Monday, August 29, 2011

Anonymous Authority

Every so often I run across something (usually in a book) that expresses perfectly thoughts that have remained rather unformed in my consciousness. I have just picked up A.S. Neill's Summerhill and have begun reading the Foreword, which was written by the socialist humanist Erich Fromm. Neill's book was published in 1961.

Here is what Fromm has to say about "our modern industrial society":

The change from the overt authority of the nineteenth century to the anonymous authority of the twentieth was determined by the organizational needs of  our modern industrial society. The concentration of capital led to the formation of giant enterprises managed by hierarchically organized bureaucracies. Large conglomerations of workers and clerks work together, each individual a part of a vast organized production machine, which in order to run at all, must run smoothly and without interruption. The individual worker becomes merely a cog in this machine. In such a production organization, the individual is managed and manipulated.

And in the sphere of consumption (in which the individual allegedly expresses his free choice) he is likewise managed and manipulated. Whether it be the consumption of food, clothing, liquor, cigarettes, movies, or television programs, a powerful suggestion apparatus is at work with two purposes: first, to constantly increase the individual's appetite for new commodities; and secondly, to direct these appetites into the channels most profitable for industry. Man is transformed into the consumer, the eternal suckling, whose one wish is to consume more and "better" things.


It is not that authority has disappeared, or even that it has lost its strength, but that it has been transformed from the overt authority of force to the anonymous authority of persuasion and suggestion. In other words, in order to be adaptable, modern man is obliged to nourish the illusion that everything is done with his consent, even though such consent be extracted from him by subtle manipulation. His consent is obtained, as it were, behind his back, or behind his consciousness.

This manipulation has been going on for so long now that the corporations have become country-sized economies, and the gap between rich and poor in the so-called industrialized countries and in the post-industrial economies has become nothing less than obscene. The question I ask is whether the manipulation of which Fromm speaks really does take place "behind our consciousness" and if it does, are we then victims of the system or are we responsible for a condition that has been facilitated by our own narrow consciousness?

Friday, August 26, 2011

War Minus the Shooting

If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score? Vince Lombardi

Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting. George Orwell

Competitive team sport tends to stimulate certain behaviours, both on and off the field, rink, or court, that extend beyond the parameters of the purpose and the written and unwritten rules of the game. The worst of these behaviours—brutal violence and wanton destruction of property—lead one to wonder about the nature and the value of competition and about the evolution (or lack thereof) of human consciousness.

One only has to look to events of the recent past in professional and amateur sport to glean examples of the baser instincts overcoming the more refined and rational aspects of our nature.

  • In March of this year a San Francisco Giants fan was brutally beaten in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles during a baseball game. Two Dodger fans were charged with the assault
  • In June riots erupted in Vancouver following the defeat of the local team by the Boston Bruins in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final series. Youths roamed the streets of the city for hours, burning police cars, smashing windows, and looting stores
  • On August 18 a “friendly” basketball game in Beijing between the Hoyas of Washington’s Georgetown University and a professional Chinese team ended in a brawl when one of the Chinese players pushed a Hoyas player to the floor. Fans threw chairs and full water bottles at the Georgetown team members as they hurriedly exited the stadium
  • On August 20, two people were shot at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park following a professional football game

The majority of sports fans do not come close to this level of intensity in their support of this team or that team. Yet the questions I ask myself as I read of these incidents and as I reflect on my own reactions to the rise and fall of the fortunes of my favourite teams are these: Is there something essential missing in the life of a sports fan that causes him to project his expectations onto an athletic organization? Is the satisfaction I feel when my team wins in fact an affirmation to my ego, telling me that somehow I am better than everyone who supports the loser? Does society allow us to act out our disappointment with the performance of “our team” in a way that it does not allow us to do for other disappointments in our lives—job or relationship disappointments, for example?

Consider the fans of the San Francisco Giants, 2010 World Series champions. An article in the August 22 edition of The New York Times carried the following headline: “With the World Series Champs in a Slump, a City Suffers.” The Giants, in second place in baseball’s National League West (and still with a strong chance of competing in the playoffs), have not played well in August, and as a result the euphoria over last year’s surprising championship is quickly waning. The team’s current slump “has left its fans—and much of the Giants-crazy region—in a funk.”

