Archive for April, 2010

In this week’s New Yorker

April 30, 2010

Those who need a reason to renew — or begin — their admiration of Janet Malcolm (above) as a writer are directed to her report in this week’s New Yorker on a murder trial, “Iphigenia in Forest Hills.” The teaser on the newsstand cover captures the heart of the story: “The shooting of Daniel Malakov in front of his four-year-old daughter stunned a tight-knit Queens community. But when his wife stood trial for ordering the hit, the courtroom didn’t hear about the shocking injustice behind the crime.” But you have to read the entire piece to appreciate the multitudinous layers of Malcolm’s mastery: her scrupulous attention to the use of words, her simple yet deep explication of the occupations journalist and trial lawyer, her unerring journalistic objectivity and yet her unapologetic subjectivity (she tells you she doesn’t think the wife was guilty of hiring an assassin, and why), her fastidious laying out of all the facts in the case in such a way that, paradoxically, preserve several crucial mysteries.

Also in the magazine: a very thoughtful review by Hilton Als of the revival of La Cage aux Folles and Sondheim on Sondheim.

R.I.P.: Harry Wieder

April 30, 2010

Longtime political activist and ACT UP veteran Harry Wieder, who described himself as a “disabled, gay, Jewish, leftist, middle aged dwarf,” was hit by a taxicab and died Tuesday night. See a beautiful (and sexy) tribute to him here.

Quote of the day: RETALIATION

April 30, 2010


The straightforward tendency to retaliate is seldom encountered …  Most adults display their pleasure in vindictiveness vicariously: by reading crime stories, or following court proceedings, or indulging in righteousness, or pushing the execution of revenge onto God or fate. Admittedly, revengefulness is not one of the pleasant characteristics of humanity, but being convicted at one’s own expense produces inhibitions which leave situations incomplete; where retaliation, if it is taken in the form of gratitude or revenge, definitely closes an account.

— Fritz Perls

From the deep archives: MONTREAL MAIN & THE RUBBER GUN

April 29, 2010

Out of the blue someone e-mailed me wanting the bibliographical reference for a review I did in 1980 for the Soho News of two Canadian films, Montreal Main and The Rubber Gun. Both terrific queer films. I haven’t thought about them in years. So I thought I’d post the piece, just for the record, here and in my writing archive.


Montreal Main
Directed by Frank Vitale
Screenplay by the cast

The Rubber Gun
Directed by Allan Moyle
Screenplay by Steve Lack with Allan Moyle and John Laing

Both Montreal Main and The Rubber Gun focus on a fascinating bunch of Canadian artists/ personalities/street people who play themselves in fictionalized accounts of their everyday lives – like Andy Warhol’s “superstars,” but with a crucial difference. The Warhol movies glamorized the deluded Hollywood fantasies and decadent behavior; the Canadians use documentary as a form of self-criticism.

Montreal Main roughly chronicles director Frank Vitale’s brooding infatuation with the darkly androgynous 13-year-old son of his friends Anne and Dave. Frank’s uncertainty and pedophilic guilt, the boy’s sexual ambivalence, the hypocrisy of the supposedly hip parents who freak out at Frank’s friendship with Johnny – these situations are subtly established, examined, questioned. Though many scenes are crudely staged and the semi-improvised dialogue often seems stilted, the movie has the eerie, almost therapeutic sense of exposing conflicts in the guise of fiction that these people couldn’t face in real life. While the inarticulate, subsexual interactions between Frank and Johnny give the film a lyrical center, it takes place against the backdrop of Montreal’s bohemian underground, depicted in a freewheeling flurry of adventures that place on the Main, Montreal’s version of Times Square*, where the druggies, freaks and perverts hang out and where tantalized teens play pinball and get their first taste of sin.

Two guys who play minor roles in Montreal Main – sexy, speed-rapping Steve Lack and bumbling Bozo (Allan Moyle**) – are the stars of The Rubber Gun. On the one hand, the film is a taut, underground crime caper. Lack plays a high-energy ringleader who deals dope to support his career as a painter. A big shipment of dope is sitting in a railroad station locker, just waiting to make Steve and his gang of hangers-on rich and happy. But when the narcs start closing in, Steve backs out, leaving a bunched of hopped-up amateurs to try to pull off the deal.

On the other hand, The Rubber Gun is an ironic and extremely personal stylization of relationships within the group. Bozo plays a square sociology student who hangs out with the group to write a paper on “the drug culture” and unwittingly sets them up to be busted. His hopelessly unhip perceptions, delivered as voiceovers (“They spent so much time trying to die”), are a perfect send up of the “nice boy” who falls in with a fast crowd. And although the characters start out as an attractive, witty, fun bunch of people, they are slowly stripped of their glamor. In scenes remarkable for their self-knowledge, Lack acts out the stultifying paranoia of the drug culture and indicates his irritation with the parasitical friends who live off his energy and money and give nothing back; space cadet Pam Holmes taunts her effeminate junkie husband, Pierre, for not supporting her and her daughter Rainbow.

The original impulse for these movies was to capture on film this gaggle of zany personalities and the vibrant, hyped-up textures of their lives, and that’s what makes them fun to watch. (Steve Lack, above,  in particular leaps off the screen with his sparkling blue eyes and wicked sense of humor.) But these are by no means home movies. Despite its crude surface, Montreal Main uses its jerky cross-cutting for dramatic effect, and The Rubber Gun is actually a dazzling, well-structured piece of film. There’s a scene in which Lack plays with three-year-old Rainbow – alternating between campy baby talk and drug-dealer angst – that is a tiny marvel of both innovative composition and bravura acting.

These two films played briefly this week at the Bleecker Street Cinema as part of Altermedia’s Gay Film Festival – no doubt because their sophisticated handling of sexual subtexts is a lesson for filmmakers everywhere – but they ought to be shown around New York more often.

Soho News, June 18, 1980

* Perhaps needless to say, this was written back when Times Square was a sleazy paradise, rather than the suburban mall it’s turned into now.

**The writer/director of Times Square and Pump Up the Volume, among others.

Quote of the day: EATING

April 28, 2010


I am on a new regimen – attempting to eat less in the evening so that I will lose weight. Thus I go to sleep hungry. The other night I had a dream: I was in my old apartment in the East Village of Manhattan, which I left seven years ago. There was a bowl of sesame noodles on the table, and I began to eat them standing up. (My meditation group discourages eating while standing, so I never do this in real life.) The noodles were excellent. I woke up no longer hungry.

The next day, while recounting the dream to my wife, I realized I had discovered the perfect diet, one that allows the dieter to feast on any food and never gain weight. The secret is to eat in your dreams.

— Sparrow

%d bloggers like this: