A recent telephone conversation with '50s-era actor/singer Tab Hunter in conjunction with his recent (Unreal TV reviewed) documentary "Tab Hunter Confidential" positively (and aptly) proves the Chinese adage regarding being careful what you wish for.
Hunter is as friendly and endearing as many of his roles convey, and that sincerity and warmth makes one want to respect his wish to treat him as an ordinary bloke. Such a desire requires tremendous restraint regarding wanting to portray him as the golden boy whom we all know and love from his films before meeting the awesome real man who detests labels.
The clear and understandable position of Hunter on the subject is "People always want to label people; I hate labels." In this case, this sentiment extends beyond the non-issue 60-year discussion of the sexual orientation of Hunter to early promotional nicknames that include "The Sigh Guy."
This respect also is behind our conversation focusing on the interesting life of a man whose own blessings and curses included natural movie star looks and charm combined with incredible shyness and being born gay at a time that knowledge of that orientation ruins the lives of most people who fall on that end of the Kinsey scale. This is in contrast with discussing those who dun him wrong.
A respect for folks who enduere the world-at-large identifying them as fictional characters and feeling free to accost them every time that they step out of the door always prompts asking if they prefer being addressed by their birth (rather than studio-given) name. The awesome response "The only people who call me Art know me as Art" this time got things off to a great start.
Hunter showed his further exceptional nature in politely expressing a desire to not discuss the highly public circumstances regarding the death of his former co-star Natalie Wood. He went on to express gratitude for Wood's widower Robert Wagner participating in the "Confidential" film and described that pair as a "fabulous couple" then stated that he felt "fortunate to work with exceptional people" throughout his career.
Hunter was equally sincere in discussing his shy nature and (well-compensated) discomfort in being thrust into the limelight based on (with sincere apologies for the label) being dreamy, The extension of this was his discussing being far outside his "comfort zone" regarding discussing such intimate aspects of his life.
The reason for his coming-out is discussed below and does not involve a desire for either fame or fortune. Like fellow (more apologies for the label) Hollywood royalty Greta Garbo, Hunter largely just wanted to be left alone.
A shared love of horses prompted asking Hunter about his filly Harlow, who appears in the "Confidential" film. Hunter responded she's fabulous" and shared that she's a new mother. Hunter added that he named this foal Skylark because he heard Hoagie Carmichael singing the song "Skylark" on the car radio when Hunter was was driving to meet the new arrival.
A question regarding whether the appearance of Hunter's mare Swizzlestick in three of his early films earned the horse a SAG card lead to learning that she was better on screen than performing as a show jumper. The sad reason behind the latter was that she had an ovarian cyst.
The horse talk continued with asking Hunter if he had wanted to guest-star on the talking horse sitcom "Mister Ed." He replied that he did not but that he called a mare whose mouth went a mile a minute while eating her mid-day treat "Mrs. Ed."
The subject of horses also provide the first of several opportunities for Hunter to share a philosophy that can be considered horse sense. He noted that he thinks of working with a horse as "educating," rather than "training," him or her. He added that "shoveling shit" and doing other horse-related chores "was where I got a touch of reality in the unreal world" in which he found himself regarding his acting career.
The conversation turning to the mid-50s article in Confidential magazine that gave the documentary and the autobiography their name started with asking Hunter if he thought that the magazine would have written a completely false story about him if it had not learned of his arrest essentially for the "crime" of associating with homosexuals at a "limp-wristed pajama party." Hunter responded that he did not know.
Hunter then shared a little of the enormous amount of wisdom that his mother had imparted to him. That advice noted the importance of "accepting things as they are, not as I want them to be." Related wisdom was "don't pay attention to that, remember the masses are useless" in the context of tabloid journalism.
Reason for Coming Out When He Did
Asking Hunter about deciding the timing of deciding in the mid-2000s to write "Confidential" prompted more wonderful wisdom. He shared that Ellen DeGeneres told him during appearing on "Ellen" that someone else was planning to write a book outing him. The awesome Hunter response (which presumably he did not share on the air) was that he preferred that the public got the story "from the horse's mouth, not some horse's ass."
Hunter further stated that "what you are as a person (rather than as a label) is the most important thing.
The private nature of Hunter appeared again when asked for the secret of maintaining a more-than-30 year business and life partnership with "Confidential" producer Allan Glaser. He did not share information regarding their personal relationship and stated "I leave the film work to Allan," whom Hunter described as "a damn good filmmaker."
