Friday, June 30, 2006

To TOP Off June Pride Month - A bit of gay erotica!

Seeing as this IS Gay Pride Month, here in San Francisco anyway, and that erotica, or pornography as some would call it, is also an art form that sits beside and within cinema and stage, I feel compelled to post my perceptions on the latest flick from the Colt Studio Group. [In the spirit of full disclosure, I must state that I have developed a close friendship with one of the performers in the following film. However, as some of you painfully know, that doesn't keep me from airing my opinions.]

"Dual: Taking It Like A Man" (director John Rutherford, US, 90 mins, dvd) is the latest video from that fabulously masculine erotic factory, recently rechristened as the Colt Media Group. It features seven performers divided into four sequences of pairs. (One performer pops up (ha!) twice.) Since such work tends to dispense with plot (there is NO dialogue), it is best to look at the individual sequences and then relate them together as a whole.

The first sequence is the hardest core of the four. It features Carlo Masi and Skye Woods in full leather drag, apparently set in an alley of sorts. First off, the production values are sort of artificial here. It harkens back to the videos of the '80s with it's harsh lighting and stiff angles that are necessary due to the scene being staged against a wall for all practical purposes. However, as the disc continues, this may have been the point, as the video progresses to more glossier, and ultimately polished production values. The artificiality also makes what could be slightly disturbing action easier to take in. Masi and Woods look great here and play the top/bottom - (soft core) S/M scene in predictable style. Personally, I find this style bordering on posturing, which I suppose is the point. However, once the action begins, it does lend itself to a certain carnal enjoyment. I do take exception to one short sequence in which Masi spits into Woods mouth and continues spitting on his face. I understand that it is a performance, however I can't really get behind this kind of degrading in sexual situations, whether real or fantasy, as I don't really like to think that some guys get off on watching that. That said, the sequence is short enough, that a simple chapter skip will get you into some really well positioned and staged fucking. Mr. Woods does indeed 'take it like a man' in the scene and is able to show off his great body while still being plowed by Mr. Masi.

Section two features Karim and Jake Andrews in a bedroom setting. The setting is cleaner and photographed in a much more natural light than Section one. The sequence begins with Andrews asleep as Karim enters, in what might be considered the 'morning after of a trick'. Or at least that is how I saw it. The pair are the oldest of the cast, however they're still quite hot! Karim is a very big man. He enters, ready for more of what I imagine he had the night before. Andrews is an exceptionally gifted 'bottom' and is able to orally fulfill Karim's every whim, in what I can only call, breathtaking abandon! The only hesitation I have during this sequence is cosmetic. Andrews has a distractingly placed tattoo that encircles just below his waist. The bed is huge, which allows a staging of mutual oral stimulation (ok! just say it! 69'ing!) that is really well choreographed and photographed.

Section three features Chris Wide and Gage Weston in another bedroom scene, set in front of a window that looks out upon the San Francisco Bay. Here, the scene steps up the intimacy as the two men have a really nice make out session before they begin to anally penetrate each other (aka, 'flip-fuck' to those in the know). Mr. Wide is the rebirth of Michelangelo's 'David'. He is nearly TOO gorgeous to be real. It is perhaps this perception of mine which may have detected a bit of woodenness in his performance. He is exceptional in print and I think he may need more experience in performing before a rolling camera as he doesn't seamlessly maintain the moment throughout. However, he is paired with a pro in Mr. Weston. Weston is fully engaged and sexy and knows exactly what to do, how he's going to do it and how it is going to appear on video. Their interaction in this scene would seem to be of those of two boyfriends, still in the 'honeymoon stage.' So far, the video is progressing quite well.

The Final Section features Luke Garrett and the return of Skye Woods from Section one. This is simply a fabulous finale to a quartet of scenes. Staged in yet another bedroom, but fabulously lit unlike the previous scenarios. Also, it is here that I really got into the music. I would need to go back and review what scores were behind the other three scenes to fully justify this statement, but the score in this scene helps it transcend the pure carnality that started the video. Garrett is just sexy as all hell (THOSE EYES!!!), waiting in bed as Woods displays his incredible body for him in a beautiful act of foreplay. There has been quite a bit of hype regarding Mr. Woods, and it is in this scene that it is justified. Where in Section one he seemed a bit out of place, here in his scene with Mr. Garrett and perhaps with the aid of Garrett's remarkably sensitive and sensual performance, Woods is able to open up and reveal the inner qualities that photograph so well in the first place. The two men perform with a great deal of chemistry and it is quite obvious how intent they are on pleasing each other. The staging places both men in their best positions. (Yes, a bit of pun is intended!) Woods is able to stretch and throw his massive legs out to gymnastic lengths, while Garrett does a fabulous job topping him without going to the gnarliness that the video started out with Mr. Masi.

