Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween - Atlanta

Though my friends in San Francisco will be staying home for Halloween, I've been and will be out and about! Halloween in Atlanta sort of began for me on Saturday night at the Plaza Theater which presented the 'regularly scheduled' (as in every last Saturday of the month) performance of the Silver Scream Spook Show, with your hosts Professor Morte and his assistant, Retch. For those of you in the know, this ably compares to an evening with Peaches Christ, but a straight-non-drag version. Also, the performance before the film seemed a bit tame, but that might have been due to the expectancy of kids in the audience, since this was the 'Halloween show'. Morte proves to be a fairly good host and star of the night, and Retch (think of Peaches' sidekick Martiny) is so totally committed to his role, that he is a total hoot, even when delivering some of the purposefully lame jokes. The rest of Morte's cast, including the girls of "Blast Off Burlesque", are suitably 'off' in that midnight movie way. I won't go into the details of the pre-screening skit, except to note that Morte is quite devoted to the Plaza Theater and its unique spot as one of the VERY FEW independent screens in the Atlanta area. It is comparable to the Roxie in San Francisco as far as programming, but at nearly three times it size and includes a second screen in the former balcony. Morte closed the pre-show with a spirited speech about the place of independent film and the Plaza's mission to deliver it.

The screening was of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (dir. Edward Wood Jr., US, 1959, 79 mins.) in full, big screen and colorful glory! It has been YEARS since I've seen 'Plan 9' in a theater. In fact, I've seen so many parts and tributes to it, that I'm not even sure if I had seen it in its entirety at all! I've sat through so many truly BAD low budget features in the past few years, that this really didn't seem that horrible. Yes, the production values are nearly non-existent and the talent of the cast can be questionable, however, Wood's direction and particularly his editing and pacing, are more than tolerable and actually, under the circumstances, quite good! There is a dedication by all those involved that give the movie a wild eyed innocence, even if it is about a government cover up of an alien invasion. You can tell that everyone is giving it their all, under Wood's direction. There are no amateurish 'diva moments', but an ensemble that is struggling to deliver a director's vision, with what few tools they may have available. It is worth a second look and WITHOUT the 'puppets' delivering commentary in front.

Two nights later, the Plaza hosted Splatter Cinema's programming premiere of BLOOD FEAST (dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis, US, 1963, 67 mins.). Splatter Cinema is devoted to presenting its series of films from 35mm prints! So, this was a definite RARE occasion to see one of the great cult flicks of all time! I am a "Blood Feast" version, as it were. I've heard much about it, as it was considered the goriest thing ever put on film, at the time. It also featured Playmate Connie Mason, as potential jiggle factor and the psychopath's ultimate prey. Ironically, it isn't she who jiggles, but the first victim who does, with tastefully placed bath bubbles, barely revealing her breasts. The gore IS abundant, but so over the top that it is a hoot! (As a gag, even the box office issued a 'complimentary barf bag' to everyone in the audience.) What was really scary, was the performance of the cast. These people are TERRIBLE!! But nearly hysterically so! H.G. Lewis seems to have told them to GO FOR IT!! Connie Mason's breakdown at the end, in which you can tell she is PROUD to have produced REAL TEARS, is almost scary to watch, since she is forcing herself out of control. Mal Arnold as the murderer, is really bad. He's almost not even 'funny bad' but unwatchable bad. Not to be outdone by the performances, there isn't a single element of the film that is redeemable. The production design is cardboard tepid, the cinematography attempts 'day for night' in a truly amateurish manner, the editing is sluggish at best and comatose at its worst, the costuming is ludicrously beyond camp and the makeup design (including gore effects!) are at a high school level. It is the product of a dozen negatives equally one glorious positive! The movie is that rare find: TRUE SCHLOCK!! Watching it on a 35mm print, with scratches and fading, only enhanced the 'grindhouse effect'. It was a FUN night and one I can't wait to repeat next month!

So, with those nifty Halloween experiences under my belt down here, what to do for the BIG DAY itself?! Go to the Netherworld Haunted House here in Atlanta! Ranked as one of the nation's best Haunted Houses, the roommate/etc. has been on me to go for a couple of weeks now. We decided to try Halloween itself, though it might be packed! Maxxxxx will have nothing to do with it, but Belle is all dressed up to go, though she's too young...