The article describes the situation in the home of one devoted Giants fan. The fan’s wife says “she can gauge the mood of her husband…by the way the team plays. ‘He’ll be watching the Giants in his man cave and I’ll come in and I’ll look at the score’, she said. ‘And then I’ll sort of run away.’”

I recognize a version of this behaviour in myself. For example, I rarely watch on TV full games of the teams that I like because I find the experience too nerve-racking. I yell and curse at my team for their “stupid mistakes” or their “lousy play.” While this behaviour provides a source of amusement to other members of my household, I have to admit to myself that it is not the behaviour of a well-balanced, fully aware individual. Yet I do not behave this way when things do not work out to my satisfaction in other areas of my life (except perhaps when I am cooking).

And why is it that in other arenas of competition we do not see examples of extreme “fanism” resulting in incidents of violence or destruction of property? I have never heard of a brutal assault at the world figure skating championships (well, there was the 1991 Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan incident, but I’m pretty sure that was an anomaly) or of burned-out police cars and looted department stores following the Van Cliburn piano competition.

Curling is a competitive team sport, but as far as I know no one has ended up in the hospital as a result of a dispute between curlers or curling fans. One might argue that this is because curling is not a contact sport like football or soccer or even basketball. But baseball is not a contact sport either, yet the incident at Dodger Stadium mentioned above and at least one or two bench-clearing brawls per season show that the sport is no less immune to violence than more physical contests like hockey.

I have not seen psychological or socio-economic profiles of any of the actors involved in the above-mentioned incidents. Even if I had, I am not a psychologist or a sociologist, so I really wouldn’t know what to make of such profiles. Many will say that being a sports fan allows us to harmlessly vent our frustration with other aspects of our lives. Others will claim that watching sports and everything that goes with that pastime are nothing more than innocent fun. They may have a point.

Yet I do feel a sense of disquiet about how we allow our emotions to be manipulated by organized sport. This permitted manipulation says as much about us and our level of consciousness as it does about the big business of sport. If we sat back and non-judgmentally observed our reactions to the wins and losses of our teams (or to the performance of our children at the rink or on the field), we might in fact learn a great deal about ourselves. What do these reactions tell us about how happy—or more important, how unhappy—we are? What do they tell us about how we function in other areas of our lives? Perhaps they are pointing to issues that we need to deal with.

Competition pervades our everyday lives. It is present in the I’m right/you’re wrong scenarios that constantly play themselves out between spouses, partners, and friends, in the urge to get ahead of all the cars on the road in front of us, in the need to impress others with our grades, our salary, our beautiful significant other. That the thrill of winning or succeeding in all of these competitions is temporary and often comes at a cost should tell us something about the nature of competition and of our apparent need to win.

Is there something wrong with organized competitive team sport? I am not sure. But I do wonder if we’d be able to sit down at a baseball game or a football game simply for the pleasure of watching a group of highly trained athletes perform the magic of executing a play that no ordinary human could pull off, for the thrill of seeing a beautifully choreographed double play or a successful thirty-yard pass and run, regardless of which team produces the goods.

Or maybe I’m just an old spoilsport.


Creative Commons: Some rights reserved

Creative Commons: Some rights reserved

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Midnight in Paris": A Review

I have seen this movie twice this summer and have been moved each time by the beautifully imagined and realized journeys into Paris of the 1920s and, more briefly, of La Belle Époque taken by the protagonist Gil Pender (played by Owen Wilson), a screenwriter and aspiring novelist with a strongly romantic bent. How seductive the salons, bars, nightclubs, and cobbled and gaslit streets where a writer can commune with the likes of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein and listen to Cole Porter play and sing the music that became standards of the American songbook. The seduction becomes more intense when Gil meets the classically beautiful Adriana, lover of Picasso, Modigliani, and others. It is no wonder that he sits on the church steps night after night waiting for the bell to chime midnight and for the ancient cab to pull up and transport him to another encounter with his literary and artistic heroes or with Adriana, who is drawing him away from the increasingly distasteful present-day prospect of marriage to a woman entirely unsuited to his nature.

