The summer is almost over and here we are still, watching life go by from our own particular beach. But don’t even think about lying on a pareo, because I can’t stand them—I don’t know what’s going on, but now ALL of the “modern” set go to the beach and, instead of using a towel, they use a pareo. So please use a towel, you hear me? And if you don’t want to lose any of your trendiness, do like me and lie yourself down on BUTT towels, the hit of the summer. They’re eye-catching like no other, and besides, the profits obtained from their sale goes to charity. What else can you ask for? As I was saying, on my towel and wearing flip-flops —I only wear them where they belong, on the beach and the pool: only chiropodists like their generalised use everywhere, rubbing their hands thinking about all of those future patients— I was thinking about all that the holiday period has to offer, which is a lot.
Two can keep a secret...
Let’s start with television. There is no summer worthy of the name that doesn’t have a real guilty pleasure, and this summer’s is “ Pretty Little Liars.” Somewhere between “Gossip Girl”, “Veronica Mars” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, this series has been a must-see of the summer season—and of what remains of it, as so far they’ve only broadcast 10 episodes of the first season, and have left us wanting more. The story: four girls who still go to high school (of course, they dress to kill and always with perfect hair and make-up) meet up again one year after their best friend disappeared; she reappears dead, and they start to get harassed via SMS by a mysterious person called A who knows all about something bad that happened a year ago.The audience discovers the whole secret little by little, at the same time that there are teen romances (this is what it’s all about, of course). There’s also a lesbian touch –one of the stars has tendencies– and (it’s about time) when the girls have to make out, they do it without problems, not like in “Modern Family”: like Ryan Murphy, the creator of “Glee” and “Nip/Tuck” said, you can’t stick a gay couple in with the characters of a series if they’re never going to touch each other. Also check out the credits with the soundtrack by The Pierces: the song “Secret” (do you get it?) fits the plot like a glove
SMS messages seem to be the big stars of summer television. Another of this summer’s pleasures (this time without any guilt at all) is the new version of Sherlock Holmes on the BBC, “Sherlock”, an absolutely 2.0 version of the Baker Street detective, with a Dr. Watson who arrives from Afghanistan, like in the original Conan Doyle story, but this time it’s a different war in Afghanistan, of course, and with an adorable Holmes whose deductions are perfect. We’re talking 2.0 because the series has done a great job of adapting the original plots to the 21st century: Holmes is addicted to text messages as a form of communication (as well as having his own website on detective investigation, The Science Of Deduction), at the same time that Watson has creative lapses updating his blog. It’s a sign of the times. And a surprise: in the role of Police Inspector Lestrade we find the actor Rupert Graves, an icon who you will surely remember for his role as Scudder, the most lucid figure in “Maurice”, (the film version of the E. M. Forster novel that James Ivory did such a good job at realising in 1987). Holding that nerve in the midst of so much hypocrisy of the period is something that isn’t forgotten. Returning to “Sherlock”, it must be said, as far as we are concerned here, that it is full of winks regarding the ambiguity in the Holmes-Watson relationship and Sherlock’s sexuality. Otherwise, it’s a visually impeccable, modern work, with great acting: its three 90-minute episodes are great entertainment, but end too soon. They’ve already announced that they’ll be back.
Sagat And The Bears
Things are hot in film, too. François Sagat is suddenly appearing everywhere in his jump from gay porno star to underground film revelation. On one hand, it’s not surprising that Bruce LaBruce included him in the cast of his new experiment, “L.A. Zombie”, this time about sex-crazed zombies. So far it has gotten a lot of press by having its screening prohibited in the Melbourne Film Festival. But LaBruce—what were you expecting?—I wonder. But anyway the director is thrilled with the scandal, thanks to the free publicity (of course). The cast, full of models and porn stars, continues in the usual line. And the thing is that we already know what Bruce tends towards, who in his day already shocked people with “Hustler White” or the zombies in “Otto”.What might be more surprising is seeing Sagat in “Homme Au Bain”, the new film by Christophe Honoré, one of the enfants terribles of French film, which was just shown in the Locarno Film Festival. The project started as a commission from the town hall of the French town of Gennevilliers –it was supposed to be a short film– and it ended up being an ambitious feature-length film with Chiara Mastroianni at the head, in the middle of two gay lovers in the process of splitting up. From what I’ve heard, the sex scenes are very explicit, hence the controversy of a film that has divided the critics, but which has been praised by indie bibles like Les Inrockuptibles. It’s strange to see Sagat with clothes on, but as you can see in the trailer, he takes them off quickly.
The summer has also seen the hatching of two films about the bear population: it’s a reality, bears are starting to invade the more alternative screens. On one hand, we have the Malcolm Ingram documentary, “ Bear Nation ”. We already knew Ingram for having taken “Small Town Gay Bar” to several festivals, and now he turns entirely to the subject, going back to interview the same people, and once again participating in the question of double coming out: as gays and as bears. The author himself recognises that his work is more for internal use within the community, so he has planned its distribution among the multiple bear gatherings that take place all over the planet, the ones that take their curious names from a variation of the word “bear.”The other bear movie of the moment is “ Bear City ”, directed by Doug Langway, and which enters the realm of fiction. From the very title, it declares itself to be a sort of “Sex and the City” for bears, and it advertises itself with the tag line “romance can be hairy.” Using the characters’ funny stories of love (and hair)—the plot explains that they are getting ready for a big bear weekend, of course—the film has already triumphed at the prestigious Los Angeles festival Outfest.
