York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender
May 31-June 10
June is the month for Film Festivals;Newfest
has roared into town. Here is a quote from their
press release, "NewFest will take place from
May 31-June 10 and will be hosted by AMC Loews 34th
Street Theater (312 W 34th St. at 8th Ave). The
full program, schedule, and ticketing information
can be found online at www.newfestival.org.
Box Office opens to NewFest Members on May 18 and
to the general public on May 23. The NewFest line-up
is comprised of nearly 250 films, including 150
shorts playing among 16 shorts programs. NewFest
2007 feature films include 32 New York Premieres,
23 United States Premieres and 8 World Premieres,
representing over 30 countries."
The New York Cool writers will
be posting review daily on this page.
The Bubble (Buah, Ha-)
Reviewed by Frank J. Avella
As far as I’m concerned
(and with great respect to Save Me) the
best film shown at this years Newfest and one of
the best of the year so far is Eytan Fox’s
The Bubble. This West Side Story
for today tackles the controversial with great wit
and inspired power.
Romeo meets Romeo at a checkpoint
along the Israeli-Palestinian border and pretty
soon the Jew and the Arab have fallen in love. Just
how doomed is this relationship? Well, the gifted
Fox (he co-wrote the excellent script with Gal Uchovsky)
allows the men to get to know one another and allows
us to truly believe in their love. We are also glaringly
aware of the political goings on around them.
Ohad Knoller (Yossi & Jagger)
is Noam, the Israeli and Yousef ‘Joe’
Sweid is Ashraf, the Palestinian. Both deliver effective
and affecting performances. Sweid is particularly
compelling. The entire ensemble is to be commended.
In addition to the two leads, Daniela Virtzer is
a stand-out as Lulu, Noam’s gal-pal and Alon
Friedman is very good as the flamboyant Yelli.
Maverick director Eytan Fox gave
us Yossi & Jagger a few years back
and here he proves he’s an international filmmaker
to watch as he deftly handles the heavy themes presented
with great humor, pathos and understanding.
I really loved this film and everything
it had to say about the nature of religious conflict
and the, unfortunate, never ending promise of retribution.
It can be seen as a plea or a depiction of the way
things will always be. Depends on where you fall
on the glass half-full/empty question.
The Bubble is unsettling,
thought-provoking and daring. I highly recommend
The Curiosity of Chance
Reviewed by Frank
Chance Marquis is not your typical
80’s teen. Nor does he conform to typical
high school fashion. Some days he dons an eye patch
just to...wear an eye patch. He likes boys and doesn’t
hide that fact. AND he is quickly discovering that
he enjoys drag way more than most boys his age (16).
As you can imagine, this stirs up quite a bit of
trouble for him at the international high school
where he attends classes.
The Curiosity of Chance
is a sweet, funny truffle from writer/director Rusell
P. Marleau about an atypical teen who literally
falls for “the boy next door.” It wants
to be Edge of Seventeen, but the script
never reaches the maturity and cleverness of that
gem. It also brings to mind any number of John Hughes
films from the 1980’s, with that one gay twist.
But it is never quite as hilarious or kooky as,
say, The Breakfast Club.
What makes us care at all and
want to keep watching is the captivating performance
of lead actor Tad Hilgenbrink as the whacky and
awkward Chance. Hilgenbrink has charisma to spare
and embodies this misfit with a totality that most
actors “playing gay” are afraid to.
This is someone I would have wanted to know in high
Additional kudos to the always
fun Chris Mulkey as Chance’s military dad
and Colleen Cameron as his wise young sister who
speaks with a British accent, even though she isn’t
The clichés occasionally
fly, there are awkwardly filmed scenes that fall
flat but there are also wonderfully poignant moments
and a few very zany segments as well. And the final
concert scene soars, making The Curiosity of
Chance worth the trip!
The Godfather of Disco
Reviewed by Julia Sirmons
Mel Cheren is an ideal subject
for a documentary.
As a young gay man and music lover,
he got one of those great New York City lucky breaks,
when a chance meeting with a trick in the Public
Gardens led to a job at ABC records. After pounding
his shoe leather promoting artists like Connie Francis
and Ray Charles, he branched out on his own to form
West End Records in 1976, producing an incredible
catalog of great dance music by artists like Taana
Gardner, Raw Silk, and Mahogany. These infectious
tunes brought blacks, gays, and Hispanics together
on the floors of New York City clubs.
Eventually Mel opened his own
club, The Paradise Garage in the West Village. With
the skilled spinning of DJ Larry Levan and its innovative
décor, the Garage became a hot spot and a
safe, almost family-like atmosphere for an ethnically
diverse mix of gay and straight patrons. When the
specter of AIDS put a damper on the city’s
club scene, Cheren became a pioneer activist, giving
the Gay Men’s Health Crisis its first space
in New York and going on to found his own charity,
24 Hours for Life. He then put up the money to start
up another philanthropic organization, LIFEbeat,
the Music Industry Fights AIDS.
He’s also funny as hell.
