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josephk
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L.I.E.
05. May 2002 at 11:31
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I'm interrupting my reviews of the "forgotten favourites" to tell you about this amazing film, which I've seen last night at the cinema.

L.I.E. (2001)
Directed by Michael Cuesta
Boy actors: Paul Franklin Dano, Billy Kay, James Costa
Also starring: Brian Cox (in the role of Big John).

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That beautiful boy on the poster is Paul Franklin Dano, who plays Howie Blitzer in this amazing film. Although Paul was 17 in 2001, his character is only 15 and he doesn't look any older than that in the film.

The film opens with Howie standing on a bridge over the L.I.E - Long Island Expressway. He walks on the railing, then turns toward the road as if he was going to jump. This scene is repeated again in the end, after the rest of the film has explained what brought him to that desperate position. Is he going to jump? I'm not going to tell you!

After that chilling opening, Howie says in a voice over: "The Long Island Expressway. You've got the lanes going East. You've got the lanes going West. You've also got the lanes going straight to hell." He explains that several have died on the L.I.E., including his mother, recently.

His father has already found a new woman (a "bimbo" as Howie calls her, who doesn't say a word throughout the film) and is involved in some sort of construction scandal for which he might have to go to jail. He doesn't pay much attention to Howie, except when he pounds him in the face for skipping school, giving him a black eye.

Howie also has problems at school and has fallen with the wrong crowd. His friends are involved in a series of "break and enters," robbing houses in the neighbourhood. Howie goes along, but doesn't really steal anything. Mostly, he follows because he likes to be around Gary (played by Billy Kay), for whom he is developping feelings that go beyond friendship. Gary also hints that he might share these feelings, but Howie doesn't dare make the first move.

Howie is not a happy kid, and it's only going to get worse when a man whose house he and Gary have broken into turns out to be a sort of predator of young boys (Big John, played to perfection by Brian Cox). He promises not to tell the cops, but what exactly does he want in return?

I use the word "predator" because that's the way he is originally presented. There's an awesome scene, set to the song "Hurdy Gurdy Man" by Donovan,  where he drives around in his cool old car (I know nothing about cars, but everyone else on the planet would probably recognize it as something or other - the dream car of any adolescent boy, apparently), sniffing a piece of Howie's jeans that ripped off when he tried to grab him after discovering him and Gary in his basement.

But as the film progresses, we find out that it's not so clear cut. Big John may in fact turn out to be Howie's only true friend. His character is thoroughly ambiguous and we can only guess at his real intentions. As for Howie, he is at first disturbed by the man's attention, but he soon finds himself strangely attracted at the same time.

L.I.E. does what For a Lost Soldier failed to do: it explores the possibility of relationships between men and boys in all the complexity that such an issue diserves. The film's most important and amazing quality is that it manages to explore this topic without falling into vulgarity, without exploiting the subject matter for shock value, and without passing a judgement. Everything remains open-ended and it is meant to provoke thought rather than dictate a certain way of thinking about the issue. It does not glorify sex between men and boys, but it does not demonize it either.

Incidentally, there are no sex scenes between men and boys in the film. In fact, the only sex and nudity we see on the screen is a very brief scene between Howie's father and the "bimbo." And yet - this blows my mind - the film managed to receive the NC-17 rating in the U.S. for "explicit sexual content involving teens." This is completely insane and I can't understand how such a blatant misrating could have occured. Thankfully, the MPAA agreed to bring it down to an R for the video release. (In Canada, the theatrical version - the same as was released in the States - was also rated R). For those interested in this controversy, check out the film's official page on the Lot 47 Films website. There is a section on the MPAA rating, which contains some very useful and interesting information. (You need to Login or Register to view media files and links)

The film does have a few flaws. I have to say I have mixed feelings about the ending, and there's one element that has bothered me throughout the film (a character that seemed not to fit in and might have been better left out). I don't want to go into details about this, because I don't want to give away essential plot elements for those who haven't seen it. But in spite of these minor flaws, I gave the film a rating of 10/10 on IMDb, simply because the subject matter was treated in such an intelligent way that I felt it deserved a perfect rating nonetheless.