Back to School
Musically, the summer has been a collection of beach polytones and festivals intended to attract tourists, but with the beginning of the season, things are starting to hop—and for the record, we aren’t going to talk either about the long-awaited autobiography of Ricky Martin or the commotion raised on Facebook because of the groups about “lesbians who look like Justin Bieber” (and it’s true that there are a lot of them who look like him!). No, today we’re talking about comebacks. The first, that of Robbie Williams, who is preparing his highly-publicised reunion with Take That, with a couple of songs with Gary Barlow for a new Greatest Hits collection, “In And Out of Consciousness: Greatest Hits 1990-2010”, which is arriving just in time to celebrate 20 years in the musical world. The advance of those two new songs is “Shame”, with a video where Robbie and Gary play around a little bit like “Brokeback Mountain” but without going too far: looks, hugs, they take their shirts off, and that’s it. But they are very cute, and you have to appreciate it, although the truth is that they could have gone out a little bit more on a limb. And I’ll say more: I love the new concept of “topless bromance.” Hot!
Another figure on the comeback train is the seventy-something Amanda Lear. At the end of last year, she already put out an album called “Brand New Love Affair”, which she publicised using morbid curiosity, presenting her new love (a 20-year-old Italian lover: all soooo believable). The album, with a couple of new songs and the mix that is usual in this kind of album (impossible, evident covers like “I Am What I Am”, plus the obligatory filler remixes), didn’t get much attention, but one of these songs, “I’m Coming Up”, has been recovered on an EP with decent remixes like that of Special Ops (the alias that Babydaddy from Scissor Sisters and his DJ, Sammy Jo, hide behind) and we’re dancing with Amanda again without having to resort to the classic “Fashion Pack”, the eurodisco masterpiece. Amanda isn’t settling for music and, at her age!—she has debuted in the theatre, playing a grandmother in the comedy “Panique Au Ministère,” which will be touring France in the coming months.Someone else who’s at it again is Antony Hegarty, with his project Antony And The Johnsons. A real character, I personally can’t stand him for more than three songs in a row, but I recognise his magnetism. A little over a week ago, his EP, “Thank You for Your Love” came out, including new songs, covers of John Lennon and Bob Dylan, and a video in which he recovers arty Super8 films of his beginnings in New York in the 90’s. Now, if you’ll allow me, the humble writer of these lines would like to tell you a little story: watching this video I remembered why Antony rang a bell to me, right when the brutal explosion of hype came: it turns out that I had a song of his in a compilation album of New York drag queens that a friend brought me... in 1996! In that album, packaged with the appropriate title of “God Shave the Queen”, the whole roster of NY drag queens of the period appear, from Miss Lady Bunny to Sherry Vine, and it’s full of typical disco-house songs. Antony’s is a primitive version of Cripple And The Starfish –which would later be recovered on albums– and the truth is that is has nothing to do with the rest. The credits speak of performances under the alias of Fiona Blue, Justin Grey or Jennifer Honkytits (ooph!) and of “his new group, The Johnsons.” Historical. Returning to 2010, “Thank You for Your Love” will also appear on the new album “Swanlights”, which will come out in style in October, special edition included, in which the CD (or vinyl) will be inserted in a booklet full of illustrations, collages, photos, and writings by Antony. The album will also include his anxiously-awaited duet with Björk, “Flétta”. Love it or hate it.
Moving on to the third comeback of the moment, that of Alexander Bard, the man behind (and in front, in many cases) of several Swedish music projects. Summarising his more than 20 years of career in a few lines is difficult, but we’ll try. Probably you will know him for his best-known project, Army Of Lovers, the best eurodisco group of the 90’s. That is my opinion, stated clearly, and with knowledge about the subject. With “Crucified” and the later “Obsession” they were even successful in the United States, they were a one-hit wonder in some countries, and they left a few albums full of that strange combination of biting lyrics about the most diverse subjects—where they displayed an acid sense of humour, as well as an extraordinary bad temper. I’m going to give you some homework: listen to the compilation of videos “Videovaganza”, which is a must, the campiest thing that can be thrown in your face, and later “The Gods of Earth and Heaven”, their most complete work: only Bard and company dare to do songs about Jewish stereotypes ( “Israelism”) or to tell us the sad story of Madame Curie in “The Ballad of Marie Curie”. It turns out that this man has always loved science, practically as much as taking his passion for make-up and histrionic clothing to the limit. I saw them perform in rigorous playback some years ago, and it was one of those experiences that you don’t easily forget. When Army Of Lovers stopped shining, Bard set up a new project, Vacuum, in which electronic coldness and scientific subjects went hand in hand. The entertaining part he left for another project that he was secretly directing, Alcazar, in which he gave free reign to his sense of humour and the dance floor. There was so much seriousness in his own group that he had to leave it and start another one, BWO (Bodies Without Organs), along with a singer that he discovered in the Swedish version of Popstars, and with whom he was successful (repeating the formula, of course). Martin, the aforementioned singer, is taking a break right now, but the tireless Alexander already has a new story with a new voice, Andreas Öhrn. They are called Gravitonas, and they sound darker and more electro-rock, and they are storming their country’s charts with two singles from an album that is supposed to be out soon. As always with Bard, expect impossible looks, false seriousness, and great pop songs. Check it out, it’s worth it. I’ll be back soon. Miss me.