorts program, even as this film is normally a “feature”.

The film explores human happiness and presents it as largely a function of social connectedness.

It starts out with a laborer living in a shack near Calcutta, as he proudly shows his little shack that stands up to monsoons.  It then moves to the bayous of Louisiana. But pretty soon it’s exploring the biological basis of happiness.  A lot of it has to do with dopamine, which gets released in social interaction but which tends to diminish as we age.  Happiness, then, would be a habit acquired early in life.

The film introduces the concept of “hedonic treadmill”, where we always want “more” (rather like our domestic cats). It also presents the idea of “extrinsic goals” like money, status, fame, public accomplishment, compared to “intrinsic goals” like personal growth (of the Rosenfels variety, as was explored at the Ninth Street Center in New York in the 70s and 80s),  relationships (especially familial), community feeling.  These two poles are said to be “opposite sites of value systems”. I can remember being asked "Are You Happy?" in a counseling session one time at the Center back in the 1970s!

The film makes the point (like "I Am" by Tom Shadyac, March 27, 2011) that once we have enough to "live" with relative stability, we really don't "need" more to be happy.  There is a happiness difference between $5000 and $100000 a year, but between $100000 and $1 billion (like Facebook's founder).  Oh, I recall a meeting of the "People's Party of New Jersey" back in 1972 where they wanted to throw out of the Newark tenement anyone who made more than $5000 a year (me, even then).   
   
The film presents Japan as a country that has overdone “extrinsic” values.  It presents a case of a worker who died of a heart attack explaining a mistake he had made causing an industrial accident, as part of its exploration of Japanese “karoshi”, or “death from overwork”.

The film presents the history of a woman who discovered happiness after a horrible accident in which she was run over by a truck.  After many surgeries, she recovered, but her husband couldn’t stand relations with her and left (this was a problem covered in the short film “Mondays at Racine”, reviewed Feb. 2).  She became personally much more outgoing and giving.

The film talks about “happy countries”, especially Bhutan (see review March 28, 2010) and Denmark, where there are many planned communities with shared living.  The film showed a neighborhood of twenty families sharing a commons and taking rotations doing cooking of meals (sounds like an “intentional community” as on my Issues Blog, April 7, 2012).  I wondered what the singles do.  The film also talks to the Dalai Lama (see review of the “10 Questions” film June 25, 2007). 

The film also examined a “Blue Zone” in Okinawa, where people live communally and off the land and have strong social ties.  It closed by looking at the African Bushmen in Namibia, who may be closer to our genetic ancestors in Africa than any other group.

The film does indeed make the case for "eusociality" and altruism as intrinsic to humans as social creatures. But we're not Bonobo chimps. 
        
The official site is here The film is produced by Wadi Rum and Iris films and is distributed by Film Emporium.  It played at some documentary festivals, including Telluride. Significant parts of the film are in Japanese, Hindi, or native African Bush, with subtitles.  


For today’s short film, see “War on the Weak: Eugenics in America” by Liam Dunaway (2007, 10 minutes), discussed on the Issues Blog Feb. 3, 2013.  

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Oscar nominated documentary shorts emphasize human need


The Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts for 2013 is quite an intense 3-1/2 hour program.  The documentary maximum length is 40 minutes, and these documentaries needed their full time.

All of the documentaries leave the viewer with the message, “It could have happened to me.” 

The films are presented by Daniel Junge.  I saw the program at the West End Cinema in Washington DC today.  There was an intermission (built into the film sequence itself) after the first three films.  This experience was like going to the movies in the days of “Sound of Music” or “Dr. Zhivago”.
   
The first film, “Kings Point”, by Sari Gilman, was the “lightest” and shortest (31 minutes). It depicts the lives of seniors living in a garden condominium community in Delray Beach, Palm Beach County, FL, a community first built around 1970 when people were fleeing New York.  Curiously, I remember a job interview there for RCA in February 1970, about the time that this condo was set up. The people all need socialization and to be kept busy, and much of the film concerns the question of whether romance, beyond companionship, still works.  One man doesn’t want to marry a woman ten years older because he doesn’t want to become a widower a second time, but in fact he dies shortly thereafter.

After this warmup, the moral tests (for the audience as well as the subjects in the films) start.

Mondays at Racine” (Cynthia Wade, 40 minutes, for HBO) starts out by presenting sisters Rachel and Linda who, the third Monday of every month, dedicate their Long Island salon to helping women dealing with breast cancer, particularly the hair loss from chemotherapy.  Most of the film, however, traces the lives of the women, as patients, and as wives and mothers. The clinical aspects of the surgery and chemotherapy are quite graphic. For example, women lose not only their scalp hair (resulting in pre-emptive shaves and wigs) but their eyebrows and eyelashes, too.  Men would sometimes face the humiliating loss of all their body hair.  The tenderness of family interaction with the kids is shown, but the movie does not spare us the problem of men who no longer can deal with their wives sexually.  One husband says he is not enough “a man”, but the wife asks him to leave.  A local supermarket here in Arlington VA has held “be brave and shave” (heads) benefits for chemotherapy patients.  Although I am already naturally bald by genetics, I can’t bring myself to make that kind of experience “OK”.  (See also Oct. 11, 2011 for a Lifetime set of "Five" short films on breast cancer; See “BillBoushka” blog Nov. 8, 2009 for Westover Market’s “Be Brave and Shave”.) 
  
