Friday, October 30, 2009


As I have a certain penchant for the campy and psychedelic, I have been approached by the Seventh Annual 3rd I San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival to co-present QUICK GUN MURUGUN (dir. Shashanka Ghosh, India, 2009, 97 mins.). Though I am indeed flattered, I have to say, that this film pushes even MY boundaries! Within the first two minutes, our hero is killed and goes to 'heaven' to be reincarnated. Or perhaps he is just sent back to fulfill his destiny as a vegetarian cowboy and defeat the evil Rice Plate Reddy and his chain of McDosa restaurants. I'm not totally assured, as our hero leaps through time and realities in his quest for vegetarian domination!

And he does it wearing green silk!

There are, of course, songs to the spirit of his lover, who appears to be captured in a locket he wears, yet is able to join mystically at the most opportune moments. These 'moments' go beyond Ken Russell self indulgence, past music video surrealism and, basically, tread into what I can only imagine to be LSD inspired lunacy!

Now, there is a great deal of cultural and religious iconography that I don't have the background or education to follow, quite frankly. So, it was just a matter of sitting back and letting the day-glo sequences burst into song and ride along! It is in Tamil and English and the flipping between languages only adds to the surreal and alien experience. And to be quite frank, since it is screening at 1130 PM at the Roxie, I would head on in to the theater, "adjusted" for the cinematic trip to commence!

Enjoy and "Mind it!" Friday, November 6, 11:20pm, at the Roxie Theatre, 3117 16th Street, San Francisco! Advanced sale tickets HERE!

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re "Sweet, sweet eye juice!"

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Rachel Rosen RETURNS to San Francisco!!

Media Contacts:   Hilary Hart          415.561.5022
Bill Proctor     415.561.5024

Former Film Society Mainstay Returns to Help Lead Vastly Expanded and Enriched Organization As it Enters New Era of Growth

San Francisco, CA -- The San Francisco Film Society announces the appointment of Rachel Rosen as director of programming, effective August 10, 2009.

Rachel Rosen
Photo by Jesse Grant / WireImage

"We're thrilled to welcome Rachel back to a leadership role in the organization after her extraordinarily successful tenure in Los Angeles," said Graham Leggat, SFFS executive director. "Her intelligence, flair for innovation and keen eye for exciting new work are just what we need as we enter our next phase."
Rosen returns to SFFS after an eight-year stint as director of programming of Film Independent (FIND) and the Los Angeles Film Festival. During this time she expanded the Festival to include an eclectic slate of films reflecting the diversity of film art and of the city of Los Angeles. Attendance during her term at the Festival grew exponentially, from 35,000 to over 80,000. Her impact was enthusiastically endorsed by Scott Foundas in LA Weekly, who wrote that LAFF is "our most intelligent and ambitiously programmed-indeed our most
essential-annual film event."

"Rachel's discerning eye, dazzling knowledge of film and support of independent filmmakers have been essential to the Festival's success during her years at Film Independent," said Film Independent's Executive Director Dawn Hudson.  "I so appreciate Rachel's extraordinary talents and her unstinting commitment to the organization, and we wish her the best as she enters this new phase in her career."

Rosen steps in to fill the post recently vacated by Linda Blackaby, who joined the Film Society's programming department in November 2001, and left her position as director of programming on August 7, after eight years of commendable service. "One of the most respected film programmers on the international scene, Linda has played a primary role in the expansion and success of the Film Society in recent years," said Leggat. "She leaves behind many friends and admirers. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors."

Rosen dramatically increased the number and scope of international films presented at LAFF and instituted a special international sidebar that examined independent films from Argentina and China, as well as rare and lesser-known international animation, the work of Nigerian filmmaker Tunde Kelani and documentaries from Mexico's Ambulante Film Festival, among other highlights. She also brought to the Festival special programs with a live component including screenings with simultaneous commentary from cast and crew (Valley Girl, Hollywood Shuffle), silent films with live music from contemporary musicians such as Sparklehorse, J-Rocc, the RZA and the Nortec Collective, as well as a Buffy Big-Screen Interactive Extravaganza and a Swear-Along Scarface. During her tenure, LAFF featured the premieres of such films as Deliver Us from Evil, Loot, Mayor of the Sunset Strip and Rock School. Additional acquisitions from the Festival included August Evening, The Cool School and Young@Heart.

"I think what Graham and the Film Society team have accomplished in the past few years with both the San Francisco International Film Festival and year-round programming is incredibly exciting," said Rosen, "and I'm grateful to have a chance to be a part of it. I'm thrilled to be returning to an organization and a city that love great cinema."

