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
Documentary: THE GOOD AMERICAN
Short: LIE TOGETHER
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!"

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

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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!"

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

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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!"

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

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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!"

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

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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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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Frameline 33 (SF LGBT Film Festival, 2009) - Day 6

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.

PATRIK, AGE 1.5 (dir. Ella Lemhagen, Sweden, 100 Mins.) This was a "Centerpiece screening" which I feared would be 'cute'. I LOATHE 'cute'! But, it is only in the production design in which the pair of gay men live, surrounded by IKEA constructed suburb, where the are seeking to adopt a child. It is not a spoiler to state that the decimal for the 1.5 year old is misplaced to read 15 year old, as that is the conflict and reason for the piece. The trio is forced to deal with each other and their existence as a family, surrounded in a white picket fence world. The characters at the core of the film are what saved it from my loathing. The performances are real and artistically set against the artificial background, which is hindering, if not oppressing their development as a family unit. It does have a distributor and should be on DVD release by the end of the year, if not sooner. I was able to screen this in a preview a couple of weeks ago, which allowed me time to attend a double feature at the Victoria.

THE GOOD AMERICAN (dir. Jochen Hick, Germany, 2009, 90 Mins.) Unlike the preceding evening's GREEK PETE, this film is sincerely honest, with flaws and ambivalent heroes. It is not so much a biography, but a portrait at a critical time in the life of Tom Weise, ex-gay escort, founder of Rentboy.com and an illegal immigrant for the past 11 years in the U.S., as he dissolves his American ties to return to Berlin, for what may be the last time, with his American partner. Weise displays a definite charisma of a survivor, for having surived AIDS, Hepatitis C, prosutition and the nearly illegal business he ran for nearly a decade, even while producing the infamous annual Hustlaballs around the country. The video includes interviews with his co-workers and his co-owner, who he creates something of a conflict with. (Perhaps easier to dissolve the partnership by, as he may not be able to return?) His partner is also profiled as he makes the transition from NYC to Berlin, and his comments regarding Germans are very funny! The heart of the "good american" arises as he discusses his 'legal' responsibilities while being illegally a resident: [paraphrased] "I love it here, though I do not pay taxes for an illegal war, I have offered over $50,000 to the social programs that need the money more." There are a slew of pornstars and escorts interviewed about Weise, and in fact, Derrick Hansen was present to introduce the film's sponsor, The St. James Infirmary, which he did while displaying multiple times as much charm as the aforementioned "Greek Pete". Also, a letter from Weise was read in which he stated his intention to be present, but was denied an entry Visa only two weeks ago, due to the U.S.'s continuing restriction on HIV+ visitation and immigration. [One note: the video was shown in a skewed aspect ratio, perhaps due to the PAL-NTSC conversion.] Anyway, enough about the hooker flicks!

THUNDERCRACK! (dir. Curt McDowell, USA, 1975, 152 Mins.) Oh. My. GAWD!! I now feel ashamed that I am in my late 40's and have only now discoverd this brilliantly concieved, produced, performed piece of Underground Cinema! I approached it with trepidation due to the 2 hour and 35 minute running time, which is a LOT of underground. However, the time FLEW BY! I find it hard to describe. Perhaps calling it a pornographic Edward Albee play if it were directed by David Lynch, would suffice? I would not want to give any kind of spoiler away, except for a small sample of dialogue. My favorite being, "...a malignancy of glandular grotesqueness that struck at the very root of his manhood...", which appears in the midst of one of many classically structured monologues given the lead actress, Marion Eaton, who handles her role of an oversexed Tennessee Williams heroine, with aplomb (and a cucumber!). (SPOILER: Click here for the entire monologue!) Director Curt McDowell's sister, Melinda (who also appears in the film), was present to officially announce the distribution rights for a "Special 35th Anniversary" DVD of the film to be released later in the year from Synapse! This will be the first time the film has been available! (There is a European cut from Denmark, which is only 90 minutes.) The sound design needs some restoration and rebalancing, but I found I could cut out a great deal of treble interference by wearing my MP3 player earbuds, and I CAN NOT WAIT to own this remarkable, hysterical, oh and quite pornographic, classic masterpiece of underground cinema to be in my home to shock my friends and neighbors! Also, "survivors" of the epic were given "THUNDERSTRUCK!" buttons and a lucky member of the audience, "local drag sensation Kegel Kater walked away with a hand silk-screened print of the original film poster," but risked being mugged by moi after the screening, but was saved by MUNI. Screenwriter George Kuchar was also present, but left before the screening started.