Hunter amended his answer in stating that he and Glaser worked together on the HILARIOUS 1985 Hunter film "Lust in the Dust." A very proud Hunter further volunteering that Glaser single-handed raised the money for "Dust" provided a clue regarding the love that remains strong much longer than most straight marriages.
Pure speculation that the dislike of Hunter both for labels and the despicable treatment (including a horrendously maliciously false report of animal lover Hunter beating his dog in the late '50s or early '60s) of him by the press is the reason for Hunter not marrying Glaser.
The response of Hunter to the question "what's next" prompted the Huntersque response "I don't know."
Hunter next shared his interest in making a film about the "beautiful love story" regarding blind Irish harpist Turlough O'Carolan. The Wikipedia entry on O'Carolan supports the conclusion of Hunter.
Great Knight Hunter
Hunter concluded our conversation only after the publicist who coordinated the interview validly pointed out that we had run quite a bit over time.
The concluding portion of this conversation with this (final apologies for one last label) chivalrous horseman involved Hunter thanking your humble reviewer to speaking with an actor he has adored since seeing him in the 1981 John Waters film "Polyester" and who considers the Hunter musical "Damn Yankees" one of his favorite films.
The natural response to the thanks of Hunter was that he had no reason to thank me and that I had every reason to be grateful to him. This reply (almost certainly with his trademark smile) was that "We should all be thankful.
The Breaking Glass Pictures April 4, 2017 DVD release of the 2016 drama "bwoy" nicely expands on the gay-oriented theme of trying to rekindle the flame regarding "the one who got away" in breaking films such as the (Unreal TV reviewed) "Retake" and the (also reviewed) "Lazy Eye." In the case of "bwoy," the underlying distress is more intense and the subsequent coping technique is more extreme.
The next common element of all three films is their live-stage vibe that every good drama possesses. An attribute that is more specific to gay-themed art house films is that an inverse relationship exists between the extent to which the depictions of intimate activity are graphic and the quality of the films. In other words, film makers who know what they are doing do not need to put fully erect (and inserted) penises on the screen to get butts in the seats.
The following YouTube clip of the "bwoy" trailer reflects all of the above. The moments of online profile distortions are an entertaining diversion.
"bwoy" centers around 42 year-old white guy Brad O'Connor of Schenectady, New York. His current woes include a life that generally does not seem to provide much joy and a depressing job as a collections agent for a credit card company. He also has a slowly revealed drama regarding a young black boy Theatrically trained Anthony Rapp of "Rent" puts his stage experience to good use in portraying Brad.
Although married to a woman, Brad places an online ad in which he states that he is an older man looking for a younger one. This leads to his cyber-relationship with 23 year-old Jamaican man Yenny.
For his part, rookie actor Jimmy Brooks delivers a good Jamaican Gigolo performance. He is cute and charming and strikes a good balance between playing adoring twink and veteran hustler. He further demonstrates good seduction skills regarding giving Brad tantalizing glimpses of what comes between Yenny and his Calvins.
Yenny figuratively pushing all the right buttons with Brad as their courtship intensifies is no more surprising than his ultimately (and increasingly) asking Brad for money. Meanwhile, Brad (who is practicing plenty of deceit himself) is amassing an increasing mountain of debt and further straining an already not-so-ideal marriage to keep his boy happy.
Things come to a head when Yenny engages in what seems to be a tactic for when he gets as much as he feels that he can from a mark. The nature and the intensity of the response by Brad shows Yenny the dangers associated with toying with the emotions of another. As is the case in any modern film of any genre, a Hollywood ending is far from certain. It also includes the message of "Retake" and "Lazy" that going home again may not be impossible but requires a great deal of capital.
The special feature consists of a (sadly unwatched) Q & A with writer/director John Young and his cast.
Icarus Films chooses wisely regarding selecting the 2012 Chinese film "Three Sisters" for the return to its roots of distributing "innovative and provocative" documentaries after releasing several equally stimulating fictional foreign films, such as the Unreal TV reviewed pitch black "Heathers" style "Alena." "Sisters" hits real and virtual store shelves on June 13, 2017. One of many terrific things about this movie is that it achieves the documentary ideal of equally entertaining and educating the audience.
