Cornelius McCarthy

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ART
SKOOL
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There remains yet something of honor and pride, of life


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MASS IN
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The bells were ringing again, high in the scudding sunlight in bright disorderly tatters of sound


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MASS IN
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E R O T I C A
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Darkroom

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Lars, a male nurse from Saarbrücken, moves with his lover Roland to Berlin. They renovate an apartment with the intention of finally living together. Their happiness seems almost complete. What Roland doesn't know: while secretly checking out Berlin's night life, Lars is experimenting with a deadly poison.

Director, author, painter and LGBT-activist Rosa von Praunheim has a resume of some 150 films under his belt, stretching back to 1968, with last year's Darkroom his most recent work.

The film is based on the very real case of Berlin serial killer "Dirk P", who committed a string of murders in spring 2012, information on which is surprisingly scant (I could find only a couple of articles on the case). Viewers will also be reminded of the more recent case of Stephen Port in London.

With a non-linear narrative, Darkroom jumps around, depicting the before, during and after of male nurse Lars' (Bozidar Kocevski) murderous spree.

Whilst parts of the movie work, Darkroom is less than the sum of its pieces. It's the "after" portions - largely courtroom scenes - of the movie that most undermine it. Stagey and faintly comedic, they're in sharp contrast to the dark scenes of murder. They sap energy away from the forward thrust of the narrative; if not handled with a deft hand, courtroom scenes kill drama.

There's problems elsewhere too. The stageyness extends itself to some of the design: one room is constantly redressed to represent different locations, with some seriously ropey green screen used to change the view out of the window. There are numerous ukulele numbers, which some viewers may find distressing.

The cast is good, although Kocevski is somewhat impenetrable as Lars. Bardo Böhlefeld is eyecatching as doomed Bastian.

Darkroom isn't a dud, but compared to the likes of the slick My Friend Dahmer, it's a bit messy, and less than satisfying.

Amid the pointing and the horror the clean flame


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MASS IN
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I Am Jonas

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Two moments of Jonas's life intertwine, each reflecting the other: in 1995, when he was a secretive teenager, and 18 years later, as an attractive and impulsive thirty-something looking for balance in his life.

One of the most startling additions to the LGBT film cannon in recent years was last year's brutal, raw and devastating Sauvage, starring Félix Maritaud.

Maritaud - who also appeared in the much-lauded BPM (Beats Per Minute) - is the titular Jonas, in a film that's alternatively known as I Am Jonas (for Netflix), and even Boys (not to be confused with Mischa Kamp's 2014 Dutch feature).

His fragile, vulnerable beauty is used to potent effect in a film about the terrible legacy of adolescent trauma and grief; Maritaud has a face etched with pain, and yet is also strikingly beautiful. He might well be a living, breathing reincarnation of St. Sebastian.

Director Christophe Charrier has executed a beautifully shot film that delivers another twist in the coming-of-age narrative, with a uniformly excellent (and highly attractive) cast, and a well-paced narrative that straddles two timelines. A future classic - and another feather in the cap for Félix Maritaud.

The past is never dead. It's not even past; it's always part of the present


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MASS IN
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Equation to an Unknown

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This long-lost masterpiece of gay erotic cinema centers on a handsome young stud who rides his motorcycle through myriad sexual encounters - from a soccer game's locker room to a dreamy and unsettling orgy where the film reaches its melancholic peak. Newly scanned in 2K from the original camera negative and directed with absolute grace by the mysterious Dietrich de Velsa (also know as Francis Savel and Frantz Salieri). This former painter was also the owner and artistic director of one of the first queer cabarets of Paris, La Grande Eugene. Years later, he collaborated with Joseph Losey on Mr. Klein and Don Giovanni. Equation to an Unknown is his only film and stands without a doubt as a masterpiece - easily one of the best French gay adult films ever made.

This special edition includes Remembering the Equation, a video essay about the film by Knife+Heart director Yann Gonzalez; Diary of a Fight, a short film narrated by Alain Delon featuring director Francis Savel (the real name of Dietrich da Velsa); the original 1980 film trailer; a brand-new theatrical trailer and more. The Blu-ray also includes a vintage Jean Daniel Cadinot centerfold poster featuring sexy lead actor Gianfranco Longhi.

Equation to an Unknown, a film by Francis Savel.

All the past is not a diminishing road but, instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the narrow bottle-neck of the most recent decade of years


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MASS IN
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Orpheus' Song

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Two best friends from Berlin win a trip to Greece. On their excursion, they get lost on an island. They wander in the woods until they find an abandoned village where they encounter a mysterious youth, who calls himself Hercules. They spend the night together in a cave and dream a mystical dream. The next day, nothing between the two will be like it was before.

Orpheus' Song is the latest feature from Tor Iben, whose last film was the strange, unsettling (and definitely worth seeing) The Year I Lost My Mind.

I was reminded of Kirk Shannon-Butts' woozy, underrated 2007 gem, Blueprint, which similarly sees two men go walkabout in picturesque countryside. As with Blueprint, Iben successfully takes the viewer on the couple's journey, inviting us into their very intimate dance. The developing undercurrent of sexual tension is intoxicating.