Maxxxxx says
re both films: "Wooooooooo!!!"

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

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Thundercrack! SPOILER: A Monologue for Gert


[Starting immediately after maniacal laughter]

Gert: He who does not exist. I told a lie, a little white lie! You see, he does exist, behind this door, but not out here in the world of sanity. God has no mercy. You see what he's done to my son. Gerald had gone to Borneo to collect some erotic artifacts, that was all. A harmless excursion into the steaming tropics in the name of art. But he was smitten with a violent, swelling, tropical disorder - a malignancy of glandular grotesqueness that struck at the very root of his manhood. You see him now at the pinnacle of his disorder, repulsive to both man and woman alike. And what is more important, repulsive to himself. So self-revolting his mind became unbalanced, knowing that the one thing that made his life worth living was being crushed by the weight of his own testicles. For his safety, and mine, and for the safety of Beulah and Pinky, I had to lock him up behind this door. The weight of that malignancy on our fragile bodies would crush the very life out of us. You two will be fine. You'll survive. You'll give Gerald a taste of the sweetness he wanted his whole life. You'll survive. And I pity you.

[Maniacal laughter swells.]

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Frameline 33 (SF LGBT Film Festival, 2009) - Day 5

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.

MAKING THE BOYS (dir. Crayton Robey, USA, 2009, 90 Mins.) Though it is simple to describe as a documentary about the creation of the play THE BOYS OF THE BAND, director Crayton Robey has done an extraordinary amount of research to place it, as well as its author Mart Crowley, in historical perspective. In fact, he has the seeds of a multi-part documentary here: a biography of Mart Crowley; the culture at the time of the creation, development and production of the play; the play itself; the cultural reaction to it; finally, the film and reaction to that as well. Though it's running time is only 90 minutes, it does feel a bit longer, as Robey attempts to cover so much ground. However, it would appear to be necessary, as his prologue includes a series of man-on-the-street surveys with Gay Pride participants who surprisingly have never even heard of THE BOYS IN THE BAND, much less seen it or even value it's significance for gay visibility. It is an entertaining and exceptionally educational documentary, even as it screened here as a "work in progress." During the following Q&A, which was sort of a mess, I have to admit that even I contributed to the semi-chaos, when I asked how long he had been filming since he included the deceased Edward Albee. Uh, Albee is still alive... Ah well... (Oh, the answer was approximately two years.) There was also an extensive 'discussion' from the audience from Bay Area Reporter film critic David Lamble about the availability of William Friedkin to discuss the film. I think he might be 'legally tied' to the DVD extras to comment in a separate documentary, though. (As K.C. Price was about to introduce the director and film, my friend Andy noted that he needs to work on his "ums" during his speaking. From that point on, that is all I heard! Damn you, Andy!!)

I attempted to follow the screening with the next program, El NiƱo Pez, from the director of XXY. However, I fell asleep during the first few minutes. I was out so deeply, that when I woke up, I had no clue what was happening and decided to pop back home for a REAL nap to get ready for the evening.