Inocente” (by  Sean Fine and Andrea Nix) is a fifteen-year old girl and prodigy painter, growing up in a homeless single-parent Latino family in San Diego.  She explains that homelessness doesn’t mean living in the streets; it is bouncing among shelters and short-term apartments while her undocumented mother works “off the books” until she gets “caught”.  She explains that her mother, herself and four younger brothers ran from their father after she accidentally upset him one night and he turned violent, getting arrested and deported while the family escape.   Finally, she gets into a boarding school academy on the basis of need.  She has an art show and sells all her paintings, one of which, “Lost Planet”, looks like an extraterrestrial landscape with high yellow mountains, a blue-giant star for a sun, and an oily lake in the foreground.  She also paints her own face, sometimes.
   
Redemption” (by John Alpert and Matthew O’Neill, 35 min) is exactly that:  street people in New York City collect recycle waste, carry it in bags and shopping carts (powered by bicycles) and turn the items in for 5 cents an item at “redemption centers”.  One woman had once been a top computer sales person but now could not survive on Social Security.  Some people di d not speak English, and lived in “illegal” grungy dives ten people to a 200 sq foot space.

I’ll mention that a church in Washington DC that I grew up in used to make sandwiches for the homeless after brunch on Sundays, but the DC health department didn’t let this generosity continue.

  
Open Heart” (Kief Davidson, 40 min, HBO) traces eight children from Rwanda as they travel to Sudan to the only modern cardiac center in the region, for open heart valve repair surgery to repair damage done by untreated scarlet and rheumatic fever.  The film is quite striking visually, comparing the squalor of sub-Saharan Africa with the blue-and-white operating room, state of the art, staffed by Dutch and British surgeons, in Khartoum.   The film actually shows the heart being opened and stitched and restarted with paddles. Matt Damon helped produce the film. This film appeared at both Sundance and Tribeca in 2012. 

I really wonder how documentary filmmakers were able to capture the intimate details of all of these poor people’s lives. 
   
The link for the film set is here.
   
The films played to an sold-out audience today at the West End.  Most moviegoers found the experience very intense.  The official distributor will be Magnolia Pictures.  

Friday, February 01, 2013

Luke Matheny hosts Live Action shorts for 2013 Oscars; "Buzkashi Boys" takes right to Kabul


The Oscar Nominated Short Films for 2013 are now packaged into hosted programs by The ShortsHD Channel, part of HDNet and Magnolia Pictures. 

The “Live Action” shorts are hosted by Luke Matheny, winner of the award last year for “God of Love”.
I saw these at Landmark E Street Cinema today. When short films are packaged, the theater must decide how to show a mix of films in different aspect ratios.  Since Landmark actually uses its full wide screen space for “2.35:1”, when it mixes in regular “1.85:1”, it has to crop the wider screen films vertically, reducing potential visual impact that would be available if the films were shown separately.
   
Landmark’s link (leading to others) is here.
  
Let’s run down the films:
  
Buzkashi Boys” (Afghanistan, directed by Sam French, written with Martin Desmond Roe), 28 min, is the longest and I think the most visually striking in the set.  The film is shot entirely on location in Kabul, with subdued colors, and 2.35;1, to give a sweeping panorama of poverty, giving the moviegoer the feeling of being on another planet.  I’d love to see this in Imax.  The story is tragic.  A vagabond boy tempts his friend, the son of a blacksmith, to roam the city looking for horse polo games of Buzkashi. The blacksmith is trying to force the son to learn his trade and accept his lot in life.  The adventure in a wasteland leads to tragedy for one of the boys. In Farsi or Urdu with subtitles.   I recall a blacksmith shop in Colonial Williamsburg, and a glassblowing shop in Jamestown. The polo scene (despite the snow) recalls the Disney short film "Stormy" from the early 1950s  
  

Asad”, (South Africa, directed by Bryan Buckley, 18 min), confronts us with the ragtag life of a little boy in coastal Somalia.  A relative tries to teach him to be a fisherman, but young men from a pirate ring harass him when he says “I don’t lie girls”.  The boy goes on a trip in a boat, and finds a yacht where a family has been slaughtered by pirates, and rescues a beautiful cat.  The film has imagery that reminds one of “Life of Pi” and the cat is almost like a domesticated “Richard Parker”, and by no means a fish.  In a Somali dialect with subtitles.
   
Henry” (Quebec, directed by Yan England) shows Henry (Gerard Poirier) , a former concert pianist, dealing with the confusion of being in a nursing home and trying take sense of his memories fading with Alzheimer’s disease.  He is floundering badly after losing his wife.  The film tries to simulate what Alzheimer’s would really be like.  The film uses music by Schumann and a Liszt transcription of a famous Leoncavallo aria. In French with subtitles.   The film deserves comparison with “Amour”. 
  
Curfew” (USA, dir. Shawn Chrsitensen) is a fable about involuntary family responsibility.  Richie (Christensen) is slitting his wrists when he gets a call from his sister to babysit his smart niece. She really babysits him. Maybe people really should take care of their siblings’ kids. 
  
Death of a Shadow” (Belgium/Netherlands, dir. Tom van Avermeat, “Dood van een Schaduw”). Soldier Nathan (Matthias Schoenearts) had been shot during WWI.   He senses he is reincarnated inside and around a museum keeping an infinite labyrinth of images of shadows of dead people.  He gets to see what happened to his true love, and finds he had competition.  There will be consequences.  Visually, the film is quite striking in the fantasy world it presents, based on where someone living in 1917 might have expected technology to go. In Dutch, with subtitles. 
      
Luke Matheny (36 in Wikipedia, but he looks much younger biologically) is quite engaging as a host, and says that the thing for a filmmaker to do is make the film he wants to watch.  He mentions his history as a problem child, and how he turned the tables on the middle school bullies in Delaware.  He looks, acts and moves a lot like young NYC pianist and composer Timo Andres, and expresses the same world view.  Luke could definitely play Timo the Pianist in a movie, but also vice versa. 

Picture above: from rural Loudoun County, VA; it sends a message.

Below: Landmark's venue today: