homosexuality, movies

Repost: Review of the film Men In The Nude…

As long as I’m writing about foreign films, here’s a review I wrote for Epinions in 2011 about the 2006 Hungarian movie, Men in the Nude. If I recall correctly, when I posted this review on Facebook, I lost at least one Facebook friend.  Fortunately, he wasn’t actually a friend.  I guess the guy was offended by the words “homosexual experimentation”.  I should watch more foreign films.  They are interesting, even if I do have to read the subtitles.  By the way, this wasn’t a porn film. My review appears here “as/is”.

Writer’s block plus mid life crisis equals homosexual experimentation

I’m not quite sure how I ended up with the 2006 Hungarian art film Men in the Nude in my Netflix queue.  I think I might have added it because I watched a few interesting Romanian films last year and wondered if I’d like Hungarian cinema as much.  In any case, having had this DVD in my possession for the past couple of weeks, I finally sat down to watch it.  It’s entirely in Hungarian, so actually watching the film is a must to get the gist of what’s going on.  There are subtitles at the bottom of the screen. 

The story

The film starts off promising enough, with a shot of the iconic Budapest train station.  Having walked around there with my husband Bill, I immediately felt oriented.  Then, once the setting shifts to a Hungarian restaurant where our protagonist, Tibor (László Gálffi), is on the phone with his wife (Éva Kerekes), things are less familiar.

Tibor is a writer and has been on the road promoting his book.  He’s suffering from writer’s block and appears to be pretty bored with his life.  After ringing off his cell phone and paying the check at the restaurant, he goes to a large bookstore where his book is being sold.  He listens to a Schubert CD and gazes at a table filled with copies of his latest book.  Suddenly, he is confronted by a young, blond, charismatic looking man who asks him to inscribe a copy of the book.  After Tibor writes a dedication, the man goes to pay for the book, but “conveniently” has no money.  Tibor offers to pay for it as the young man runs out of the store, setting off alarms.  He has stolen the Schubert disc as “repayment” for Tibor’s generosity.

Tibor later learns that his admirer is a 19 year old male prostitute named Zsolt (Dávid Szabó).  Though Tibor is married to a woman and lives a straight life, he is drawn in by Zsolt’s charisma.  The two begin a relationship and suddenly Tibor is able to write again.  Tibor becomes alive through his fling with Zsolt, who excites him and inspires his creativity.  Things become complicated when his wife, a blonde, narcissistic, has-been actress discovers their affair. 

My thoughts

Initially, I was kind of interested in this film.  The story is certainly intriguing, especially for a straight, American woman like me who has little experience with films involving homosexual relationships.  I thought Dávid Szabó was very watchable and seductive in his portrayal of Zsolt.  I could see why Tibor, a man who had always considered himself heterosexual, would be lured by his charms.  Szabó seems to have mastered “come hither” looks.  He has a beautiful, androgynous look to him and expertly flirts with the camera and Tibor.

About halfway through the film, my attention began to wane.  I started to notice how cheesy the soundtrack was, aside from the classical pieces that were included.  I lost interest in the story.  The sex scenes were not as fascinating and I started wondering when the film was going to end, even though it runs for a respectably brief 90 minutes or so. 

Nudity

Though there is some nudity in this film, it’s mostly very tasteful.  I don’t remember seeing any full frontal nudity, though there are plenty of naked bum shots and at least one shot of a topless woman.  There are both heterosexual and homosexual sex scenes as well.  I looked up this film on Amazon.com and noticed that the suggestive sell efforts seemed to point toward gay skin flicks.  I would say this movie is more like an indie art film than a skin flick.  Don’t be fooled by the cover art on the DVD.  It’s definitely not pornography. 

Overall

I’m glad I watched this film because I like to broaden my experiences with foreign films.  Even a badly done foreign film can be more intriguing than a lot of American films.  That being said, this movie did not hold my attention like the Romanian films I watched last year that inspired me to broaden my movie repertoire.  I’m sure some viewers will get caught up in the story and get more out of Men in the Nude than I did.  For me, this film was just “eh”.

Men in the Nude is not rated.  It was directed and written by Károly Esztergályos.

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movies

I watched 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days again yesterday… it reminded me of why legalized abortion is important.

Yesterday’s reposts made me want to watch a Romanian movie I’ve seen a couple of times already. I have discovered that Romania has put out some truly excellent films, even though I have to watch them with subtitles. But I’ve seen several now, and have even purchased a few for my library. The first time I had ever seen the film I saw yesterday, entitled 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, it was a random Netflix DVD I rented some years ago. The first time I saw it, I was astonished by the movie, which was made in 2007.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is set in an unnamed university town in Romania during the year 1987. Communism is still alive and well in Eastern Europe. Nicolae Ceaușescu is the president of the country, and rules it with an iron fist. In 1987 era Romania, Ceaușescu has forbidden abortions in almost every case. Contraception is also forbidden, and women are forced to visit gynecologists regularly to check for pregnancies. Viewers hear that rule referred to as Otilia talks about when she had her last period. However, even though abortion is punishable by years in a prison cell, women still access it by way of enlisting the services of illegal abortionists. Otherwise, they may find themselves raising children they can’t afford. In the 1990s, Romania was notorious for the number of babies it had in orphanages. Many of those babies grew up to be unable to assimilate in society because they were never properly socialized or cared for when they were infants. And some were born with diseases like AIDS. Women in Ceausescu’s era were expected to have children– at times, up to four or five of them– so that Ceausescu’s regime would always be supplied with fresh souls. It didn’t matter that there wasn’t enough available to support all of those babies being born into his regime.

A trailer for Four Months, Three Weeks, and Two Days…

Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) and Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) are roommates at the university in the unnamed Romanian town. They share a drab dormitory room on a co-ed hall. Gabita is pregnant. She’s shy, and seems to need looking after by Otilia, who seems to be more of a motherly type. Otilia takes care of her roommate, buying her soap and cigarettes from the campus shop, and bringing milk powder to a friend who has found kittens in the dorm’s boiler room. She’d like to take one, but Gabita is allergic to cats.

Gabita complains about a toothache, while Otilia tells her she’ll survive until after Saturday, when they’ve done the deed. The abortionist, a man named Viorel Bede (Vlad Ivanov) has given explicit instructions to Gabita on booking a room at one of two hotels in town. He has also told her what to bring with her. However, Gabita fails to get a room in the right hotel. Otilia ends up booking a much more expensive room at a different hotel. She deals with the unfriendly receptionist at Bede’s preferred hotel, who tells her the rooms are completely booked. Otilia also meets Bede, in Gabita’s stead, which makes him very nervous as he explains that if the authorities ever find out what they are doing, all three of them will go to prison.

At the hotel– the one Bede didn’t prefer– they’ve all left their identification with the front desk. They are told to leave the room key when they go out. The decor is strictly 1987, complete with primitive looking rotary dial phones. I had one in my first Armenian apartment that looked just like the one used in this film. Bede examines Gabita, realizing that she’s much further along in her pregnancy than she had told him. He explains that he will have to do a different procedure that will cost more. Since the women don’t have enough money to pay Bede, he says both women must have sex with him to make up the difference. When they balk at that idea, Bede reminds them that he’s not the one who needs help.

Otilia goes first, and we see her come into the bathroom afterwards, naked from the waist down as she climbs into the bathtub, looking wan and sick as she hoses herself off. Gabita has neglected to bring the plastic sheet Bede told her to bring, so she must cut a plastic bag and use it to protect the bed as Bede performs the abortion. After he’s finished, Bede gives Gabita instructions. He tells her to be very careful of infection, and if one should develop and she needs to see a doctor, not to deny having been pregnant. Lying about the pregnancy is a surefire way to land in prison, while claiming she didn’t know may result in the authorities looking the other way.

While Gabita waits, lying perfectly still and waiting for the fetus to die, Otilia visits her boyfriend and his family, who are having a party. Otilia is not in a good mood and doesn’t want to visit her boyfriend or hang out with his family. She’s just been through something horrific. But she can’t tell him about it. After staying just long enough to be polite, Otilia leaves. Her boyfriend is confused and upset when Otilia goes, but Otilia must get back to her friend. She’s a motherly sort, and concerned that Gabita needs her.

When Otilia arrives at the hotel, Gabita is covered up, sound asleep in bed. Otilia wakes her and Gabita says she got “rid” of it. Otilia finds the tiny, bloody, fetus lying on the bathroom floor. I will warn that this is not an easy scene to watch, and it lasts about fifteen seconds. Otilia is horrified by the sight of the dead fetus, but Gabita just seems relieved that the abortion is over. Gabita still asks her friend to bury the fetus for her, and Otilia obliges. She comes back to find Gabita in the restaurant, “starving”. There’s a wedding going on, so the food in the restaurant is what was being served at the wedding. Otilia is completely sickened by what she and her friend have been through… and Gabita, who had been the one to have the abortion, just seems numb.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is an interesting film for so many reasons. First off, it’s set in a time that wasn’t that long ago, but seems like it was ages ago. I was fifteen years old in 1987, and at that time, it seemed like communism would go on forever. Ceausescu was still very much in charge of Romania, and the threat of prison for abortion was very real. No one could know that in just two years, the Ceausescu regime would suddenly fall with the bang of the guns used to execute both Ceausescu and his wife, Elena.

Although this film is set in 1987, it’s still a useful subject for the present time. Today, in 2021, there are still people trying to stop women from having abortions. Governor Greg Abbott, of Texas, just signed a “heartbeat law”, which bans abortion for any woman who is more than six weeks along in her pregnancy. I find it interesting that a man who presides over a state that is very proud of its record on executing people on death row is claiming that Texas is a “pro-life” state. I also find it interesting that when a fetus is in utero, a heartbeat is a signal of life, whereas in people who have been born already, it takes brainwaves to prove life. But I digress. Texas’s new law allows private citizens to sue abortion providers who offer services to anyone more than six weeks pregnant, in which the fetus has a detectable heartbeat. The person suing would not have to have a connection to the person who had an abortion to sue.

There was a time in the United States when women who wanted to have an abortion had to sneak around and find someone like Bede to do the job. There’s no telling how many of those women were also coerced into providing sexual favors, too. I think about all of the heartbreaking situations a pregnant person might find themselves in that would make them want to seek to terminate a pregnancy. I think of how many of those situations are simply no one else’s business at all… actually, I would say that 100% of those situations are no one else’s business. But we still have so many politicians– many of them men, who will never have to deal with the consequences of an unintended pregnancy– trying to push these laws that will victimize women and endanger their health. And so many of these same politicians don’t want to do a damned thing for those babies, once they’ve been born.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is not an easy film to watch. It’s entirely in Romanian, so you have to pay attention to the film if you don’t know the language. The setting is bleak; there is no musical score; and the subject matter is depressing. However, I think it’s a very powerful film. Regardless of what I think of abortion on a personal level, I believe that people who want them will be determined to get them. They will put themselves at great risk and contribute to criminal behavior. And the babies born that survive botched abortion attempts may end up being a burden to society. Perhaps most importantly, the women who have money will still be able to have safe, legal abortions and will access them. Poor women– the one’s least able to support raising a child– will be the ones who suffer the most under this legislation. They will be the ones who might find themselves in the hellish situation Otilia and Gabita were in, as a man who provides abortions demands sexual favors from them before he does the procedure in less than hygienic and safe surroundings.

A link to the full movie.

