Whether she’s an ensemble player in a big-budget genre film (Goldeneye, X-Men), or the lead in an Ameri-indie (Love & Sex, Turn the River), Famke Janssen carries an aura of admirable self-sufficiency. Her exotic looks means that she can hold your attention even when’s placed at the margins of the frame. Orgasming to the sounds of machine gun as an assassin who kills men with her thighs in Goldeneye, or giggling at the idiocy of lover Kenneth Branagh, Celebrity (1998), she always seems game – even when the movie may have forgotten what to do with her.
While her leading roles feel like concepts derived from diva worship, Janssen is winningly, refreshingly opaque. In Turn the River (2007), she plays a working-class pool-shark, determined to win back custody of her son. The movie sounds like boilerplate for a de-glammed actor vehicle, but Janssen doesn’t pry for empathy. Her coolness results in a physical and emotional awkwardness that is true to the character.
A Dutch-born former model and New Yorker since the 80’s, Janssen debuted on-screen in the mid 90’s. In a fickle industry, genre films tend to be the sanctuary to Euro-goddesses. But while Taken 2 (opening October 5) might pay the mortgage, Janssen has written and directed her first feature, Bringing Up Bobby. Ukranian- Olive (Milla Jovovich) is a con artist and single-mother raising her young son in Oklahoma. But when one of her schemes results in jail time, she has to decide whether to fight for her son, or let him try to live a normal life with a wealthy couple played by Marcia Cross and Bill Pullman.
The process of researching IN SEARCH OF AVERY WILLARD was as unique as it was daunting. These days, documentation is more or less inevitable, and access is often a simple Google search away. In the case of Avery, we began with three cardboard boxes of decaying film and a few scribbled phone numbers. It was essentially an old fashioned detective story, filled with countless mysteries, dead ends, and a few precious breakthroughs. One of those breakthroughs came when our historical consultant – drag historian and NYU professor, Joe Jeffreys – introduced us to Agosto Machado.
Best known for his illustrious career as a performer at La MaMa and legend of the New York City experimental theater scene, Agosto has worked with everyone from Jackie Curtis to Candy Darling. A font of knowledge about the history of queer art, we turned to Agosto for some insight into the work, personality and motivations of Avery Willard.
Ira Sachs & Cary Kehayan: So when did you first get on stage?
Agosto Machado: All the time. I just thought I was blessed to attend these events, see all of these marvelous performers, and I never thought I could cross the footlights. I don’t sing, dance or act, and I just feel so blessed to have worked with all these people: Jack Smith, Ethyl Eichelberger of The Play-House of the Ridiculous, the Hot Peaches, the Cockettes, The Angels of Light, and so forth and so on. But truly, I don’t really do much.
But you do something. You get on stage and you…how would you describe it?
I perform. I don’t act, sing or dance, you know? I make believe, I pretend.
We’ve come a long way. This Friday, September 7,KEEP THE LIGHTS ON opens theatrically in New York and Los Angeles. Opening weekend attendance is crucial to a film’s success, and plays a huge factor in determining how long it will play, and whether it will travel to theaters outside of major cities. I hope you’ll heed the Village Voice’s advice this weekend, and see the “frontrunner for the best American film this year.”
The soundtrack for Keep The Lights On is out now in association with Audika Records and available for purchase on iTunes today. The album, which received a write up on Pitchfork, is composed entirely of music from the iconic New York musician Arthur Russell.
New York City has been home to some of the most important names and movements in the history of American music. From the whiskey soaked compositions of Stephen Foster to the fast-paced/short-lived bouts of noise of the No Wave scene, New York has produced countless musicians who have left their incredibly influential and indubitably permanent mark on music. But for every musician or band that made their mark, there innumerable others who spent their lives devoted to writing and producing music in New York without their name or work garnering them attention or praise. Arthur Russell narrowly avoided this all-too-common fate.
A former indie movie horror queen and meteorologist, she is now the head writer, producer, and lead actress of one of the most popular lesbian web series today, Girl/Girl Scene. (Oh, and did I mention she’s a yoga instructor, too?) Now in its second season, Girl/Girl Scene follows the lives and loves of a group of young lesbians in Lexington, Kentucky. Williams plays the charismatic, confident, and promiscuous Evan – the central figure around which the show’s complicated network of hookups and relationships revolves.
Williams claims to have little in common with her wild character, but has revealed her own alluring charm and sense of humor during her time in the spotlight. Though the first episode was produced with literally no budget, it soon went viral, catching the attention of AfterEllen.com, Curve, and other big names in the lesbian blogosphere – not to mention financial backers. I asked Williams what she thought might be the secret to the show’s straight shot to the top.
“It’s because people love lesbians,” she says matter-of-factly in our email interview. “If everyone put lesbians in their shows, they would all be successful.”