Director John Rutherford has concocted a quartet of scenes in which male intimacy is explored from its most primal to its most sensual. These aesthetics are expressed in the production values, as well as the performances as each scene builds upon the previous. As far as I am concerned, Rutherford continues to raise the bar as far as what is pornography and what is erotic art. (He is the mastermind behind "Buckleroos".) There are those who might not get past the beginning of this video or start and skip around it, but by doing that, they will lose the sensual arc that Rutherford devised, and therefore devalue the video as a whole to being 'simply porn.'

The Extras:
There is a still gallery that is actually quite uniquely presented as a slide show. That is something that I wish major studios would do with their "Stills Galleries". The 'slide show' is wonderfully underscored, too.
There is a section that presents nothing but the orgasms. Personally, I have never been that pre-occupied with the orgasm, as much as how we get there. However, for those who are obsessed with 'the money shots', they are all here in one nice tidy little section.
Finally, there are previews of other Colt Videos.

The disc is 'priced for rental' as they say. However, I find it worth the purchase, as it lends itself to re-screenings.

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Frameline Fest "Thank You"s!!

Just a brief post to thank the following directors for their exchanges, dvds and friendships that formed part of my experience with the San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, aka Frameline 30, this year!

Diane Wilkins, director of "CremMate Muffy" (as well as the classic "Anne Dearest: The REAL Miracle Worker" two years ago) provided a great, sick and twisted short in the midst of a week of sincere, important and at times troubling work. She and her partner Marie were a hoot to party with and generous enough to provide me with a copy of their film.

Todd Ahlberg, director of "Meth" and one of his subjects, Ed McKie have been gracious and we, particularly Ed McKie and I, have struck up a supportive friendship via our posts.

David Dean Bottrell, director of "Available Men" was gracious enough to provide a copy of his hysterical and Aspen Comedy Festival award winning short! Thank you!

Michael Satzinger, director of "Whispering Moon" has offered a copy of his remarkable and innovatively designed film, all the way from Austria! Thank you!

And finally, though far from least, Philip Lewis, co-director of "Eye on the Guy: Alan B. Stone and the Age of Beefcake" for pointing me in the direction of obtaining a copy of this fascinating documentary, which visually, as well as historically, enthralled me!

I wish them the best and look forward to their future work!!

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

30th San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, aka Frameline 30: Closing Night and Awards

Ok. Yes, this is nearly a week late. Ok. I was 'distracted' by my SPECIAL houseguest who arrived on Day 9, and stayed with me until this afternoon. So. I had a change in priorities!!! SUE ME!!! Or, don't, actually...

So. After attending a fabulous Gay Day Brunch at Chef Tim's and then weaving my way down to the Civic Center for the Pride Festival and meeting up with my SPECIAL houseguest, I spent a bit too much time there, took him to dinner and then eventually wandered back to the Castro where I sold my tix for the Closing Night. Yes. I know. Priorities, I tell you!

However, the Awards were announced via bulletins, etc.:

The Audience Award for Best Feature was given to "The Gymnast"
The Audience Award for Best Documentary was given to "The Believers"
The Audience Award for Best Short Film was given to "Irene Williams: Queen of Lincoln Road"
The juried $10,000 Dockers® First Feature Award was given to "Stray Cats"
The juried $10,000 Michael J. Berg Documentary Award "Cruel and Unusual"

Needless to say, this was yet another year where I did not see a SINGLE WINNER!!! WHAT is up with that?!

MY picks:
Best Feature: "Whispering Moon"
Best Short Film: "Mockingbird"

[Duchess Diane: I am SORRY!! I can't help myself! I LOVED "CremMate Muffy"!! But... "Mockingbird" was a transcendental experience! Forgive me....!]

And now, I get to sleeeeeep...

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30th San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, aka Frameline 30: Day 9

[Yes. I know. This is nearly ONE WEEK LATE!!]

