DEKKOO DISPATCH 065 – ‘GODS AND MONSTERS’

Title – ‘Gods and Monsters

Director – Bill Condon

Starring – Sir Ian McKellen, Brendan Fraser, Lynn Redgrave, Lolita Davidovich

Release Date – 1998

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“To a new world of gods and monsters!” 
— Dr. Pretorius to Dr. Frankenstein in ‘Bride of Frankenstein’

We’ve got a wonderful treat for you this week on Dekkoo! The Academy Award winning film ‘Gods and Monsters‘ by Bill Condon! Released theatrically in 1998 it went to on win the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and was nominated for two other categories – Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress. The script for the film was based on a biography of famous director James Whale called ‘Father of Frankenstein’ by Christopher Bram. Before we jump into talking about the movie I think it’s important to talk about the background of our protagonist: James Whale.

James-Whale A quick background on the real James Whale:
While James Whale directed nearly 20 films by now only a few have survived the test of time. Most notable among those are ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Bride of Frankenstein’, ‘The Invisible Man’, and ‘The Old Dark House’. Born in 1889 Whale was one of seven children and had to stop attending school in his teens because of money issues in the family. He started as a cobbler and ended up using his blossoming artistic abilities to paint signs for neighbors. When World War I broke out in 1914 he decided to enlist in the army and avoid the draft that he knew was inevitable. In 1917 he was captured in Flanders and remained imprisoned for more than a year. During that time he used his creative talents to amuse and entertain his fellow soldiers with amateur productions. After the war he spent his time trying to sell cartoons before eventually finding his calling directing plays which he did from 1922 to 1929. After the success of various productions he ventured to Hollywood where producers were looking for directors that had experience with dialog since Hollywood was going through a transition from silent films to talking films. He started off at Paramount Pictures and eventually made his way to Universal Pictures where he met Carl Laemmle, Jr. who offered him the chance to direct any property the studio owned. He chose Frankenstein.

The movie takes place in the 50s – long after the glory days of ‘Frankenstein’. In the 50s James had settled into his Pacific Palisades abode and had used the pool to his advantage; throwing pool parties where large groups of young men fooled around with each other while he watched. After having a small stroke in 1956 he became more withdrawn and hardly left the house. Enter Clayton (played by Brenden Fraser) – the new beefcake gardener. Some have noted that his tall lanky appearance is similar to that of the monster from ‘Frankenstein’. James takes an immediate liking to him and invites him to pose for some sketches. During these sessions they get to know each other and quickly become friends. There are some speed bumps though mostly owing to Whale’s tendency to lapse into memories about parties, sex, and boys which makes Clayton wildly uncomfortable. Watching from the sidelines during this tentative courtship/friendship is Hanna (played by Lynn Redgrave and nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars), his loyal housemaid who clearly disapproves of his homosexuality and tries to place herself in the middle of anything she deems suspicious.

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The film oscillates between these sketching sessions, memories from Whales’ childhood and later career, some interactions with fan, (‘take off your clothes and I’ll tell you everything’) and a past lover. Bringing the fun down a notch is Whales’ medical conditions – his strokes have left him severely ill and he toys with the idea of suicide. Ian McKellen is absolutely wonderful in the role of James Whale. He inhabits the playful, sexual, tormented, and reminiscent mind with the skill someone only of someone his caliber can deliver. He truly delivers a performance worthy of winning Best Actor at the Oscars, but sadly he was only nominated for it. The film is also a wonderful accomplishment for Bill Condon who later went on to direct ‘Kinsey’ and ‘Dreamgirls’ along with a host of other more mainstream fare like ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Twilight: Breaking Dawn’. It’s a film that will stay with you long after the closing credits. A beautiful swan song to creativity and a life lived honestly.

 

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Watch it with: A group of your creative friends.

Mix it with: Champagne.

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DEKKOO DISPATCH 062 – ‘SASHA’

Title – ‘Sasha

Director – Dennis Todorovic

Starring – Sasa Kekez, Predrag Bjelac, Ljubisa Gruicic, Zeljka Preksavec

Release Date – 2010

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It’s Wednesday and tonight you deserve a good ‘ole heart-warming hump day movie! I  proudly present to you the crowd-pleasing gay coming-of-age/romance/daddy film ‘Sasha‘ directed by Dennis Todorovic. This film went under the radar back in 2010, but it really shouldn’t have and Dekkoo is the perfect place for you to re-discover this gay gem!