Before joining FIND Rosen was associate director of programming at the San Francisco Film Society where she had been a film and video programmer since 1994. Rosen began her career in New York where she worked as a publicist in the film industry for five years. In 1988, she enrolled in Stanford University's prestigious documentary film program in the department of communication. While completing her thesis film, Rosen worked for the New York Film Festival as directors liaison and for SFFS in addition to working in various capacities on student and professional film productions.

In 1993, Rosen moved back to New York for a year to accept a position as programming and publicity associate at Film Forum, New York City's influential art house. Her short documentary on tornado chasers, Serious Weather, was shown at the San Francisco and Vancouver International Film Festivals and the British Short Film Festival. Rosen was born and raised in Washington, D.C. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in comparative literature from Brown University.

During her tenure, Blackaby oversaw SFFS festivals and other public exhibitions, maintaining a high level of curatorial quality as SFFS dramatically expanded its calendar to include year-round offerings. She also provided a bridge of programmatic excellence and assisted with administrative stability during major changes in leadership. The 2009 San Francisco International Film Festival, her most recent program, received critical and audience acclaim and enjoyed record attendance. Previously, Blackaby programmed the Hamptons International Film Festival on Long Island and was founding director of the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema. She came to the Bay Area in 1997 to advise the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. She is currently chair of the Princess Grace Foundation
film panel in New York City.

"Getting to know and working with the San Francisco film community has been very meaningful to me," said Blackaby. "There is so much talent and expertise here, and such passion for good cinema, that it has been particularly gratifying to have contributed to the growth of the Festival and SFFS."

"I have been considering a short sabbatical for some time," she continued. "After eight years at the San Francisco Film Society I look forward to taking a little time to travel, read and take on new challenges. I wish all of my colleagues at SFFS the best."

San Francisco Film Society is a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to celebrating film and the moving image in all its glorious forms. SFFS year-round programs and events are concentrated in four core areas: Celebrating Internationalism, Inspiring Bay Area Youth, Showcasing Bay Area Film Culture and Exploring New Digital Media. The Film Society shows the best of world cinema year-round on its SFFS Screen at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas; presents the longest-running film festival in the Americas, the SF International (April 22-May 6, 2010); publishes a daily online magazine,, featuring broad-ranging news and features on Bay Area film and media; annually reaches more than 8,000 students ages 6-18 with its acclaimed media literacy programs; and provides crucial support to the Bay Area filmmaking community through SFFS Filmmaker Services including FilmHouse Residencies, Fiscal Sponsorship, the SFFS/Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grants, the Herbert Family Filmmaking Grants, the Hearst Screening Grant, the Djerassi/SFFS Screenwriting Fellowship, SFFS Film Arts Forums and professional-level filmmaker classes.

Maxxxxx says
re Rachel Rosen: "Hello!"

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

San Francisco Silent Film Festival, 2009 - Recapping the GREAT ones!

The 14th Annual Silent Film Festival
July 10-12, 2009, at the Historic Castro Theater.

Of the seemingly DOZENS of film festivals that are home in the Bay Area, every summer, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival takes three short days to produce one of the finest events of the year. No, there are not any large gift bags at opening night, nor an overwhelming buffet or party, but it does produce a program listing that is worthy of being compared to any publication you might receive at the opera, and they bring in some of the worlds top film accompanying artists, historians and restoration authorities, to showcase the film in an environment as close to possible to its premiere. In some of the most extreme cases, even the original film scores have been restored and scored by the performers, or the score is improvised, as it was for the short subjects. In several cases the scores are a modern interpretation that remains remarkably true to the visual and dramatic style of the film screened. An exceptional minority of the audience even take the effort to dress for the period through out the weekend. The visiting authors and historians are available in the mezzanine lobby after the screenings for signings and in depth Q&As that may not have been answered during their unusually thorough introductions to the films. One top of all that, the fest is probably one of the best values in the area for only $140 for an all access pass, featuring the 12 performances. Just to hear the musicians themselves for a weekend, is worth twice that!

Anyway, moving on to a selection of those mind blowing moments when the live, the image and the ghosts all congregated for a magical few hours.