I only made it to a single film on this day:

"FAT GIRLS" (dir Ash Christian 2006 USA 82 min video) Director Ash Christian was 19 when he wrote it, 20 when he filmed it and is now touring it at age 21. It is a REMARKABLE piece of work from someone so young! The writing is concise, the editing is thorough and precise and his overall direction, including his OWN performance, is crisp and never misses a beat! The piece about being a gay high school misfit was a delightful surprise, in the way that it was NOT another "teenage angst coming out" flick, but a much more mature (read 'cynical') look at high school dynamics. Christian and his co-star, Ashley Fink, are able to dominate the screen with thier presence and wit. Jonathan Caouette ("Tarnation") also appears as a ever so gay friendly teacher. In short, the film was a delight, as was the Q&A that followed, which featured a sincere teary little thank you from Mr. Christian! I was able to pop a few questions at Mr. Christian and his producer, Michelle Levy regarding the future of the flick. He announced during Q&A that a "major network" had picked it up to develop into a series. Ms. Levy, outside the theatre, insisted that NOTHING had been signed, sealed and delivered yet as she "wants to make back her money." She also shared some helpful hints as to how to effectively manage music rights.

After snagging those questions after the film, I needed to run to Union Square and meet my SPECIAL houseguest of the week, who would distract me for the rest of the day, the night and 'Closing Night'.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

30th San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, aka Frameline 30: Day 8

I think I am beginning to burn out on San Francisco's film festival season this year. Particularly, right now. As thousands of tourists begin POURING into the city. Also, the SFILGFF has been on the dreary side. After a BBC series and then a program of international shorts, I took a bit of a break before landing into something cute.

"THE LINE OF BEAUTY" (dir Saul Dibb 2006 UK 180 min video) This BBC mini-series in three parts was screened in its entirety with two brief intermissions between episodes. It is an adaptation of Alan Hollinghurst's novel, in which a beautiful, er, no, I mean, a BEAUTIFUL young man of modest means (Dan Stevens) is taken in by his best friends family, who happen to be leaders of Britain's Conservative Party in 1983. The story spans the next four years. Yes, this is a tale of the horrid predicaments faced by BEAUTIFUL gay men in the upper crust of British society during Margaret Thatcher's 'reign.' Poor boys! Watch and see how our middle class BEAUTY struggles with his closeted boyfriends while doing lines of cocaine. (Get it? 'Lines of Beauty' = 'Lines of Cocaine'? Well, it is 1983...) Watch how our middle class BEAUTY is the ultimate scapegoat for the trials and failures of the 'system' that he has been a part of for the past four years. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will admit that A) I dozed during Episode 1, and B) I left the theater after Episode 2. The overall dreaminess of the cast, the gorgeous settings, the fabulous music and the coldness of the characters left me unsympathetic, even after two hours. I felt my time could be of better use in shopping and starting to prepare for my houseguest this weekend.

However, I did return for the program of international short subjects. This was a collection of nine films, only two of which were in English, the rest being subtitled. This meant that under my current physical and mental condition that, yes, I napped in the midst of THIS too! However, the situation was only exacerbated by the fact that one, that is ONLY ONE of them was a comedy. The rest seemed predominately focused on Older Man Seeks Young Boy themes. Which I find... unsettling, for some reason. In preferential order:

"DADDY’S BOY" (dir Tristan Hamilton 2006 Australia 8 min video) This was the single English language entry, as well as the ONLY comedy in the program! It's not as 'dirty' as it sounds, and the actual little plot, and its twist, were unexpected and clever. I wish the production values were higher though. There was even a typo in the opening credits! ("Asphodel Films Presensts") Tsk! Tsk!

"TWO NIGHTS" (dir Rolmar Baldonado 2006 Australia 12 min video) This was cleverly written and shot as a young man has two dates, which are performed for the most part in split-screen. One date is young and HOT. The other date is older and loving. I wonder who he will choose for a second date...?

"DAVID" (dir Roberto Fiesco 2005 Mexico 15 min) This was lovely to look at, though I was a bit disturbed that the young man was... TOO young? He is also mute. He also has a tryst with a man at least twice his age. But even the older man was pretty hot. But, in a weird way, the whole thing sort of bothered me. But it was nice to look at, in a slightly dirty way.

The following were all just generally dreary, and I list them here as a matter of record:
"A CRIMSON MARK" (dir Park Hyun-Jin 2004 South Korean 13 min 16mm), "MAN SEEKING MAN" (dir Matti Harju 2004 Finland 10 min video), "STILL" (dir Lucky Kuswandi 2005 Indonesia/USA 15 min video) which I saw and distinctly remember disliking at the SFIndieFest in January, and finally, "THE BATH" (dir Sachin Kundalkar 2005 India 20 min video) which was the bleakest of them all in that a hideously poor boy prostitute in India has a series of horrid tricks, until one day, a nice man gives him a bath. Oh dear.