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Monday, October 29, 2007

International Animation Day - Atlanta

On October 28th, the Atlanta chapter of ASIFA (aka Association International du Film d'Animation) participated in the organization's "International Animation Day", which commemorates the first public performance of Emile Reynaud's Theatre Optique at the Grevin Museum in Paris in 1892. Atlanta's part in the day's activities was a presentation of 21 short animated films in the High Museum. Each chapter submits and exchanges dvds of member films. So, interestingly enough, each chapter creates a program derived completely from international submissions. Tonight's program in Atlanta featured shorts from Estonia, Bulgaria, Australia, Israel, Korea, Hungary and Iran. Though, the evening began with a local entry, a screening of HOW CAN WE ACHIEVE WORLD PEACE? (dir. Jeffrey Poole, Atlanta College of Art, Georgia, USA, 1:12) which won the 2007 Helen Victoria Haynes International World Peace Student Storyboard and Animation Competition, and naturally, Jeffrey Poole was there to receive plaudits. After its pleasant little screening, Joe Peery proceeded to introduce the program. Of the twenty one pieces to be viewed, there was one director present: Hamid Bahrami from Iran.

TRAVELLER OF THE HORIZON (dir. Hamid Bahrami, Iran, 2006, 8 min.) This was a particularly beautiful piece, involving a man who DRAGS a large crate across a desert, while being passed up by 'the upper classes' who are pedaling away in vehicles. The finale is typically moralistic, as our laborer does get the upper hand. It is beautifully and painstakingly drawn and well paced.

Also from Iran was THE LOST PUPPET (dir. Moin Samadi, Iran, 2006, 7 mins.) This was perhaps the most technically stunning, if not the most beautiful film in the program. The film follows a puppet that has fallen from a cart through a series of theatrical tableaux. The screenplay is impressionistic enough to be dreamlike, as are the visuals. It was one of those experiences where it is so esoterically sensual and visual as to defy my ability to verbalize it. It was an outstanding piece!

Australia was represented by a group of shorts from a production company called "The People's Republic of Animation". Five of them were episodes from the short series "Errorism: A Comedy of Terrors" (dir. Eddie White, Australia, 2006, 1 min. each). In each episode 'Terry', our little anti-hero, is a comically and tragically inept terrorist, who manages to self destruct in each of his complicated plans to terrorize the society. Apparently, all of the episodes are available to screen via the PRA's website, including my FAVORITE of the five, "THE ENVELOPE"!

The sixth entry from The People's Republic of Animation in Australia was CARNIVORE REFLUX (dirs. Eddie White and James Calvert, Australia, 2006, 7 mins.) It is a beautifully grotesque story of feasting and gorging, that climaxes in a Technicolor explosion of, well... 'reflux'! The storytelling narration underneath the fantastic visuals, is just as witty and surreal as what is on screen. I LOVED it! I must HAVE it!

Two of the three entries from Hungary were particularly creepy and nightmarish, eventhough they were 'vintage'. SZMOG (dir. Zoltán Vitális, Hungary, 1987, 3 mins.) is twenty years old, it still achieves its creepy purpose, as we wander through a smog so thick, that figures appear to be apparitions. Szupermarket (dir. Csilla Temesvári, Hungary, 1996, 4 mins.) This ten year old short follows a little girl who gets separated from her mother and lost in a supermarket. The art is not necessarily breathtaking, but the pacing and editing are! (The third entry, "2 Minutes of Life", I am afraid I just do not remember anything about to comment upon.)

The Bulgarian entries were shown back-to-back, featuring The Crown (dir. Tatyana Trifonova, Bulgaria, 2006, 2 mins.) and The Bear (director credits not found, Bulgaria, 5 mins.). These were 180 degrees opposed in style and technique. THE CROWN was a slick, CGI fable of a group of creatures obsessed with following 'the crown' and gaining it through assassinations and plots. The little creatures were hysterically animated and the lesson at the end was pointed. THE BEAR may have been computer assisted, but the style was hand drawn and exceptionally, though effectively, rough. The graphics were humorous enough, though the actual plot, as short as it was, didn't quite hold up. It was just a bit too quirky, visually and dramatically.