In an interview for Gene Graham’s film about
him, The Godfather of Disco, Cheren, wearing
an “I was born this way” T-shirt, discusses
growing up gay in the ‘50s and early ‘60s.
It was “really a bitch,” he says.
film isn’t really a story about Cheren, or
about the glory days of disco in New York. It’s
more like “Behind the Music: West End Records.”
Actually, it’s even less interesting than
your average “Behind the Music” episode,
since there aren’t any bandmates getting freaky
and doing blow. Godfather of Disco’s
main fault is that it spends too much time lining
up West End singles on the soundtrack while a bunch
of talking heads prattle on about why each song
is so great. While this is interesting to a point,
it goes on for far too long. If he is listening
to it, any human being with a pulse instinctively
knows why a great dance record great. It gets into
his blood and makes him want to jump out of his
seat and move. At a certain point, any verbal explanation
becomes superfluous at best and irritating at worst.
When it comes down to it, a movie
about a gay man and founding father of the halcyon
days of New York City disco should a be big, fabulous
– and yes, gay – extravaganza, not just
a music theory class or a history lesson. There
came a point in Graham’s film when I just
wanted him to shut up the interviewees, crank up
the tunes, and show more of the great archival footage
of cute boys in hot pants.
It’s a telling sign of the
quality of Graham’s film that, at the end
of the screening I attended, the most common question
asked by the audience (the majority of whom seemed
to have had fond memories of nights at The Paradise
Garage; Graham should have interviewed them) was,
“Where can we get the soundtrack?” Apparently,
there isn’t a soundtrack, but plans to re-issue
the West End catalog on CD are in the works.
Until then, here’s
my suggestion. Skip the film. For a great account
of the revolutionary impact of the disco era, check
out Peter Shapiro’s compelling book Turn
the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco.
If you can’t wait for the CD releases, scour
the city’s record stores for those rare West
End 12-inches. Then pull out the old record player,
put on your spangliest tube top, and let the beat
A Four Letter Word
Reviewed by Frank J. Avella
The only good thing in Casper
Andreas’ comedy-wannabe, A Four Letter
Word, is a very interesting performance by
Jesse Archer. At first his portrayal of Luke, the
superficial sex-fiend is grating and sissily-sterotypical,
but after a while, it gets under your skin--he gets
under your skin and you begin to sympathize with
this zany character. Then finally, embrace him for
who he is. Kudos to Archer for transcending a mediocre
script (which, ironically he co-wrote with Andreas!).
Otherwise, the movie is just another
silly gay movie with your typical mix of yawn-inducing
characters including: the arguing couple and the
fag-hag. The who-cares plot involves a sex-obsessed
flit queen who meets a potential Mr. Right (a wooden
Charlie David from, surprise, Dante’s
Cove!) but soon discovers he’s an escort.
There’s more but I’ll spare the reader.
The acting is pretty amateurish, the dialogue is
cliche’-ridden, many of the scenes fall flat
and the laughs are few.
It’s baffling to me why
Newfest would select this mess to be one of the
two Centerpieces when there were many other films
that were far superior. Rent The Broken Hearts
Club or trick instead of suffering through
Reviewed by Frank J. Avella
There is a decent film somewhere
in the messy and meandering Argentinean film, Glue.
The problem is writer/director Alexis Dos Santos
is too preoccupied with his shaky-cam to tell a
coherent story. I am a big fan of hand-held camera
work when it is used for a reason, but here it is
overdone (in a film school way) and just irritating
and pretentious, shedding no light on the coming-of-age
Santos must be given credit for
finding an impressive young actor to play Lucas.
Nahuel Perez Biscayart is wonderful as a sexually
confused teen and his scenes with his best friend
Nacho (Nahuel Viale) capture the boredom, angst
and playfulness of today’s adolescents.
What is most frustrating (among
so many frustrations) is the glimmers of insight
and good storytelling we get sprinkled amidst the
self-indulgent filmmaking. A camping scene involving
Lucas’ family is a particularly insightful
and hilarious moment. But it comes late in the film
when caring has gone out the theatre and you can’t
wait for the credits to roll!
Fred Olen Ray’s
Reviewed by Frank J. Avella
What can be said about HERE! Network’s
The Lair (Newfest presented the first three
episodes as a preview of the series) about a hottie
vampire boy coven? It sucks! Too easy? Yes, but
quite true. Okay allow me to elaborate a bit.
Creator/writer/director Fred Olen
Ray has fashioned the most mind-numbingly dumb series
to hit the gay network since...well, Dante’s
Cove. Yes, like that vampire mess, this features
gratuitous soft-core mansex, but, also like Cove,
it is poorly written, directed and, for the most
part, acted. One feels sorry for Shortbus’
Peter Stickles as lead vampire, Damian. He is trapped
in a really bad show.
There’s nothing that can
save this drek. Typical of the laughable dialogue
is a line delivered by the now-required fag-hag
character (played pretty well by Beverly Lynne):
“But it doesn’t prove there are gay
vampire witches operating a sex club on the island.”