I slept through the entirety of these, which are included here for the record:
"THE PEGASUS" (dir Nintu 2005 India 6 min video) and "ATTACK" (dir Timothy Smith 2005 UK 7 min video).

Next, I intended to see the documentary feature "Wrestling With Angels: Tony Kushner". However, I simply had to get outside! And since I will be able to catch it at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, I wandered a bit before meeting Jimmy for the final film of the day, which was oh so cute! (The film, not meeting Jimmy.)

"THE MOSTLY UNFABULOUS SOCIAL LIFE OF ETHAN GREEN" (dir George Bamber 2005 USA 88 min 35mm) Based on Eric Orner's syndicated gay comic strip of the same name, this featured the exceptionally dreamy Daniel Letterle ("Camp") as Ethan and some old pros in supporting roles, including a fabulous looking Meredith Baxter as his mom! I had more than my share of good laughs in this. FINALLY! Yes, it does basically cross that dreaded line into being 'cute' but I just couldn't hate it this time. After all, it IS based on a comic strip and my fest-picks have just been so BLEAK this year that 'cute' was a welcome change! Also, the guys are hot and comfortably of legal age. Oh, and lest I forget, Reichen of "The Amazing Race" fame appears, but only as photos on a "Mystery Date" game board.

Tomorrow is 'Pink Saturday' so I might be... distracted and only see two programs.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

30th San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, aka Frameline 30: Day 7

I made it a comparatively short day today, as it is really hot here in San Francisco and I want to sleep and stuff. Four programs: one documentary and two programs consisting of a total of twelve short subjects and finishing the night with "one of the most shocking sex scenes in recent memory!" So, I'll start with the documentary and then move on to the list of shorts.

"WITH YOU!" (dir Yaniv Dabach 2006 USA 68 min video) This profiled the Gotham Knights, NYC's gay rugby club. You know, the film fest had a couple of rugby docs last year. I think there is just about so much you can say about gay rugby teams, er, clubs. I think the subject has been exhausted. That is, unless you are a true devotee, I suppose. With that brief recap, I move on to the dozen shorts, preferential order, of course.

"MOCKINGBIRD" (dir Joe Tunmer 2005 UK 14 min 35mm) In just its fourteen short minutes, this was a transcendental experience for me. The film is gorgeous to look at, designed by Douglas Slocombe (the name seems familiar, but...) and photographed by Simon Starling. The music supervision was extraordinary. The performances by William Houston and Eliza Darby as the (drag queen) dyeing father and daughter were gentle and lovely. I was simply swept away and LOVED this and MUST find a copy and HAVE IT!!

"TRIPLE MINORITY" (dir Amber Sharp 2005 USA 15 min video) This was beautifully performed, in spite of a somewhat flawed script. It portrays a lesbian daughter's conflict with her Southern Baptist minister father. Though the script bordered on stereotypes, Ruth Ricks, Selma Pinkard and Mark Berry give extraordinary performances as the family unit. Unfortunately, Kathleen Davison has the odd-man-out task as the daughter's partner and the script does not work her in very well. However, it is worth a see, if it pops up on LOGO or somewhere...

Speaking of mothers and daughters, "ROOM NUMBER 3" (dir Navarutt Roongaroon 2004 Thailand 22 min video) was sort of 'routine' though the climax was wonderfully photographed.

Now, there were a number of 'ok' shorts that I am just too fried to really remark on. But for the record, here they are: "BROOKLYN'S BRIDGE TO JORDAN" (dir Tina Mabry 2005 USA 20 min video), "PLAYTIME" (dir Arwel Gruffydd 2004 UK 10 min 35mm), "OUT NOW" (dir Sven J. Matten 2005 Germany 21 min 35mm), "HOMO HIGH SCHOOL" (dir Jonathon Rivait 2005 Canada 16 min video) and "SISSY FRENCHFRY" (dir JC Oliva 2005 USA 28 min video) which did have the benefit of featuring Leslie Jordan, who was present, though mostly to promote his current play, as it has an extension for another month.

For one reason or another, I disliked the following and am listing them here only as a matter of record: "THE DAY I DIED" (dir Maryam Keshavarz 2006 USA 11 min 35mm), " MONSOON ST., '77" (dir Minda Martin 2005 USA 12 min video), "BOYS GRAMMAR" (dir Dean Francis 2005 Australia 8 min video) which I saw at the SF Indiefest earlier this year and disliked it then, and especially "SCHOOL BOY ART" (dir Erica Cho 2004 USA 12 min video) which I actually hissed at and then some cranky queen behind me told me to get over myself! grrrrr...