I would recommend 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days to anyone who is interested in Romanian cinema. But I would also recommend it to those who need a reminder of why it’s best to let pregnant people make decisions for themselves, whether or not they wish to continue gestating fetuses. But if you do choose to watch this film, be prepared for the heavy emotional message. It’s definitely not a cheerful film, despite its powerful and necessary message. In any case, this story is one that reminds me of why I will always be in favor of contraceptives and legalized abortion.

Incidentally, since abortion and contraception have become legal in Romania, the number of women seeking abortions has gone down exponentially.

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healthcare, LDS, movies

Repost: Do they have “good” hospitals in Romania?

Last repost for today… I wrote this post on April 11, 2018. It’s part current event/LDS church rant, part movie review. Romania has surprisingly excellent films. I should probably watch a few today, since it’s cold and rainy outside.

This morning’s post comes courtesy of a news report I read about a Mormon sister missionary in Romania.  Sister Jacie Robinson was supposed to come home to Utah from Romania today, but instead, she’s in a hospital.  On Friday of last week, Sister Robinson fainted.  It turns out she has encephalitis, which is a brain infection.

I don’t know how this young woman got her infection.  It’s my understanding that encephalitis can come on very suddenly.  I have heard of LDS missionaries getting sick or injured while in the field, due to being exposed to danger.  It does not sound like that’s what happened in this case. 

Someone on RfM posted about Sister Robinson, wanting to know if Romania has “good” hospitals.  To be honest, I’ve never visited Romania; however, I did go through a brief Romanian film phase.  One of the movies I watched was a “black comedy” from 2005 called The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.

A trailer for the Romanian film, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.

I was intrigued on several levels by The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.  First off, I spent two years living in Armenia, which is a former Soviet republic.  Although Armenia and Romania are very different places, they do have some similarities, even in this era of post communism.  Secondly, I studied public health in graduate school, so although I myself almost never visit doctors or hospitals, I do find healthcare interesting, especially in the international arena.  
Some time ago, I rented The Death of Mr. Lazarescu from Netflix and spent a couple of hours watching it.  The film is in Romanian, but it has English subtitles.  The subtitles force you to pay close attention.  The film is billed as a “black comedy” and some parts of it are truly funny, but in reality, it’s a very sad and sometimes poignant film.  It doesn’t just apply to Romania, either.  

The film in its entirety.    

For those who would rather not watch the film (which I do recommend), here’s a basic synopsis.  Mr. Dante Lazarescu is a lonely widower who has three cats and a bad headache.  He calls an ambulance on an old rotary style phone, even though he doesn’t think the headache is serious.  When the ambulance doesn’t come, he asks his neighbor for help.  The neighbors give him some pills for his nausea, reveal him as a drunk, then help him to bed.  The neighbors call again for an ambulance.

When the ambulance arrives, the nurse on board suspects the old man has colon cancer.  She calls Mr. Lazarescu’s sister and tells him she should visit him in the hospital.  She then gets him into the ambulance and the nurse, the old man, and the driver spend the rest of the night going to different hospitals around the city, trying to get Mr. Lazarescu admitted.   

As the night progresses, the old man’s condition worsens.  He loses the ability to speak coherently and wets his pants.  Even though he’s very ill and needs treatment, no one wants to bother to examine Mr. Lazarescu.  He keeps getting shuffled from one place to the next.  He finally gets an operation to remove a blood clot, but the doctor quips they’ve saved him from the clot only so he can die of liver cancer.  

As I mentioned before, I honestly don’t know about the quality of Romanian hospitals.  I did see a few interesting comments on the YouTube videos I posted.  I did have a couple of colleagues who experienced Armenian medicine in the 1990s.  While it wasn’t deadly for them, it was not like what we in the United States are used to.  On the other hand, people in places like Romania probably don’t go bankrupt when they get sick, either.  

