Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Frameline 34 (SF Intl. LGBT Film Festival) - Official Press Release Wrap-Up

Eleven-Day Festival Wraps with HOWL

San Francisco, CA—The world’s largest and longest-running festival celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender films and filmmakers, Frameline34, the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, closed Sunday, June 27 with Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s highly anticipated narrative debut HOWL, followed by a Closing Night party and awards ceremony at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. The event drew together the LGBT, independent film, and media arts communities for eleven days of diverse, innovative, and socially relevant cinema.

Esteemed guests at the landmark showcase festival included filmmakers from around the world, along with cinema stars such as James Franco. The Festival screened 219 films in eleven days from June 17 through June 27 at the Castro Theatre, the Roxie Film Center, the Victoria Theatre, and the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley, with attendance this year topping 57,000 guests.

Returning this year were the juried awards for Outstanding First Feature and Outstanding Documentary. Taking home the Frameline Outstanding Documentary Award was the Brazilian film DZI CROQUETTES, which chronicled the popularity of revolutionary drag group modeled after San Francisco’s legendary Cockettes. Honorable Mention went to POSTCARD FOR DADDY, for its portrayal of recovery and hope in the face of incest. The Frameline Outstanding First Feature Award went to Javier Fuentes-León’s sold-out Centerpiece Film UNDERTOW, for heart-wrenching acting and narrative voice. Jury members for Outstanding First Feature included Suzy Capó of Mix Brasil, Kareem Tabsch from the Miami LGBT Film Festival and Sarah Neal from the Brisbane Queer Film Festival. Jury members for Outstanding Documentary were Bay Area media arts impresario Cindy Emch, Nancy Fishman of the Torino GLBT Festival, and Bard Yden of the Oslo Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

Taking home awards for the Frameline34 AT&T Audience Award were the Festival’s crowd-pleasing hits. Best Feature Film was awarded to Tunisian film THE STRING, the story of romance and filial duty during a hot North African summer. New Zealand sensation the Topp Twins and director Leanne Pooley were awarded the Best Documentary Award for THE TOPP TWINS: UNTOUCHABLE GIRLS, the soaring and personal story of the yodeling lesbian songstresses. Best Short Film went to REMEMBER ME IN RED, directed by Hector Ceballos, in which Fidelia arranges her best friend’s funeral amidst conflicting family demands around the transgender woman’s burial.

Many films of the Frameline34 festival were honored with standing ovations, gripping question and answer sessions with the filmmakers and cast, and laughter and cheers throughout. Among the festival hits were Opening Night film, THE SECRET DIARIES OF ANNE LISTER, attended by director James Kent and star Maxine Peake; the sneak preview of David Weissman’s WE WERE HERE; the world premieres of Ned Farr and Dreya Webers A MARINE STORY and Nicole Cann’s ELENA UNDONE local directors Billy Clift’s BABY JANE? and Scott Boswell’s THE STRANGER IN US, both attended by hosts of cast and crew; the documentary BEAUTIFUL DARLING attended by director James Rasin and star Holly Woodlawn; Cheryl Dunye’s THE OWLS, attended both by the director and star Guinevere Turner.

The popularity of the oldest LGBT film festival in the world continued in Frameline34, as many films played to sold-out audiences, including: 8: THE MORMON PROPOSITION, STONEWALL UPRISING, PLAN B, FROM BEGINNING TO END, BEAR NATION, THE SONS OF TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, EL NIÑO PEZ, and OUT IN THE SILENCE. Ever popular were the shorts programs, which saw many sold out shows, including ARE YOU KRAZY?, GENERATIONS, TOUGH GIRLS, and SKINNYFAT.

Audiences were thrilled throughout the festival by the attendance of high-profile directors and stars who led intimate discussions following the films, attended parties, and stayed to watch other films. Among some of Frameline34’s many guest attendees were WE HAVE TO STOP NOW’s Jill Bennett and Cathy DeBuono, THE FOUR-FACED LIAR’s screenwriter and star Marja-Lewis Ryan, Topp Twins Jools and Lynda Topp, and Frameline34 Trailer stars Chico’s Angels.
Special programs this year were an Andy Warhol retrospective examining the earlier queer films by the pop art master, curated by Yale Professor Ronald Gregg, and a focus on South American LGBT films.