"TWO DRIFTERS" (dir Joao Pedro Rodrigues 2005 Portugal 101 min 35mm) Described in the program as "ending with one of the most shocking sex scenes in recent memory" and featuring "many male characters in the film at ease with nudity", I was expecting a nice, sleazy time! What the film is actually about is a woman suffering from manic-depression to the point that she incurs a hysterical pregnancy. The 'shocking sex scene' was laughable. The "many [nude] male characters" actually were only two, and each of them had one very brief scene, which were hardly remarkable. Now, to critique the film itself (outside of the con job that the programmers did in the festival catalogue), one has to remark on the nearly ferocious performance by Ana Cristina De Oliveira as 'Odete', which is the film's actual title in it's native language release. Her performance is so 'out there' that it could be regarded as 'shocking' but only in the sense that none of the other characters had her committed. I was very disappointed by this, as were the couple of dozen audience members who walked out.

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30th San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, aka Frameline 30: Day 6

Well. After yesterday's 'intermission' of sorts, I was just physically unable to get myself out of the apartment in back into that theater for the first two features of the day. I, however, never lacking in my sense of duty to YOU, Gentle Reader, did get in there for four features.

"SUN KISSED" (dir Patrick McGuinn 2006 USA 92 min 35mm) Something happened here that has NEVER happened at the festival ever before. As the end credits scrolled and the houselights went up, you could hear a pin drop. There was one small hiss. And then the chatting began. And this was possibly the most talked about film of the day. Neither I, nor the festival program, nor the website, gives any hint as to what the film is REALLY about! Let me just say that it is something of a mind-fuck. Though it starts off looking like a cheesy mid-70's porn flick, it becomes oh so much more. The performances are terrible. I was seriously considering walking out during the first 15 minutes. But then the screenplay began its non-linear twist and turn. And then... well, then the ART began! Yeah, I would consider the screenplay art. There was no question that the dubious production values and the totally covert script pissed a lot of people off. However, there were just as many, myself included, who spent the time between flicks discussing and untangling what we had just seen. In the end, I would say it was truly fascinating, though difficult.

"A VERY SERIOUS PERSON" (dir Charles Busch 2006 USA 92 min 35mm) This was 180 degrees from what we just saw! Charles Busch makes his film directorial debut, in a script he wrote, starring himself. He has created a fabulous character for himself, playing a Danish male nurse attending to the ailing Polly Bergen. It is more dramatic than what we may be used to from him. However, as he explained during the Q&A (of course he was present!), he wants to explore a more mature artistic vision in his life now. And he has made a pretty wonderful start with this film. The only hesitation I had was with the direction and/or casting of P.J. Verhoest as Bergen's OBNOXIOUS grandson. He really was something out of "The Bad Seed" which Busch may have done on purpose. It just disrupts the tone of the piece. However, Busch commands any scene he is in, so all is not lost!

"I JUST WANTED TO BE SOMEBODY" (dir Jay Rosenblatt 2006 USA 10 min video) This fascinating anti-valentine to Anita Bryant serves as something of a reminder that as far as the Gay Rights movement has come, there is still a lot of work to be done, as the 'values' and language that Bryant espoused is still heard today. Rosenblatt had access to an impressive amount of home-movie footage of Bryant, and the Florida Orange Juice commercials were a jolt of a flashback! During his introduction (he did not stay for a Q&A), he mentioned that he wanted to make a feature length version, but simply did not have the funds. I wish he did (go to his website and support him!) and I hope he does an extended version! Which was the opposite reaction I had to the feature length documentary that accompanied this.

"SMALL TOWN GAY BAR" (dir Malcolm Ingram 2005 USA 81 min video) Kevin "Clerks" Smith produced this documentary by his gay doppleganger. It profiles a number of gay bars in North East Mississippi small (and we're talking populations of 16,000 max!) towns. Extensively. Though I can sort of understand some of the tangents he goes on (a long interview with Rev. Fred Phelps, since he was born there, for instance), he spends a bit too much time on them. Though I am generally against narration, in this case a few brief words about why he has strayed from the subject at hand would suffice, instead of turning it into a subplot. Also, he doesn't seem to want to end the film. There were a number of 'false endings' that lasted a good part of five minutes. I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but it is. During the Q&A, Malcolm Ingram talked. A lot. In fact, the idea of what it must be like when he and Kevin Smith are in the same room is sort of frightening!

