Friday, June 18, 2010

Frameline 34 (SF Intl. LGBT Film Festival) Opening Night - The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister

This year’s internationally renowned showcase for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) cinema runs June 17-27, with San Francisco screenings at the historic Castro Theatre (429 Castro Street), Roxie Theater (3117 16th Street) and the Victoria Theatre (2961 16th Street), and in Berkeley at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood (2966 College Avenue).Tickets for Frameline34 are on sale  through

Yay, Opening Night!!  (photo by JimmyD) Though we were greeted at the theater entrance by protesters regarding Israel and Palestine (I think or presume there were factions from both sides, but the cacophony made it all unclear), it was the slightest bump to a smoothly executed evening.

I just love the tradition of running the existing Frameline trailers of all the past film festivals and the even more heartwarming greetings of "Yoo hoo"s!, referencing the 1995(?) festival. (I can never remember the year that fabulous, animated trailer of alien drag queens ran, but I was there and continue the "Yoo hoo!" tradition, myself!)

After the annual trip down memory lane, Frameline Board President, Thom Matson, quite enthusiastically, if not overly so for a person in such a position (he reminded me of someone from my deep past in Denver... M. Whalen?!), welcomed the audience and gave the obligatory litany of thanks to sponsors, corporations, fellow board members, volunteers and of course, the general membership. He then introduced Executive Director, K.C. Price and Festival Director, Jennifer Morris.

Price and Morris seemed unusually rehearsed and bound to prepared remarks. Perhaps it was the crowd outside, or perhaps it was in anticipation of an alarmingly vocal audience (i.e. last summer's "brawl" at the SF Jewish FF) that caught them in reserve. Or maybe they just wanted to keep the show running? I almost missed the opportunity for gaffes or the occasional long-wind that seems to create even more anticipation for the opening program. However brief their opening greeting, they were only matched by tonight's director's and star's introduction of the film:

The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister (dir. James Kent, UK, 2010, 90 Mins.) If the worst thing that can be said about a film is that it is "so BBC" then that is faint damnation in my view.  It is a wonderfully designed, beautifully shot and masterfully performed historical drama, bordering on "bodice ripper"!  Maxine Peake (who I recognize only from "RED RIDING TRILOGY") gives a full bodied and authentic performance of the 'anti-Jane Austen' heroine: a woman who remains so true to herself and feelings as to reject the societal norm of "needing" a husband to survive.  Not only does she reject that norm, but she aggressively pursues her own true loves in her life: women and her manor.

The women in her life are a tad stereotypically conceived, from the 'tom boy' who is in unrequited love with her, to the shy and questioning virgins and the closeted lover, who she faces her greatest obstacle. She is supported by the obsequious Gemma Jones, as her aunt, who turns in yet another great performance.  The film stays true to its feminist tone by casting a mere handful of three men, and in far supporting roles. It is a tribute to the cast, director and film editor though, that there is not a weak performance in the entirety. In fact, it almost felt like a stylistic choice that for every "punchline" that might end a scene, there was an equally devastating reaction shot, as if to say, "No, I will get the last laugh on this." The cast could have wordlessly drawn scenes out endlessly, had they been allowed so.  I just love those haughty and shocked glances, in order to "top that"!

The audience went wild for it, needless to say, giving it a rousing standing ovation from well over half the house.  The ensuing Q&A was fairly unremarkable, though, and a bit hastily emceed by Jennifer Morris. However, there was yet another screening waiting outside in the COLD to enter and an opening night party to go to.  (I did not go, as it was COLD and the party was located somewhere in Golden Gate Park. I WILL be there for Closing Night, though!)  ["Castro b0b" was dashing around taking photos, so I may add one of two of those before the weekend is out.]

Maxxxxx says re The Secret Diaries...:  "Such a pretty bird!"

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


Maya said...

Jay, how was the projection? Was it HD? In the ongoing reclamation of historical figures for LGBT purposes, I found The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister serviceable and entertaining. One observation that surfaced when I discussed the film with K.C. Price was that these daring individuals of the past usually come from wealthy backgrounds that afford such independence. Though it would be interesting to track if lesbians courted within class and gay men out of class (which seems to be the case, per The Consul of Sodom).

Jay, aka The Angry Little Man said...

The projection seemed fine to me, though I have a hard time distinguishing HD in that house, depending on the source material, not to mention the preceding "March of Frameline Trailers" can sort of distract one's sensitivity.