Israel was represented with three pieces. AND THEN SUDDENLY (dir. Oded Naamaan, Israel, 2006, 7 mins.) This effectively related the purpose, the motive and the art of story telling. The mixture of animation techniques and the accompanying, appropriate musical score styles is a near brilliant example of virtuosity! Plus it featured a bizarre little penguin! I LOVE animated penguins! The short is viewable at the linked site. LIVE LIFE (dir. Jonathan Pasternak, Israel, 2006, 6 mins.) In a very humorous and irreverent way, the film relates the creation of the Sedlec Ossuary, while accompanied by William Shatner's and Ben Fold's song "You'll Have Time". William Shatner... bones... animated... hee hee hee... The third film from Israel, THE CELLO (director credits not found, Israel, 6 mins.) was beautifully realized using cutouts.

Bosnia submitted two shorts, APPETITE (which I remember nothing about) and PINNACLE (director credits not found, Bosnia, 1 min.), which may have been one of the shortest entries, but nonetheless, one of the funniest!

Korea's entry HUG (dir. Lee sang-hui, Korea, 2007, 5 mins.) was CUTE. You know, I hate CUTE. This was VERY CUTE. Look at the accompanying screen shot. It SCREAMS CUTE! "HUG" is ugh.

The evening began and ended with the two longest shorts, both from Estonia. The opening program was INSTINCT (dir. Rao Heidmets, Estonia, 2003, 10 mins.) which retells the story of creation in the form of puppets, who wrestle with the perfection that the Garden of Eden precariously balanced on - literally, in this film.

The evening drew to a close with CONCERT FOR A CARROT PIE (dirs. Heiki Ernits and Janno Poldma, Estonia, 2002, 11 mins.) This is an extraordinarily, detailed drawn animation. The plot itself is a series of episodes that make as much sense as an old nursery rhyme. However, there is a sense of joy captured within the artistry, so any need for morale or logic is whimsically placed aside. The score is a lot of fun, in of itself!

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Outside the Bubble - "Randy and The Mob"

There are a couple of regionally produced films, with exceptional 'gay themes', on the indie circuit right now, that don't seem to be getting much notice "out there", so here's my contribution to their efforts.

RANDY AND THE MOB (dir. Ray McKinnon, US, 2007, 99 mins.) Ray McKinnon (Oscar winner for his short "The Accountant") has taken on quite the responsibility of writing, directing and starring himself as a man in trouble with 'the mob', who seeks the help of his gay twin brother. He has given quite a few interviews here in Atlanta (the film was principally shot in Douglasville) about the challenges of directing himself in a dual role. However, he performs it seamlessly. Perhaps most surprisingly, considering the possibility of turning the gay twin into a caricature, it is actually the straight brother who more closely resembles the 'Southern bumpkin' stereotype than the gay twin being a "Southern queen". In fact, the most fascinating and fully developed characters in the film are the supporting roles of the gay twin's life partner (played by Tim DeKay) and the mobster's 'hit man', who is portrayed in one of the quirkiest performances of the year by Walton Goggins. He is a 'metrosexual', zen-practicing, clogging and gourmet cooking ex-convict, sent to manage 'Randy's business as he works to pay back his loan to 'the mob.' McKinnon's real-life wife and co-producer, Lisa Blount, delivers an equally effective performance as 'Randy's wife, a depressed baton twirling teacher, with carpal tunnel syndrome.

The plot of the film treads dangerously close to "wacky", yet the performances are what keep it from treading into cute and mmurky waters. I'm sure it is headed onto home video as you read, so go get it!

Maxxxxx says
re RANDY AND THE MOB: cackles!

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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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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Out On Film, 2007 - Day 7

'Tis the night before closing night for Out On Film, IMAGE Film and Video's annual LGBT film festival here in Atlanta. The double feature tonight included one narrative and one documentary, of which there seem to have only been a few...