"THE KINSEY SICKS: I WANNA BE A REPUBLICAN" (dir Ken Bielenberg 2006 USA 90 min video) finished the evening in FABULOUS fashion! It's a concert movie of the Dragapella Beauty Shop Quartet's "I Wanna Be A Republican" concert. And it's like being there! I love them and I love this and I wish it had been ready (the director just finished editing it on Friday!!) for Opening Night, because it is SO festive! Since the guys started in San Francisco, it would have been the PERFECT flick for a party night! The director and the guys were there for a Q&A, seeing as this was its "World Premiere". They're just about as fun out of drag (and a lot hunkier!) than in full dress. 'Rachel' just cracks me up!!

There! I'm all caught up now (3:30 a.m.?!).

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30th San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, aka Frameline 30: Day 5

Yes, I am posting this a day late. I know. I'm just getting tired. Oh. And. Well. It turned out to be an unusually LATE night for me. After starting at the Dolby Labs at 9:30 a.m. for the Jewish Film Festival preview, I popped on over to the Castro to begin my day at THAT film festival.

"DYKETACTICS" (dir Barbara Hammer 1974 USA 4 min 16mm), "UNTITLED (DYKETACTICS REVISITED)" (dir Liz Rosenfeld 2005 USA 8 min video) and "LOVER OTHER" (dir Barbara Hammer 2006 USA 55 min video) made up this program that served as something of a tribute to Barbara Hammer. (She was unable to attend as she is dealing with ovarian cancer in her home on the east coast.) I can appreciate Ms. Hammer's work, as it serves an artistic purpose. I sort of compare her to being the lesbian version of Kenneth Anger. What that means, however, is that there are a lot of 'poetic' shots of breasts and vaginas. That is what "Dyketactics" (as well as the tribute-remake, "Untitled (Dyketactics Revisited)" are about. Lots of women, prancing about, buck naked. "Lover Other" was a different thing, altogether! It was a documentary about surrealist "sisters" Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, who lived on the Island of Jersey during the Nazi occupation. This is a collection of photographs of their work as well as commentaries from some of their neighbors. Cahun and Moore's photographs were actually quite striking! I found this to be possibly the most bearable Barbara Hammer film I've ever seen.

"MUXES: AUTHENTIC, INTREPID, SEEKERS OF DANGER" (dir Alejandra Islas 2005 Mexico 105 min video) is a documentary profiling the exceptionally large gay population of Juchitan, Mexico. It is in Spanish and is subtitled. I bring this up as nearly the entirety of the film is talking heads. LOTS of talking! LOTS AND LOTS of it! It was really working my nerves. There was very little footage of just the guys living their lives. Or so it felt. And even though at an hour and forty-five minutes, that seemed REALLY long! In fact, in the spirit of full disclosure, I walked out towards the end. I saw ninety minutes, but I just had no idea how much longer it was, and I just couldn't sit there any more. And it was 'happy hour.'

Yes, I need to interrupt this posting with the fact that I felt the need to dart out of the theater for happy hour. As some of you might know, happy hour can be a slippery slope for your devoted correspondent. I had three hours before having to be at the Roxie for my final flick of the day. That's a fairly long happy hour. Yes, indeedy!

"DEREK JARMAN: LIFE AS ART" (dir Andy Kimpton-Nye 2004 UK 60 min video) and "IMAGINING OCTOBER" (dir Derek Jarman 1984 UK 27 min 16mm) You see, the reason that the happy hour interruption is vital to this posting, is that I fell asleep no more than five minutes into the documentary and did not wake up until the audience applause at the end. I left before "Imagining October" started as I sort of saw no point in staying.

Plus, well, seeing as I had a good nap and seeing as it was Tuesday night, and seeing as it is 'gay week' and seeing as I was in a Festive Mood, I just had to, yes, HAD TO go to Trannyshack!! Chi Chi Larue was the Special Guest Emcee, and I could NOT pass up the opportunity to be chastised and harasseded by the self described "Sex Goddess of Porno"! I got home around... oh, I'd say... 1:30? Which is MY excuse for being a day late with this posting! And I'm sticking with it!

