Saturday, June 19, 2010

Frameline 34 (SF Intl. LGBT Film Festival) - Day 2

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

Day 2 of Frameline 34's celebration of LGBT cinema began with a follow-up documentary about the real woman behind last night's opening feature, as well as the first day of programs featuring the Andy Warhol sidebar. There was also a shorts program in the middle of (my) day, which I am listing at the end.

Firstly, the documentary, The Real Anne Lister (dir. Matthew Hill, UK, 2010, 60 Mins.) The accompanied the BBC-2 airing as well. In this, comedienne Sue Perkins lets us follow her in the journey of finding out who was this young woman, who recorded her diaries in over 4 million words, mostly in a code of Greek alphabet and algebraic symbols. The diaries have been regarded as the "Rosetta Stone of lesbian history", as Lister graphically details her many romantic pursuits, down to the number of orgasms per coupling!  But once one reads past the carnal detail, what remains is a story of an exceptionally driven and empowered woman, who played against all the rules of what most of us know from Jane Austen's society.

This is a warts-and-all-biography, however.  As driven and feministic as Lister was, she also retained her sense of class and assumed aristocracy. Her search for a female partner became as avaricious as her male contemporaries.  She would not marry beneath her and sought out a partner with wealth and neighboring land into which to merge and continue something of legacy to protect her land.  Ironically, her heirs were so ashamed of her story that the diaries were kept secret for nearly 150 years.

Perkins reflects on all of this with a delightful sense of irony and ambiguity, with a plethora of wit!  I almost enjoyed the documentary more than the film the night before.  There was an exceptionally BRIEF Q&A with the producer of the films, which barely scratched the surface of what an enigma this woman must have been in her time.

Later in the day, Frameline began the first of its program in the Andy Warhol 1960s Gay Cinema sidebar, curated by Yale film professor Ron Gregg.  Gregg was present with some introductory notes (that I found to conflict with IMDB) for tonight's program "Hustlers and Exhibitionists" that included two brief features.

Haircut #1 (dir. Andy Warhol, USA , 1963 , 24 min.)  In a series of still camera shots, Andy Warhol films Billy Linich (later known in The Factory as Billy Name) as he cuts the hair of John Dodd, while being watched by Freddie Herko, who are members of the early 1960s experimental dance collective Judson Dance Theater. It is credited to have been choreographed by James Waring. However, just as minimal as Warhol's film, so is the movement. But there is indeed movement. It becomes an extremely subtle 24 minute striptease by Herko, distracting us from the banality of Dodd's haircut.  With the exception of Linich's scissors and Dodd's smoking, Herko is the only subject in the film who moves. Though I am not familiar with the Judson Dance Theatre, I can see this as being something of a tribute to minimalized movement. The changing of angles that occurs only 5 times, appears to be catching the trio in different portrait settings, and saves the film from disappearing into a minimilistic shadow.

My Hustler (dir. Andy Warhol, USA , 1965 , 67 min.)  This is the first collaboration between Warhol and Paul Morrissey, who did the camerawork according to Ron Gregg's introduction (though Chuck Wein is credited on IMDB.). And it shows. The frame in the first scene actually pans between the conversation that an older john is having with his neighbors on Fire Island about the hustler he has rented for the weekend, who is sunning himself out on the beach, several yards away.  (Paul America stars as the hustler, in his only film for Warhol.)  As we watch him sunning himself, the three commentators cattily discuss their roles to each other (john, 'fag hag', old whore) and begin a competition to see who will eventually bed the hustler on the beach.  The improvised conversation has some truly witty if not nearly shocking dialogue which bears a near savagery of these three "friends", not unlike what is found in BOYS IN THE BAND. The excessive banter, shot against the reclining portraint of Paul America on the beach, actually reveals more about the unseen speakers than if the shot were devoted to them. The program notes quote critic Bruce Hainley, “No film I had ever seen spent so much time not only looking at male flesh but having everyone in the film talk about that staring.”  Which is true and rhe reason for its minimalistic brilliance! The scene on the beach then cuts to a bathroom where the 'old whore' and the hustler are discussing the trade, as it were, which includes a seemingly endless discussion of grooming habits, followed by an enigmatic, if not a cat-and-mouse game, where the huster (who is on his first job) tries to grill the 'old whore' for as much information as he can about the business.  The 'old whore' is far from willing to give up his tricks of the trade and is interrupted by the two other players in the game, as well as a fourth voice, who lends a sort of epilogue to the entire scene. The dialogue in this scene is so shallow and enigmatic as to leave the hustler in as much of a cocoon as he was when he was alone on the beach. He knows no more or less in the company of others, which is a remarkably way Warhol was able to isolate him even further as a fantasy figure, of whom we never really know anything more about than what he looks like, though he has visually dominated the entire hour.  It's ART!!