FIG TREES (dir. John Greyson, Canada, 2009, 104 Mins.) This is a work of ART. I absolutely LOVED it, though I understand why a few people walked out. It is self described as a "doc-op about AIDS, pills and Gertrude Stein" and that probably sounds as hideously pretentious as those who walked out may have felt it was. I was completely taken away and transported by its operatic ("doc-op" is short hand for documentary-opera, I believe) structure and the music (composed and adapted by David Wall) that ran nearly the entire of the film, which included a great deal of Stein and Virgil Thomson’s Four Saints in Three Acts. Director John Greyson treads treacherously into Peter Greenaway territory with his over abundant use of split screens and subtitles, which at one point become graphic art in themselves. It may seem a stretch at first, but think it bears repeated viewings to understand how he relates musical palindromes of classical, modern-classical and pop music to the ironic plight of AIDS patients, as they face pharmaceutical and governmental structures that seem intent on keeping them from obtaining treatment. The cinematography by Ali Kazimi, Jesse Rosensweet of Bill Layton's production designis beautiful and seamless between the two of them. I assume one was responsible for the operatic sequences and the other for the interviews. Ah, the interviews. The documentary portion include interviews of a number of activists, most extensively with Zackie Achmet (who is the central figure of the operatic sequences), Tim McCaskell and Gugu Dlamini, among others. The concentration of the documentary is really upon Africa, however it does relate to McCaskell's work in Canada. There was a moment towards the last quarter of the film that I began to become emotionally and physically moved by the weight of all the preceding painful beauty of the piece and actually started to become choked up! Though Greyson's work can be a hit (LILIES), miss (PROTEUS) or mixed (ZERO PATIENCE), this has pulled the best techniques and qualities he possesses to create, what was for me, an extraordinary experience!

Maxxxxx says
re both films: "Dooby dooby dooo-oooo!"

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Frameline 33 (SF LGBT Film Festival, 2009) - Day 4

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.

My afternoon was preempted by a matinee of PORGY AND BESS at the SF Opera, so I was able to only attend two features.

The first program was preceded by the short I WAS A TEENAGE RUMPOT (dirs. George and Mike Kuchar, USA, 1960, 12 mins.), which they made when they were eighteen and it was a perfect way to enter IT CAME FROM KUCHAR (dir. Jennifer M. Kroot, USA, 2009, 86 Mins.) This is a biography of the twin brothers, George and Mike Kuchar, who are generally regarded as pioneers in underground film. There is a generous amount of footage and photography of them as boys, as they began making movies when they were twelve. Their childhood stories are as amusing and surreal as their shorts. (They trained a parakeet to run on an LP player, even at 75RPM!) They are credited as the inspiration for John Waters and Atom Egoyan (who both receive a nice amount of screen time), Andy Warhol and even the production of BARBERELLA! Mike retired to painting and illustration. However, George continues to make short films with his students at the Art Institute in San Francisco. The footage of him and his students is filled with joy and an innocent enthusiasm which belies the twisted content of the productions themselves. There was also extended discussion of the 1975 'epic' THUNDERCRACK!, which will be screened later in the week.

Since the brothers were presented with the Frameline Award (by Christopher Coppola), the director was present, along with the brothers and a dozen other people involved with the Kuchars for a panel Q&A. Ironically, as charming and magnetic as I found the Kuchars to be, director Jennifer M. Kroot was their opposite. I found her to be sort of cold and disinterested in her subjects, and even during her introduction and as she began the panel, she thanked an army of supporters, but never mentioned the brothers themselves. Though I began the panel, her odd attitude only encouraged me to run down the street for the next feature.

PORNOGRAPHY: A THRILLER (dir. David Kittredge, USA, 2009, 113 Mins.) Hm. Well. I have some very mixed feelings about this. The plot transpires in three acts, really. The first two were creepy, intriguing and actually gave me a start! The cast was requisitely handsome, as the majority are playing porn actors who are victims of an underground group of snuff film producers. The imagery of the murders is particularly nightmarish! The increasing dread during the second act is ably executed and performed. However, in the third act, the attempt to tie the three sections together is subverted by a single moment, a single cell phone call to be exact, which blows it out of the water and into the "we're just playing with your heads!" territory, in that faux-David-Lynch way. Also, the third act is a bit undermined by having the most unlikeable character appear to deal with the climax. And here is sort of the rub. By having divided the film into three distinct sections, and by keeping the "villain" in the shadows as it were, what could have been mounting suspense and fear is stuttered and halted. However, director David Kittredge is also partly responsible for SOCKET, which I also nearly loved, so I think Kittredge is someone to keep an eye out for. He was present, along with most of the cast, and was just maybe a bit too pleased with himself. (I know, why should I hold that against him?) In other words, yes, the film has sold out its screenings, but then, if you submit a film called "PORNOGRAPHY" to gay film fests, the title sells itself.