THE WIND (dir. Victor Sjostrom, USA, 1928, 110 mins.) Ironically, THE WIND would appear to have been so many decades ahead of its time in style and story, that this visual and sonic freudian nightmare was a financial flop when released after the sound recorded variety act of THE JAZZ SINGER, which premiered earlier in the year. Lillian Gish's performance of impending dread, which turns to outright terror, is well measured and paced, as well as being transparent to technique. It is a marvel to observe, considering the physical circumstances of performing into jet propelled sand storms, which she had stated was her most physically demanding role. Director Sjostrom's pacing of the unraveling of her mind, as she is faced with the aspect of living in the isolated, dry plains of Texas, with her (overly affectionate) brother, her hardened and jealous sister-in-law, their children and a pair of lonely male settlers. There is also the periodic reappearance of a traveling salesman, who provokes each level of her disintegration.

Leonard Maltin presented the film with some historical background as to the financial impact it had on Warner Brothers and the place that Lillian Gish held at the time in the profession. However, due to the financial failure of the film, it would be Gish's last film with Warners and she would return to the stage for the majority of her career, as would director Sjostrom. Maltin also introduced the fabulous Dennis James, aka My Wurlitzer Daddy! Ever since hearing him accompany FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE a dozen years ago, I have deified the man! He is a MONSTER on the instrument! He was aided by a pair of wind machines, one performed by Mark Goldstein who provided additional sound effects. The score built and whirled and perfectly reflected the psychic nightmare that Gish's character fell into. It was as effective an experience as some of the best psychological horror that Alfred Hitchcock or Stephen King has ever produced.

Previous to THE WIND, my second remarkable experience was with UNDERWORLD (dir. Josef von Sternberg, US, 1927, 90 mins.) Written by Robert N. Lee, based on a story by Ben Hecht, the film was introduced by Eddie Muller, the "godfather of film noir" here in San Francisco, if not the country. Though his introduction debated the status of UNDERWORLD as being the first film noir, he did give credit and several anecdotes about Ben Hecht's writing style and influence. The film was photographed by Bert Glennon, who provided a series of close ups that were breathtaking at times. The chemistry that may or may not have existed between Clive Brook and Evelyn Brent, was given undeniable HEAT through Glennon's closeups between the two of them. Clive Brook KNEW what look to give straight into the camera to just ignite it. Brent teased the camera with her looks of danger and sensuality. This passion was rarely allowed to be caught within the same frame, which was a fascinating choice, yet reflects Josef von Sternberg's propensity to capture "stars" and not ensembles, as it would climax with his work with Dietrich. The film itself is a gangland romantic triangle that is never consummated by any of the parties, as there is no room for love in the midst of crime, as is the pattern of film noir. Their lives are too harsh to love while "at work" and it isn't until after the resolution that there is a hint that a couple my actually fall in love, but only by a sacrifice by the third wheel.

The film was accompanied by pianist and flautist Stephen Horne, whose score would go into the world of jazz fusion as the film reached its climax. It was an exceptionally rich score coming from a piano and not the organ. As the violence and passion continued to deepen, so did Horne's score until it was nearly an impressionistic storm of music. It was a fabulous afternoon, and I'll never forget that one heart stopping close up of Clive Brook, when Evelyn Brent asks him if he loves women...

Next on my favorites of the weekend would have to be SO'S YOUR OLD MAN (dir. Gregory La Cava, US, 1926, 80 mins.), a star vehicle for the irascible W.C. Fields. Guess what? He plays the town oddball inventor who would rather drink a jug of cleaning fluid than whiskey. How he works into the plot some ultra-classic bits involving a visiting princess, a golf course and a pony is best left to a screening, but it had me laughing out loud! Even the intertitles were perfectly edited in for comic effect. It was the lightest and most enjoyable of the entries I saw during the weekend. The piano accompaniment was provided by Philip Carli, however, not even live music could upstage Mr. Fields, and certainly NOT Terry Zwigoff who introduced the film with his trademark deadpan, if not, distance.

Maxxxxx says
re SF Silent Film Festival: "......"

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San Francisco Silent Film Festival, 2009 - Recapping the Good Moments!

The 14th Annual Silent Film Festival
July 10-12, 2009, at the Historic Castro Theater.

As I stated elsewhere, this is one of the finest festival events that I attend in the Bay Area. Though there were moments that were nearly out-of-body experiences, there were a number of truly exceptional moments, too.