Frameline34’s annual Frameline Award for excellence in LGBT filmmaking went to distributors Wolfe Video’s Kathy Wolfe and Maria Lynn. As Wolfe celebrates their 25th Anniversary in 2010, Frameline honored them for their groundbreaking distribution efforts on behalf of queer film over the last quarter century. On hand to give out the award was film critic and academic B. Ruby Rich, who coined the term “New Queer Cinema.”
The Frameline Volunteer of the Year Award went to longtime volunteer Penni Kimmel, who had the honor of selecting Matthew Hill’s documentary THE REAL ANNE LISTER, the dry-witted documentary that digs up dirt on the Regency-era rule-breaker, to receive a $2500 grant.

About Frameline34: San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival
Frameline34: San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival screened June 17-27, 2010 at the Castro Theatre, (429 Castro Street), Roxie Theater, (3117 16th Street), and the Victoria Theatre, (2961 16th Street) in San Francisco, and in Berkeley at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, (2966 College Avenue). The San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival is presented by Frameline, a nonprofit LGBT organization whose mission is to strengthen the diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and further its visibility by supporting and promoting a broad array of cultural representations and artistic expression in film, video and other media arts. 

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Frameline 34 (SF Intl. LGBT Film Festival) -Closing Night: HOWL, Party and Awards!

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  www.frameline.org.

Frameline 34 came to a close in somewhat the same manner that it opened: a biopic and a party at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. K.C. Price and Jennifer Morris were on hand to do the festival acknowledgments, which included a surprisingly well made "trailer" from Yahoo!, which was specifically targeted at LGBT film audiences. (Unfortunately, I can not seem to find it online.) After introducing the entire staff of Frameline, both the permanent and temporary festival staffs, and receiving a brief thank you from Frameline Board President, Thom Matson (who I find increasingly annoying - he's just so... PERKY!!), the pair moved on to introducing the directors and star of the closing night film.

HOWL (dirs. Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, USA, 2010, 90 Mins.) stars James Franco as Allen Ginsberg, specifically during the two year period when he introduced his epic poem HOWL in 1955, through the obscenity trial the publisher (San Francisco's Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Books) faced in 1957.  What Epstein and Friedman have done is a bit complicated, however.

Within their vision, they surround HOWL with three distinct films: Ginsberg's reading of the poem at a club, which is accompanied by animation based upon Eric Drooker's illustrations; the obscenity trial in San Francisco; and a taped interview with Ginsberg.  The success of the film rests upon how well these three plots are edited together, which is at times awkward, or at least a bit unsatisfying. Since Ginsberg does not appear in the trial, those scenes and the near ridiculous arguments presented by the Plaintiff, serve almost as comic relief to the heady experiences of the poem and Ginsberg's recollection of his life.  This splits the focus a bit too widely and the pieces do not fit together as neatly as might be hoped. I would love to see the extreme and exhilarating visuals of the animation without interruption for the entirety of the piece. Or perhaps see and hear Franco deliver the poem uninterrupted, also.  During his interview, scenes of his life are played in background to his narration, instead of played out front as dramatic scenes between characters.  I would have welcomed a traditional bio-drama where scenes are played out between Ginsberg and his succession of (exceptionally handsome) boyfriends, including Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac and his long-time companion, Peter Orlovsky (played here by Jon Prescott, Todd Rotondi and Aaron Tveit, respectively).

Ginsberg becomes isolated in the film, as his voice is not really reacted to in real time, but mutely in the accompanying visuals.  It is only in the trial, where he does not appear, that we hear from others. These performances seem rushed or under rehearsed, surprisingly from John Hamm and David Strathairn.  The witnesses, which are a parade of independent film stars, tend to deliver their testimony in obvious, one day shoots. However, Bob Balaban portrays the judge in the case with solid gravity and delivers the verdict with such authority as to nearly single handedly save the sequence.

Not surprisingly, the film was warmly received, but not thunderously so. The Q&A was the typical "what a beautiful and brilliant experience" line of questioning, as any real discussion would prove to be too deep for the confines of a closing night experience.  James Franco was extremely shy but affable when remarking about his research (or what almost sounded like lack of?) into Ginsberg's life.