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

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

San Francisco Opera - PORGY AND BESS (restored)

PORGY AND BESS (By George and Ira Gershwin and Dubose and Dorothy Heyward, Conductor: John DeMain, Production/Director: Francesca Zambello, Washington National Opera production) In the midst of a film festival, I took a breather to spend a (long) afternoon at San Francisco Opera's (restored) PORGY AND BESS. Now, I only mention "long" and "restored" as I was expecting Executive Director David Glockley to have transferred the lauded Houston Grand Opera production up here. Instead, this was the Washington National Opera production, which restores the score from the 150 minute "Broadway version" to a 195 minute version (that is still short 45 minutes from the first score, which apparently received only a few, early stagings). Personally, I am OK with the shorter version, as the additional material does not seem to be all that overtly exceptional, except for a trio near the finale that I do not remember as being part of the earlier versions I have seen. Anyway...

Eric Owens does a robust job as Porgy, who in this production is given a simple crutch and not the traditional "goat wagon" to work from. Laquita Mitchell is able to compensate for some unfortunate costuming as Bess. She is dressed as either Carmen or Mother Mary, depending on the portion of the performance we're in, and it is just too obvious. She is able to sing past it, and we are given a great deal of character without the indications given by her dress. Also standing out in the supporting cast are Karen Slack and Alteouise deVaughn, who join Owens for a simply fabulous trio near the end of the opera. Sportin' Life is sung, acted and danced by Chauncy Packer. Now, Sportin' Life is a really odd role within the piece. Firstly, it is as if they wrote all the Tin Pan Alley numbers for him, and his songs really do not fit within the fabric of the opera, in my humble and non-operatically educated opinion. However, that might be the point, as he is this external force that acts as the Devil to Bess' Faust, in what is one of a few sub-conflicts. In fact, in this expanded version, Bess is faced with no less than three men and lives from which to chose. Needless to say, tragedies ensue. Her third nemesis is Crown, sung here by Lester Lynch, who regretfully does not have a "big number" by which to be overly memorable. However, he does take part in a really skillfully and surprisingly physical fight between him, Porgy and Bess. The chorus is simply excellent, particularly during the two prayers in the second act, which I always forget about, and am always blown away by!

The setting by Peter J. Davison and lit by Mark McCullough are really fascinating and really BIG! We are set in a factory, more than a port, but it works. The staging and movement are unusually choreographic and handled with requisite vigor and efficiency by the chorus. In the end, though, I would have to say that I now no longer need to see another PORGY AND BESS, unless it is the more operatic excerpts.

Maxxxxx says
re PORGY AND BESS: "Dooobie dooo-oooo-oooo!"

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Frameline 33 (SF LGBT Film Festival, 2009) - Day 3

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.

Day Three at Frameline 33 began with the traditional matinee screening of FUN IN BOYS SHORTS and FUN IN GIRLS SHORTS, which I was able to pre-screen, as well as two more short subject programs which screened today: CALLING ALL NERDS AND ART FREAKS and GET HAPPY, all of which I have previously posted comments about.