Aside from being an intelligent film, this is also a very beautiful one. Paul Franklin Dano is a very gifted actor and I hope he has a brilliant career ahead of him (although he won't be a boy for much longer, sadly!). He is also very pleasant to look at. My favourite scene comes toward the end, when Big John shaves Howie'S face with one of those old-fashioned straight-blade razors. Set to beautiful score music, the scene has the camera lingering on Howie's face in an extreme close up. It is one of the most beautiful scenes I've ever seen on film.

Beautiful, intelligent, tasteful, provocative without being shocking or vulgar... see this film as soon as you have a chance. I don't know if it's out on DVD and video yet, but it should be coming soon. (And when it is, someone ought to make a set of nice captures of it - the image above is the only one I could find on the Internet.) I do hope you all get a chance to see this, sooner or later.


(Edited by josephk at 3:55 am on May 6, 2002)
« Last Edit: 06. Feb 2004 at 20:17 by cal-Q-L8 »  
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Sir Jacob
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Reply #1 - 05. May 2002 at 16:21
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Thanks, josephk. Smiley

Very, very nice review.

I've been waiting for this one to come to a theater near me, but I haven't seen it advertised. For sure, I'll be getting it when it comes out on dvd, though.

Love,
Sir Jacob
  
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josephk
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Reply #2 - 05. May 2002 at 22:06
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Sir Jacob: Thanks for the compliment. I hope you get a chance to see it soon. I know the film didn't get a wide distribution because of all the controversy surrounding the MPAA rating. It's really a shame that a few narrow-minded people have this much power and can seriously hinder the availability of such beautiful artistic accomplishments. Hopefully, the video and dvd will get a better distribution and this film will reach enough people to be remembered somewhere down the line.

HuckFinn: I knew that some people would feel that way about the actors' age. Personnally, I find the concept of "boy" sometimes extends beyond the limitations of age. I don't much care for the actor's age. The character that I saw on the screen, in whom I completely believed and who managed to make me feel something very powerful, was a "boy" in every sense of the word to me. I also think the film is worth seeing, whether or not it qualifies as a "boy-movie."

Of course, I can't argue with your tastes and I understand that not everyone is into the same kinds of films. I sometimes get a little over-enthusiastic about things I really like and assume that everyone will (or should) like it as much as I did. Smiley

Cheers.

(Edited by josephk at 4:10 am on May 6, 2002)
  
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cal-Q-L8
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Reply #3 - 11. May 2002 at 10:04
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update:
added a profile page for this movie
« Last Edit: 08. Jul 2008 at 05:16 by Zabladowski »  
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devon
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Reply #4 - 03. Oct 2002 at 20:19
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I bought the DVD last month and was waiting patiently until this month to get a DVD player. I took the day off and waited for the player. It arrived. I saw L.I.E.

I enthusiastically endorse josephk's review. Unlike Mason Gamble in "A Gentleman's Game", Paul Dano passes for a much younger boy than his chronological age, and he probably could even have passed for a 13 year old without straining the viewer's imagination.

As josephk mentioned, the shaving scene was one not to be missed. The gentleness and imtimacy there are incomparable.

This movie really leaves some questions open. It portrays Big John, whose license plates bear his initials "BJ", as a very complex, even generally likeable man, who happens to have this thing for teen boys. There are times I dislike the character, for example when he says he gives the best blow jobs in the western hemisphere. He couldn't possibly be that much better than I am! And then there are other times I want to reach out and tell him how sweet he is for how he puts his wants aside and focuses on Howie's needs.

The director's commentary was interesting. He walked a fine line, saying that he didn't like the guy because he was a dangerous predator, yet he also said BJ had a human side too.

I disagree with the "dangerous predator" comment. Certainly he was an opportunist, but none of the three boys in his life gave any sign that they were involved with him against their will. His houseboy, especially, made it clear that he had a huge desire to be part of Big John's life.

Aside from the two rude heterosexual intercourse scenes, there is no gratuitious sex onscreen. There are numerous references to sex, and even one scene where one of Howie's "friends" has an obvious erection (clothed, not disrobed!). Still, there is no patently sexual scene involving any guys.

Big John's genuine love, it turned out, for his young friend, Howie, and Howie's apparent interest in having a more-than-platonic relationship with Big John, left me wanting to know more about how things could turn out, absent some of the complexity brought about by the unusual ending.