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26th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival - Preview

(For recaps of the Berkeley portion of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, please CLICK HERE. )

I attended the preview of the 26th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, hosted by Peter Stein (Executive Director) and Nancy Fishman (Program Director), at the Dolby Labs screening room (which I LOVE!!). After unveiling the festival trailer (which is a HOOT!)they gave a fairly exhaustive description of the programs that will screen July 20 - 27 (San Francisco, Castro Theatre), July 29 - August 5 (Berkeley, Roda Theatre), July 29 - August 3 (Mountain View, Century Cinema 16) and August 5 - 7 (San Rafael, Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center). These spread out dates and locations are truly convenient as the majority of the programs will be repeated, so no film need be missed! (I, myself, will be out of town for the majority of the San Francisco screenings, but hope to catch up at the Berkeley screenings!) One of the events I will not be able to attend is Cinemasports, which will take place on July 23rd! It sounds fantastic! You can find out as much about the screenings as was imparted by Mr. Stein and Ms. Fishman at their website:, along with trailers of some of the programs, which is another envious feature I wish other fests would add! After the verbal presentation, there was a screening of the Opening Night selection:

"Four Weeks in June" (dir. Henry Meyer, 2005, Sweden, 35mm, color, 116 min.). I'm sort of thinking that they needed to pick something a bit more... festive. I found this to be a fairly bleak story of a young woman, serving a probation sentence after attacking her (ex)boyfriend, who befriends an older neighbor, whilst fending off the advances of a Polish construction worker (who, I might add, is HOT!). The two actresses, Ghita Norby (the older neighbor) and Tuva Novotny (our ingenue) are quite good! I can't say that much actually HAPPENS in the film, except that there are a lot of story telling between the two women, which allows for some stellarr monologues. (Novotny was nominated for, and Norby won, Sweden's equivalent of the Oscar for their performances.) However, I was taken aback by the single joke that is told near the end of the film, which only emphasized to me the bleakness of the piece as a whole. Mind you, my friend Sue Jean felt that the 'happy ending' wasn't necessary, though I hadn't really recognized it as being that happy of an ending.

That said, I am pretty jazzed about going to this festival, as I have not attended it in over 10 years. I tend to have filmic burnout after the SF Silent Film Fest and try to rest up or catch up with the summer blockbusters! However, the presentation was so polished and the 'set up' is so convenient, that I think I need to show some support and get out there!

CLICK HERE for more...

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!!)

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Monday, June 19, 2006

30th San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, aka Frameline 30: Day 3

From youngsters to the eternally elderly today at the fest, starting in the morning with a shorts program entitled 'Dyke Delights' featuring no less than twelve short subjects. What I found sort of odd was that this collection was much more enjoyable, at times hysterical, than anything presented in yesterday's 'Fun in Girls Shorts' program, which is supposed to be the comedy highlight of the week! I don't know what the programmers are thinking. But what I am thinking, in preferential order:

"CRÉMMATE: MUFFY" (dir Diane Wilkins 2006 USA 2 min video) Yes, I will 'fess up to being a Mickee Faust Club junkie, as well as one of the Duchess Diane [Wilkins] cultists, born from the hysterical short, "Annie Dearest: The REAL Miracle Worker" of two years ago. In this year's submission, Wilkins and the MFC push the envelope in their special sick and twisted way and had the packed house at the Castro screaming! This little 2 minute 'advertisement' for a new 'non-dairy creamer' for grief stricken lesbians could very well be what puts Wilkins and Company on the Subversive Cultural Map! I. Loved. It. and Ms. Wilkins generously granted a copy to me, ON SITE! (p.s. Diane and Marie, et al: It was great finally meeting you after two years of email!)

"ATTACK OF THE BRIDE MONSTER" (dir Vicky Boone 2005 USA 17 min video) slowly, yet surely made its way into twisted comedy as a boozy old lesbian tells her tale of woe, when she and her partner of 25 years came to a crossroads with the concept of 'marriage.' It was a hoot!

"HIS NAME IS COSMO" (dir Nicole Opper 2006 USA 18 min video) This came awfully close to being a "Sex and the City" episode, however it does deliver its laughs as a 'toy' endangers the blissful relationship of a lesbian couple. Hee hee hee...

"HOLD UP" (dir Madeleine Olnek 2005 USA 7 min video) This was a surprisingly clever little ditty where a convenience store robbery attempt goes down the 'fatal attraction' path! The lead woman (Cynthia Kaplan?) played it just right, without giving away her little twist.

"SUCH GREAT JOY" (dir Michelle Kramer 2004 USA 15 min video) This, too, had a fun little twist as a family's internal gossip goes awry and though hilarity itself may not have ensued, it was enjoyable none the less.

