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Feb 07 2016
Lie Down, Sir: Revisiting MAURICE 30 Years After It Was Filmed Comments (0)

DSC06487James Ivory (L) & Pierre Lhomme (R) before a screening of Maurice (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

Earlier this week, I was excited to attend one screening that was a part the FIAF (French Institute Alliance Française) series Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 4.54.13 PMCinéSalon: Lhomme Behind the Camera, which is running through February 23 at Florence Gould Hall (55 E. 59th St., NYC).

The series honors French cinematographer Pierre Lhomme, 85, whose work on a variety of classics and interesting efforts is said to have “helped shape the careers of iconic directors, including Chris Marker, Jean-Pierre Melville and James Ivory.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 4.02.35 PMSample of three posters for the film; I had the middle one on my wall in collage. (Images via Cinecom)

The event that I was lucky enough to take in was a screening of the 1987 Merchant-Ivory film Maurice (pronounced Morris)a lushly romantic adaptation of the 1913 gay-themed novel by E.M. Forster that was not published until 1971, due to concerns that its subject matter could be ruled obscene.

Not only was Lhomme present, but director James Ivory, 87, also appeared to briefly introduce the film and then take part in a Q&A after, which I wouldn't have missed.

Tumblr_ngd0utOU4W1u01g6zo5_1280James Wilby as Maurice, the cat at the center of Forster's great gay love story (Image via Cinecom)

When I was in college at the University of Chicago—a school I attended in large part because I randomly found a queer students' union flyer when I went to visit, not even focusing on the school's reputation for academics—I had a job with a literary agent in the Fine Arts Building downtown. Maurice played that quaint venue, and I knew I could not miss it, even -I-love-you-maurice-1987-13009433-720-406though it would mark the first time I saw a gay movie in public. I remember being scared to death buying the ticket, and then sitting in the theater, wondering if a man would try to grab my knee or something, and wondering if I might be recognized. (I was out to some high school friends back home, but almost no one on campus quite yet.)

I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful film to see in that phase of my life. I appreciated the unrepentant emotionality of Maurice (James Wilby) and Clive (Hugh Grant), as well as the cautionary aspect of Clive's retreat into the closet. Most uplifting to me was the film's happy ending, in which the upper-class Maurice finds passion and—just maybe—eternal happiness with a working-class stiff (Rupert Graves). As I told Mr. Ivory after the screening, the movie represented to me a true gay love story, and also a cautionary tale, but one that dealt with very contemporary issues (coming out) and did not feature characters who had to be punished for their alleged sins.

At the time, Roger Ebert begrudgingly gave the film three stars, but noted:

Maurice tells the story of a young English homosexual who falls in love with two completely different men, and in their differences is the whole message of the movie, a message I do not agree with. Yet because the film is so well made and acted, because it captures its period so meticulously, I enjoyed it even in disagreement ... The problem in the movie is with the gulf between his romantic choices. His first great love, Clive, is a person with whom he has a great deal in common. They share minds as well as bodies. Scudder, the gamekeeper, is frankly portrayed as an unpolished working-class lad, handsome but simple. In the England of 1914, with its rigid class divisions, the two men would have had even less in common than the movie makes it seem, and the real reason their relationship is daring is not because of sexuality but because of class. Apart from their sexuality, they have nothing of substance to talk about with each other in this movie. No matter how deep their love, I suspect that within a few weeks or months the British class system would have driven them apart.

Okay, well, what about 1990's Pretty Woman, a piece of fluff about a rich CEO falling for a streetwalking prostitute? Ebert gave it a far more enthusiastic three-and-a-half-star write-up. What about the characters' differences? Well:

He offers her money to spend one week with him, she accepts, he buys her clothes, they have sex and of course (this being the movies) they fall in love. They fall into a particularly romantic kind of love, the sort you hardly see in the movies these days - a love based on staying awake after the lights are out and confiding autobiographical secrets ... There could indeed be, I suppose, an entirely different movie made from the same material —a more realistic film, in which the cold economic realities of the lives of both characters would make it unlikely they could stay together ... But by the end of the movie I was happy to have it close as it does.

Yeah, so gays can't get one happy ending, but straights could, back then, get them every single time without a raised eyebrow. Perfect. (Decades later, Maurice is the better-reviewed and better-respected of the two films—91% on Rotten Tomatoes with 87% audience approval—even if Pretty Woman62%/68%—is an immortal piece of pop culture because one of the leads had a vagina.)

