Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gay movie marathon: LET MY PEOPLE GO! opens in theaters, GO GO CRAZY on DVD

TrustMovies has, over the years, insisted on a differentiation between a "gay" movie and movies featuring a gay theme. This week's theatrical opening of one film plus the DVDebut of another provide near-perfect textbook examples from each of the two categories, and the difference -- in quality, entertainment value, intelligence and just about everything else you might want in a movie -- is on full display. The film opening in theaters -- deservedly so -- is LET MY PEOPLE GO!,  a real movies done in fine style carried through with talent, taste, and the under-standing of how to back up that taste -- odd as it might be -- with appropriate images, story line, pacing and the like.

The other example is simply a "gay movie," low-end in every manner from cinematography to writing, acting, and general conception. The kind of dreck that gives "gay movies" their bad name -- even, perhaps especially, among gay audiences --  GO GO CRAZY is content to offer up nothing more than an idea that sounds like it could be sort-of fun (a mockumentary about a meager, would-be dance competition in a seedy Philadelphia gay bar) and then gives us exactly that with barely a trace of talent (in front of or behind the camera), little genuine humor or even a dash of pizzazz.

As written and directed by Fred M. Caruso (shown at right, of The Big Gay Musical fame), the movie is so bad that my companion beat a hasty retreat after maybe 10-15 minutes, muttering "This is awful!" Feeling duty-bound to sit through the whole thing, as I'd been sent a free DVD to watch, I also hoped the film would get better. It didn't. The big problem here is simply that everything we see and hear seems third-hand: the whole idea, the characterizations, dialog, situations and jokes. If you haven't seen and heard all this sort of thing before, a number of times, then you're probably very young. Or very forgetful. Or maybe just very forgiving.

This is  the kind of movie that was probably great fun to make for the participants but hell to suffer through for viewers. Among the better touches are the pretty good Russian accent of Michael Cusumano (above) and the very good impersonations and singing voice of Christina Bianco (below, an alumnus of the terrific Forbidden Broadway).

The worst offender is the drag queen known as Hedda Lettuce, limned by Steven Polito, below, about whom I have heard a good deal over the years and have actually seen a few times, though not at the great length shown here. Which proves too much of a bad thing. Ms Lettuce mistakes nastiness and a foul mood for humor. While these can sometimes align, in Go Go Crazy, we get much of the former and little of the latter.

Unfortunately, this movie takes us back to a time in gay life when almost no diversity of any sort was able to show its head. Instead, what we have here is one long, loud, time-tested cliché after another, endlessly on parade. The movie, from Breaking Glass Pictures and running 84 minutes, is available now on DVD.


When is a cliché not a cliché? This question came to mind while watching a French film that deals heavily in them but manages to rise well above the obvious by playing its clichés faithfully, truthfully and for all they're worth. With LET MY PEOPLE GO! -- the new combination gay sex comedy/family film/bedroom farce/Jewish tradition movie -- co-writer (with Christophe Honoré) and director Mikael Buch (shown at left) creates a film that becomes unusual by virtue of its treating everything from comedy to family, religion to tradition with absolute seriousness, no matter how crazy things get. Consequently, he delivers a very funny film.

Let My People Go!, of course, makes one immediately ask, which people? Well, the Jews (there is a French-Jewish family at the heart of the movie) and the gays. One of the family's two sons (Nicolas Maury, above, left) is queer and has been living abroad with his Finnish lover who is not Jewish and consequently not quite good enough for mom (the wonderful Spanish actress Carmen Maura, above, right).

To try to explain the convoluted plot would take too much time and be a spoiler of sorts, anyway, so I will just say that it involves our hero's job as a postman (above) in Finland; a very large pile of money arriving in the mail; an untrusting lover (who's awfully cute, below),

a very randy lawyer (the indispensible Jean-Luc Bideau); various couplings, like the one below, that speed the plot along, defy logic and coincidence but are nonetheless very pointed and funny; and situations that show us quietly and sweetly how important family -- all kinds and extensions of it -- really is.

Alert viewers will spot a nice touch of Bambi and Cinderella in the film's beginning, indicating perhaps the kind of fairy tale to come. In the starry French cast look for the likes of Amira Casar (below, left), Clément Sibony (center) and Jean-François Stévenin (right).

Probably the film's single funniest episode involves a dream/fantasy that our hero has that shows his mom (below) hawking a new spray product that will bring out the Jew in you -- gal or guy, Juif or goy. M. Buch has concocted a wild little comedy that keeps you laughing hard, even as it manages to honor everything from gays to goys, Jews, traditions, and family ties both strict and loose.

Let My People Go! (running a swift 88 minutes, and a nice surprise from Zeitgeist Films, a company that usually offers more serious fare) opens this Friday, January 11, in New York City at the Quad Cinema, and on January 18 in the Los Angeles area at various Laemmle theaters.  Click here to see all currently scheduled playdates across the country.

Meet the filmmaker! Director Mikael Buch 
will have a Q&A following the 7:20pm show 
at the Quad on Friday, 1/11/13 and Saturday, 1/12/13.

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