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  • This movie came out briefly in one theater in Los Angeles and then disappeared. Why I don't know, because it was a fascinating look back into the gay life in the 50's and 60's when everything was kind of hidden and hush-hush. The other fantastic thing about it was its focus on the great singer Frances Faye. Mention her name now and most people would have a blank look on their faces - which is too bad because this great talent deserves more recognition. I just can't understand WHY this movie hasn't been released on DVD. Something is wrong because every other film -good and bad- eventually is put on DVD. This film is GOOD..........so come on guys - get it out there!!!!!!
  • Bruce Weber's movies are the upscale gay man's version of those Starbucks jazz CD's. There's something authentic in there somewhere, but in the making it's been banalized out of existence Everything in Weber-World reeks of white terrycloth bathrobes, running with terriers on the beach, cheekbones, white teeth, gaily laughing women in pajamas, and all the other images that are permanently encoded in our brain as Polo-specific. Weber can be photographing a thalidomide wino or the desiccated face of a seventyish Robert Mitchum, and somehow it all comes out like the glossy welcome brochure at an A-list hotel. CHOP SUEY purports to spread wider and dig deeper as it is Weber's record of his obsession with Peter Johnson, a high-school athlete Weber commemorated in torrential, Dantean detail. But Weber continues to pretend that he's only interested in "beauty"--and that his interest in Johnson stems from the wrestler's being what Weber could never be (beautiful, I guess). There's no sex in Weber's voiceover explanation of his Aschenbach-like dwelling on this gorgeous nobody, and thus Weber is able not to be homosexual. Weber plunges into denial as passionately as he falls into reverie. He means for the movie to be a fantasist's autobiography, and also a highly self-conscious arrangement of Weber in the history of American photography (quotes from Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon and Larry Clark abound). But what comes across is a guy who is trapped in an upmarket carnival of surfaces. Weber is more interested in his Josh Hartnettesque models' torsos and legs than even in their faces; for Weber, pornography is not a projection of a psychological state but simply a record of physical perfection. He seems to throw uglinesses at us in this movie as a means, again, of denying his own predilections. He may enjoy presenting us with an old, ugly female cabaret singer, or the mummylike visage of Diana Vreeland, but he certainly has no interest in copulating with them. So why put up this front of "romanticism"? There's nothing romantic about the movie--maybe partly because, unlike masturbatory artists from Genet to Larry Clark, Weber doesn't investigate or push or worry his desires. He doesn't even take them at face value. He fanatically perfumes them. This makes everything feel hollow, personalityless, and fake--just like the stuff Weber makes at his day job.
  • This is a lush and sometimes loud film by the photographer who brings you the A&F catalogue every 3 months, Bruce Weber. His previous subjects were the jazz "great" (my own anti-jazz bias) Chet Baker and the obscure if not downright lost film "Backyard Movies" that I've lusted after since seeing it one bleary night in Minneapolis, when, 1992?

    Mr. Weber's unerring eye for beauty and culture are pleasantly shared, as is his fantastic photo collection, his historic archival footage with the likes of Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue magazine, the slacker surfing champions that are "Nixon's Neighbors," an obscure English adventurer, and his own personal and professional anecdotes.

    And, oh yeah, he shares Peter Johnson with us. (A man/boy with two names for "penis," though that cheap joke shortchanges his phenomenal looks and carriage.) Mr. Johnson is alternately the direct subject and the audience for the stories in Chop Suey.

    The book "Chop Suey Club," already a collector's item, is so obviously a labor of love, and the movie lets us in on some of Peter Johnson's allure and charm. Still, Johnson is not exactly a presence to be reckoned with, though his modeling is clearly in the heart-stopping/stellar range. It's slightly embarrassing to watch the young Wisconsin father sit through old stories told by aging queens, until he whips out the atrocious aplomb apparent in his still photos by dancing with a big black poodle.

    Mr. Weber practically comes right out with his infatuation for Peter Johnson, telling the story of a parallel gay editor/straight model relationship, "...nobody loved you better." Then in the narrative, "...sometimes we photograph what we're afraid we missed." "Chop Suey" wants to keep history alive while extolling keeping history alive; as told through a survivor in a 31 year lesbian partnership, "I thought I lost my best friend, but I have all these photos and memories and she's still with me. That's the way it's supposed to be."