The crowd then hit the streets for a near cross town journey to Golden Gate Park and the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society where the party and award announcements would be held. As is the tradition, Skyy Vodka was at the door with cocktails before even putting your ticket stub away! I love that! About an hour into the party, K.C. Price and Jennifer Morris announced the awards:

Juried Awards:
Frameline Documentary Award:  Dzi Croquettes (Honorable Mention: A Postcard to My Dad)
First Feature Director Award: Undertow

Audience Awards:
Short Subject: Remember Me in Red
Documentary: The Topp Twins
Feature: The String (Le Fil)

When it was announced that THE STRING won Audience Feature, there was an audible gasp of "The String?" as it not only screened at the Victoria (thereby a smaller audience), but was merely warmly received, compared to some of the standing ovations that other programs received.

My personal favorites:
Short Subject: T4-2
Documentary: WE WERE HERE; but since it was NOT eligible, I'd choose BEAR NATION
Feature: I KILLED MY MOTHER; special mention to FIT, since it doesn't really fit any of these categories.

Maxxxxx says re Skyy Vodka: "Wooooo!"

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

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Frameline 34 (SF Intl. LGBT Film Festival) - Day 10

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  www.frameline.org.

Perhaps I am slowing down, but as Frameline 34 passes through its closing weekend, I have a smaller schedule. Today, I had a single film (as I chose to pass on BEAR CITY, and the masses of Pink Saturday partiers in the Castro).

FIT (dir. Rikki Beadle-Blair, UK, 2009, 108 Mins.) Director Rikki Beadle-Blair (METROSEXUALITY) was present to introduce his film, which has really become his passion and a project he has worked on for a few years now.  It began as a touring performance piece to schools in the U.K., which challenged kids about homophobia and how they express it.  However, after a few years of touring, Beadle-Blair felt it was time to expand its reach and adapted the evolving play into this dramatic, video format that crosses genres: it is as if DEGRASSI HIGH mixed with a hip-hop version of GLEE.

It is divided into chapters, played out as La Ronde; each arriving character taking the next chapter. And each chapter becomes darker than the one before it. What starts as addressing labels, moves to definitions, relationships, bullying and, eventually, beating and abuse.  However, this is quite purposeful, as each chapter can be taken out of context and used within a specific classroom.  As a piece of educational material, FIT is incredible. It is a part of the curriculum in the greater UK educational system. It is Rikki Beadle-Blair's performance as the Dance and Drama Teacher that lifts the piece into an entertainment.

His Q&A was just as fabulous as the messages within the video, of course. He had to prep us before hand with definitions of the slang of UK teenagers, and looked forward to not necessarily "hearing the voices of sweet little homophobes" during the Q&A after the screening. It received an enthusiastic standing ovation. The DVD is available through the website, though it is hard to say whether it is US compatible.

Maxxxxx says re FIT:  "I love you too!"

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

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Frameline 34 (SF Intl. LGBT Film Festival) - Day 9

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  www.frameline.org.

I only popped out for a double-feature of sorts tonight. The String [Le Fil] (dir. Mehdi Ben Attia, Tunisia, 2010, 93 Mins.) and Hideaway [Le Refuge] (dir. François Ozon, France, 2009, 88 Mins.) are familial dramas, involving mothers to one extent or another. Though in THE STRING, Claudia Cardinale is given top billing for her turn as the drama queen mother whose gay son has not yet cut the "emotional string" (literally, in a series of nearly silly visuals) between them. The melodrama is played to the hilt and punctuated with a dark, foreboding minimalist score, to nearly comic effect - intentionally or not, I do not know.  It is curious to have a gay drama produced in North Africa to begin with (Tunisia in this case), so the dramatic tone could be up for some debate.  There is a soap opera element to it, as social class and religion gets thrown about in the mix, too. Regardless, the cast is uniformly beautiful and give charming performances - and Claudia Cardinale's wardrobe is gorgeous to look at!