I hope anyone that hasn't seen this classic will do so soon. It's a jewel.
  
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Reply #5 - 03. Oct 2002 at 23:17
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Thanks for this update, Devon. I was waiting for you to watch this one almost as anxiously as you were, I'm sure. Smiley

I'm really glad you liked it.

Incidentally, my DVD copy has absolutely no special features, so I never heard the director's commentary. It would be interesting to know what he thinks, but somehow it doesn't bother me much not to have it. I feel so strongly about this movie that in a way I'd almost rather not know what the director thinks.
  
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Reply #6 - 04. Oct 2002 at 11:46
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If you get the DVD in the US, you have a choice of "R" rated (with no extras) or "unrated" with deleted scenes, commentaries.  In Canada, only the "no extras" version.
  
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Reply #7 - 04. Oct 2002 at 20:02
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Thanks for the info, Hosenhaus. But are the actual movies on both DVDs the same? I mean, is the "unrated" version the same movie but with bonus material or has the film itself been cut?

I know the film in its original theatrical version got a NC-17 rating in the US, which was ridiculously unfair. In Canada, it was rated R, but I'm pretty sure the version I saw in the theatre was the same as the one that was shown in the US. I haven't noticed any scenes missing from the DVD, so I'm guessing it's the same version.

I'm going to look into this.
  
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Reply #8 - 05. Oct 2002 at 05:51
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No, to achieve the "R" rating a couple of small cuts had to be made in the movie itself.  The "unrated" DVD is the same as the theatrical version in the US.  In your version does Howie answer the question on five inches?  That answer was cut for the "R" version.  Plus some more explicit footage of sex between Howie's dad & his girlfriend.
  
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josephk
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Reply #9 - 05. Oct 2002 at 09:40
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Thank you very much, hosenhaus. With this information, I was able to do a test to see if my version had been cut. Apparently not, because Howie does answer the question about the five inches.

It seems that the DVD I have is a specifically Canadian edition, as it does not contain any bonus material, but features the uncut version of the film. Although I'm curious about the bonus material, the film is the most important thing for me and I think I would have sold it and bought the American version if this had been a cut version.

By the way, the rating on my copy is "18A." In Canada, the rating system is a little different from the MPAA ratings in the U.S. 18A is more or less equivalent to R. For example, I have a copy of Blood Simple which is also rated 18A. I think it means that people bellow 18 have to be accompanied by an adult to see the film.
  
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Reply #10 - 05. Oct 2002 at 14:59
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As I understand it "L.I.E." could not be shown theatrically in Canada at all.  One cinema did manage to do it somehow, but that's it.  So for them, video is the only way to see it.
  
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Reply #11 - 05. Oct 2002 at 15:21
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Well, it played for about five days at the local "art house" theatre here and there didn't seem to be a problem with it. I went to Montreal this summer and saw that it was playing there also.

When films are banned in Canada, it's a provincial matter, so it could be that L.I.E. could not be shown in some provinces. However, I know for sure that it played at least in Ontario and Quebec, so the information you got is wrong.

(Edited by josephk at 4:26 pm on Oct. 5, 2002)
  
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Reply #12 - 07. Oct 2002 at 00:26
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Just watched (and taped) this on Sundance, minutes ago.  Yes, Howie did answer the "five inch question," I don't think anything was edited.

Thanks, josephk, your review is more than just "right-on."  This film overwhelmed me, I think I'd put it in my "top-25-list".

No, to me, Howie was not "cute," but VERY much a boy.  Anyone who would disqualify a 5-star BL film on that basis -- well, he/she maybe never had sons/ nephews/young friends who grew into their teen years, but remained very lovable, even if not "snuggle/cuddle-able."  Sad.

There is so much more I could write about L.I.E. -- but I guess I shouldn't open up a can of worms/pandora's box.  Except to say that at least Big John was honest/upfront about his intentions, and allowed Howie all of the control.  That's more than can be said about government/media "powerphiles" who lust after boys.

Oops.

L.I.E. works on many, many levels.  Watch it again...and again...and again.  I will.  
  
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Re: L.I.E.
Reply #13 - 25. Jan 2006 at 09:08
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I WISH I CAN SEE THIS FLIM
  
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