10168980724_6eb461c4e6_bHugh Grant has had a very good hair life. (Image via Cinecom)

Watching it again 29 years later was moving in that I remembered so many scenes as if I'd seen the film a thousand times (just once). Even the music was a strong sense-memory—I had bought the album and listened to it over and over. It's an exquisite, evocative score by the late Richard Robbins, who did many of the Merchant-Ivory films, and who passed away in 2012. It was a treat to relive this experience, and I must say my fetishization of Hugh Grant's hair in this film (he isn't really high on my list of crushes anymore) and of every inch of Rupert Graves (he is) remains intact.

Afterward, Ivory and Lhomme took questions from the audience, some intelligent and some head-scratchers, including a long one from a woman who wanted to know if the actors were gay (!) and if the director had cast beautiful men as a comment on gay narcissism (gay!!!).

Two things that irked me: The woman next to me made a comment that my camera was making too much noise (it makes a very faint electronic whir when it turns on) before the film even started, and yet she wound up being the culprit when a wind-chime alarm blared throughout the last five full minutes of the movie. She also kept asking me to confirm what the subjects had said during the interview, even though I was clearly videoing everything.

Tumblr_inline_mkqgzjX3LH1qz4rgpScudder, off to London to get his (gentle)man. (Image via Cinecom)

The other bummer was that the very last question ended with a statement that Graves's character Scudder was “possibly the worst person alive.” I was blown away by this assertion, as was I think Ivory, who didn't address it.

I asked the questioner afterward what he meant. “Oh, are you a Scudder apologist?” he asked me. Gee, I don't really think Scudder needs apologies made for him. Anyway, the younger guy asserted that he and all of his reading group all hated Scudder. Apparently, the segment in which Scudder—who had hoped to make love with Maurice again but found himself ignored—bluffed that he might blackmail his lover made this guy think Scudder was evil and manipulative. To me, it seemed baldly obvious that the intent of the author and the director was to show that Scudder genuinely loved Maurice and was extremely insecure when rejected. He specifically, warm-heartedly folds when pushed by Maurice, and explains he'd never take a penny from him.

Tumblr_mk5lk1XDN51r2e74go8_500RupertGraves05They were there, they were queer, they got used to it. (Images via Cinecom)

Scudder risked his security by coming to have sex with Maurice the first time, then he gave up his security in the Argentines (as well as contact with his family) to spend what we hope will be the rest of his life with the guy. Putting aside how sexy Scudder is (check out this scorching montage of love scenes), he is nuts for Maurice,  and he represents the non-judgmental self-actualization that Maurice needs and embraces, in stark contrast to the life of lies and self-denial that Clive has slid into and advocates. If Scudder is the worst person ever, what is Clive? It just seems to me that it's an accepted observation that Maurice was written by Forster explicitly to be a gay love story with a happy ending. If Maurice ends up with Scudder and it's supposed to be a happy ending, I have to believe Scudder is not supposed to be an unpleasant drama queen.

Tumblr_lq5lroluFz1qa22qso1_500Theirs was a love that dared speak its name. (Image via Cinecom)

It was an interesting exchange, but one of those times when you not only have an impression you feel strongly, but your impression fits with the only possibly explanation of an artist's work. I will say that the ending has some room for interpretation in that we can't be sure the men will be happy always. Ivory mentioned to me that one complicating factor would be World War I, but he also said it was, indeed, supposed to be a happy ending.

032_hugh_grant_theredlistOh, Mr. Graaant! (Image via Cinecom)

Check out the my video, containing most of the answers and comments from Ivory and Lhomme, after the jump ...

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Feb 06 2016
Answered Prayers: Pepsi Returns To Madonna Comments (0)

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 3.34.14 PMJanelle expresses herself. (Video still from Pepsi)

Pepsi, apparently thawing its 30-year Cold War against Madonna after dropping her over “Like a Prayer”'s controversial video, has included “Express Yourself” in its latest Super Bowl 50 ad.

Madonna kept a reported $5 million after doing an ad for the soft-drink behemoth, even though it aired only once.

In the new ad, Janelle Monaé dances to “Do You Love Me?” by The Contours (1962), “Express Yourself” (1989) by Madonna and finally her own cover of the classic Pepsi jingle (1999-2000).

Ad after the jump ...

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Jan 28 2016
Howard's End: A Nephew Documents His Uncle's Artistic Journey Comments (0)

Still from Uncle Howard

Fans of Madonna are just about the only people who have caught the underrated film Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989), directed by Howard Brookner. Brookner, who had made a name for himself with his William S. Burroughs doc Burroughs: The Movie (1983), wrote the fun, frothy '20s flick with Colman deKay, and wound up attracting one of the best, most diverse casts of the '80s—along with Madonna, the film features Matt Dillon, Randy Quaid, Jennifer Grey, Anita Morris, Rutger Hauer, Julie Hagerty, Dinah Manoff, Alan Ruck, Esai 12540845_756981177765264_6707135659366426462_nMorales and more.