In HIDEAWAY, the mother is a bit more remotely written, though she is the catalyst for the plot. The gay son is also a supporting player, as the focus is really on the unwed daughter-in-law and her pregnancy from another son who died from a heroin overdose, i.e. another bit of soap opera here. Though not played with nearly the melodrama that THE STRING is, the film is still domestically bound. I really do not have much to say or add to HIDEAWAY, as it was a harmless 90 minutes, but it is already slipping from my memory...

Maxxxxx says re THE STRING:  "Such a pretty bird!"

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

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Frameline 34 (SF Intl. LGBT Film Festival) - Day 8

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  www.frameline.org.

With only one "live" screening and a pair of previews, this was a remarkably easy day, though the films themselves were not that easy to view, considering that the features seemed focused on straight boys in love. First, the screening:

Plan B (dir. Marco Berger, Argentina, 2009, 103 Mins.) The Victoria Theatre was sold out for this modern day, small scale "Dangerous Liaisons" from Argentina.  A man tries to win back his ex-girlfriend by seducing her new boyfriend and thus breaking them up.  As you can imagine, complications ensue, though this is far from being a farce. The primary audience attraction appeared to be watching two straight guys fall in love. However, this bromance that crosses the line is played out with such somber technique as to drain nearly any joy one can get from it. Marco Berger uses a very deliberate pace and has shot and edited nearly the entirety of the film in anchored master shots.  I can only think of two scenes in which there were any cutaways to reactions and objects at all. The static visuals do give the film a more naturalistic approach and I am thankful that it was not photographed with hand held digital cameras. The performances are nuanced and detailed enough to withstand the scrutiny of Berger's portraiture technique. The two men may lack a certain chemistry, but then the script has handed them such emotional, physical and sexual hurdles that it takes nearly the entire film before the characters are allowed to relax with each other. It could be argued that Berger's static technique prolongs the wait until the climatic moment.  However, for my taste, that longing was nearly insufferable, regardless how easy his cast might be on the eyes.

All Boys (dir. Markku Heikkinen, Finland/Denmark, 2009, 72 Mins.) Oh my gawd, this is a BLEAK documentary about the Eastern Europe gay porn industry, particularly in Czechoslovakia. The film would suggest that the boys are basically used up between ages 18 (yeah, I'm thinking they were 16!) and 20, before being thrown back out onto the streets. The film is nearly as exploitative of its subjects as it claims the industry is of the boys, itself. There is no joy in late teenage porn from Czhechoslovakia!

Also screening today was the Transtastic!  program of short subjects, which I previewed earlier.

Maxxxxx says re PLAN B: "Is it bedtime?"

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

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Frameline 34 (SF Intl. LGBT Film Festival) - Day 7

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  www.frameline.org.

The spotlight of my Day 7 at Frameline 43 was the world premiere of
The Stranger in Us (dir. Scott Boswell, USA, 2010, 106 Mins.), which was produced here in San Francisco and screened to an over-sold out house at the Roxie.  I will admit that I walk into a lot of locally produced LGBT features with some skepticism, and I gave this film a tough road to begin with. However, through the tightness of the direction and performances, as well as the near gimmick of the non-linear editing, the film was able to win me over.  Raphael Barker (who gave quite a exhibitionistic performance in SHORTBUS) plays a new comer to San Francisco, and what unfolds is quite the tumultuous year. Barker treads a precarious line with his character, whose needy submissiveness has driven him to follow the wrong paths.  However, the objects of his affections prove to be such thoroughly crafted foils, that the weight of being The Protagonist is shared, particularly by Adam Perez, who plays a street kid he befriends and is ultimately counseled by. Scott Cox near brilliantly navigates his role as the abusive boyfriend that Barker's character has moved to San Francisco for.  The relationship that Barker and Cox create is nearly a textbook study in the dynamics of such a dysfunctional coupling. Though Scott Boswell's script will choose sides, there are moments when watching them interact that neither party is unscathed.  The choice to edit their story in a non-linear fashion helps make it digestable, as well. We are saved of the tedium of "knowing where this is going" by keeping up with the leaps in time. (Also, as a bit of a side note, the fabulous local cabaret chanteuse, Veronica Klaus has an all to rare screen appearance as a sort of a recurring muse to Barker!)  Overall, I was thoroughly engaged by the film and even stayed for a Q&A.  Scott Boswell, his three leads and producer, Cheryl Simas Valenzuela. As a group, they were remarkably soft spoken and even humble when speaking about the film. (There was one moment from Ms. Valenzuela when she invited "serious journalists" for interview opportunities, as well as her distribution pitch, that I found a bit off-putting. Her abilities as a producer are obviously solid, but the production needs a softer salesperson.)