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Sasha‘ rises above movies of it’s ilk due to a few factors, but the most noticeable one is the fact that Sasha comes from a family of immigrants. Mistaken for the most part as Serbians (although really from Montenegro) Sasha’s family now lives in Germany and are outsiders for the most part. The only piece of Sasha’s life that really connects him to his peers is his love of music. He’s a piano player and a very serious one at that. He trains hard to be accepted to the best music school in Germany and that’s where our love interest comes into play. Sasha’s love of music isn’t the only thing propelling him forward, but also his instructor who he’s madly fallen in love with. Enter Gebhard – the classic stereotypical hunky German guy in his late-30s who’s passionate about music, life, and swimming in really skimpy swim suits!

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When Gebhard tells Sasha he’s leaving the city Sasha realizes that the next few weeks are his ‘now or never’ moment. If he wants to be with the love of his life (Daddy!) he needs to come out and confess himself. If only it was that easy… He also has to focus on the upcoming piano audition, pay attention to his best friend Jiao (a violinist) who’s totally in love with him, and deal with his crazy immigrant family – of which his father is pretty homophobic, so there’s that all to deal with.

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Fun Fact: Gebhard (played by Tim Bergmann) played another gay man 14 years earlier in ‘Regular Guys‘ which is also available on Dekkoo! So if you’re in love and can’t get enough Gebhard there’s more!

 

 

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Watch it with: All of your romantic-leaning friends.

Mix it with: A German wine.

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DEKKOO DISPATCH 045 – ‘CHRIS & DON. A LOVE STORY’

Title – ‘Chris & Don. A Love Story

Director – Tina Mascara, Guido Santi

Release Date – 2007

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“I think about you all the time, and about times I might have been kinder and more understanding, and I make many resolutions for the future — some of which I hope I’ll keep.”
-Christopher Isherwood to Don Bachardy

The touching, informative, and heartwarming love story between prolific writer Christopher Isherwood and his partner of over 30 years, Don Bachardy is superbly brought to life by Tina Mascara & Guido Santi in their documentary entitled ‘Chris & Don. A Love Story‘. After having heard about the film since its release in 2007 I finally was able to watch it last night and was glued to my couch with longing. As you’re watching Don Bachardy talk about his life with Christopher you begin to understand how special their relationship was and you have this urge to jump in a time machine and go swimming with them in Los Angeles circa 1955.

What differentiates this from a typical ‘I had a really long gay relationship movie’ is the fact that Don and Christopher had a 30-year age difference between them and they started dating when Don was only 18. Of course this caused all kinds of friction outside of their relationship; Christopher even had to leave his apartment when his landlady said it couldn’t go on. Inside the relationship however things were very different. They lovingly (and realistically) imagined themselves as a young cat (Don) and a lame horse (Christopher) and encouraged each other to have affairs outside the relationship. Christopher felt that he was a father to Don (‘without any of the downsides’ he joked in his diary). The other element heavily focused on is how an 18-year old develops (both emotionally and professionally) in the shadow of such a huge talent like Christopher Isherwood.

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Quick history lesson for anyone not aware of who Christopher Isherwood is because he’s pretty darn famous which is a big angle explored in the doc. Isherwood was born in England in 1904 and after failing college ended up in Berlin due to the enthusiastic letters sent from there by W.H. Auden who he become good friends with. There he was able to finally live his life as a gay man and have sex with working-class German boys which he preferred vastly over his upper-class British counterparts. His rise to fame came with the publication of ‘The Berlin Stories’ which was then made more famous by the movie ‘Cabaret’ starring Liza Minnelli. Other notable novels include ‘Christopher and His Kind’ & ‘A Single Man’.

The documentary doesn’t entirely rely on Don’s narrative point of view (although that is the majority). Many Isherwood scholars give notes based on interviews or Christopher’s exhaustive diaries that were published after his death. There are also some fun celebrity cameos like Liza Minelli, John Boorman, and Gloria Stuart. One of the most special elements of this film is definitely the archival footage that they were able to restore. Obviously Don and Chris were very interested in Super8 photography and we get fantastic snapshot of their vacations, parties, and general home life. Don almost always has a big smile on his face and you quickly understand why everyone (especially Chris) loved Don; he made you happy and that’s exactly how I felt through the whole documentary.

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Watch it with: Ideally a boyfriend, but an imaginary boyfriend will do in a pinch!

