Friday, October 19, 2007

Out On Film, 2007 - Day 8, aka Closing Night

It was closing night for Out On Film, IMAGE Film and Video's annual LGBT film festival here in Atlanta. Executive Director, Gabe Wardell launched the evening by recognizing the sponsors and then introducing the staff of IMAGE, which it is sort of surprising to find out, that only FIVE people pull these festivals together! We were also introduced to 'the projectionist' whom I will NOT name here, as I've given him enough grief in past postings. After taking care of 'the housekeeping', Wardell (whose introduction clocked in at a pithy four minutes, as opposed to his record breaking nine minutes on Wednesday night!) then introduced the special guests of the evening: "Starrbooty" director Mike Ruiz and it's STAR, RuPaul. RuPaul was stunningly dressed, as would be expected, and took over the evening from there on out, as would ALSO be expected! After a few exceptionally brief comments about how offended we were about to be. (Heh! Go ahead and shock me!)

STARRBOOTY (dir. Mike Ruiz, US, 2007, 83 mins.) RuPaul says: "The goal here was to make an exploitation film that was part Russ Meyer, John Waters and "The Naked Gun" and we succeeded." Well, the creation of exploitation or as I affectionately refer to as "schlock" is as delicate of an art as intentionally creating "camp". The greatest pieces of 'camp' were created by magnificent accident. I believe the same thing holds true for "schlock", for the most part. Russ Meyer and John Waters produced some of the best examples of exploitation and schlock by taking the 'art' seriously. They did not walk on to the set with the intention of goofing around and making fun of the cinematic form they work in. And that slight difference in attitude is what keeps "Starrbooty" from being an 'instant cult classic'. Don't get me wrong here. I had a good number of laughs and recognized the homages and caught most (if not all) the inside cinematic jokes and references. However, it is a pastiche to a form that is itself a mock-up of cinematic form and style. That concept-on-top-of-a-concept is what trips the film up. All of this is in reference to the screenplay and the direction of Mike Ruiz. Ruiz has established himself as an accomplished fashion photographer, given that his claim to 'gay film fame' is the evil boyfriend in the nearly exploitive "Latin Boys Go To Hell". He and editor Spencer Schilly (whose excellent drama, "The Houseboy" was featured earlier this week) have cut together an excellently paced and at times, visually spectacular piece. There might be a couple segments that could have been whittled down a bit, if not deleted entirely (i.e. the 'fashion show'), though executed quite competently. What is nearly flawless is the performance of RuPaul, as well as a few of his supporting cast.

I was skeptical that RuPaul would be able to maintain the ninety minutes of character or caricature, as the case may be. However, he was able to meld a grab bag of heroines, camp character references and comediennes to sustain his screen time. RuPaul embodied Raquel Welch, Faye Dunaway, Divine, Lynda Carter, Russ Meyers' Super Vixens and even (do I dare?) Miss Piggy at one point or another. His line delivery was flawless and he is superbly photographed by David Berman. The supporting cast is littered, so to speak, with icons from the drag and gay porn worlds. Gus Mattox gives a fine comic turn as RuPaul's superior. Michael Lucas exposes that 'special quality' that "he has built an empire upon" (as quoted by RuPaul during the Q&A). The near legendary Lady Bunny has a brief, though unforgettable appearance as one of RuPaul's 'clients'. Candis Cayne holds her own as RuPaul's adversary with evil glee!

The DVD was on sale at the theater for an autograph session after the screening. RuPaul and Ruiz's Q&A after the film was amusing without being overly informative, but that was most likely the fault of the questions. But then there really wasn't much to question. From there, the evening progressed to WETBar for a fairly simple reception and a chance to compare notes with other festgoers and bask in the glam-glory of RuPaul and Company. There are no juried competitions, however there is an audience award that will be announced early next week.

Maxxxxx says
re STARRBOOTY: "Such a pretty bird!"

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