THE CURIOSITY OF CHANCE (dir. Russell P. Marleau, USA, 2007, 98 mins.) This is sort of a guilty pleasure. On one hand, it isn't really a 'masterpiece', but on the other hand, it accomplishes everything it sets out to do, and maybe a little bit more. It's an homage of sorts to all those teen flicks from the '80s, though it feels a bit like an After School Special, too. Director/screenwriter Russell P. Marleau moves 'the gay boy' from being the 'best friend' to front and center. 'Chance Marquis' is an out, but not yet proud, gay teenager attending an International High School "somewhere in Europe". He is played with outrageous charm and drop-dead-gorgeousity by Tad Hilgenbrinck. (Yes, I know I sound like a dirty old man, but he is simply beautiful and photographs great from any angle.) The story involves not his coming out, but his coming of age and empowerment. It is delivered with exceptional wit, and with as much sincerity as Marleau's international cast was able, in spite of some diction problems. The film was shot in Belgium, with all but four leads hailing from there, so I would guess that some of the supporting cast may have been performing phonetically, at times. As far as physical comedy, some of the bits were hysterical (i.e., the dodgeball segment), and some of them misfire (i.e., nearly anything having to do with the vice principal). The inclusion of a 'love interest' (played by the suitably hunky Brett Chukerman) is something of a subplot to 'Chance's journey, which is a remarkable and welcome departure to the typical 'gay boy in high school' film!

The production design, particularly costuming, is flawless! The "chorus line" of drag queens are incredibly costumed! (Lest I forget Danny Calander as 'Claire Vuoyant', who lends more charm, graciousness and wisdom than any drag queen before him!) I found the music supervision and original score to be something of a mixed bag, but that might be due to my own personal taste and lack of appreciation for mid-80s rock to begin with. As the film progressed, I was laughing along with it, and feeling a bit put off at times as it got cheesy, I could not help to admire that it was so genuine about everything it was doing, whether it was the cynical wit of Aldevina Da Silva as the sardonic best friend, 'Twyla Tiller' or the obvious clowning of the 'school dweeb' played by Pieter Van Nieuwenhuyze. The final moment that completely won me over to the 'Cute Side' as it were, was at the beginning of the closing credits: "'The Curiosity of Chance' a film by the following people" and the credits rolled. I just sort of loved that.

Dos Patrias: Cuba y la noche (dir. Christian Liffers, Germany/Cuba, 2007, 82 min.) For what is quite simply a documentary which interviews five gay men and one male-to-female transexual, this was a difficult film to follow, though the main point, that being gay in Cuba is NOT fun, was easily made. What made it difficult was director Christian Liffers style or format. Each interview is framed by a poem by author Reinaldo Arenas, a Cuban homosexual who came to the U.S. in the 80's and committed suicide in 1990. Arenas' work may lose a bit in translation, as the subtitling was riddled with odd word choices and bad grammar. Each interview was followed by a street musician, whose lyrics (perhaps based upon, adapted or were Arenas poems?) were as difficult as some of the readings. Not to mention that I didn't really like his music to begin with, so his continual reappearance began to annoy me. The actual interviews were of some interest, though a bit repetitive. However, the transgender's speech was the most touching, as she spoke mostly about her emotional life in Cuba, as opposed to the socio-political difficulties which the previous five men spoke of. There is a nearly clinical dryness to the film, which is personally ironic as I am something of a zealot when it comes to the documentary format and the way it has been 'dramatized' or transfigured into editorial in recent years. It is just that with this film which deals with human lives, I expect a bit more... humanity, I guess, for lack of a better term.

Maxxxxx says
re THE CURIOSITY OF CHANCE: "Wooooo! Dooby doobie dooo-oooo!"
re DOS PATRIAS: CUBA Y LA NOCHE: "Is it bedtime?"

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Out On Film, 2007 - Day 6

Out On Film, IMAGE Film and Video's annual LGBT film festival continues at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema here in Atlanta. Unlike the cinematic orgies that take over San Francisco's film festivals with no less than TWELVE screenings throughout the day, EVERY day, IMAGE F&V has scheduled only four or five screenings during the weeknights: two pair at a time. So, I'll only be seeing one or two features a night, up until closing night this Thursday. Tonight was a single feature in the TBA slot.