Gil Pender is a successful Hollywood screenwriter. He is also a very unhappy Hollywood screenwriter; he has long wanted to write a novel and is currently working on a story about a man who owns a nostalgia shop. Gil has come to Paris with his fiancée, Inez, the shallow, snobbish daughter of rich, conservative, and shallow, snobbish parents. It is clear from the start that these two are absolutely not meant for each other. Gil adores Paris and wants to stay; he loves wandering the streets—even in the rain, perhaps especially in the rain—exploring the little shops, watching people in the sidewalk cafés. He believes that Paris is where he can finish his novel, completing the transformation from Hollywood hack to true writer. Inez, on the other hand, is the stereotypical philistine American tourist: Paris is okay but…. When she meets up with another American couple, she is immediately taken up with the excruciatingly pedantic Paul, who knows everything about everything French. Gil is repulsed by the falsehood of this little circle and begins spending more time on his own.

One night when Gil has once again opted out of spending time with in the tedious company of Paul and his girlfriend—and Inez—Gil gets lost on his way back to the hotel. He ends up sitting on the steps of a church just before midnight. As the church bell begins to chime the hour, a gleaming 1920 Peugeot Landaulet pulls up to the curb and stops. The cab’s passengers, clearly in a festive spirit fuelled by champagne, urge him into the car. Gil quickly gives in to their exhortations to join them in their revelry and is whisked off to a lively party at a timeless location in the City of Light.

At the party Gil soon becomes aware that the company is unusual. The fellow playing the piano and singing is remarkably like Cole Porter and a young woman introduces herself as Zelda Fitzgerald; when she learns Gil is a writer she calls out to “Scott” to come and meet him. The look on Gil’s face when he realizes where he has landed is worth the price of admission alone. The romantic young novelist is soon swept into the literary world of the Fitzgeralds. He meets Hemingway, then Stein, then Picasso. And he meets Adriana (gorgeously and deliciously played by Marion Cotillard), the wistful romantic who mirrors his own character.

Night after night he returns to the church and to the literary and artistic world of the twenties to which he has become so romantically attached. It is interesting that screenwriter/director Woody Allen has made all the great figures into caricatures: the self-absorbed Zelda, the party-loving Fitzgerald, the cliché-spouting Hemingway, the grandiloquently vapid Dali. When Gil asks Hemingway to read his manuscript, the great man defers to Stein, who offers the most unhelpful advice—in fact, it is no advice at all.

It is only Gil’s mirror image, and his love object, Adriana, who is a fully developed character. Gil of 2010 loves the 1920’s; Adriana of the Jazz Age is drawn to La Belle Époque. And when an elegant carriage conducts them to Maxim’s and they meet Lautrec, Degas, and Matisse, who offer Adriana the opportunity to remain in the golden age of Paris, Gil realizes the folly of trying to live in a past era and spurns her offer to remain with her.

Meanwhile in his daytime wanderings, Gil has met Gabrielle, the proprietor of a shop that specializes in old records. He is drawn to the shop one day when he hears the singing voice of Cole Porter—the same voice he heard at the magical party. He chats briefly with Gabrielle, who is attractive and warm but definitely not the siren that Adriana represents. Nevertheless, the viewer senses a certain wisdom in Gabrielle and the vague initiation of a kinship between them.

I will not reveal the final unfolding of the plot although the astute reader will likely have guessed. Suffice it to say that Gil not only recognizes that we must all live in the now, but more important, we must all be who we really are; as long as we continue to deny our true nature, our true path, our true bliss, we will remain in a confused and conflicted condition.

Wonderful performances by all the players, including the caricatured jazz-age celebrities. My personal favourites are Marion Cotillard (you cannot take your eyes off her when she is on screen), Kathy Bates (a favourite in everything she does), and Adrian Brody as Dali. I wonder how long it will take viewers to realize who Owen Wilson is channelling as Gil.

All in all, this is both a charming and deeply meaningful film.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Plumber and the Lawyer

I'm reading Anthony de Mello's book Awareness again and last night came to the chapter entitled "Obstacles to Happiness." Here de Mello says:

You're a success in life when you wake up! Then you don't have to apologize to anyone, you don't have to explain anything to anyone, you don't give damn what anybody thinks about you or what anybody says about you. You have no worries; you're happy. That's what I call being a success. Having a good job or being famous or having a great reputation has absolutely nothing to do with happiness or success. Nothing! It is totally irrelevant.
As he does so often in this book, he tells a humorous story to illustrate his point:

Did you hear about the lawyer who was presented with a plumber's bill? He said to the plumber, "Hey, you're charging me two hundred dollars an hour. I don't make that kind of money as a lawyer." The plumber said, "I didn't make that kind of money when I was a lawyer either!"

