Friday, August 29, 2014

"Love Is Strange": after being together for four decades, a male couple makes it legal

Love Is Strange” indeed – and life is a little unpredictable. That’s the moral of the new dramedy by Ira Sachs celebrating gay marriage in New York, shortly after it became legal.
The couple is a 71-year-old artist Ben (John Lithgow, from “The Langoliers”) and music teacher George (Afred Molina).   My first reaction is to give them credit for being intimate and faithful for forty years, in a world not always hospitable.

The film offers a quiet outdoor wedding scene, but soon George is seated before the bishop in a Catholic school being fired for behaving in public in a way that contradicts the teachings of The Church.   He is even lectured when he took the job that he would never express his own opinions about anything in public, in challenge to the Vatican.  I’ve had a little bit of a situation like this that I call “conflict of interest”.

The couple has to sell its co-op apartment in Manhattan (and co-ops are not as favorable as condos – I had a friend in the late 1970s who owned one, so I heard all about it).  The couple has to split up and stay with relatives separately, creating all kinds of complications.

There are some interesting scenes where George has to make do with giving music lessons, teaching Chopin.  Indeed, the Berceuse (and some of the other salon music) gets a little flowery and overly pretty as background music.

But it is the living circumstances of Ben that get more of the attention in the story. Ben moves in with his nephew and family and shares a room and bunk bed with a teen Joey (Charlie Tahan), who gets unnerved when his friend Vlad (Eric Tabach) poses for a PG rated painting.  Both teens sound like winners, but Joey gets in trouble for some books in French that have disappeared from the school library.  

The film moves along with these domestic complications – playing on the idea that relatives and friends have an inherent responsibility to shelter one another with “radical hospitality” in hard times.   Ben starts having serious medical issues with the stress, however, which can lead to a sudden resolution.

The film has one scene in Julius’s, a famous gay bar in Greenwich Village.  I recognized the sports photo gallery in the background and have sat at that bar, or eaten burgers at the bar, countless times myself.

The official site is here. (Sony Pictures Classics).
I saw the film at the Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield, VA., before a small audience early Friday night, mostly older couples, including a few same-sex.  

By the way, I hope Joey gets cleared, by the school principal and by his father.  He really should get to go to France.  I had a chance to in ninth grade and didn't, and regretted it ever since.  I don't see that Joey did anything wrong.
Pictures:  Julius's in Nov. 2004;  NYC Pride 2014 (both pictures mine) 

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