    I longed for quiet in some of the more lyrically poetic image sequences. I thought the underwater shots of swimming dogs and boys in gowns, or the boys sleepy in the back seat of a car, black and white film stock creamy, movement slowed to a languid, trippy pace, invited a more sparce aural accompaniment, images lingering slightly longer.

    I would give this film a full ten out of ten if it didn't feel so much like a vanity project. A generous vanity project to be sure, but still, I tend to feel somehow duped or guilty if I overly enjoy watching such blatant narcissism.

    I saw it 3 times.
  • With no thru-plot line and inconsistent cinematography, a viewer's appreciation of this unexpectedly fascinating film will in large part depend on their interest in the variety modern American culture has to offer and other people's old photo albums. I sat down to sample a copy of this unfortunately obscure film expecting to spend only a few minutes, but got wrapped up in it and could scarcely tear myself away.

    What it is is nothing less than a scrapbook of three decades of American cultural life from the point of view of one of its premiere photographers. Bruce Webber, known by many for his innovative commercial ad work, and by many others for his studies of male nudes, simultaneously gives us a revelation of what it is to be an artist and loving memoirs of jazz singer Frances Faye and iconic designer/editor Diana Vreeland, all mixed with Webber's own highly personalized photos and home movies. It's a heady mix and pure art at its best. CHOP SUEY is not a "gay film" per se, but a gay sensibility is clearly present in the telling.

    Many film fans have "test films" for friends and prospective lovers they are getting serious with - if they like a particular film they "get" the test giver. I'd strongly recommend this film (if one can find a copy - as of this writing, no easy feat) as a close to ideal "test" film for anyone who claims to be open to new experiences and any test giver who wants to measure the breadth of cultural exposure, true sophistication and tolerance of the person tested. I'd not be entirely comfortable with children being exposed to anyone who hated this film or, to be honest, anyone who hated this film being allowed to breed.

    The "7 of 10" rating is only so low in recognition of the resistance some will have to the "stream of consciousness" organization of the piece. For anyone else, it's an enthralling experience.
  • Colin Roth21 September 2002
    This is a wonderful, moving assemblage of fragmentary experiences which, held together only by the voices of Bruce

    Weber and his friends, gently carries you into the heart of the

    deepest aesthetic wonder. More than any other film I have seen,

    this one embodies, 'here is the glory of art, the sheer white heat of

    its passion in making and feeling'.

    Perhaps you need to be a Bruce Weber afficionado to be this

    turned on; perhaps you have to share his wonderful obsessions -

    but I don't think so, because the whole point of the film is that

    *everyone* has the capacity to feel this strongly, to be this in touch

    with the way they feel. We may not all be able to take a great

    photograph to record the experience, but we can treasure the

    intensity of feeling it.

    As he always has done, while he tantalises me with beautiful

    images, he also introduces me to something - this time the

    singing of Francis Faye - that I hadn't experienced before. And as

    with Chet Baker (in Let's Get Lost), I'm looking forward to having

    my musical life enriched by the introduction when I go and find

    some of her recordings.

    What worried me? That passage near the beginning on Tower

    Bridge with La Traviata's 'life is passing; you can live it to the full if I

    am strong and leave you to live without me'. This film is a

    wonderful gift from BW, and I hope this (and the other little clues

    he drops on the way) aren't hinting that he thinks he's moving on,

    because Bruce Weber has brought a light into my life that I'm not

    ready to lose just yet.

    Oh, and if you've seen the book and Peter Johnson, you'll wish

    there was more of him; for he seems a really nice (sorry, this is a

    UK way of putting it) bloke, someone you'd like to meet and make

    friends with, not just the most beautiful man you've ever seen. I

    wish there was more in the film of Peter too, but more than that, I

    want more of BW's obsessions, more of his capacity to see and to

    show.