Image by

Keith Williamson @

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Robert Duvall's "The Apostle": A Review

When Robert Duvall tried to get financial backing to make his film The Apostle, he was turned down. Executives told him that there was too much dialogue. Duvall’s reply was that if there was one thing that characterized all preachers, it was their ability and propensity to talk, from morning till night; Jesus talk was a preacher’s stock in trade.

The idea of playing a “holiness”—or Pentecostal—preacher came to Duvall some twenty-five years before he actually made the film; he wrote the screenplay fifteen years before The Apostle became a big-screen reality. The project had become such a large part of his soul that he ended up putting up five million dollars of his own money just so that he could get it done. Praise the Lord and thank him for inspiring Robert Duvall to make this movie. From those who have seen it, let me hear an “Amen.”

I love Robert Duvall. One of my favorite movies is Tender Mercies, for which he won the Oscar for best actor. The subtle evolution and partial redemption of the country singer/composer Mac Sledge was masterfully portrayed by Mr. Duvall and the award was richly deserved. I recently watched The Great Santini, in which Duvall plays the role of Lt. Col. Bull Meechum, the tough, deeply troubled commander of Marine unit and family unit. Duvall was brilliant. Of course, his performance as the subtly humiliated consigliore to the Corleone family in The Godfather was remarkable for its understatement. I have already talked about his role in the remarkable True Confessions (here).

The first time I saw The Apostle I would have agreed with those movie executives: too much preaching—so much Jesus talk from Duvall’s character that it simply overwhelmed the story. I thought that Duvall, who appears in nearly every scene (quite a feat, actually, given that he also directed the film), was being somewhat self-indulgent. Duvall’s 1998 interview with Charlie Rose and a second viewing of the film caused me to change my mind.

Once Duvall had secured the funding to make The Apostle, he visited large numbers of holiness churches, white, black, and integrated, in the southern United States. He met preachers famous and unknown. In nearly every case he was impressed with both the sincerity and the preaching skill of these men of God (I don’t think he mentioned any women) and imbued the character of Sonny Dewey, also known as the Apostle E.F. in the movie with these characteristics, which come out not only in Sonny’s preaching—and yes, there is indeed a great deal of it—but also in his love for the little church he establishes and for the community that grows within and without its walls.

Euliss “Sonny” Dewey’s roots are deep in southern evangelism. In the opening scenes of the film we see him as a four-year-old sitting in a black church with his nanny listening to an old blind preacher, who is shouting, stomping, prancing around the pulpit at the front of the church: “Can you say ‘Yeah, Lord’? Yeah, Lord! Yeah Lord! Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Jesus!” Later we see him as a twelve-or thirteen-year-old prodigy preacher, delivering the fiery message himself in another black church.

Sonny Dewey is a good man, a man of God. But he is not without flaws, some of which are serious. After he discovers his wife having an affair and after he is voted out of a church he created, he commits a terrible act and is forced to flee and to live life in a far-off town not as Sonny Dewey but as “the Apostle E.F.”

It is impossible for the Apostle to remain hidden, however. He needs to preach, he needs to praise the Lord in a loud voice, and he needs to create and lead a faith community. With the help of a retired local pastor, he renovates an old church and through radio sermons, charity work, and the sheer power of his belief and his charisma, quickly builds a devoted congregation.

Even after he is found and goes to prison, he continues to preach. In the final scene of the film he is leading a road gang of convicted criminals in a litany of praise to Jesus.

The Apostle/Sonny Dewey is a complex man—a man with a big heart, a big ego, big desires and appetites. He can beat the daylights out of a cracker who acts disrespectfully in his church and be as tender and as forgiving as an angel when that same man comes back with a bulldozer to knock the church down. He is clever and resourceful, impish and cute, passionate and explosively violent. He knows who he is and never pretends to anyone that he is a saint.

Robert Duvall lived with Sonny for twenty-five years before making The Apostle. It is impossible to imagine any other actor who could play this role with the same power, the same nuance, the same conviction.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What's up with Gay (-themed) Movies? (A sort-of) Conclusion

As I was re-watching these films it quickly became clear that I had rendered a rather harsh assessment in my brief introduction to this series of reviews. Obviously I had not watched the movies carefully and thoughtfully the first time around (I guess the reason for that is rather obvious), so I am now quite prepared to eat a little crow.