THE WALKER (dir. Paul Schrader, US/UK, 2007, 107 mins.) Well, if and when this receives distribution outside of the festival circuit, it will probably have quite a bit of buzz as hunky heartthrob Woody Harrelson plays a Washington, D.C., gay escort of sorts. (He is 'a walker' with married D.C. wives, which is a term not even I was familiar with.) Harrelson gives the most controlled performance I've seen of his to date. His mannerisms and vocalizations are 'fey' enough, without being camp and offensive. He obviously took the project quite seriously and his work is evident on screen. He is supported by a simply fabulous supporting cast: Lauren Bacall (who may look everyday of her 108 years, but can still deliver a line with PUNCH!), Lily Tomlin (who is terribly under used here), Kristin Scott Thomas (delivering a pitch perfect accent along with an intensely emotional performance!) and Moritz Belibtreu (of "Run Lola Run" fame!) who plays Harrelson's boyfriend. (William DaFoe and Ned Beatty are sorely underused, also.) The performances are all flawless, considering the vague screenplay they've been given. Well, perhaps there is more to the screenplay than what actually made it up to the screen, as well. This incredible group of characters are involved in a murder, the solution of which I still don't understand, and it's the morning after! The point that Schrader seems to be making is that there are unseen powers at work in Washington that use people as pawns. Harrelson and company are a group of gossips, really, and it is through them that news is spread, as well as a solution is found to the murder. But that is where it became pretty confusing. With the exception of the body, the rest of the intrigue behind why and who would commit the crime is all gathered through gossip over canasta, basically. Since the parties that are gossiped about are fictional and never actually appear on screen, the villain(s) remain hidden from our view. The drama is more cerebral than visceral, even if attempts are made on the lives of Harrelson and his boyfriend. Though Schrader takes some nifty jabs at the "current administration", there is no real connection to the present, i.e. never are the terms "Democrat" or "Republican" mentioned, so it would seem he is either implicating either the Republicans or the entire system, as the victim is a lobbyist. It is as if even he pulled a punch from his murderous satire by refraining from naming names. And I think that is where the piece loses its bite. However, with the script set aside, it is still a GORGEOUS looking film! Schrader's crew created (or recreated?) a world of American aristocracy. Nic Ede's costume design, particularly Harrelson's suits, are stunning, as are the hair and makeup designs. The production design and art direction by James Merifield and David Hindle, respectively, is breathtaking to the point of obnoxiously ostentatious! Chris Seager's cinematography is appropriately glamorous or moody. The film premiered at Toronto this year and though Pathe' has picked it up, it remains to be seen whether it will gain actual distribution.

Maxxxxx says
re THE WALKER: "Sweet, sweet eye juice!"

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Out On Film, 2007 - Day 5

Out On Film, IMAGE Film and Video's annual LGBT film festival continues at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema here in Atlanta. Unlike the cinematic orgies that take over San Francisco's film festivals with no less than TWELVE screenings throughout the day, EVERY day, IMAGE F&V has scheduled only four or five screenings during the weeknights: two pair at a time. So, I'll only be seeing one or two features a night, up until closing night this Thursday. Tonight's double feature went from overtly literal to obscurely non-linear:

WHIRLWIND (dir. Richard LeMay, USA, 99 mins.) A small posse of 30-somethings allow trouble to enter their tight circle in the form of a handsome libertine, who shakes up their world. I think we've all been there. Or at least I have, to the point that I found the script by Richard LeMay and Jason Brown to be almost embarrassingly direct and honest. I was squirming in my seat during the film, first from the nearly invasive nature of the all too recognizable situation, and later, from the wincingly simplistic confrontations and resolutions. What began as a complex deconstruction of a small group's dynamics turned to simplistic "I love you"s to resolve their conflicts. The sociopath that throws the group into turmoil becomes just that: a villain whom we want to see hurt. Deeply. The black and white distinction between good and bad treads the fine line of soap opera. The cast gives oddly uneven performances. Since the ensemble is continually in different one-on-one's with each other, it is difficult to tell (on a single screening) whether there is a lack of chemistry or rehearsal that makes some scenes click, as well as scenes that fall flat. Overall, they are an appealing bunch of guys who are quite quick with the one-liners. I began to believe that as the script became more simplistic that the cast began to emotionally step away and allow the words to carry the scenes. Considering the emotional catharsis that each one is faced with, there are no tears, yelling or gnashing of teeth, which would have sent it over the top. However, had the characters been allowed to physically perform, I think the script would have been revised for more subtle verbalization. However, with all that carping aside, the first two-thirds thrilled me and the final third made me wince, in that way that "Boys in the Band" does. That said, I will definitely add this to my collection once it is released on DVD to screen for MY posse! (The production values appeared to be fine, given that it was projected in the WRONG aspect ratio! argh! But I don't want to digress...)

