Saturday, June 16, 2007

SF LGBT Film Festival 2007, aka Frameline 31 - Day 5 (preview)

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

I have been fortunate enough to see three of the eleven programs scheduled for Day 5, aka Monday June 18th. All three are 'chick flicks', and two of them are 'musicals', but not at all in any typical sense of the term. The bad news is that those two fine programs are screening in the same time slot. The third is an 'encore' screening.

However, "El Calentito" (dir. Chus Gutiérrez, Spain, 2005, 89 min) is available on home video as I reported earlier for TLA Releasing. Never the less, I think it would be a hoot to see this in the Castro Theatre, with sound A BLAZING!! To save you the trouble of clicking around, I'll just 'repost' what I said earlier here:

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 Four Minutes (Vier Minuten) (dir. Chris Kraus, Germany, 2006, 112 mins.) of the climax in the film of the same name, make the hundred and ten minutes that precede it worth every second. This was a tough viewing for me. The film is drenched in greys and is pretty bleak! An 80-something piano teacher, who continues to carry baggage from her actions, or lack thereof, from World War II, takes on a student in a women's prison, who is carrying a whole LOAD of baggage herself, seeing as she is a convicted murderer. There are any number of dramatic conceits in play here, with our student also being a child prodigy pianist, both women have lesbian tendencies, the usual suspects of corrupt or at least inept prison officials and guards. But the bleakness and the sometimes turgid pacing is broken up a bit by the piano teacher's flashbacks, and the student's extremely violent 'fits', both violent and musical.

However, what hesitations I may be expressing as far as the screenplay are minimized by the outrageous and nearly dangerous award winning performances by Monica Bleibtreu, as the teacher, and Hannah Herzsprung, as her disturbed student. Both performances are a bit over-the-top. However, Herzsprung's catharsis during her 'four minutes' is absolutely amazing to behold! Director (and screenwriter) Chris Kraus has worked exceptionally hard to make that moment as believable and spine-tingling as it is by ensuring a certain melodramatic pitch was maintained throughout. Getting through those one hundred and ten minutes of melodrama can feel like a chore. However, the final four minutes are magical!

The third program I've seen from this day is the 'encore' screening of "Tick Tock Lullaby" which was screened on Day 3, and quite enjoyably recommended!

Maxxxxx says
re "ElCalentito": "Doobie doobie doo-ooo!"
re "Four Minutes": "Schiesse!" (Maxxxxx does say "Shit!", but I thought I'd translate this time.)

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