Earlier in the afternoon, the festival screened a program of seven short subjects, under the heading "Curious Things", which would leave you to believe it's about the bi-courious, and it is, for the most part, but there's more than that in there.  No less than five directors of the seven films were present and introduced by K.C. Price, who has returned to his signature informality style of addressing the crowds. The Q&A that followed was too short (again) and hardly addressed anything of interest.  The films were self explanatory.

Curious Thing (Dir. Alain Hain, USA , 2009 , 9 min.) This is sort of an interesting experiment in which director Alain Hain (who was so soft spoken during his introduction and the later Q&A as to hardly be heard) recorded interviews with men who consider themselves either bisexual or curious or just coming out during a relationship, and he uses this soundtrack against a reconstructed drama involving two guys and the girl between them. It keenly explored that weird area that crosses the line of "bromance" and can either scare you away or bring you all out. In the meantime, the girl in the middle has just as confusing road to cross. Interestingly made...

Disarm (dir. Nathan Keene, Australia , 2009 , 18 min.) This has the look and feel of a short one act play that has been put on film. An older man has an (online? classified? phone?) hookup come to his apartment. The action starts and the boy enters. The start the night off with a shot and some wrestling that gets out of control. It then proceeds to talk about it. It talks a LOT about why it just got violent. And even for what is really only a fifteen minute conversation, it does seem to get overly theatrical as far as the depth of exploring the pair's shared self homophobia.

Embrace (Dir. Aitor Saraiba, USA , 2009 , 3 min.) Though quite simply described in the program as "two men Embrace in this starkly beautiful black and white love poem to human connection", it does have a certain Warhol-like minimalism and appeal.

After (dir. Mark Pariselli, Canada , 2009 , 13 min.) This highly polished and relatively highly produced short is based on Dennis Cooper's poem "After School, Street Football, Eighth Grade." Pariselli has created a silent film, almost a dream, in which three 'geeks' indulge in their lusty imaginations while watching a guy play tag football in a park.  Parisell's dream sequences a reminiscent of Greenaway, particularly in some of the religious imagery. The soundtrack wonderfully backs the silent screenplay. Camera work and editing are all there. There is a shocking climatic moment and it seemed to turn off some audience members who were gliding along in the fantasies. But there are dark fantasies, too.

Lorimer (dir. Michael Lannan, USA , 2009 , 8 min.) A the rocky path of dating a younger man. "He sang house music to me?"  Sort of fun, a bit script bound, but there is a enough solid character and situational material here that could be easily fleshed out to a feature.

Last Call (dir. Nick Corporon, USA , 2009 , 18 min.) Nick Corporon introduced this as a 'Twilight Zone' inspired reflection on a man's relationship. To say much more would be to offer spoilers.  However,  Jody Jaress gives a splendid, ethereal performance as a bartender who leads the heartbroken Travis Dixon through the memories of the conflict with his boyfriend (David Devora) which brought him to this point. Collin Brazzie's cinematography is quite exceptional in the versatility that is required of him. The editing is sharp and punchy, when it needs to be. The script does give itself an extra out for an ending, but it really isn't as preconceived as one expects along the way.

Cakes And Sand (dir. Christoph Scheermann, Germany , 2010 , 16 min.) Perhaps the most vivacious of the directors present was Christoph Scheermann, who introduced what some audience members felt was the most ambivalent film of the program. (I certainly didn't think that!) A couple take of for a weekend, where they will be faced with the dilemma that may stand in the way of the future of their relationship. In an odd way, it was reminiscent of "TWO FOR THE ROAD". The performers are likable enough and the situation is realistic and not overly theatrical in its execution. Though one senses that a feature length film is its ultimate aim, its present length is just perfect.

Maxxxxx says re THE REAL ANNE LISTER: Chirps. In code.

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


Maya said...

Ah, your write-up on The Real Anne Lister addresses my query of your previous entry regarding lesbians courting within their class.

And, again, thanks for the comments on the shorts, all of which I missed. Your attention is admirable. What is it about shorts you like so much?

Jay, aka The Angry Little Man said...

I'm not sure whether it's the searching for the diamond in the rough, or even stems to a couple semesters I spent dissecting short stories, i.e. O'Henry and Poe, but I just love the format!

Also, I have found that it is an underserved point of interest out there, or so it seems. I have threads of email between fans and crew about their work that never happens in the big, bad world of feature lengths.

Again, thanks for stopping by and the encouragement!