The nine major film festival awards, including several "Best Film" wins, reflect the compelling nature of director Wang Bing turning his camera on the titular siblings and allowing the audience to watch them surprisingly happily go about their impoverished daily lives sans narration and talking heads. Additional praise comes in the form of "Sisters" being a New York Times Critics' Pick.
Ten year-old YingYing is the surrogate mother to 6 year-old Zhenzhen, and the baby in every sense 4 year-old Fenfen. The actual mother is completely out of the picture, and Dad is in the city trying to earn money. A nearby aunt provides some support.
Watching these girls living alone on an isolated farm in 19th century conditions as if doing so if normal is more fascinating than anything from Hollywood in the past several years. One scene in which uncomplaining children collect dung in baskets with their bare hands makes you want to rip the video game console out of the hands of every spoiled brat in the Western world who refuses to clean his or her room and drag that ungrateful cur out to live in the garden shed for a weekend.
The roughly 2:30 run time and the 2.5 years of filming in "Sisters" provide a great deal of ground to cover. It starts well with an opening scene that perfectly introduces the concept of the documentary in a relatable manner. YingYing is getting everyone ready in the morning; Zhenzhen is picking on Fenfen. That meanness prompts Fenfen to cry, which requires that YingYing scold one sister and comfort the other.
Another relatable segment has YingYing have a schoolyard conflict and attend a typical Chinese-style class a short while later.
One of the more amusing moments relates to a baby goat misbehaving. Other memorable ones include Dad and his father discuss the former hiring a matchmaker to find him a new wife. Dad stating that he wants any potential mate to fully know what she is getting into contributes a fun "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" element.
A scene in which Dad and the younger children board a bus provides a good sense of the bureaucracy of China; suffice it to say that this event fully illustrates the regimented style of life in that country.
Politics only directly comes into play once. The agenda of a meeting that Dad attends includes discussing the expansion of electric service. The gist is that the government is pursuing what seems to be a standard policy of benefiting the haves at the literal and figurative expenses of the have-nots.
The special feature includes a comprehensive 16-page booklet on both "Sisters" and Bing. The insights in an essay provides a strong "You Are There" sense.
These musings regarding the Breaking Glass Pictures May 16, 2017 DVD release of the 2015 Chinese coming-of-age film "Utopians" is a perfect first regular Pride Month post following yesterday's general article on modern gay-themed films. Producer/director/writer Scud has his cast literally and figuratively bare all regarding their actual and ideal sexual identities. "Utopians" also is notable as a film that breaks the general rule that provides that the degree of nudity and depictions of sex are inversely related to the quality of the movie.
The opening scene in which completely naked soon-to-graduate college student Hins (whom daring Chinese actor Adonis portrays with good insight) engages in equally erotic and perverse bisexual S&M play sets the tone for the rest of the film. Hins soon resumes his everyday life by attending a lecture with his steady gal.
The trouble/awakening begins with new professor Antonio Ming displaying a large slide of two naked intertwined men, asking the males in the class embarrassing questions about their sexuality, and announcing that he is gay. He goes on to discuss how the enlightened citizens of ancient Greece approached the titular perfect society through embracing both homosexual activity and sex between male teachers and their male students.
This openness intrigues bi-curious Hins to visit the professor in his office and to further bond over mutual love of a Japanese author who writes about gay relationships. An attraction to Hins and a desire to help this student realize his true self and to shed his related inhibitions prompts Antonio to invite his new friend for an afternoon frolicking on a boat with him and a group of young naked men. This outing (pun intended) includes watching Antonio have sex with one of his guests.
The seduction of Hins by Antonio reaches completion during a trip to Bangkok that also involves Antonio surrounding himself with naked young men. Hins fulfilling a promise to a repressed and already jealous Joey creates the central drama of the film.
The fully consensual sex between an adult Hins and an even older Antonio results in this pair becoming guests of the state. Scud uses the fact that either one of these lovers being female would have avoided any legal proceedings to emphasize his points regarding the attitude of society towards homosexuality.
The trial prompts further awakenings and results in Hins learning a proverbial deep dark family secret that further alters his sense of self; Scud makes the audience wait until the final scene to determine if the kid is alright after everything that he has been through.
The copious DVD extras include a 'teaser trailer' for the Scud film "30 Years of Adonis," a great Q Fest introduction of "Utopians" by Scud followed by an interview with Q Fest producer Thom Cardwell, deleted scenes, and a "making-of" feature.