Earlier in the day, the "classic feature" screened: Mädchen in Uniform (dir. Géza von Radványi, Germany, 1958, 95 Mins.) Lily Palmer and Romy Schneider play teacher and student at a severely disciplined girls' school in 1910. They will fall in love and melodrama ensues.  Actually, it plays out in a much more realistic fashion than that suggests, particularly for the time and place it was produced.  The film actually compares well with NOTES ON A SCANDAL, as far as lesbian melodrama is concerned. Wolfe Video will be releasing the film on DVD later this year and it is well worth checking out!

The afternoon included a program of six short subjects, with Asian-Pacific themes and/or characters.

Waiting 4 Goliath (dir. Cal Garingan, Canada , 2009 , 13 min.) Amongst all the films, feature-length and short subjects, that have dealt with masculinity in gay culture, this little short probably broaches the subject with more honesty and humor than anything I have seen.  Though the film does bring in a racial element, it does not become overwhelmed by it, and the fact that the two characters having the argument are racially divergent, that topic is merely alluded to. The performances are all excellent, as well!

The Golden Pin (dir. Cuong Ngo, Canada , 2009 , 15 min.) This short attempts an exceptionally sober attempt at exploring coming-out from a Canadian-Vietnamese perspective. Though it is beautifully photographed, I found the pacing and general lack of humor to be distancing.

Peking Turkey (dir. Michael Mew, Canada , 2006 , 12 min.) This coming-out-at-Christmas story is staged as a cross-cultural farce. It is also in three languages (English, French and Chinese). There is a certain amount of sit-com energy to the piece. However, the cast is primarily appealing and at only 12 minutes, the joke goes on just long enough.

Masala Mama (dir. Michael Kam, Singapore , 2010 , 9 min.)  The production values start off pretty rough, but the film reveals a sweet heart by the end. There is a near Bollywood joy to the finale of the film, though it is a tricky path getting there and staying with it, even at only 9 minutes long.

Little (dir. Sigrid Andrea P. Bernardo, Philippines , 2009 , 30 min.) This film attempts to follow a young man's journey from birth to adulthood, as he travels from his family farm to Manila, in just 30 minutes. In other words, it either needs to be edited down to one of the sequences or expanded upon and the relationships more fully fleshed out.

[Little Love (dir. Quentin Lee, USA , 2010 , 10 min.) also screened, however I missed it.]

And via DVD screener and part of the Andy Warhol sidebar:

Beautiful Darling, the Life and Times of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar (dir. James Rasin, USA, 2009, 85 Mins.)  The title is self explanatory and the film is quite thorough and engaging.  I don't really have much to say about it, other than it did shed some light for me upon the cult figure that is "Candy Darling".  It's an easy screening and I do somewhat regret not being at the Castro for what sounds like was an event:  the director, James Rasin, along with Holly Woodlawn were there to expand upon the subject for the audience.

Maxxxxx says re  THE STRANGER IN US:  "I love you, too!"

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

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Frameline 34 (SF Intl. LGBT Film Festival) - Day 6

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  www.frameline.org.

The Motionless [Inertes] (dir. Eusebio Pastrana, Spain, 2010, 91 Mins.) Well, this was an odd little film that teetered oh so perilously to the pretentious.  The plot: two woman and one man meet and attempt a poly-amorous relationship.  It is shot in STARK black and white video, with exceptionally high contrast, which only makes the masked clown even more prevalent.  Oh, yes. The Masked Clown.  I don't know exactly why HE is there, but he dances around each one when they are in a moment of emotional change, which is his reason for being, I guess. There is a lot of "choreography" of the four people, which is sort of ironic for a film called "MOTIONLESS", but then that's sort of part of its pretension.  No, I was not bored, per se, just a wee bit annoyed.