So too is the beauty of the two male leads: Sascha Weingarten, in particular, is mesmerisingly lovely, and the chemistry between him and handsome costar Julien Lickert really sells the fantasy.

Short and sweet (it clocks in at just seventy-two minutes) this is one song you'll want to play, and play again.

To be young. To be young. There is nothing else like it: there is nothing else in the world


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MASS IN
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Beneath The Skin

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After his family falls apart Joshua is forced to move to Canada to live with his estranged father. It is there he meets Jay, a local tattoo artist. The two becomes closer despite the negativity that surrounds them.

It's rare to come across a movie with virtually no redeeming features. Even the output of that vainglorious hack Rikki Beadle-Blair can boast of a talented young cast buried somewhere beneath layers of cack.

Look, getting a film made isn't easy; writing a negative review is. But our time is precious, and with so much content out there, and LGBT cinema more accessible than ever thanks to streaming, we need to separate wheat from chaff. If I can save just one person from the excruciating ordeal that is Beneath The Skin, then this (reluctant) hatchet job will have been worth it.

Aaron Ellis wrote, directed and stars in the film, which he claims is inspired by his "teen years as a young gay man". Unfortunately, as well as having the charisma of a limp lettuce leaf, Ellis has the acting ability of a soggy cardboard box. His cast are uniformly awful, and saddled with the burden of having to fake Canadian accents (spoiler: no one succeeds, and the results are catastrophically distracting). Ellis has also roped in porn star Hunter Page, who's the least worst thing about this mess, and whose appeal will likely ensnare more unfortunate viewers than would otherwise have stumbled upon this mess.

The convoluted storyline has more holes in it than a colander, with much of the action stemming from porn scenarios: Ellis' character is beaten up in the street by a homophobe, and is rescued by Page, who invites him home to shower. Everyone needs a shower after a gay-bashing, after all. Page then becomes uncontrollably aroused after glimpsing Ellis in the shower, and has to run off to the bathroom to relieve himself.

That sounds like it might be Another Gay Movie-level fun, but this isn't a comedy: Beneath The Skin takes itself deadly seriously. Everything happens at a snail's pace, and labours under a suffocating, repetitious piano score, before reaching the most unlikely of climaxes you're likely to witness.

Along the way, there are mean girl antics, a bizarre subplot with Wayne Virgo (Shank), and a suburban Berkshire house standing in for Nova Scotia apartment building (access via the kitchen door around the back).

Don't let Beneath The Skin get under your skin: watch something better, like QVC. You'll thank me.

He was working fast, yet thinking went slow enough. He knew why now. He knew now that thinking went slow and smooth with calculation, as oil is spread slowly upon a surface above a brewing storm


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MASS IN
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From Zero To I Love You

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Meet Pete (Darryl Stephens), a guy in Philadelphia with a history of falling for married men. His father (Richard Lawson), and his soon-to-be stepmother (Leslie Zemeckis), want him to find someone single and settle down. Instead Jack - fifteen years into a "perfect marriage", with two kids in tow - walks into his life...

Noah's Arc graduates Darryl Stephens and Doug Spearman reunite, in front of, and behind the camera, respectively, on Spearman's second run at directing a feature (he also directed the 2013 comedy Hot Guys With Guns).

Stephens hasn't exactly been camera shy since Noah's Arc's premature climax, his resume boasting a swathe of mainstream prime time viewing, and gay series like the sadly passed-over DTLA (he's also been working on a series adaptation of 2006's Boy Culture, recreating his role from that movie).


Frankly, I could watch anything with the apparently ageless, engaging and charming Darryl Stephens in it, so I'll try to get through this review with as little bias as possible. But in truth, Spearman has assembled a talented cast that delights from beginning to end. Stephens has palpable chemistry with his handsome co-star, Scott Bailey. Keili Lefkovitz is effervescent in the potentially thankless role of the down-low guy's wife, and Stephen Bowman is a ton of fun as Stephen's best friend. Veteran Richard Lawson - trivia: his first credited role, in 1971, was "Homosexual", in Dirty Harry. He went on to appear in pretty much everything, including Dynasty (1986) and Angry Boys (2011) - plays Stephen's father, who, in a refreshing twist, is a black father who doesn't have a problem with his gay son.


Good gay rom-coms don't come along very often. From Zero To I Love You manages to be hopelessly romantic, a hoot, and genuinely insightful (the damage wrought by Pete and Jack's affair isn't merely brushed under the carpet). If I have one criticism, it's the occasional reference to race. Stephen's character at one point asks why he and his (white) partner don't have any black friends, and is later criticised by a black hook-up. But these tantalising threads are left dangling, unexplored, as if part of an earlier draft where race may have played a bigger part in the narrative.

Surprising, enchanting, and sexy, From Zero To I Love You is a winner. Doug Spearman: what's next?