I began my 'live viewing' day with THE BUTCH FACTOR (dir. Christopher Hines, USA, 2009, 88 Mins.). Executive Director, K.C. Price introduced the film, with ever increasing comfort with the audience. No, he has not yet adopted the flirtatious quality that previous Festival Director Michael Lumpkin exuded, but he is warming up to us. Anyway, the documentary attempts to discuss masculinity as expressed by gay males. Though there are a couple fascinating interviews, most notably from Vincent Calverese, who works in the SF Sheriff's Department and has been a highly visible member of the "film event community" as he has been the escort-bodyguard of many a special guest. His commentary describing the reactions and role of being a gay corrections officer was fascinating, particularly in comparison the the majority of the rest of the interviews. As much as one would appreciate the eye-candy, there really wasn't much to be learned from gay softball-rugby-rodeo-football players, etc. It was as if just saying "I'm a gay rugby player" was proof of something? Ironically, the film ends up being about as shallow as the topic that the participants are denying it is. If masculinity is to be defined by actions and appearance, which with only a couple exceptions in the film seemed to be it's thesis, then I do not know how you can discuss that, without even broaching the topic of the sexual positions involved in when truly "expressing" one's sexuality. In other words, and to be a bit crass, it's all good and well to say, "Hey, I'm a big, butch gay guy!", but how do you handle that in the passive role, sexually. Anyway, that has been a topic in the past, which is why this documentary is probably best enjoyed as a jock-film. Director Christopher Hines was present, however, I was not able to stay for the Q&A, as I had to charge off, down the street, to make it for the next feature.

LITTLE JOE (dir. Nicole Haeusser, USA, 2009, 87 Mins.) As much as I so highly anticipated this documentary about "the iconic" Joe Dallesandro, by the end of the film, I was questioned the film's inclusion in an LGBT festival (as if working with Andy Warhol is all it take to have "gay creds"?), and I actually became a bit tired of listening to Mr. Dallesandro. The film takes its format from THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE, which was the 'monologue' by and about Robert Evans. In LITTLE JOE, Dallesandro is the sole voice, interspersed with clips of his work, and he has done an incredible AMOUNT of work, mostly in Europe. I think it would have befitted the subject to have a second or third opinion chime in, and during the Q&A, the question did come up, and he said that THAT film could be made after he's dead. (He did receive a less than overly enthusiastic standing ovation when he approached the stage for the Q&A.) Oh, and this was one of those Q&A's that I dread. It began as a "reporter from the Bay Area Reporter", whose name I didn't recognize nor remember, rushed the stage to ask Dallesandro's opinion on gay marriage. Yawn. This was followed by a series of "fan comments", which weren't really questions, but compliments. I was sorely disappointed by the event, only to be extremely, pleasantly surprised and moved by the next film.

DARE (dir. Adam Salky, USA, 2009, 90 Mins.) This is the expanded, feature version of the short of the same name, which screened at Frameline in 2005, and I apparently wasn't overly impressed with. However, Adam Salky and screenwriter David Brind, have done a truly exceptional job of fleshing out the situation and characters into a surprisingly moving portrait of three teenagers, exploring their physical and emotional selves. Emmy Rossum and Ashley Springer are the best friends who begin to compete for the affections of Zack Gilford. I know, the plot sounds a bit trite, but Zack Gilford's performance as the "big man on campus" who doesn't want to be physically "used" anymore as a stud, but loved for being himself, was simply amazingly so deeply felt, that by the climax, I was actually moved. (This really surprised myself, as I don't have much sympathy for the "painfully beautiful".) Not to mention the truly exceptional scene leading up to it, was nearly as provocative as Bertolucci's THE DREAMERS. And the surprises didn't stop there! During the Q&A, Ms. Rossum proved to be the saltiest of the four speakers (Salky, Brind and Gilford were there, also). When I asked how she would compare her past experiences in multi-million dollar budgeted films (PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, etc.) to an indie, the three men interrupted with adoration and she replied with, "Yes, wearing push up bras and riding motorcycles fucking rocks, but so does a great script!" This program was a great evening!

I then hauled back down the street for GREEK PETE (dir. Andrew Haigh, UK, 2008, 70 Mins.). The director, Andrew Haigh, describes the film as a "narrative documentary", which is what could be more accessibly described as "scripted reality." The subjects of the film are documented and at times re-enact episodes from a year in the life of London callboy, "londonboyPete". Now, the concept is sort of fascinating, but Haigh's subject isn't all that intriguing. Even with the extensive editing, there is still a camera awareness from the 'cast' which belies the format. I simply did not find "Pete" or his friends that endearing or likable enough to engage myself in this "documentation" of their lives. Also, for a 'narrative documentary', there is a lack of character arc or plot, however, that may have been part of the point...?

Maxxxxx says
re DARE: "I love you, too!"

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