The Frameline Award was presented to Wolfe Releasing in celebration of its 25 years of GLBT film and video distribution. Kathy Wolfe accepted the award on behalf of her company with such modesty and charm, she was quite affecting. This was followed by a screening one of their latest acquisitions,
Undertow [Contracorriente] (dir. Javier Fuentes-León, Peru, 2010, 100 Mins.)  Though this won the Audience Award at Sundance, the director claimed to be more excited and moved about THIS screening than any before. He did relate a sweet story of how choked up he was tonight, as he and his partner walked hand-in-hand past the long lines outside the theater for the largest audience his films have ever screened in front of.  The film  is set in a Peruvian fishing village, a man deals with his conflicting loves: his wife and boyfriend, who is gorgeously portrayed by Manolo Cardona. (Apparently, he is the "Colombian Brad Pitt".) There is nothing "wrong" with any aspect of the film. However, I was not overly moved by it either. It is simply an exceptionally well crafted, accessible and commercial piece of film.

There were three programs on this day that I previewed on DVD screener and chose not to attend "live" for various reasons.

Is It Just Me? (dir. JC Calciano, USA, 2009, 112 Mins.) This is cute. Very cute. I hate 'cute'.  It is not necessarily painful to sit through and the feedback I got from some audience members after the matinee was quite positive.  It features an exceptionally cute cast, involved in a farce of mistaken identities and lies, which is a pet peeve of mine. I just find that kind of plotting annoying. (Why doesn't somebody just say something to stop it all?!)  Anyway, the film will probably do quite well on a quick indie release and great on home video and cable, seeing as the cast is so attractive (even if that is the source of their problems...) and the plot is a safe, little farce.  Given the opportunity to see it "live", I passed.

The Sisters [Die Schwestern] (dirs. Manfred Hoschek, Sigrid Smejkal,
Austria, 2009, 74 Mins.) This is an all too brief documentary surrounding the 30th Anniversary of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.  Though it attempts to give a global overview of the Sisters by focusing on chapters in Berlin, Montevideo and San Francisco, it spreads itself too thin.  There is a brief explanation of the genesis of the Order and what it's purpose is. However, I think it only scratches the surface of how The Sisters have benefitted the community, changed people's lives and it gives short shrift to what was a fabulous celebration last year at the Anniversary here in San Francisco!  That said, at least someone has paid some attention and perhaps this will inspire others to give the SPI more coverage!

Baby Jane? (dir. Billy Clift, USA, 2009, 87 mins.) Billy Clift and his cast campily deconstruct WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?  Matthew Martin and Katya Smirnoff (aka J. Conrad Frank) lead a comically adroit cast (including Heklina's extended version of the neighbor Mrs. Bates) who do not mock the original performances or performers. Though the film might lack a certain cabaret freshness that was felt during the original stage performances, it is at the very least, a drag valentine to a great piece of grand guinol.  I really wanted to be at the screening, as I was sure it was to be a "scene", but the screening was starting pretty late for me.  However, I heard from those present that it was a 'mature' presentation and that wackiness did not ensue beyond what happened on the screen and that the Q&A was a pretty sober affair.

Maxxxxx says re THE SISTERS:   "Woooooo!"

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

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Frameline 34 (SF Intl. LGBT Film Festival) - Day 5

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  www.frameline.org.

Off World (dir. Mateo Guez, Canada/Philippines, 2009, 76 Mins.) This is set in the Smoky Mountain slums of Manila, where the poverty is so overwhelming, as to be surreal. Or at least it appears so in Mateo Guez's beautifully photographed film about a man searching for his birth family. It is shot in widescreen, and I will assume on RED, as the color manipulation is so drastic at times as to be distracting. However, as Guez has nearly no script, it would be assumed that this is something of a poem, not unlike the QATSI trilogy in style. Very little actually happens, though there is a narration to tell us the why and what there is. I would have preferred no narration at all and let the images go past in an even dreamier haze. The performances by the supporting cast, in particular those of the brother and mother, are quite remarkable given how little they have to work with.  The soundtrack by Byron Kent Wong is suitable ethereal and droning as our protagonist processes what his life might have been.  Perhaps not one of the most salacious entries in this year's festival, it is oddly, one of the most beautiful.

