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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 09
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Private Romeo gives modern-day problems a Shakespearean twist
by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Private Romeo, a new film by writer and director Alan Brown, tells the story of eight cadets who get left behind at an isolated military high school and how the greatest romantic drama ever written seeps out of the classroom and permeates their lives. Incorporating the original text of Romeo and Juliet, YouTube videos, and lip-synced indie rock music, Private Romeo takes us all to a mysterious and tender place that only Shakespeare could have inspired. Seattle Gay News spoke with Brown about the project and its upcoming release.

'Though Romeo and Juliet is usually interpreted as a romantic tale of young love thwarted by a family feud, recent re-readings convinced me that it is actually a much more modern and relevant story about sexual identity and desire pitted against society and its institutions; about personal freedom and rights versus authority,' Brown told SGN. 'As a Gay man and artist frustrated by the political battles and inaction over Gay equality, and by the heartbreaking epidemic of Gay bullying, I thought Shakespeare would be the perfect vehicle for exploring these issues.'

'As Private Romeo's high school military cadets find themselves in the kinds of emotionally tumultuous situations - falling in love, the loss of friendship, confronting homophobia - that would leave any adolescent (or adult) at a loss for words, they must use Shakespeare's language as their sole means of expression, forcing them to explore the profound drama of coming-of-age,' said Brown.

The director said that he explored the idea of the film with his 'wonderful actors, all of who had very solid Shakespeare training and experience.'

'What we found was that, for teenagers - which is the age group our characters fall into - is that within the language they use, there isn't much there to express strong emotions such as love, jealousy, and sexual confusion,' he said. 'So we decided to use Shakespeare's language, which sometimes fits and sometimes doesn't. And it was often those times when the language didn't fit smoothly that were the most interesting for us. It really gave the actors a challenge, something to explore.'

Brown says that Private Romeo was filmed in just three weeks. The film is two-time Sundance writer/director Alan Brown's third feature film. After working with name actors such as Simon Baker, Frances O'Connor, and Bryce Dallas Howard. Private Romeo stars young up-and-coming actors such as Matt Doyle, who starred in Spring Awakening on Broadway and who will be starring in The War Horse at Lincoln Center alongside Seth Numrich.

'The cast was just an amazing group of actors who were committed to the process and to making Shakespeare come alive and feel so natural that when you watch the film, you actually forget that they're speaking Elizabethan English,' he said.

'The film is gorgeous to look at, thanks to our brilliant cinematographer Derek McKane, and has a beautiful score by Nicholas Write,' said Brown. 'The film also includes songs by the indie rock group Bishop Allen.'

Matt Doyle, who has a recurring role on Gossip Girl, actually sings in the film.

Brown says that Private Romeo was born out of activism. 'I'm very politically active,' he told SGN. 'I was engaged - and enraged - by the battle to overturn DADT. Before that, I actively protested the Iraq war.'

His last film, SUPERHEROES (IFC Films) dealt with an Iraq War vet with PTSD. 'I spent a lot of time studying and considering the U.S. military as a society,' said Brown. 'Romeo and Juliet is about forbidden love in a very rigid, masculine, hierarchal society. It seemed a natural fit.'

Although most of the actors are not mainstream, and the movie was produced rather quickly, the quality does not suffer. The guys are great to look at, the dialogue is classic, and Private Romeo delivers a heartfelt story of teenage love.

Brown told Seattle Gay News that audiences will begin to view the film this spring when Private Romeo enters the film festival circuit.

For more information, including actor bios, news, and to view the film's trailer, go to www.privateromeothemovie.com.


Beautifully eerie Housemaid a gruesome spellbinder
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

The Housemaid
Now Playing


Eun-yi (Jeon Do-youn) is excited. The young woman has just gotten a job as a housemaid and nanny for an upper-crust family. Wealthy Hoon (Lee Jung-Jae) and his beautiful wife Hae-ra (Seo Woo) are expecting their second and third children - twins - any day. Byung-sik (Yun Yeo-Jong) is the older maid, the one who hides all of the family's secrets, and as she watches her new charge settle into her new life a growing uneasiness begins to engulf the weary woman.

Hoon sets his eye on Eun-yi. He has decided he will have her, and the woman's naïvete, as well as her fear of losing her well-paying position, allows her to succumb to his sexual charms. But Byung-sik sees all, and knows his housemaid is pregnant even before she does. A chain of events is set in motion where Eun-yi is battered, belittled, and betrayed, but not above getting a fiery revenge against Hoon and his wife.

I have never seen the 1960 original film that Korean director Im Sang-soo's The Housemaid is based upon. I do not know how they are similar, where they are different or how they choose to bring things to a conclusion. What I do know is that this new take on the tale had me tightly wrapped around its finger right from the start, and everything built to a startling and horrifying conclusion that had my mouth agape throughout.

