Saturday, June 19, 2010

Frameline 34 (SF Intl. LGBT Film Festival) - Day 3 (via DVD Screener)

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

(Due to some scheduling conflicts, I had to preview DAY 3 via DVD screeners. Marquee photo via JimmyD.)

Day 3, aka that first Saturday morning, traditionally starts off with the dual shorts collections:  "Fun in Boys Shorts" and "Fun in Girls Shorts", which I already previewed here.  Day 3 also features some great highlights of the festival in the narrative features, and one irritating documentary. Let's get that one out of the way first, since it was the first to screen in the afternoon after the shorts programs.

The Adonis Factor (dir. Christopher Hines, USA, 2010, 65 mins.) Director Christopher Hines follows up last years THE BUTCH FACTOR, with the similarly structured documentary about body image in gay culture. Unfortunately, I think Hines' own predilections get in the way of the film just as it does in his earlier work. Though he attempts to dig into the problem of body dismorphia, etc., his experts are all just as much victims of this psyche, as well as the cause. Why would you interview a plastic surgeon, who has obviously been botoxed beyond the point of paralysis, about the physical needs of the community? There is not an objective voice to be heard.  There is about fifteen minutes of interviews with those that Hines obviously considers "unattractive" yet pursuing inner beauty as a way to counterpoint the circuit party boys that he fills most of the film with. It is as if the "average Joe" does not exist in Hines' gay world, or the one that he chooses to explore. He would propose that these steroided and botoxed extremes are the norm. Granted, they may be the most visually obvious, but then I would propose that they are the exceptions that prove the rule. Yes, as Gay Pride Week progresses, we will notice an influx of the gym pumped, but they will be bobbing in a sea of 'just us'. I really wanted to be at this screening live to hear what the audience reaction was going to be. Ah well...

Later in the evening, a truly fabulous documentary would screen.  Arias with a Twist: The Docufantasy (dir. Bobby Sheehan, USA, 2010, 88 Mins.). This is a documentary of two wildly different performers who would merge their acts into one of the most successful cabaret acts in Europe and New York: drag chanteuse Joey Arias and puppeteer Basil Twist. Granted, of the two, Arias' story is probably the more exciting one, starting with his work with Warhol, David Bowie and Klaus Nomi, before launching out alone, in some of the most spectacularly designed and performed cabaret stage acts I've seen footage of! This section of the film is filled with interviews of some of the legends of that time. (I won't spoil any surprises!)  Arias even appeared as the original Emcee for Cirque d'Soleil's Zumanity in Las Vagas.

Basil Twist on the other hand, had a fairly routine route (for a puppeteer) via Jim Henson. There is quite a bit of exploration of his design and technique. But it is the merging of their joint projects which occupies the final third of the film. You can tell that it simply doesn't do it justice! I would LOVE to see this act, and am quite disappointed to have missed the film's screening as Basil Twist was expected to attend!

The day continues with two of the best features I have seen in the year, much less at this festival so far.

Elvis & Madona (dir. Marcelo Laffitte, Brazil, 2009, 105 Mins.) The film is a delight!  Though a lot of if feels derivative of Almadovar, this Brazilian gender bending romance is a delight on its own regard.  A drag queen, trans-woman, cabaret performer becomes involved with a lesbian photographer, emotionally and, yes physically. That's not a spoiler. How they get there is where all the fun is. Director Laffitte has an incredible touch with his ensemble scenes! The scenes within Madona's beauty parlor contrasting with Elvis' uptight and society climbing mother and family are farcical gems! The camerawork during the family dinner scene, accompanied by a waltz, is as nearly a classic piece of comedy that I've seen in a long while and will stick with me. The screenplay does weave and dive into a couple tangled up subplots, but that is the recipe for farce, and it would be hard to dissect out a section without throwing off the balance of the whole. How Laffitte manages to create this romance is something almost worth studying.  The performances of Igor Cotrim, as Madona, and Brazilian TV and film actress Simone Spolardore (as Elvis) are fabulous. This is Cotrim's first performance on film and he simply dominates every frame he is in, whereas Spolardore generously shares her scenes with the company, while maintaining a sex appeal that nearly the entire cast is fixated by. The supporting ensemble has obviously talent, training and experience to carry off the brilliantly timed circus that surrounds the couple. I simply loved this film!

On the other end of the "entertainment spectrum" is I Killed My Mother [J'ai Tué Ma Mère] (dir. Xavier Dolan, Canada, 2009, 100 Mins.), this past year's entry for the Foreign Language Oscar, from Canada. It is an auspicious, if not brilliant debut by director, writer, producer and star, 19 year old Xavier Dolan. He has found a medium with which he exorcises the personal demon that haunted his relationship with his mother only a few years before. She is played with near brilliant naturalism by Anne Dorval. Also featured in the cast is François Arnaud, as Dolan's boyfriend. This coming of age and coming out story is one of the most emotionally authentic, if not verbally violent. Underneath the character Hubert's outbursts is an affection and love for his mother that she returns and thus allows his emotional expansion, however violent it may seem. It is simply a tour d'force by Dolan, who I sense may have delivered so much of himself in the project, that this may be the only truly successful film he will be associated with. The film has won enough awards (Cannes, Genie, Lumiere, among nearly two dozen others) that it will surely receive distribution theatrically and on DVD.

Maxxxxx says re I KILLED MY MOTHER:  "I love you too!"

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


Maya said...

The Adonis Factor left a sour taste in my mouth for many of the reasons you detail here; primarily, as you have said, a lack of objectivity about rampant objectification. Then again, I'm not sure if I can be objective as this issue is one of irritating concern as I grow older. Clearly, most people in the audience were there to see buffed circuit boys and not really to wrestle with self-image. This is always the kind of softcore porn I include in my Frameline viewing to satisfy my own prurience.

Co-presented by the Community Initiative, I grew excited about the prospect of an alternate means of meeting other gays, rushed to the website to see what kind of events were being offered, and found that the only event offered for the month was the screening of The Adonis Factor. What's wrong with that self-image? Ah well. Guess I'll have to find a gay cat. How can you identify a gay cat? Bad self-image, of course. And he says "hith" instead of "hiss".

Incidentally, I'm claiming "botoxed beyond the point of paralysis" for my collection of necessary catchphrases. Funny.

I still have the screener for Elvis & Madona sitting on my coffeetable. Michael Hawley liked this one a lot as well so I don't know why I keep bitching about how there's nothing to watch on television. Some people.

Basil Twist was thoroughly charming and quite attractive in person. That Q&A was fruitful and is next on my queue of transcriptions. I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary, just to witness such brave creativity. I wish I were so brave or so creative. You might want to know that Twist & Arias are negotiating to bring their show to SF. Let's go see it together?

Anne Dorval won the Best Actress award when I Killed My Mother screened at PSIFF. I liked this perhaps a tad less than others, only because Xavier's character grated my nerves with his constant and selfish whining. Clearly, Xavier is a talent to watch and I look forward to seeing his second applauded film in Toronto come September (and, hopefully, interview him). I look forward to future films where he doesn't need to act out his own personal development so much.

Jay, aka The Angry Little Man said...

My lord, you've been busy this morning!

Arias & Twist in SF?! = I am SO THERE!

Elvis and Madona = Watch it!!

I Killed My Mother = I was so there! (Should I publicly admit that?!) I am VERY curious to see what his 'sophomore film' is like.

Gay cats probably pleasure themselves with reckless abandon!