Opening night began with THE GAUCHO (dir. F. Richard Jones, US, 1927, 120 mins.), a star vehicle for Douglas Fairbanks and Lupe Velez. The film was introduced by Jerry Vance and Tony Manietta, who provided some nifty technical background as well as much appreciated gossip! Apparently the casting of Mary Pickford in the small role of The Madonna had something to do with retribution for some on-set attraction between her then husband Fairbanks and Velez. Her scene itself was of some extra interest as it was filmed in two-strip technicolor with added effects to create a halo. They screened recently discovered tests of that scene as what is included in the present print is black and white.

Anyway, the film itself could be seen as a typical tango-and-horse-tricks feel good flick, with the ever so dashing Douglas Fairbanks, chewing away at the scenery, whenever possible, even if it is the simple lighting of a cigarette. Lupe Velez does a decent job of keeping up, as did the accompanying Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, but it is Fairbanks' film, through and through.

Lupe Velez would be given a greater chance to impress in the closing night film, LADY OF THE PAVEMENTS (dir. D.W. Griffith, US, 1929, 120 mins.). Here, Ms. Velez plays a cabaret singer and prostitute, who is hired to take down a visiting Prussian Count (William Boyd), by posing as a "lady" to whom he will fall in love. The hiring is done by a Countess, who is EVILLY and deliciously portrayed by Jetta Goudal. The film owes what success it has to the interplay between our leading ladies. According to the introduction by Russell Merritt, there is about as much written about the off screen feud between Velez and Goudal as there is about the technical demands that the emergence of sound made on director Griffith. D.W. Griffith introduced five songs within the film, that were recorded to be played in synch during the screenings. At this screening, the film was accompanied by Donald Sosin on piano and sung by Joanna Seaton. Griffith's attempt to introduce the human voice felt a bit wedged in and reluctant. However, the final song was effective.

At the opposite end of the accessibility scale, though I enjoyed it quite a bit, was THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (La chute de la maison Usher) (dir. Jean Epstein, France, 1928). Acting Artistic Director, Anita Monga, introduced the feature, along with an American made short version of the same subject, with just the right amount of surreal haziness. (The short was a last minute substitution for the scheduled print of THE BARBER'S QUEER CUSTOMER.) The film was fabulously accompanied by Stephen Horne, who took the the neo-expressionistic visuals on screen and added his impressionistic, if not improvised talents to it, and lead the audience into the dream that Poe had written. I loved the experience, yet place it here amongst the "GREATS of the fest" as it was almost too gauzy, too much of a dream, that I had a trouble holding on to the path of the film and just had to struggle let it take me on its surreal path. (Luis Bunuel worked on the film, too, though he was fired after making remarks on set.) It was also scheduled after the W.C. Fields piece, so it was a bit jarring to experience.

The other film that could be considered avant-garde was AELITA, QUEEN OF MARS (dir. Jakov Protazanov, USSR, 1924, 125 mins.), which was appropriately introduced by the programmer of MIDNIGHT FOR MANIACS, Jesse Hawthorne Ficks and accompanied by the Wurlizter god, Dennis James, who also played the Theremin, and Mark Goldstein on Buchla Lightning. In the spirit of full disclosure, I couldn't finish it. As visually arresting as the Mars sequences were, designed by Alexandra Exter, the earthbound sequences were bogged down with proletariat plot that went beyond propoganda, and so dominated the first half of the film (i.e. what I saw), that I just saw no need to stay. I heard that the Mars sequences did dominate further towards the end, however, there is no question that the artistic significance was Exter's deisgn work and not necessarily the filmmaking.

Maxxxxx says
re Silent Film Festivals: "....."

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Frameline 33 (SF LGBT Film Festival, 2009) - Closing Night Awards

Frameline 33: San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, the world’s premiere showcase for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender cinema, runs June 18-28, 2009, with screenings in San Francisco at the historic Castro Theatre, Roxie Theater and the Victoria Theatre, and in Berkeley at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood.

The Closing Night Party for Frameline 33, took place at Terra Gallery on Rincon Hill, here in San Francisco. It's a bit more than a hop-skip-and-a-jump away, and I miss the party tent outside of the Castro Theatre. Anyway, it was a bit of a who's who of the fest there. I was semi-stalking the Kuchar Brothers, but couldn't come up with anything witty to say, so left them to their filling tupperware with the catering. (If you've seen them, it isn't as tacky as it sounds!) There was also the director of ANOTHERWORLD, Fabiomassimo Lozzi, and his cute boyfriend, acting like newlyweds even after being together for 18 years. (Plus the two of them are adorable and evil flirts! Uh, don't ask...) Sharon Gless and Rosie O'Donnell were brought up on stage to share a kiss for the girls, apparently, before they left, which was sort of cute.