ONE TO ANOTHER (Chacun sa nuit) (dirs. Jean-Marc Barr and Pascal Arnold, France, 95 mins.) Oh, those wacky Europeans! They think they are so clever with their non-linear murder mysteries, featuring naked boys and a girl! Oh, and yes, the four boys (who are in a band) and the girl all sleep with each other. The boys are bisexual. Oh, and yes, one boy is the girl's brother, but they're French, so I guess it's ok that THEY are sleeping with each other, too. (They are in their 20's, by the way.) After her brother is killed, she goes on a conquest, sexual and otherwise, to find the murderer. She (actress Lizzie Brocheré) maintains a pout through out the film, regardless of where in the timeline she is, which makes it a bit confusing. The four boys (Arthur Dupont, Pierre Perrier, Nicolas Nollet, and Guillaume Bach) are simply beautiful! However, they are so physically similar that I had a very, VERY difficult time telling them apart. In fact, at one point, I thought the film was going to veer into 'David Lynch territory' and we were going to find out that they were all actually ONE person or that the brother never existed, or... Well, I don't know. It wasn't that my mind wandered, but the style and technique of the script required constant intellectual effort, while the visuals were all too sensual. The cinematography is simply gorgeous, as are the subjects being photographed. The production design and costuming are so simplistic, that following the leaps back and forth in time became a guessing game at points. I have never complained about subtitling, but this was one time where 'reading it' was sort of annoying as some of the poetic asides were so jarring, I found myself trying to quickly re-read it to make some sense of what was being said. I think that all of this visual, structural and scripted slight-of-hand is just a way to disguise a fairly simple story, which we find out is based on a real event. I had a good guess of "who did it" merely half way through the film, and I was right, which sort of annoyed me, as there was so much work to do just to keep up with the plot in case I was wrong. If you're in the mood for such 'action', I would suggest Bertolucci's "The Dreamers", as it goes into the same lascivious territory, yet with a much more sophisticated screenplay.

Maxxxxx says
re WHIRLWIND: "Cranky bird!"
re ONE TO ANOTHER: "Sweet, sweet eye juice!"

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Out On Film, 2007 - Day 4

Out On Film, IMAGE Film and Video's annual LGBT film festival continues at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema here in Atlanta. Today, 1 documentary, 2 features, 3 short subjects. In sequential order:

A LESSON IN BIOLOGY [no link available] (dir. Keno Rider, USA, 20 mins.) Well, first, the opening credits were exceptionally slow and long. At one point, I thought they'd be longer than the short itself. I was wrong there. The film feels longer - longer than its twenty minutes, too. Obviously adapted from a one act play, it would seem to tread, or at least want to be compared to Tennessee Williams. Though set in 1968, the language is peculiarly archaic. The plot regarding the seduction of a teacher by one of his male students could have been more unsettling or dramatic had the student appeared to be 18 or younger. The two performers appear to be near the same age. The imbalance of attitudes between the two is perhaps too askew for the setting. Of course, I wouldn't be surprised to be told that this is a actual recollection and proven wrong. Ah well...

AREA X [no link available] (dir. Dennis Shinners, USA, 15 mins.) This is another one act play brought to the screen. The setting: two men in a bar, one nearly tragically depressed; the other, a hustler. Their confrontation seems almost too short at the end, though there was little room for it to go.

GETTING LUCKY (dir. Christian Lloyd, Canada, 38 mins.) Saving the best for last in this group of shorts, this is another stage-to-screen adaptation, which clocks in at the foreboding length of nearly 40 minutes for a short subject. However, as the director explained after the screening, there are plans to expand it into a feature, which would be fabulous! The film is set at 'Southern Decadence' which is (more or less) gay day in New Orleans. This is the morning after when a Canadian tourist wakes up on the bed of a local pick up, unable to remember the night before. Their interaction explores the vulnerability of being a stranger in a strange bed, as it were. The performances are excellent, most probably due to the fact that the film's director, Christian Lloyd wrote, directed and performed in the play, as well as performing it here on film, with the other original performer playing opposite him, as well. Lloyd allows his character the insecurities of NOT being as drop dead gorgeous as the man he awakes to, which increases his suspicions and fears. The two actors FILL each line and pause with suggestion and dangerous possibilities. The ending is positively sinister in its ambiguity and implications. I LOVED IT!