I think The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is worthy viewing, if you can stand the dark humor of it.  Some people might find it depressing.  I thought it was an interesting film.  Actually, Romania has put out some great movies in the past couple of decades.  I’ve watched three or four of them and been impressed by their quality.  If you have the patience to read subtitles and enjoy foreign films, I’d say your time will be well spent watching a couple of Romanian flicks. As for Sister Robinson, I hope she makes a full and speedy recovery.  Encephalitis is scary business, no matter where you are!

On another note…  

Bill is trying to arrange for some time off at the beginning of May so we can take a much needed break from Germany.  Actually, I don’t mind Germany… I just think Bill needs a breather.  Work has been rather stressful for him lately.

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movies, videos

Repost: A review of the film, Never Let Me Go

Here’s another repost, this time of a movie review I wrote in 2018, as we were about to move from Stuttgart to Wiesbaden. I stumbled across this intriguing film a few years ago and have been thinking about it a lot lately. I’m reposting it as/is.

It’s not so often that I watch movies these days, though sometimes I will search Netflix for something to kill a couple of hours.  Yesterday, I stumbled across a 2010 film called Never Let Me Go.  This British movie, which stars Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightly, and Andrew Garfield, is based on a 2005 Japanese novel by the same name which was written by Kazuo Ishiguro.  The plot is very dystopian, which fits right in with my recent attraction to The Handmaid’s Tale.

As the film begins, we see a couple of captions explaining that medical science has progressed to the point at which people can live beyond 100 years.  All of the maladies that plagued previous generations have been vanquished and humans are enjoying a level of health they never had in the past.  

Then we see young woman who introduces herself as Kathy H.  She’s looking through a window at a young man on an operating table as she explains that she’s been a “carer” for nine years.  She says she’s good at her job and prevents agitation in her patients.  The expression on her face is one of deep concern as the young man on the operating table looks at her.  Then, suddenly, it’s 1978 and Kathy is at an idyllic looking boarding school with many other children, all dressed in drab gray.  They sing an opening hymn before assembly.

A matronly looking woman addresses the children and admonishes them about how important it is that they keep themselves healthy.  She says three spent cigarettes were found and that even though smoking is not healthy for anyone, it’s especially a bad habit for these special children, who have never left the grounds of their school.  The woman then tells the children that Miss Emily will be collecting art samples from the children.  The best ones will go in her special gallery.

Kathy has two friends, Ruth and Tommy.  Kathy likes Tommy and he likes her, although he has a very short temper.  The two of them grow up, never venturing beyond the gates of their school.  Children who have left the grounds uniformly end up dead.  Tommy and Ruth ended up a couple, which guts Kathy.  

A new teacher named Miss Lucy wonders why the children just blindly accept the stories they hear.  She doesn’t seem to know about the school or its purpose, but she’s kind and loving to the children… until the day she tells them their real reason for being.  These children are all clones and the whole reason they were born is to donate organs to other people.  They will donate two, three, or even four times before their lives will end… while they are still young.  But they are told that if they can prove they’ve found love, they will be given a few years together.

In 1985, the children have turned 18 and are left to their own devices.  They’re even allowed to take day trips.  It’s then that Tommy, Ruth, and Kathy become more aware of their love triangle and what it might mean for them in the future, which stops in 1994.

I am going to stop writing at this point, because I think this is a film worth seeing… and if I explain the whole plot, there would be no reason to watch this movie.  I’m glad I watched it, for the story left me thinking.  I told Bill about it last night and he agrees that it’s just the kind of movie he adores.

A trailer for Never Let Me Go.
Another trailer for Never Let Me Go.

This movie is very poignant and a bit depressing, but ultimately kind of a beautiful story.  I probably should spend more time watching foreign films on Netflix.  I’ve found some good ones there.

Meanwhile, I continue to keep looking for a new place to live, which is stressing me out a bit.  I know it will eventually be okay, but the process of moving is such a huge pain in the ass.  I take heart in knowing that in a few months, this process will be a memory.

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