"LOVE, STRUCK" (dir Susan Ali 2006 USA 2 min video) was a swift and painless, nearly balletic, farce as a woman leaps through a cityscape to repair Cupid's mistake.

"THE SCIENCE OF LOVE" (dir Joyce Draganosky 2005 USA 14 min 35mm), "SOLO" (dir Martha Newbigging 2005 Canada 5 min video) and "COIF" (dir Melanie McGraw 2004 USA 6 min video) All three of these were at least visually intriguing and/or entertaining. "Science of Love" had comparitively outrageous production values. "Solo" is the only animated entry in the entire festival that I am aware of. "Coif" had one of the most inventive production designs and shot in glorious black and white.

"THE QUITTER" (dir Joy Taylor 2005 USA 4 min video), "KATIE & KASEY" (dir Kyla Tomlin 2005 USA 5 min video) and "OPEN" (dir Teale Failla 2005 USA 12 min video) were all three well done, and in any other crowd of shorts would be stand outs. But in this years program, these fairly 'domestic comedies' are just that - domestic. Not boring, but not surpassing what else has been noted here.

I continued the rest of the day with four features. Listed in sequential order:

"50 WAYS OF SAYING FABULOUS" (dir Stewart Main 2005 New Zealand 90 min 35mm) This is a surprisingly complex coming of age story. It's not for adolescents, necessarily, yet the performances are so well done by the young leads that it would lead you to believe that its quite understandable by their peers. It begins with a day dreaming fantasy, which I thought was going to be a motif. However, it was gradually worked out of the script as the characters matured and REAL violence begins to enter their lives. Teenage awkwardness is presented as near psychosis at one point. On one hand, I was becoming frustrated and anxious as to the choices the characters were making. Yet, that is what this unusually deep little tale is about: making choices, wrong or right, in which to mature. It is very well done, yet I found it difficult to watch at times. It is sort of a gentler film than Larry Clark would make ("Kids" "Bully" "Wassup Rockers"), yet deals with some of the same issues.

"WHAT’S UP, SCARLET?" (dir Anthony Caldarella 2005 USA 84 min video) This was a slight tale, grappling to be a domestic comedy of a woman who unwittingly falls in love with her total opposite - socially, religiously and economically. The plot device which brings these two characters together (an immigrant rear-ends a Jewish professional match maker) is simple enough, but it is the contrivances that keep them together that simply do not ring true. Also, Sally Kirkland gives an over-the-top performance in an effort to create a farce out of it. Though fairly short, I did at one point doze off. Upon awaking, I found that I hadn't missed a thing. Pity, as the cast and production are lovely enough to look at, yet the script is just too light. I felt no need to stay for the Q&A, as I needed to pop out, meet a friend and eat before the next two features.

"WILD TIGERS I HAVE KNOWN" (dir Cam Archer 2005 USA 93 min video) Oh dear. This was the first film I've seen at this festival which attempts to be "ART" (all caps!). And you may KNOW what that means... The director has fashioned a very impressionistic world in which a young boy begins to explore his sexuality. It is played out, or I SHOULD say, UNDER played out in a majority of dialogue free tableaus. The soundtrack can be deafening, however. I liked THAT part! The soundtrack, that is. The tableaus and, really, the nearly slide-show pacing was unnecessary and annoying. During the Q&A the director had a nearly flippant view of his film, which leads me to suspect that it might be his own personal joke on the 'serious audience.' Whether it is intentional or not, the other clue I can give you pointing to its posturing is that it is produced by Gus Van Sant. This AUSTERE and fairly pretentious mood would soon be broken by the final flick of the evening.

KIKI AND HERB RELOADED (dirs Chris Gallagher, Matt Gallagher & Michaline Babich 2005 USA 75 min video) You either LOVE or abhor Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman's creation of 'Kiki and Herb' - sort of a lounge act on acid, really. Their 'bit' is that this is a lounge act that is decades, er, no, GENERATIONS old! They. Are. Survivors! The film is a mockumentary of their tour with Scissor Sisters in the United Kingdom. The interviews with members of Scissor Sisters, as well as other gay-pop icons, i.e. Rufus Wainwright, are really just moments of relief from the 'almost too big for the big screen' screeds that Kiki goes into while preparing (or is that repairing) for the night's show. There are also clips of their act onstage. A concert film would just BLOW your mind! But a concert film would be the perfect midnight movie! This was a perfect way to end a fairly long weekend.

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