Sunday, 26 January 2014

Figuratively Naked

What a surprise these photos are!

Yes - Jean-Michel Basquiat as a reclining nude. If these days it is no longer unusual to see an artist naked (think Marina Abramovich or even Ai Wei Wei), it is probablt because they use their bodies for their art like so many (other) entertainers. Which is why these shots are different. Taken by a former girlfriend of Basquiat and forgotten for over 30 years, they show the painter both literally and figuratively naked. The nudity here is not a costume or a means to an end. It simply reveals intimacy and carries with it a reflection of Basquiat's short life: After turning away to light a cigarette and smiling into the camera with a mix of glee and discomfort, all that remains is an inward look and a few scattered drawings. 

Sunday, 12 January 2014


Łódź is Poland's third-biggest city, and it is filled with ghosts. The ghosts of textile workers who lived in cramped tenement houses facing the factories, the ghosts of magnates who dined in rococo palaces, and the ghosts of Jews rounded up and deported.

David Lynch, Untitled, (Łódź), 2000

They are there, the ghosts, floating around side by side with the living. The tenement houses are still inhabited, with the same staircases and the same railings, covered by a thousand layers of fingerprints. The rococo palaces are art museums that hardly anyone visits, or restaurants that stay empty on a Friday night. And the ghetto, untouched by the war, has stayed so since: With windowless staircases, crumbling façades, and no paint left to peel. Descendants of those who moved in seven decades ago live in monuments to something they don't care to recall. 

David Lynch, Untitled, (Łódź), 2000

So why visit? Because everywhere else, the traces of the past have been made to look pretty. Everywhere else, the ghosts have been chased away and reconstructed behind glass. Not in Łódź. 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Killing Clichés

Although it is Behind the Candelabra which dominated the headlines this year, winning eleven Emmies and showing Michael Douglas as the camp and closeted (& Polish) Władziu Liberace, 2013 was actually a great year for boxing down queer stereotypes on film (especially in Poland).

Here my favourite features of last year that starred gay characters and refused to be 'gay films'.

1. Tom At the Farm

Xavier Dolan's fourth feature film lies somewhere between tragedy, comedy and psychological thriller. Sexual tension sizzles between characters dead and alive, and repression becomes a sign of madness. There is so much more to come from this 24-year-old, I cannot wait.

Tom at the Farm (2013), trailer

2. Floating Skyscrapers

"The most courageous film of the year" said the poster for this film, and it might be right: You don't see full-frontal gay sex in arch-catholic Poland every day. And yet the film isn't set on  provocation per se, but on exploring the fear to become oneself. Which ends up being much more shocking than naked bodies.

Płynące wieżowce (Floating Skyscrapers), 2013, official trailer

Floating Skyscrapers - English teaser

3. In The Name Of...

For being incredibly shot and shedding light on a Church taboo. Szumowska's film is not about paedophilia, nor about abuse, but about a priest who happens to be a homo. Powerful, beautiful, and necessary.

In the Name Of (2013), English trailer

4. My Brother the Devil

Alright, not strictly 2013, but I only discovered this gem a couple of weeks ago. Take an East London housing estate, second-generation immigrants, drugs, violence, and forbidden attractions: the right ingredients to fall into a cliché trap. And yet this film manages to dodge them all and create something entirely new and surprisingly empowering. A must-watch.

My Brother the Devil, 2012, trailer