Peter Quinn was a speechwriter at Time Warner and also wrote for New York Governors Carey and Cuomo. Quinn is an Irish-American historian, an expert on all things New York and an accomplished novelist. He also happens to be my father.
He and my mother were both born and raised in The Bronx and our family has deep artistic, political and personal ties to this city. I asked my father some questions in order to more clearly understand his relationship to New York and the city’s continuing evolution. More…
Director Tony Scott’s shocking suicide (ABC News reports that Scott had inoperable brain cancer), is all the more sad as the past few years have been a critical renaissance for the director’s work. Since the triple-threat of Man on Fire (2004),Déjà vu (2006), and Unstoppable (2010), outlets like Mubi and Cinemascope featured passionate discussions of his films’ cinematography and editing that are both confidently tactile and frequently on the verge of abstraction.
Scott was no stranger to LGBT content, having directed Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve in a sexy and sapphic love scene in The Hunger (1983). The underappreciated Domino (2005), loosely inspired by the life of lesbian model turned bounty hunter Domino Harvey (played by Keira Knightley), may seem to whitewash the character’s sexuality, placing Edgar Ramirez as a love interest. But in the last scene, the “real” Harvey appears on screen. She’s made to look like a Butch caricature – shaved head, black suit, and earring. In other words, not Keira Knightley. It’s a clever, sweet way to end the film – and completely in line with what came before.The film mocks the notion that media can offer any kind of representation to those outside of a small socio-economic bracket (which the privileged Domino eventually spurns).
Some argue that The Hunger’s lesbian-vampire love is meant for heterosexual titillation consumption, but with Domino, Scott does right by his queer, punk-rock heroine.
Biddy B – Mr. James Bidgood’s advice columnist friend is back this summer, to cool us down with her rapier wit and sagely advice. If you have questions for Biddy B, email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Dear Biddy B,
Grindr is a cell phone tool that tells you which gay men are in the neighborhood, and who might be interested in euphemistically “hanging out”. This is convenient and easy enough, though I’ve only hooked up with someone once. The problem is, the only way I know how to start a conversation is by opening with jokes. It’s hit or miss, but I’m wondering if you have any advice: when you want to fuck, are jokes oft-putting? Who has more power – the person who asks if you want to have sex – or the one who puns and waits for the other person to ask?
Well, Dahling, I think it worth noting that in my day one needed to unhook in order to hang out but time marches on or minces on, whichever pace and posture most suits you. The wants and ways of the world have changed and yet they are not all that different really. Grindr (rhymes with hinder finder if your lingo is not au current and you were struggling) is reminiscent of the accommodating Sunday New York Times Apartment To Share advertisements, a convenience used for much the same allying or amalgamating purposes back in the day. One phrased ones notice in a slightly veiled, somewhat camouflaged fashion— “Panoramic view —pretty poof in parlor” or “Musically inclined—pound pink triangle with steel rod.” I once came across, “Oubliette to share. Vaultish. Extensive silly cone toy collection. A cat, a comb, a large box.” I dialed several times however their line was always busy.
Carlos consists of three vignettes, three windows into the life of a struggling art student. I made the film as my final video project for a college class on narrative filmmaking. The film stars my best friend Carlos Diaz, and my grandmother, Margaret Kavoussi. Carlos is entirely autobiographical – I majored in Studio Art at a small, isolated liberal arts college. I spent a great deal of time there frustrated, insecure, and alone, typically in my studio, and there were days when the only person I’d speak to would be via the phone or internet. Carlos is my attempt to show the beauty of a nuanced “artist” life.
During a trip home to my native Memphis a few years ago, I was introduced to the photography of Jack Robinson. A gay Southerner whose meteoric rise in the 1960s and 70s was followed by a quarter-century of near-total obscurity, Robinson’s story immediately intrigued me, as did his unlikely rediscovery. During the last 25 years of his life, Robinson worked as an artist in a stained-glass studio, living alone in a Midtown Memphis high-rise and battling depression. He never shared with his employer or neighbors his glamorous past as a photographer of some of the most celebrated personalities of the twentieth-century. It wasn’t until many days after his death in 1997 that his employer ventured into his apartment and discovered an actual treasure chest of Robinson’s images—thousands of them. His work is now archived in a downtown gallery that bears his name.
A native of Clarksdale, Mississippi, Robinson honed his camera skills in the early 1950s, documenting bohemian gay life in New Orleans’ French Quarter. A regular of Dixie’s Bar on Bourbon Street, a watering hole known for its literary clientele (Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal among them), Robinson documented the city’s gay cultural scene, and its involvement in Mardi Gras. His depictions of gay men in costume and in various states of drunken frivolity captured at the same time the joy and freedom that the French Quarter afforded as a reprieve from the repressive South.