New York Memories (dir. Rosa Von Praunheim, Germany, 2010, 89 Mins.) Director Rosa Von Praunheim revisits New York City, spotlighting the changes that occurred to the people he interviewed, as well as the city itself, in SURVIVAL IN NEW YORK, 25 years ago.  Von Praunheim is not so much a photojournalist, as he is a diarist. It is a series of voices, nearly unrelentingly describing their lives and world and how much it has changed for them. His editing is so tight that it can become a dizzying cacophony of memories, which may be his intent.  Personally, I found it took a lot of energy to stay engaged with the rapid fire banter on the soundtrack, while there was fairly little to actually see.

Maxxxxx says re OFF WORLD:  "Woooo..."

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

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Frameline 34 (SF Intl. LGBT Film Festival) - Day 4

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  www.frameline.org.

We Were Here: Voices From the AIDS Years in San Francisco (dir. David Weissman, USA, 2010, 90 Mins.) [Submitted as a work in progress]  Since it is unfinished and is continuing to secure financing, there is a "review hold" on the film.  However, I can say that the testimony that David Weissman records from his five subjects is so gracefully presented that I was unprepared for the overwhelming wave of emotions that I felt as it ended.  Even in its raw state, the film led the Castro audience through a cathartic experience, featuring one of the longest standing ovations I have ever been a part of.  I needed to just wander off for a bit before attempting another screening...

Bear Nation (dir. Malcolm Ingram, USA, 2010, 87 Mins.)   Malcolm Ingram profiles the "bear community" within gay male culture. It is a remarkable documentary in that Ingram is able to objectively follow a communal stream of consciousness as the topics of "why? who? etc." are explored. The film is neither condescending nor biased. This subculture is presented, warts and all, without attempting any kind of deeper psychoanalyzing which leads to judgment. His choices of interview subjects span such a wide plethora of personalities, that the film successfully moves past the physical preoccupation of similar attempts (I would refer to Christopher Hines' work) and delves into the emotional bonds and attractions that has formed this subculture. Ingram's inclusion of "straight" society's attitudes about the concept (including a hilarious rant from Kevin Smith) gives the film some comic relief, as well as some fresh air from all of the self absorption, or dare I say, navel gazing?  I was truly, pleasantly surprised by the maturity of focus of the film and eagerly look forward to Ingram's next documentary about NYC's Continental Baths, which he spoke of during the post-screening Q&A.

The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls (dir. Leanne Pooley, New Zealand, 2009, 84 Mins.)  I screened this on a DVD screener, and truly enjoyed it and understand their appeal. Though their music is a bit TOO "country-twangy" for me, their performance style is so fresh and inviting, that it is like spending a couple hours with those wacky aunts of yours.  The film is now available on DVD, as they were selling them at the Castro.

What I also missed out on at the actual screening is what sounds like was a mini-concert by the Topp Twins in person!  Reports are that their pre-screening appearance and follow-up Q&A were THE highlight of the evening!  The women will be in San Francisco and performing at the Swedish American Hall (next to Cafe Du Nord) during the week for a rare glimpse of this pair of New Zealand superstars! Or, well, at least they have an exceptionally LARGE following down there!

The Consul of Sodom [El Consul de Sodoma] (dir. Sigfrid Monleón, Spain, 2009, 110 Mins.) ended the day on as nearly as heavy of a note as it started. Jordi Mollá portrays the Spanish poet Gil de Biedma, in this lyrical biopic by the extremely soft spoken director, Sigfrid Monleón, who was present at the screening. The film is sensually shot and exceptionally explicit. The film follows Gil de Biedma at some point in the 1960's until his death from AIDS in 1990. Unfortunately, I do not know enough about Spain during that time to have appreciated all of the political and sexual dilemmas that Biedma faced during Franco's regime, nor his connection with the Phillipines.  In fact, I found as the film unfolded, that I needed to let go of linearity and script and just flow with the emotional, physical and sexual journey the director takes us on. I am not a poet, however, the screenplay itself appears to be a dedication to Gil de Biedma's work.

Maxxxxx says re THE TOPP TWINS: "Dooby dooby doo-ooo!"

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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  www.frameline.org.

(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!"

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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  www.frameline.org.

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.

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