Anyway, the central purpose is to announce the Audience Award Winners, which were decided via text-voting on the AT&T network this year. (I'm still skeptical of the process.) After knocking back a few Skyy cocktails (I found a NEW recipe! Skyy Cherry Infused Vodka and Coke! It's a cherry coke with a KICK!), K.C. Adams, who has grown on me and was being very shy amongst the crowd, not to mention sort of studly, but I digress... Uh, Oh! K.C. Adams and Jennifer Morris first announced the "Volunteer Award" which goes to the Volunteer of the Year and he/she then awards the Volunteer Pick, which went to PRODIGAL SONS. The AT&T Audience Awards were presented to LUCHA for Short (which I was accused of being racist for not liking); TRAINING GROUNDS (which I did not see?!?!) for Documentary; and PATRIK, 1.5 for Feature.

MY Personal favorites:
Feature: FIG TREES
Special Favorite: THUNDERCRACK!!!

A final and huge thank you to Karen Larsen, and Kelda and Leo, at Larsen Associates and Natalie Mulford, at Frameline for all their generous (GENEROUS!!) assistance and access to this year's festival!

Maxxxxx says
re FRAMELINE and LARSEN ASSOCIATES: "I love you too!"

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Frameline 33 (SF LGBT Film Festival, 2009) - Day 11 (Closing Night)

Frameline 33: San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, the world’s premiere showcase for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender cinema, runs June 18-28, 2009, with screenings in San Francisco at the historic Castro Theatre, Roxie Theater and the Victoria Theatre, and in Berkeley at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood. Tickets are available via the website 24 hours a day, via fax, or in person at the Frameline Festival Box Office Counter.

ANOTHERWORLD (dir. Fabiomassimo Lozzi, Italy, 106 Mins.) Though simply described as 43 monologues about being gay in Italy may seem, the impact of the film was breathtaking. Even though a great majority of the pieces are dramatic, if not severe (based on interviews pulled from Antonio Veneziani and Riccardo Reim’s books Pornocuore and I Mignotti), Lozzi’s affirming personal climax was sincerely moving. It is an exceptionally theatrical piece, as it was workshopped on stage, however it breaks free from being stagebound by director Lozzi's imaginative production design and exceptional editing. Not to mention, the 50+ actors are all gorgeous - there isn't a dawg in the pack! During the Q&A, Lozzi explained that it was a hugely popular project for actors in Rome and that a great many of the performers are television and film stars who wanted to lend their voices to this piece about the cultural and self-imposed oppression of being gay in the Roman Catholic controlled country. Though the material can be exceptionally difficult at points, and the format of all those monologues can seem intimidating, I found it to be a rewarding experience!

The Official Closing Night program began with a K.C. Adams and Jennifer Morris love-fest for each other and with the audience, which was fully deserved. Mr. Adams appeared even more nervous tonight than during the Opening Night Ceremony. However, that boyish nervousness was actually sort of endearing by the end of this year's fest. Ms. Morris handled the majority of the evening as the pro that she is, as she introduced Wendy Jo Carlton, the director of tonight's film, as well as special guest, Rosie O'Donnell, who was there to support Sharon Gless and give a nifty closing night bit of a stand-up routine. She came off warm and charming and not at all the bulldog that some television producers would have her portrayed. Ah, if only the film had been her equal...

Despite Sharon Gless' great performance, HANNAH FREE (dir. Wendy Jo Carlton, USA, 2009, 90 Mins.) never breaks free from its stagebound roots. In fact, the succession of monologues became tedious, particularly after having just witnessed the film before and how dramatically and cinematically a script could be opened up, even though maintaining the core material. The story here focuses on the last few days of life of a lesbian couple, who are separated by the next-of-kin of one of their families. The conflict there is oversimplified and "preached to the choir" as it were, provoking preanticipated cheers, boos and hisses. Of course, that said, perhaps I am just a bit too cynical, as there were weepy eyes around me by the end. I was just not only NOT moved, but actually a bit annoyed by how over simplification of the speech, the cinematic tehnique and conflict of the drama.

Maxxxxx says
re ANOTHERWORLD: "I love you!"

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Frameline 33 (SF LGBT Film Festival, 2009) - Day 10

Frameline 33: San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, the world’s premiere showcase for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender cinema, runs June 18-28, 2009, with screenings in San Francisco at the historic Castro Theatre, Roxie Theater and the Victoria Theatre, and in Berkeley at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood. Tickets are available via the website 24 hours a day, via fax, or in person at the Frameline Festival Box Office Counter.

