Tuesday, June 20, 2006

30th San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, aka Frameline 30: Day 4

With 'only' four features today, I finally stumbled upon two gems, one of which ended the day in near (or was it actual?) brilliance! In sequential order, I started the day with:

"EYE ON THE GUY: ALAN B. STONE & THE AGE OF BEEFCAKE" (dirs Philip Lewis & Jean-Francois Monette 2005 Canada 49 min video) and a selection of Alan B. Stone's physique films from the Archives gaies du Quebec. Not necessarily a 'brilliant' documentary, but MORE than interesting! (At least to me!) In less than an hour, this little documentary packed a great deal of information! This was more than just a stroll through Stone's beefcake photos. It was fairly successful in its attempt to not only provide a biography of him (he died in 1992), but it also includes a sociological snapshot of the decades that his work was most popular, a fairly comprehensive analysis and overview of his ENTIRE body of work which included landscapes and portraits, as well as including profiles of some of his most popular models via interviews with them today. Though this subject might appear to be frivolous, if not right exploitiveveive, its conclusion actually lauds Stone and his part in tapping into the identity of gay culture through consumerism. (Though unsaid, one could relate that to the merchandising circus that Gay Pride has become.) If anything, it only whetted my appetite to learn more, which I attempted during the Q&A and cornered one of the directors after the screening with more questions. I asked about what happened to material that was subject to a number of raids in 1960-61, and found out that the material was returned as they won their cases in court. (The Weider Brothers provided attorneys to argue the artistic merits of the photographs.) Also, I wanted to know how they managed an interview with Ben Weider, whose organization is nearly phobic when it comes to the subject of homosexuality and bodybuilders. I was told that Mr. Weider would not address any questions that pertained to that subject, but would only speak about the artistic merit of Stone's photos. I also asked about whether they (the Quebec Gay Archives) obtained original prints or just the publications. I was informed that Stone's sister donated nearly the entirety of his work to the QGA, which was 90% negatives, as he did not keep the prints in archive, except for the proof sheets. I also asked about the availability of this documentary and was pointed toward the QGA. The documentary was followed by four short silent 8mm films that Stone apparently made, as examples of some of his cinema work, which he was apparently not so interested in. They have some value as historical pieces, however they do compare to what he was able to do in still photography.

"FOLLOW MY VOICE: WITH THE MUSIC OF HEDWIG" (dir Katherine Linton 2005 USA 110 min) was the next documentary of the day, and proved to be quite the crowd (aka star seekers) pleaser. The director was present, along with John Cameron Mitchell who fielded questions during the Q&A, and Jonathan Richman, who was in the audience. This is more than just a 'making of' regarding the "Hedwig and the Angry Inch - Tribute Album" which was recorded to benefit the Harvey Milk High School in New York City. Though there is a good deal of footage of the various artists who recorded tracks, the heart of the piece is the profiles of a handful of the students as they prepare to graduate. They relate their experiences with their families and schools before attending the high school, and a couple of the stories are quite compelling. Considering the nearly disastrous technical difficulties during the screening, the film still was fairly effective. (It received a tentative standing ovation.) The Q&A seemed to be more interested in JCM's life than the project itself. It may have been a bit inappropriate of him to pitch "Short Bus" in the way he did, since THIS film is about and for the teens at HMHS. I asked the director a fairly complicated question regarding how this experience may have inspired the students own creativity, and she had no answer as she hadn't seemed to have followed up with them. Ah well.

"THE FAVOR" (dir Pablo Sofovich 2003 Argentina 79 mins 35mm) was an extremely frenetic farce involving a lesbian couple's attempt to be impregnated by the disapproving brother-in-law. It seemed to be nearly a photographed play (I do not know if it IS based on a stage play) and the cast played it nearly that hard, too. Some audience members found EXTREMELY hilarious! It does have its moments, but it was working SO HARD that it wore me out. I was also anxious to leave the Castro to run over to the Victoria for the final flick of the night.

"WHISPERING MOON" ("Das flustern des mondes")(dir Michael Satzinger 2005 Austria 97 min) is inspirationally conceived and brilliantly executed! Shot in digital video, it begins as a surveillance camera shot of a young man being interrogated. He tells his tale via images stored on a computer, which are themselves surveillance shots. As the story of how he and his boyfriend were investigating a series of strange deaths related to poisonous tree frogs, he graphically manipulates the images to suit the narrative he is compelled to speak about. The story takes place in a not-so-distant future where the reality of media has been questioned, i.e. even the moon landing has been proven to be staged. And from that point of virtual paranoia, the characters, the story and even the production itself plays with the reality of what the director created. Satzinger seems to be playing with the audience in that the video we are watching is his creation to change at his whim, and therefore constantly reminding us that any cinematic or dramatic reality that the we have accepted is actually a fiction. And he does so in completely justifiable ways within the narrative and visual style he has chosen." Never did I feel that he became gimmicky or self-indulgent. Everything he did was to forward the narrative and at the same time, toy with the audience's experience of the reality of that narrative. The piece is ART and it is brilliant! I. LOVED. IT!! (Ironically, for such a technical piece, there are no apparent websites regarding the film or the production company! I'll have to work through the print source email to GET A COPY!!)

1 comment:

Maxxxxx said...

re "Eye On The Guy...": Whoooooo!
re "Follow My Voice...": Doobie doobie dooo-ooo!
re "The Favor": Time for tv?
re "Whispering Moon": Sweet, sweet eye juice!!