Though the film bombed at the box office with, for the most part, with critics, it remains a pleasing piece, albeit one badly re-cut after Brookner died of AIDS.

Now playing at the Sundance Film Festival is another Brookner creation, directed by another Brookner—Howard's nephew Aaron is the man behind Uncle Howard, and (Queerty's) Jeremy Kinser turns in an insightful Q&A with the filmmaker at Sundance.org.

Madonna and Jennifer Grey perform in a still from Bloodhounds of Broadway.

Money quote:

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Jan 25 2016
6-PACK— Veto Corleone + They'll (Mostly) Be There For You! + 15 MINUTES Of Love + Winning Proposition + Gaga Definitely Not Boycotting The Oscars + STAR Power! Comments (0)

*widget boy cultureAsshat Portuguese prez vetoes gay adoption bill on the way out the door.

*widget boy cultureFriends reunion—first pic!

*widget boy culture“Sleepy” Debbie Harry intros Tina Yothers-esque Courtney Love & Robbie Nevil???  Images

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 12.57.06 PMLove name checks Hipsway, raves about bag ladies & yachts.

*widget boy cultureHow to predict who will win Oscars this year.

*widget boy cultureLike, no kidding, Gaga would totally not mind winning that Oscar.

*widget boy cultureRaph Solo's “Star” features the cutest fag hag ever. Images

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 11.53.06 AMThe holding star

 
Jan 24 2016
Pre-Madonna Photo Exhibit Comments (0)

An amazing-looking early-years Madonna photo exhibit has launched in Spain (I believe). It looks to have the work of Deborah Feingold, Peter Cunningham and George DuBose, including some shots by DuBose that were first seen in my Encyclopedia Madonnica 20.

Would be a fantastic show to see in person, but check out this helpful video report.

In Madonna-now news, check out this cute pic of Sam Smith looking very into Madonna's Rebel Heart Tour last night, as taken by my friend Craig Moody:

12605394_10153929224463833_9215615275839131101_o“Gaga's getting an Oscar... Gaga's getting an Oscar... Gaga's getting an Oscar...” 

 
Jan 23 2016
Totally Awesome '80s Comments (0)

Spandau-Ballet-3Image from here

A flesh/flashback of Spandau Ballet in next to nothing. This originally appeared in a teen magazine. Times have changed!

 
Jan 16 2016
Need To Know: The Bigger They Are + Set Our People Free + Céline's 2nd Tragedy + Of Female & Male Presidents + Color Me Horny + White-Privilege Meltdown + Still PRETTY IN PINK + MORE! Comments (0)

Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 2.14.46 PMDo the muscle!

*widget boy cultureVia his Instagram: Billy Reilich could use a spotter. Images

*widget boy cultureObama Administration diplomacy leads to 4 prisoners released by Iran.

*widget boy cultureDOUBLE TRAGEDY: Now Céline Dion's brother has died of cancer.

*widget boy cultureTaiwan's new prez is female, pro-gay.

*widget boy cultureAmerica's wannabe prez Trump is male, anti-gay.

*widget boy cultureX-rated gay coloring book.

*widget boy cultureHillary sits down with The Conversation:

*widget boy cultureBernie Sanders's team stupidly claims copyright infringement over Wikipedia logo use.

*widget boy cultureU.S. Episcopals won't back down on gay marriage.

*widget boy cultureWhite girl kicks black trooper in balls, cries rape (!), doesn't get shot dead.

*widget boy cultureHer husband likes the D, which unnerves her ever so.

*widget boy cultureSam Harris HAMs it up with Extra.

*widget boy cultureOn the Golden Globes, Making a Murderer and a gay Star Wars character.

*widget boy culturePretty in Pink back in theaters.

*widget boy cultureMadonna is a Harper's Bazaar style icon.

*widget boy cultureGo see The Lady Winifred & Didi Show—they're his-n-hers-terical! Images

12419191_487648831438417_1751815659911789894_oThat ain't no lady—that's his wife!

 
Dec 30 2015
If You've Enjoyed My Blog Over The Years ... Comments (0)

Starf*cker-Matthew-Rettenmund-Lethe-Press

If you've enjoyed my (free) blog over the past 10 years, I would genuinely appreciate it if you would buy 1 copy of my new book Starf*cker. It's a memoir, mostly funny, and all true—no composite characters.

The physical book is $25, or you can buy it for just $7.99 digitally.

The book covers the following subjects, and many more:

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Thanks for your consideration—hope you love it if you take the plunge!

 


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