POP STAR ON ICE (dirs. David Barba, James Pellerito, USA, 2008, 85 Mins.) After K.C. Price (most ably, and in a sort of studly manner, for 11AM on a Saturday) introduced the exceptionally soft spoken directors of this documentary about champion ice skater Johnny Weir, it became clear that that there were FANS in the house! In fact, a third of the house decided to give it a standing ovation, at the end. Hm. Well. I can only appreciate the work, skill and talent that it takes to do what he does. Weir also displays a quick wit and a formidable debate style. However, I am not quite sure why he might be considered a "gay icon" as he declines to discuss the matter, regardless of how obviously 'gay' he is. That aspect of his life is not readily addressed in the film, which presupposes that the audience already knows and accepts an unspoken fact. That's a tricky road for a documentary. By ignoring that little tidbit, the film could be seen as exploring the relationship between coach and athlete and where it led. However, even in some of the "coaching scenes", both Weir and coach Priscilla Hill, seem very camera-aware, and it treads into the chicken-or-the-egg world of 'reality' programming. (In fact, there is a television series following him in production.) As he is as much an entertainer as a competitor, realty gets blurred.

FRUIT FLY (dir. H.P. Mendoza, USA, 2008, 94 Mins.) Director, producer, writer, songwriter and actor H.P. Mendoza is a dynamo. I do not know how he does it and still maintains such a sweet persona, without appearing to be a total control freak. Anyway, his latest musical may not be quite as magical as COLMA: THE MUSICAL. However, Mendoza's maturity as a film maker serves this material well! It is leaner and sharper, the characters are more focused and he has given it an ending that winks at wisdom. The performers and characters are older and wiser, too, which sets the piece off as a good companion work to COLMA. Mendoza is now on "my list" of cult figures and I can not wait for another two years for his next effort!

The afternoon was broken up with the shorts program, DYKES DELIGHT, which I previewed earlier.

MR. RIGHT (dirs. Jacqui Morris, David Morris, UK, 2008, 94 Mins.) Briefly, I just got board with this first of the two 'Pink Saturday' films (Pink Saturday, being the street parTAY that explodes outside the Castro on the night before Gay Pride Day), and, in full disclosure, walked out about half way. The film starts with a woman complaining about dating a gay man, and it never seemed to stop complaining about gay men in general. There was what seemed like endless chatter amongst the four couples (three gay and one straight), in a THIRTYSOMETHING goes QUEER AS FOLK way. It felt shallow and bitter and I was in more of a mood to people watch than watch people snipe at each other on screen.

Maxxxxx says
re FRUIT FLY: "Dooby dooby dooo-oooo!"

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Frameline 33 (SF LGBT Film Festival, 2009) - Day 9

Frameline 33: San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, the world’s premiere showcase for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender cinema, runs June 18-28, 2009, with screenings in San Francisco at the historic Castro Theatre, Roxie Theater and the Victoria Theatre, and in Berkeley at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood. Tickets are available via the website 24 hours a day, via fax, or in person at the Frameline Festival Box Office Counter.

The Short Subject Program for the day, a collection of international short narrative firlms, was previewed and posted earlier:WORLDLY AFFAIRS.

THE BABY FORMULA (dir. Alison Reid, Canada, 2008, 81 Mins.) What a lovely, little romp this was! In mockumentary style, Alison Reid documents the simultaneous pregnancies of a pair of lesbians, who were able to conceive with each other's ova, without sperm, as this scientific breakthrough spreads through their disbelieving families. It is actually the relationship between the two pregnant partners that is the heart of the story though. The performances from Angela Vint and Megan Fahlenbock are nearly spectacular in their freshness, sincerity and realism. (Well, since they were both actually pregnant during the filming, perhaps attaining realism was easier than imagined?!) Their relationship with each other could have held my interest for hours without the funhouse of the families interjecting. In fact, the families are overplayed by comparison, which may have been the point of introducing a 'family circus' element, but I found it a bit distracting. Even with that, the editing is near comic genius at points and director Alison Reid has conceived a brilliant domestic comedy, that she perceives (during the Q&A) could have a life of its own as a series. I totally agree!

CANYON CINEMA'S QUEER UNDERGROUND was curated and presented by Canyon Cinema's Executive Director, Dominic Angerame, as a collection of avant-garde, experimental and underground short subjects with LGBT content. (All films are sourced to the Canyon Cinema Website.)