Submerged

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Burned out by the online dating scene, Horace (Harrison Grant) decides to have a real date with a one-night stand, Steve (Matthew Bunker). However, he realises that he has to confront his fear before he can pursue a meaningful relationship.

Submerged, a film by Zheng "Nathan" Nie.

Nothing matters but breath, breathing, to know and to be alive

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MASS IN
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Monsoon

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Monsoon is a rich and poignant reflection on the struggle for identity in a place where the past weighs heavily on the present.


Kit (Henry Golding) returns to Ho Chi Minh City for the first time since he was six years old when his family fled the country in the aftermath of the Vietnam-American war. Struggling to make sense of himself in a city he’s no longer familiar with, he embarks on a personal journey across the country that opens up the possibility for friendship, love and happiness.

Monsoon, a film by Hong Khaou.

He… who had not waited for Time and its furniture to teach him that the end of wisdom is to dream high enough not to lose the dream in the seeking of it

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MASS IN
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Zebra Katz

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BEATS

RHYMES

& LIFE
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Moor, new music from Zebra Katz.

His debut album, Less Is Moor, is out now.

This world is not his world; this life his life

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MASS IN
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Perfume Genius

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BEATS

RHYMES

& LIFE
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On The Floor, new music from Perfume Genius. His new album, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately, is out 15th May.

… curiosity is another of the mistresses whose slaves decline no sacrifice

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MASS IN
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Dominic Lawson

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BEATS

RHYMES

& LIFE
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Wrap, thrilling, ‘90s inspired R&B. New music, from Manchester-based artist Dominic Lawson.

His debut EP is out later this year.

I have but one rift in the darkness, that is that I have injured no one save myself by my folly, and that the extent of that folly you will never learn

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MASS IN
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Jordan Higo

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BEATS

RHYMES

& LIFE
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Ain't Love, new music from the UK's Jordan Higo.

All right. It is so, then. But not to me. Not in my life and my love

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MASS IN
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Men of Hard Skin

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Teenager Ariel lives a seemingly quiet life with his father and sister on their picturesque farm in a rural part of Buenos Aires. However, unbeknownst to his family, Ariel has been abused for years by Omar, his neighbourhood priest. Having confused his mistreatment for romantic affection, Ariel takes it upon himself to free himself from their relationship and soon embarks on a secret affair with one of the male workers on his father’s property. Meanwhile, as Omar continues to succumb to his urges, he forms a friendship with a much older priest who finds himself wrestling with similar desires.   BFI

In its coverage of issues of ecclesiastical abuse and rural isolation, José Celestino Campusano's film is undoubtedly important, but it's also frustratingly unfocused and meandering.

Ariel (Wall Javier) is an attractive and engaging protagonist - not merely a cowed victim, but full of vim and vigour, even in the face of the grimmest of circumstances. The rural Argentine location is interesting, and there are tantalising strands of story here, but it all feels lost in the mix.


Men of Hard Skin is a fair try, but it lacks the urgency of, say, Socrates. Despite its failings, it's still worth a watch.

This is Not Berlin

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It’s 1986 and as Mexico’s capital goes World Cup-crazy, 17-year-old Carlos spends his days getting into schoolyard brawls and cruising around town with his rowdy pals to the thumping sounds of Judas Priest. But heavy metal guitar riffs soon give way to post-punk synths when Carlos visits subversive new-wave nightclub Azteca and finds himself immersed in a transgressive world of music, art, politics, drugs and sexual fluidity. Finally feeling like he fits in, the blossoming teen begins to forge his own identity and open himself up to a new and exciting world of untold possibilities. BFI

H
ow you respond to Hari Sama's This Is Not Berlin will largely depend on your tolerance for '80s New Wave/punk. If that's your thing, you'll love this film. If, like me, it leaves you cold (or worse, running for the hills), large portions of This Is Not Berlin will struggle to hold your attention.

Which is a shame, because there are some interesting ideas here: a twist on the coming-of-age tale, a look at middle-class Mexican life in the mid-1980s, and the AIDS crisis.


I didn't connect with the blank, androgynous Carlos (Xabiani Ponce de Leon), and his oh-so hip sister Rita (whose performances we're subjected to with irritating regularity) grates. His best friend Gera (José Antonio Toledano) is more appealing, but is a little lost in the mix of self-regarding, self-aggrandising artists the boys fall in with.

As a showcase for angsty, '80s avant-gardism, This Is Not Berlin succeeds. Artists possessed of their own importance will probably revel in it.

I didn't.

Time? Time? Why worry about something that takes care of itself so well? You were born with the habit of consuming time. Be satisfied with that

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MASS IN
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Dax

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BEATS

RHYMES

& LIFE
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I'll Say It For You, powerful spoken word from Dax.

But who knows why a man, though suffering, clings, above all the other well members, to the arm or leg which he knows must come off?

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MASS IN
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Daniel Schuhmacher

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BEATS

RHYMES

& LIFE
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Ecstasy, new music from Daniel Schuhmacher.

Who is he who will affirm that there must be a web of flesh and bone to hold the shape of love?

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MASS IN
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