Mix it with: Whatever drink makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside 🙂

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DEKKOO DISPATCH 025 – ‘The Country Teacher’

Title – ‘The Country Teacher

Director – Bohdan Sláma

Starring – Pavel Liška, Zuzana Bydžovská, Ladislav Šedivý, Marek Daniel

Release Date – 2008

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It’s Wednesday!! Only 2 more workdays until 4th of July weekend! I don’t know what your plans are, but I’m venturing into the desert and drinking Tiki drinks poolside for 4 days straight. Heaven… Did everyone see the exciting news about ‘Screwed’ being picked up by Dekkoo out of Frameline?? I’ve seen it and it’s an incredibly sexy Finnish tale of first lust with a great sense of humor about it. I talked to a few people who saw it at the sold-out screening at Frameline and they said it was a super high energy screening. Get psyched!

As a city-living boy for most of my life I’ve always romanticized the life lived in the countryside. When I saw ‘The Country Teacher‘ at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival back in 2008 it completely fed into that romanticism and I was swept away by the golden fields of hay and the ancient practice of drawing of water from wells. Of course we’re also talking about a movie from the Czech Republic so in addition to the romantic stuff we’re also talking about insane Eastern European drunks that harass people and beat each other up. Although come to think of it that seems sorta romantic as well…

Anyways let’s talk about the characters at the heart of this emotional drama. Petr is a teacher that decides to move to the countryside from the busy city for unspecified reasons. After arriving and settling in (his landlord/boss gives him 6 months before he can’t stand the small town anymore and runs away) he falls asleep on a bed of hay and wakes up to find Marie standing over him, the woman who owns the farm he’s wandered into. She’s kind to him and invites him out to socialize with some of the villagers. He comes to realize that Marie is falling in love with him, but he’s too awkward to admit what we here at Dekkoo realize right away… he’s gay. He really likes her and feels affection for her, but he’s much more interested in her teenage son and offers his teaching skills to become more ingrained in his life.

I don’t want to go into much more detail because Petr goes through quite a journey in the film and it’s very emotional. By the end of the film you’ll absolutely fall in love with Marie who is so unbelievably kind and I fear that there aren’t many of her sort left in the world. ‘The Country Teacher‘ is a striking picture that combines the best of European art-house cinema and Queer self-discovery cinema into one wondrous picture that will leave you swooning.

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Watch it with:  By yourself or someone else that won’t talk much. It’s very meditative.

Mix it with: Coffee.

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DEKKOO DISPATCH 012 – ‘EVERLASTING LOVE’

Title – ‘Everlasting Love

Director – Marcal Fores

Starring – Joan Bentalle, Aimar Vega, Hugo Alejo, Adrian de Alfonso

Release Date – April 25, 2015

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Is anyone else feeling a little dark these days? Is it just me? I’ve been thinking a lot about Marcal Fores’ film ‘Everlasting Love‘ lately and if you haven’t seen it and you’re in the mood for a sexy film involving intergenerational relationships and weird Spanish kids that take heartbreak a little too seriously keep reading!

I’ll set the scene for you: Dusk is still an hour or so away. You’re in a forest in the Northeastern area of Spain where various men and women are cruising for love and sex, but mostly sex. An older stud, Carlos, prowls the forest looking for his next trick, but instead happens upon one of his students, Toni. He doesn’t want to lose his job, but he also appears to have a voracious appetite for sexual pleasures and decides to have sex with Toni in his car (an incredible 4-minute sex scene taken in one continuous zoom
shot). I don’t really want to say what happens next, but I will say that I won’t mess with a group of Spanish youth ever!

Marcal Fores is a truly fantastic director and his first feature film ‘Animals’ (which you’ll be seeing soon on Dekkoo) also has a very similar surreal feeling. Marcal, like many young directors, puts a lot of emphasis on music in his films and in ‘Everlasting Love‘ he finds some very creepy tracks to put you on edge while at the same time keeping an humorous sensibility (especially in the end credits). I also really appreciate the honest nature of cruising in the film combining the reality of the endless hunt for sex (you can’t get lucky every time) with the fantastical element of women also being in the woods (a joke made early on in the film ‘Stranger by the Lake’ which many people compare to ‘Everlasting Love‘).

Combining sexiness, art-house techniques, horror elements, and honest-to-god romance, ‘Everlasting Love‘ is a 69-minute trip that you won’t soon forget!

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Watch it with: Someone you can cling on to if you get scared…or horny.

Mix it with: Spanish wine and tapas! Maybe some poppers too.

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