While coughing up feathers in the most dignified manner possible under the circumstances, I will point out that four of the movies reviewed are romantic comedies, and IMHO, this genre does not, by its very nature, produce cinematic masterpieces. Indeed, while rom-coms like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally are memorable and even support a re-watching every few years, they do not fit into the category of thought-provoking or artistic cinema.

Three of the films are what we might call straightforward dramas, although the stories are vastly different. I do not think that I would be interested in seeing or writing about Food of Love or Boys Love again; I suspect that two viewings have pretty much exhausted the nuance of both the story and the characters in each of these movies. Mysterious Skin, on the other hand, offers depths that I have not yet explored, so horrifying as it is to watch, it is equally fascinating and definitely worth further study.

Lilies defies classification for me at this point. As I said in my review, there may be no subtext at all and what we see in terms of story may be all we get. I am certainly willing to give this movie another look and even more looks after that, just for the sheer pleasure of it if for no other reason.

What about other gay movies? I have seen a few online, including several shorts. None has impressed me as “great” or memorable. I have been intrigued by some that I see listed on but they have been too expensive for me to justify purchasing on my limited budget.

And just what is a “gay movie” anyway? At least two of the directors, perhaps three (I am not sure about Ventura Pons, who directed Food of Love), of the eight films I reviewed are straight. Many of the actors are straight. Taiwanese director Ang Lee has demonstrated that a straight man can make a powerful, beautiful, and sensitive film about gay men; Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal showed that two straight men can make us believe that they love each other in the way that gay men love each other. In fact, we would never have been able to see the film if “Brokeback Mountain” had not first been a heart-wrenching short story written by (straight) novelist Annie Proulx.

Then we have the gay writer Paul Rudnick who penned In & Out, a movie I would gladly pay not to have to see again.

Monday, August 8, 2011

What's up with Gay (-themed) Movies? Part 8: Mysterious Skin

Mysterious Skin
This is a harrowing, moving, brilliant film—a film I find more difficult to watch with each viewing. Director Gregg Araki has adapted Scott Heim’s novel (which I have not read, but it is in my cart at into a nuanced visual tale of child abuse and its effect on two boys and the young men they become.

That Neil and Brian are both outsiders is clear by the time they are eight years old, which is where the film begins. Neil, whose single mother courts a steady succession of boyfriends, drinks too much, and dreams of her ship coming in while holding down a job as a supermarket cashier, already knows that he is gay. When his mom, obviously looking for a way to fill the child-care gap she has created by her lifestyle, enrols him in little league baseball, he is immediately smitten by the coach, a handsome Robert Redford type. Coach is a virtuoso pedophile who quickly recognizes the perfect victim in Neil and begins abusing him. He abuses other boys as well, but Neil, whose need—apparently both sexual and emotional—for a man’s love makes him believe in Coach, is his favourite.

Brian is a different story. A sensitive boy who is scorned by his father and overprotected by his mother, he is abused by Coach on two occasions, one of them when Neil is present and a participant. Brian is profoundly traumatized by the incidents and is plagued by fainting spells, bed wetting, and nightmares. The blackouts and the nightmares—and his highly active imagination—lead him to believe, even as a young man, that he was kidnapped by aliens at the age of eight. A series of meetings and small epiphanies result in the realization that another boy was somehow involved, and that boy was his baseball teammate Neil McCormick.

As an adolescent, Neil begins a career as a hustler. He starts out in the small town in which he grew up but eventually follows his childhood friend Wendy to New York, where the money is better but the “clients” are more sophisticated and more potentially deadly. Wendy finally convinces Neil to get a “normal” job at a sandwich shop, but one night on the way home from work he is accosted by a john and takes the bait. The john takes him to his apartment in Brighton Beach where he beats him savagely and rapes him. It is two days before Christmas. Neil’s mother has bought him a plane ticket to go home to Kansas the next day.

Meanwhile Brian has met Neil’s mother and Neil’s friend Eric. Eric and Brian become close (and some of the most touching scenes in the film involve the sensitive straight boy and the outlandishly gay Eric) and both await Neil’s return. Brian and a somehow changed Neil meet and Neil agrees to tell Brian what happened on that night at Coach’s house. In the final scenes of the movie Neil and Brian are in Coach’s house (now occupied by a “nice, normal” family, who just happen to be out on Christmas Eve so the boys can conveniently break in). They are on the living room sofa, Neil sitting and Brian with his head on Neil’s lap and Neil tenderly stroking his hair as he relates the horrifying details of the night of abuse a decade earlier. Neil does not dilute the story, nor does he have any expectation that the revelation will be cathartic for Brian. But we know that from this moment, the boys’ journey will perhaps begin to take a slightly different direction.