The program began appropriately enough with an invocation, as it were. SHAMAN PSALM (dir. James Broughton, USA, 1981, 7 min.) is simply a poem being recited underneath images of a male, nudist gathering. "The love shaman calls for a sexual revolution of the body politic urging mankind into a new love age." This was followed even more appropriately by a Kenneth Anger piece from his MAGICK LANTERN CYCLE, FIREWORKS (dir. Kenneth Anger, USA, 1947, 15 min.). It is simply a dream, or a nightmare, of homoerotic passion with a group of sailors and fireplaces.

The program continued with one of my two new directorial discoveries at this festival. CONFESSIONS (Dir. Curt McDowell, USA, 1971, 16 min.) Made while Curt McDowell was a graduate student at San Francisco Art Institute, it is simply a confession to his mother and father, "listing (in exhausting detail) his sins of the flesh." What is so compelling is his innocent, if not humorous take on his life at that point. He has a charming presence that makes the personal, if not nearly surreal expression of his desires even more accessible.

GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM (dir. Su Fredrich, USA, 1981, 14 min.) This was one of the more inaccessible pieces. It is silent and features a great deal of filmic poetry, most of which was written on the actual frames. Though I followed it as the stream of consciousness that it was, it is always a bit difficult to follow someone else's dream, quite so literally.

I, AN ACTRESS (dir. George Kuchar, USA, 1977, 10 min.) George Kuchar is my second directorial find at this year's fest! I LOVED THIS egomaniacal take on directing an actress. As actress and director wrestle over a screen test, Kuchar (as the director) continually pushes and crosses the boundaries of his own expression, and literally attacking the actress's space and talent. He is amazing to watch and work. His ability to write such complicated verbiage and then deconstruct it visually has me stunned!

VALENTINE FOR NELSON (dir. Jim Hubbard, USA, 1990, 5 min.) It is what it says and is a decent companion piece to the much more explicit lesbian "love letter", which followed. HOLDING (dir. Connie Beeson, USA, 1971, 13 min.) "Two young women in love communicate through fantasy and touching in a rhythmic buildup, merging time concepts. Flashes of the past blend with the present and future in a collage of themselves, the hills, the sea and their sexuality."

DEVIL'S DAIRYMAID (dir. Kym S. Farmen, USA, 2008, 8 min.) In what had to be perhaps the most intensely paced and edited short, Kym S. Farmen tale of a dairymaid "lured into a dark forest by mischievous and ominous spirits" took on magical and maniacal velocity, for such a simple action, setting and plot. In an odd way, I really got into the churning, churning, churning...

Maxxxxx says
re THE BABY FORMULA and I, AN ACTRESS: "I love you too!"

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Frameline 33 (SF LGBT Film Festival, 2009) - Day 8

Frameline 33: San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, the world’s premiere showcase for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender cinema, runs June 18-28, 2009, with screenings in San Francisco at the historic Castro Theatre, Roxie Theater and the Victoria Theatre, and in Berkeley at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood. Tickets are available via the website 24 hours a day, via fax, or in person at the Frameline Festival Box Office Counter.

Today's short subject program that I was able to preview and post earlier was TRANSTASTIC, which featured narratives about the transgendered experience.

COLLEGE BOYS LIVE (dir. George O'Donnell, USA, 2009, 90 Mins.) This turned out to be perhaps the most exposing of the "call boy documentaries", even if it did try to slide by that actual issue. The film is about the occupants of the webcam house "College Boys Live", which is an adult entertainment website. As it turns out the "college boys" are not in college, doncha' know, but a ragtag collection of post-adolescent Oliver Twists who are in search of a surrogate family and willing to expose themselves to an audience for rent. As exploitative as the situation may sound, the head of the household is not holding them "hostage" and in fact, seems to spend a greater deal of time handling the constant change over of boys. They agree to a 6 month stay, however it would seem that very few make it for a year. At any rate, a great deal of "Big Brother" voyeuristic drama ensues, which actually sort of heightened the entertainment value, in that 'watching a car wreck' way. During the Q&A, one commenter remarked that he felt he was being exploited as much as a voyeur. Well, come on! What about the catalog description LURED you in here...? Yawn...