    This is a seriously beautiful film. Go see, and then go look at your

    own world. Bruce Weber will have helped you to see more of it.
  • This film is a documentary directed by Bruce Weber, who is an internationally famous photographer. Weber's specialty is in photographing male nudes and Chop Suey is full of male nudity (all done tastefully). In particular, the film highlights (or celebrates) the physical beauty of one Peter Johnson, an actor/model with a great and lean physical build. Weber's camera is in love with Johnson. The film also highlights Weber's other passions, including the music of singer Frances Faye, as well as the "coolness" of actor Robert Mitchum. Chop Suey is basically a cinematic scrapbook of one man's passions and interests. There is hardly anything that can be called a "story" to link the various episodes that occur in this film together. But the film is distinguished by its excellent use of black and white (as well as color) photography--so it at least looks good (as one might expect, being photographed as it is by a professional photographer). However, ultimately one gets the sense that Chop Suey will appeal mainly (or perhaps only) to those (i) who also share Weber's passion of looking at great looking guys (often nude), and/or (ii) who find the idea of watching a film that often feels like a feature-length version of Calvin Klein's Eternity commercial even remotely appealing. If you don't fit into either of the above categories, heed my warning and skip this baby.
  • This felt a lot like DEATH IN VENICE, CA to me, who arrived at UCLA at 17 looking better than Peter Johnson and knowing who Frances Faye was from hip parents in Cosmo SF and the "in" crowd that was very rich and filled with artsier geniuses in posher houses.I hung out at the Interlude which was as gay as I was straight almost every night before enrolling at UCLA. The owners and the bar fans of mine and Frances' were my first taste of the gay world.In SF it was not happening yet except for decorators. It was there that I met Teri and became good friends for years and she introduced me to a lot of players in the film although I was much more white tennis sweater looking and acting and had a life in the Bel Air movie star tennis group within weeks. I did not meet Weber till NY which became my mid point on my way to Paris where I moved after dropping out of school.CHOP SUEY does have a wonderful feel to repression and Bruce's love for Peter who is really charming as his sexual preference is shielded even when he wears dresses and hugs elephants while nude on a beach. Nearly ALL of my favorite friends and some icons are there like a scrapbook to look at although I did miss a Weston or two.Henry Miller, Cocteau and Mitchum are joyful to see as it was to play with them once. Mostly, it is a lot of beautiful young men who never appealed to me at any time, but, to his credit, Weber crammed the faces with the gorgeous past and many parts of where I first learned that there were only '10,000 people in the world' thinking.Had Weber been handsome, he would never have become the success he did. It is kind of sad to think that, but, I revert to loving this indulgent postcard which fits just fine into my own past which had an equally innocent beginning as Johnson's.
  • There are interesting pieces here of and about Bruce Weber's likes and dislikes. Maybe if a professional editor had put it together for Biography, I would have felt more satisfied. Instead, I spent $8 at a film festival on it. For an autobiography, almost nothing is revealed about Bruce Weber, other than he likes to look at photographs, shoot interesting people, especially beautiful teenage boys, and listen to jazz. The director of "Crumb" would have made a much more interesting and cohesive film.
  • This movie is essentially a "how-to" on how to be a well-connected pedophile. I'm amazed that so many people-- especially other gay men-- have seen this movie and read the book and no one has brought up the fact that if Weber was not an influential photographer, he would be in jail, doing time for child abuse. Poor Peter Johnson. Weber took this poor, naive (although incredibly handsome) teenager whom he found at a training camp for high school wrestlers in the Midwest, brought him to live in his home, and took thousands of homoerotic photos of him, many of them full-frontal nudes, all through Johnson's teenage years. That ain't art. It's child abuse. And what's worse, Weber made lots of money off of it, and poor Johnson is going to have serious "issues" the rest of his life. Weber's lecherous love of the boy is downright creepy, as are his ramblings about famous (and not so famous) people he's known, as he tries to complete Johnson's "education." Creepy, and then just plain boring. The only redeeming thing I can say about the movie is that it is a fascinating study of self-deception. But I can't help but wonder why no one ever considered the effect this was having on "Chop Suey" (Weber's nickname for Johnson) himself.