AND THERE YOU ARE (dir. Doug Sebastian, USA, 105 mins.) Locally produced in Valdosta, Georgia, this was a surprisingly effective comedy about a successful gay male's 'fetish' for straight men and the ensuing heartbreak (as well as the pursuing girlfriends!) such an attraction procures. Roy Kirkland, who wrote and stars himself, does a fabulous job for his first time out! In fact, the back story of the script is that this is based on a break up of his, from which he wrote a poem, turned that into a song and turned THAT into this film, with the help of director Doug Sebastian. The supporting cast, particularly the literal parade of men that Kirkland has affairs with, are perhaps less naturally skilled as Kirkland, but that only strengthens his character and avoids what could have been an exceptionally unsympathetic center of the film. The relationships between him and 'his boys' are genuinely friendly, which is how he gets into such emotional trouble to begin with. Danielle Lalk gives a nearly inspired performance as the girlfriend of his central fixation. Lalk and Kirkland's IM'ing scene over MySpace is a gem of a sequence in itself! The film is understatedly charming, (as is the nearly forgettable title! What's up with that?!)the cast is handsome and the production values belie what must be assumed to be a low budget. The film has gone "straight to video" and is available from TLA Releasing.

As a bit of a footnote, during the Q&A (which I STAYED for this time!), Kirkland described the efforts it took to cast the paramours (mostly students from Valdosta State University) and how those guys are now a bit embarrassed by the national exposure the film is getting. Hee, hee, hee...

The boys in WE'RE ALL ANGELS (dir. Robert Nunez, USA, 90 mins.) are anything BUT embarrassed by their success! Jason and DeMarco are a fairly famous, if not infamous, gay Christian music duo that has found themselves in something of a "no man's land". I was hesitant about even seeing this documentary myself, at first, since the two guys punch a bunch of my personal belief buttons, re: religion, 'gay twinks', opportunists, etc. However, this documentary does a good job in letting you see the guys for who they really are. The film is NOT filled with prayer laden platitudes, but is about two artists who preach about "finding your authenticity" while facing the struggle to maintain their own in a business where they are encouraged to 'sell out' and cross-over to dance and pop music. Physically, the boys are so pretty, that dance and pop seem like a natural fit. Artistically, you see their awkwardness, hesitancy and eventual rejection of those genres as they progress through a pop music management firm. DeMarco would seem to be the business-side of the duo and has no hesitancy in confronting stage management on the quality of production that they are involved in. Jason, in particular, leaves no holds barred in baring himself in front of a camera. His comment regarding gay marriage is priceless! DeMarco is Canadian and in the U.S. on a series of work visas. A marriage would provide DeMarco with citizenship, but in Jason's words, "My man-gina just doesn't cut it!" HA! The guys are ribald, without being profane, which is an art in itself. Their looks also belie their age and maturity. Within the documentary, they partner with a producer who they believe can adapt their sound for "the kids 10 years younger than us". As can be expected, there is a lot of footage of their performances, as well as their recording sessions. Jason displays a near phenomenal tenor and DeMarco displays just as much stage presence. What the film might lack is commentary from the gospel music industry, which does NOT accept the duo as legitimate artists in that music. There is some commentary from dance club producers and mixers, thus proving one of the points that Jason makes in the film, that although not ALL of the gay culture may except them, at least part of it does, whereas NO ONE from the gospel culture accepts them at all. Though I might not find myself running out and buying their cds, I am glad to have seen this, if just to be able to humanize the "Ken and Barbie" of gay gospel music. (The film is produced by Michael Huffington, aka Arianna's ex-husband!)

GLUE (dir. Alexis dos Santos, Argentina, 110 mins.) Winner of this year's Frameline Award for Best First Feature, I actually couldn't finish it, though I know I saw enough of it. Desolate, minimalistic, a view into the void that the teenage protagonist is dealing with, etc. From my personal bias and viewpoint, this is typical of the cinema from Argentina. (I know my friends Sue Jean and Netta would LOVE this!) I just find no satisfaction in witnessing "boredom and family alienation", or as Variety stated in its POSITVE review, "...youth spent in a Patagonian dullsville, where the emptiness of the environment creates an even wider staging ground for self-discovery. Pic captures adolescence replete with the sort of boring chatter and life musings teens think are profound." It just bored me.

Maxxxxx says
re GETTING LUCKY: "Woooooo!"
re WE'RE ALL ANGELS: "Dooby doobie doo-ooo!"
re AND THERE YOU ARE: "Sweet, sweet eye juice!"
re GLUE and the rest: "Is it bedtime?"

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