GIVE ME YOUR HAND (dir. Pascal-Alex Vincent, France, 2009, 80 Mins.) This is one of the more beautifully shot films in the festival. It is dreamily paced and even though the handling of the twins was a bit confusing at times, even emotionally in that stereotypical French "I love you so much, let's fight!" kind of way. The twins, Alexander Carril and Victor Carril, capably handle the emotional ambiguity that director Pascal-Alex Vincent requires of them, as they take a journey to attend their mother's funeral, across country. Now, why this sets off a Candide-like adventure, I am not totally sure. Frankly, now as I think about it, the film really does unspool like a dream - not really making much sense, but just enough to keep me captivated for it's perfectly timed 80 minutes. They also appear in Vincent's short included in the WORLDLY AFFAIRS shorts program, which appears to be nearly a pitch film for this feature.

Maxxxxx says
re both films: "Sweet, sweet eye juice!"

You can contact Maxxxxx or myself here: JayCBird@AOL.COM

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Frameline 33 (SF LGBT Film Festival, 2009) - Day 7

Frameline 33: San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, the world’s premiere showcase for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender cinema, runs June 18-28, 2009, with screenings in San Francisco at the historic Castro Theatre, Roxie Theater and the Victoria Theatre, and in Berkeley at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood. Tickets are available via the website 24 hours a day, via fax, or in person at the Frameline Festival Box Office Counter.

Today's screenings included three short subject programs, which I was able to preview earlier:
GLOBAL QUEERS: The collection of four documentaries of activists and lifestyles around the world.
BI-REQUEST: A collection of narrative shorts, focusing on bi-sexual orientation.
BACK TO LIFE: A collection of narrative shorts, focusing on women, mostly and featuring perhaps the best piece of the festival, LIE TOGETHER!

I also screened at an earlier preview, PRODIGAL SONS (dir. Kimberly Reed, USA, 2008, 86 Mins.). Although the program synopsis actually details this documentary, with spoilers, the story of this family focuses primarily on the three sons: one gay, one adopted (who has suffered a brain injury and has the biggest surprise of a "past life") and the filmmaker, who is a Male-to-Female transgender, as she returns to her high school reunion. The father died a couple years before the film begins. I was gasping throughout the revelations of the family's history, but that was exposing what I feel is the film's "flaw". The focus is mostly on Reed and how family and friends continue to react to her transition. What I want to know is how the mother is able to get through this amazing soap opera! (I swear it is only missing pirates!) Seeing as the subject is also the director, I would have liked to have seen a more objective view.

MISCONCEPTIONS (dir. Ron Satlof, USA, 2008, 95 Mins.) A very stable and professional cast, led by A.J. Cook (CBS’s Criminal Minds), Orlando Jones and David Sutcliffe (Gilmore Girls), are able to overcome this highly unlikely comedy, in which a devout Christian (Cook), who lives somewhere in the South, is led by God to be the surrogate mother to a gay couple (Jones and David Moscow) in Boston. And there's the rub. One must suspend disbelief that the gay couple were unable to find an available surrogate in Boston, much less have to go to the extent necessary to find this woman. Once you get past that, there is the over-the-top production design, which HAMMERS the cultural differences in such a way as to be a sit-com. Toss in a couple lies and deceptions, and drama is to ensue. However, the situation is so broadly drawn at that point that I found myself lacking any real sincere emotional reaction to the film, except to admire Orlando Jones' comic mastery.

REDWOODS (dir. David Lewis, USA, 2009, 82 Mins.) First the great news: I finally met up with my former contact at TLA Video: Lewis Tice! Yay, Lewis! Second, the good news: The film he is involved in looks beautiful. The cinematography is gauzy, dreamy (t was filmed around the Russian River area here in Northern California) and it's subjects are requisitely handsome! However, the screenplay actually sort of bugged me. Now, as I hope everyone knows by now, I am not a prude. However, this slight story of a seven-year-itch, just rubbed me the wrong way. I don't know whether it was the short and underdeveloped clip we get of the married pair and their autistic son, before the "visitor" arrives, or that such a brief flirtation would lead to even a dinner with the parents, during the week long stay. (The other husband and son have left town for a visit with the birth mother, I believe - though it was so quickly done at the beginning, I am unclear.) But I just didn't buy into such a quickly developed relationship, considering what I would hope would be the emotional ties that bind him to his current situation, much less his excitement in introducing him to his family, which garners only a slight warning from the father. I just felt that the emotional truths were being ignored for the sake of the visual beauty of the film. Though most of the cast and crew were present, I just chose not to stay for the Q&A, much less go to the after party in the Castro, which I heard great things about!

Maxxxxx says
re LIE TOGETHER: "I love you too!"

You can contact Maxxxxx or myself here: JayCBird@AOL.COM

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