Monday, May 28, 2007

TLA Releasing releases...

"El Calentito" (dir. Chus Gutiérrez, Spain, 2005, 89 min) is one of the TLA Releasing's summer releases, which the company was gracious enough to give me a preview screener. (Ironically, though it has released on DVD this month, it is also playing at San Francisco's Frameline 31 (aka LGBT Film Festival) on June 18th. ) That said, it released more than a couple of weeks ago and I am late in posting remarks about it. However, the good news is that I LOVED it! (Yes, I know that matters to you! hee hee...) Director Chus Gutiérrez has captured the joy, anger and excitement of early 1980's punk. However, this is set in Spain in 1981, on the eve of a military coup. Using that as a setting, Gutiérrez peoples his story with transgenders, lesbians and a 'stuck up virgin,' through which we witness this microcosm of societal change. I know this sounds like I'm reading a bit too much into this perhaps, but it is a cathartic story for the characters involved.

Speaking of characters, the performances are filled with the joy and energy the period calls for. Verónica Sánchez as 'Sara' (aka the stuck up virgin) wanders into this world a wide-eyed innocent and predictably rocks out by the end! She is a charming and appealing performer to be the center of the circus of personalities she comes to know and love. Foremost among this group is 'Leo', played by Macarena Gómez, which could most easily be compared to a punk Goldie Hawn. She is a hoot and fills the screen whenever she's on. Nuria González turns in an award winning performance as the transgendered woman who owns the club at which the girls' band plays. She becomes something of a mother figure to 'Sara' and her character arc concerning her son is played without schmaltzy sentiment. The 'lesbian quotient' of the film is filled by Ruth Díaz, who plays 'Carmen' the leader of the band. Sort of surprisingly, or refreshingly depending on your take, her story is not so much part of shock value as just another aspect of the girls lives. The outside, conservative world is almost demonized, which is the only hesitant flaw of the film. However, Sara's mother is not overplayed to extremes, as are the bar's upstairs neighbors who provide something of a deus ex machina, that is unnecessary during the climax.

The video transfer is terrific and so is the sound! The extras are slim, however, providing only a music video from the film (the transfer quality of which PALES in comparison to the feature itself) and trailers of other TLA Releases.

Speaking of OTHER TLA Releases...

"Flirting With Anthony" (dir. Christian Calson, US, 2005, 89 min) This latest release from the director of "Shiner" has the dubious distinction of causing walk outs at last year's SF Frameline 30 (aka LGBT Film Festival). Though the producers and director might want credit this as a reaction to their brutal vision, I would suggest that it may have been due to the sluggish attempt at neo-realism and the nearly pornographic subject matter. Mind you, I of all people have nothing against porn. However, the attempt to frame porn within this dramatic structure only resulted in the drama and porn interrupting each other and not organically or dramatically flow. The director's notes reference "The Brown Bunny" not so much as an influence but as an example of what he did not want to happen within the frame. Photographically, he achieves this. Dramatically, however, "Flirting..." pales to "The Brown Bunny", which given its notoriety, did at least have a minimalistic sexual odyssey. Where as "Flirting With Anthony" is not so much an odyssey, but an experiment in three cinematic styles which feel slapped together, as the plot doesn't necessarily support the character arc.

The characters are... well, let's just say that it is NO SURPRISE that 'Anthony' comes out as gay by the end. I mean, the guy is quite the effeminate heterosexual/bisexual/or whatever throughout the film and why his 'wife' would be shocked to learn that he is in love with a man (who happened to have saved his life from a mob execution YEARS earlier... don't ask!) is completely unbelievable. 'Anthony' has sex with a lot of people during his journey of sexual discovery. A 'discovery' that we are blinded with during the opening credits, by the way. So the wait for him to catch up with us is what bogs the film down and makes the relatively short 90 minutes seem like hours.

Never fear, as TLA Releasing has MORE to come...!


Maxxxxx says
re "ElCalentito": "Doobie doobie doo-ooo!"
re "Flirting With Anthony": "Bad bird! Bad bird!"

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