Wednesday, June 13, 2007

SF LGBT Film Festival 2007, aka Frameline 31 - Days 1 and 2 (preview)

Frameline's 31st San Francisco LGBT Film Festival
screens in San Francisco June 14 through the 24th. I've been fortunate enough this year to have access to screeners of nearly the entire festival (since I'm in Atlanta, now), and I'll be posting 'previews' two days in advance of each day's screenings. Woo hoo!

I did not have access to the opening night features, though if I do, I'll spit up a post about them later. However, I was given the opportunity to see two programs from Day 2, aka Friday, June 15.

"Surveillance" (dir. Paul Oremland, UK, 2007, 86 mins.) is a visually stunning, though overly complicated social, sexual and political thriller. Director Paul Oremland creates and sustains a claustrophobic and paranoid atmosphere, as we follow a particularly appealing gay man after his one night stand turns up dead, and turns out to be the son of a media magnate who is involved with The Royals. Tom Harper gives a well measured performance as his life, and the people around him become involved in his predicament, is being tracked. It is here that Alistair Cameron's cinematography and Nick Carew's editing is quite exceptional! The film is nearly completely framed as a series of closed-circuit, web cam'ed, and other spyware/surveillance photographed scenarios of our hero's plight. It is a visually fascinating and provocative concept.

As complex as the film is visually, it also contains an exceptionally complicated plot. In successfully sustaining an air of paranoia, the plot weaves one too many institutions which are tracking our hero: the royals, the government and the media magnate. They use the various characters to such an extent that one doesn't know who is working for whom. That may be part of the point, however it doesn't deliver an effective climax if one must stop and say, "Huh? You what...?"

The performances vary fairly widely in quality. Tom Harper and Simon Callow are great. Dawn Steele is not so, as she seems to have just walked of of a soap opera set. Granted, her role is one of the most complicated in the film, as she (and we, for that matter) is never truly aware of who she is working for or against. The media magnate (who I am unable to find a credit for, other than the end credits, which I did not note) has the worst choices to make in the film and the actor doesn't seem to have a grasp on why he is there.

In conclusion, the film starts off wonderfully and maintains a visual tension and excitement. However, don't hold your breath for a fulfilling resolution.

The second program I was able to preview was 'Best Mates', a program of five short subjects on the theme of closeted and/or unrequited love.

"Rock Pockets" (dirs. Trevor Anderson , Steven Hope, Canada, 2006, 6 min.) is the best of the bunch! It is an impressionistic remembrance of being a pre-teen boy at a carnival and wanting a rocker for a boyfriend. He has a straight friend pose as one, and it is the recollection of the reactions of the surrounding crowd, as well as the introspection the adult narrator has about the experience that made this 6 minutes so outstanding!

"Cowboy Forever" (dir. Jean-Baptiste Erreca, France, 26 min.) is a little gem, in that the cinema-verite is so accomplished, I really couldn't tell if it was a documentary or not. That is, until the fantastic dream sequence! It is the story of a pair of Brazilian cowboys. Though the marketing would want to suggest it was inspired by "Brokeback Mountain", this short film accomplishes its own special end.

"The Best Men" [no website available] (dir. Tony Wei, USA, 2006, 13 min.) is possibly the best performed of the five shorts in this program. The best man at a wedding also carries an unrequited love for the groom. Though it steps dangerously close into soap opera territory, the performances of the two men, as well as the groom's mother, keep it from floundering in pathos.

Unfortunately, "Best Mates" (dir. Maninderpal Sahota, UK, 2006, 10 min.) and "Float" (dir. Kareem Mortimer, Bahamas, 2006, 35 min.) are unable to avoid that trap. "Best Mates" in particular, is fairly trite. Whereas "Float" (dir. Kareem Mortimer, Bahamas, 2006, 35 min.) tosses in the socio-political over tones of the homophobic climate that exists in the Bahamas, as well as being that uncomfortable length of 35 minutes, which is neither short enough to be pithy, yet not long enough to feel fully developed.

Maxxxxx says
re "Surveillance": "Sweet, sweet eye juice!"
re "Rock Pockets": "Doobie doobie doo-ooo!"
re "Cowboy Forever": "I wanna come out!"
re "The Best Men": "I love you, too!"
re "Best Mates" and "Float": "Is it bedtime"?

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