Apart from the cinematically beautiful telling of the story itself, the acting in this film is outstanding. Joseph-Gordon-Levitt as Neil is tough, tender, and sexy by turns and always believable. Brady Corbet as Brian is note perfect: confused, lost, angry, loving, determined, his character is revealed beautifully in all its touching complexity. The friends Wendy and Eric are also delightful.

One of my favourite scenes in this film occurs when Neil is in New York. He is in a bar where he usually picks up clients. The bar is dark and Neil is standing in a deliberately nonchalantly provocative pose. A man at a corner table lights a cigarette and approaches him. As he comes into the light we see that he is a Native American and that he is obviously not well. He takes Neil back to his room, which is all in white except for a large print of Vermeer’s Girl with the Golden Earring above the bed. The man is clearly of a highly sensitive nature, perhaps an artist himself. He undresses Neil and remarks on his beauty: “You are exquisite.” Then as he undresses himself, we see the lesions that afflict victims of AIDS (the setting was 1991). He tells Neil not to worry, that “This is going to be the safest encounter you ever had” and asks only for a backrub. Like Viola Davis in Doubt, this actor is only on the screen for a few moments but the depth of his portrayal -- of a man with AIDS so desperately in need to simply be touched -- is profound and unforgettable.

Mysterious Skin is a must-see.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What's up with Gay (-themed) Movies? Part 7: Lilies


This is a very different “gay” film. Having watched it twice now, I cannot help thinking that there is some kind of political subtext going on but I don’t know enough about Quebec history and culture to be able to figure out what it might be. Then again, I may simply be imagining that there is more to Lilies than comes off the screen. At any rate, I think it is an example of wonderful filmmaking.

The story begins in 1952 as the local bishop arrives at a prison to hear the confession of a dying inmate, a man that His Excellency apparently knows from the distant past. It soon becomes clear that this will not be a routine confession as the bishop finds himself confined to the confessional and forced to watch a drama enacted by the fellow inmates of the penitent.

The drama, in which all the characters are played by the inmates, and are all therefore played by males, portrays events in the lives of three Quebecois adolescents that occurred in 1912. It begins with the rehearsal of a school play, “The Death of St. Sebastian,” in which the role of the nearly naked, about-to-be-martyred saint is played by a youthful version of the penitent, Simon. Sebastian’s friend, who has been ordered by Caesar to kill him, is played by Simon’s classmate Vallier, a young man who is clearly in love with Simon. Into this highly erotic scene enter the young Bilodeau, who professes to be disgusted by this display of perversion but who is actually also in love with Simon. Simon prefers Vallier. He mocks Bilodeau’s scorn by tying him up and kissing him passionately.

The drama proceeds, seamlessly moving between the setting of the prison chapel and scenes in flashback to the village where the real-life drama took place 40 years before. Vallier’s mother, an impoverished French countess (gorgeously portrayed by Brent Carver), mentions the kiss in front of Simon’s father and the boy is beaten so severely he renounces his gay affair with Vallier and takes up with a visiting countess from Paris. It soon becomes apparent to the countess that Simon does not love her, but to preserve her dignity, the engagement is formalized and the couple plan to travel to Paris.

Meanwhile, Vallier confesses his love for Simon to his mother, who takes it upon herself to test Simon. She crashes the engagement party, followed by Vallier dressed as Caesar. Forced to choose between the countess and Vallier (in the presence of his father), Simon obeys the countess’s order to prepare for the next day’s departure for Paris. Vallier returns home defeated but finds the birthday gift his mother has rescued from the purgatory of rejected household items: an old bathtub. He strips naked and soaks in the tub, finally opening his eyes to see that his beloved has returned to him. In a touching and erotic scene the two make love in the bathtub.

Throughout all these events Bilodeau has been hovering, all the while displaying his jealousy and attempting to influence Simon to favour him. When he is finally and firmly rejected by Simon, he commits a horrendous act of murder and blames it on Simon, who of course ends up in prison for forty years.

Bilodeau becomes a priest.

Highly recommended.