The movie begins obviously enough. It's like your basic Merchant-Ivory morality tale of the upper-class taking advantage of those who serve them, treating them like chattel, and realizing they could get away with murder if they so desired. But as things progress, a reversal slowly begins to take place. Who really is the housemaid? Who is the servant? Who has control of their own destiny? And who, finally, will have the strength to say enough is enough and call out those in the wrong as the denizens of evil they are?

Eun-yi is so sweet, so innocent, it is only a matter of time before she is corrupted by Hoon. In many ways she is as much a child as the youngster she is befriending, Nami (Ahn Seo-Hyeon). She hides past tragedies and past obsessions with the macabre that no one knows about, but at her core she is pure of heart and delicate in spirit, looking at the future with eyes unclouded by hate or callousness.

Byung-sik is her elder opposite. Maybe she was like her charge once; maybe long ago she was just as innocent. But after serving Hoon and his family for so long (one gets the feeling she was his nanny working for his father in the position Eun-yi holds now), she has been beaten down and turned cynical. She knows all their secrets, revealing what she's learned when the opportunity seems most beneficial, knowing how terrible the consequences of doing so will be, but trying to find a way to live with them.

Sang-soo hypnotically moves things forward in a way that is both restrained and elegant. Everything plays itself out like a delicate deathly waltz, the Grim Reaper always lurking in the shadows, casting a pallid glow upon the proceedings and hinting at tragedies to come. But nothing could prepare me for what does transpire, and the final scenes have a grotesque opulence that is entrancing and disgusting all at once.

I could say more, but The Housemaid is one of those pictures the less you know going in, the more opportunity it has to devastate and surprise. The power of the climax comes from how unexpected (yet how horribly believable) it is, and to even hint at more would be doing the viewer a grave disservice. This Korean import is a shocking spectacle of inhumanity and desire, of how the worlds we construct to serve us can slowly and intractably become our prison, making it the first must-see motion picture of 2011.


The Cleveland Show tackles Gay marriage
by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

The issue of same-sex marriage has entered the cartoon world. On Sunday night, in an episode of Seth MacFarlane's The Cleveland Show entitled 'Terry Unmarried,' the cartoonist waded into the waters of Gay marriage.

MacFarlane is best known for his animated shows Family Guy and American Dad. The Cleveland Show is a knockoff of the former.

In the episode, Cleveland discovers that his marriage isn't legal because his wife's divorce was never finalized. Finding himself newly single, Cleveland and his buddies decide to party at a new bar in town - which they quickly learn is a Gay bar.

Despite their initial discomfort, the guys have fun. But things turn uncomfortable for the men when they see Cleveland's friend and co-worker Terry kissing another man, who turns out to be Terry's boyfriend Paul.

The episode actually deals with the revelation in a comical manner that is more laugh-out-loud funny than offensive as the reactions range from Cleveland's acceptance of his friend's Gay lifestyle to Terry rushing out to date a bunch of different women in a panic.

In the most serious part of the episode, Cleveland turns down a dinner invitation from Terry and Paul, but his wife, Donna, convinces him they should go. And then there is even a hint of activism as Terry and Paul attempt to 'bring Gay marriage to Virginia.'

This prompts Cleveland and Donna to take a road trip with Terry and Paul to Vermont for a double wedding, where Terry gets cold feet, but a heartfelt speech from Cleveland convinces him to go through with the ceremony.

The importance of the episode is that, in the end, the Gay characters live happily ever after. This is a positive departure from the normal Hollywood Gay movie where someone inevitably dies. In addition - and this seems to be a popular trend - the younger generation of Americans seem to welcome Gay characters into TV land, whether animated or not.




Lovin' West Hollywood
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Phoenix glistens with or without sun
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Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard are jewels of the East Coast
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Switzerland will take your breath away
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5th Avenue's Next to Normal is electrifying
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Queer Seattle Tango lures dancers to Century Ballroom
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Washington's Long Beach: ?It's all about the timing
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From Fairhaven to downtown, Bellingham full of suprises
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Brilliant young conductor steals the show
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Private Romeo gives modern-day problems a Shakespearean twist
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Beautifully eerie Housemaid a gruesome spellbinder
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The Cleveland Show tackles Gay marriage
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Q-Scopes by Jack Fertig
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Northwest News
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Letters
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Royal Hawaiian is an indulgent experience
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A brand-new opera by Henry Purcell
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Delightful Mother sweetly funny
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Esperanza Spalding proves she's the real deal
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No reason needed for Vancouver, B.C., getaway
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Toronto: Rich in history, culture, and food
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Arden Forest Inn in Ashland simple and elegant
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Morehead Manor B&B gets all the details right
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