At the screening I attended, that line got a laugh.
And so did many lines that were supposed to be taken
seriously. If HERE! expects to be taken seriously
as a network, they have to stop producing such cancerous
crap and actually develop some decent material.
Men in the Nude (Férfiakt)
Reviewed by Frank J. Avella
A title like Men in the Nude
suggests a typically vapid soft-core gay flick filled
with nudity, sex and boasting a plot as thin as
Nicole Ritchie! How deceived gay men must have felt
attending this smart and penetrating drama from
The simple story surrounds a forty-nine-year-old
writer who falls in love with a nineteen-year-old
hustler and how his life alters because of the boy.
The writer is married to a has-been stage actress,
but has forgotten what it feels like to be in love.
Enter an absolutely gorgeous blond twink, who sashays
into his life and turns him into a lovesick puppy.
Thomas Mann’s Death
in Venice is invoked in the film and many of
the themes in that great novel are explored including
the true nature of love, beauty within and on the
surface and the deception and destructive forces
that can come into play with any boy/man pairing.
is agonizing and amazing as the writer. Dávid
Szabó embodies the fucktoy to a T. All he
has to really do is look sexy--which he does incredibly
well--but there is pathos to his performance. Éva
Kerekes is to be commended for good work as the
is an impressive director. Certain moments reminded
me of Ingmar Bergman’s work--which is a great
Men in the Nude continues
themes that The Picture of Dorian Gray
explored and Newfest is to be applauded for showcasing
films that are much more than what meets the eye
(or the title, in this case).
My Super 8 Season
Reviewed by Julia Sirmons
To everything there is a season.
But when you’re a student in Paris in 1968,
when the spirit of change and upheaval wafts through
the air like the scent of fresh-bake baguettes,
and the possibility of revolution and freedom seems
just beyond the horizon, a season can last an eternity
or fly by before you even know what’s happened.
This spirit of perpetual anticipation and the confusion
that accompanies it is captured perfectly in Alessandro
Avellis’ My Super 8 Season (Ma
Saison Super 8), a beautiful and poignant film
about coming of age in a time of massive cultural
The twin legs of the film’s
moral and emotional compass are Marc (Axel Philippon)
and Julie (Célia Pilastre), moving closer
and farther away from each other during various
periods, but always firmly attached by the bond
of their friendship. Marc, a student struggling
with his thesis about undertones of homosexuality
in Shakespearean tragedies, moves in with Julie
when his straight-laced ex-cop father kicks him
out after having to bail Marc out of his old precinct
when he’s arrested for an act of public (man-on-man)
lewdness on the banks of the Seine.
Meanwhile, Julie’s got problems
of her own. Her boyfriend’s parents think
she’s distracting him from his studies, so
they’re shipping him off to study abroad in
England. On top of this distress, she’s having
a bit of an existential crisis, as her ardent youthful
passion for her guy doesn’t seem to jive with
her immersion in Marxism and radical feminism. “I
guess my sex doesn’t agree with my politics,”
she sighs in a moment of post-coital bliss and mental
confusion. Never have the seriocomic melodramas
of student life and love been more aptly summed
Marc’s romantic life takes
an interesting turn when he becomes involved with
a working-class trick who moves in with him, but
is determined to save face by marrying and having
kids one day. The film’s title refers to Marc’s
habit of recording little moments of his life with
his Super 8 camera. One of the film’s most
poignant moments comes when, in the middle of the
night, Marc runs his lens over his lover’s
body, lingering over his favorite spots, knowing
that this bliss is too sweet to last.
All this personal drama is set
against a backdrop of political and cultural upheaval.
A major coup is gained after student protests force
the university to give Marc and Julie’s Marxist/feminist/gay
rights group a room to host weekly meetings. In
this sequence, Avellis perfectly documents the meeting’s
inevitable devolution from unified passion to hookup
spot to nastily cliquey sects.
When her boyfriend doesn’t
answer her letters, Julie gets more deeply involved
with a radical feminist commune, eventually moving
in with them and begins a romantic relationship
with its leader. At first, the feminists are arm
in arm with their gayboy comrades, but they eventually
decide they don’t want to be tainted by any
male presence, and Marc and Julie’s friendship
suffers as a result.
Of all the many aspects of political
and personal student life that Super 8, the vacillations
in Marc and Julie’s relationship is the most
touching and engaging. In a world where so many
media portrayals of friendships between gay men
and straight (or bicurious) women are based on caricatures
and stereotypes, here is a depiction of a unique
relationship that is refreshingly honest and real.
Philippon and Pilastre have a wonderful natural
chemistry, and there are lots of subtly painful
moments where they inertly allow the tides of politics
to sweep them apart, as well as happy ones when
they’re snuggling on the couch, commiserating
over romantic and political disappointments.
The only flub in this otherwise
lovely little film is Avellis’s decision to
randomly switch from color to black-and-white stock
at random moments toward the end of the film. Therer
seems to be no stylistic or thematic reason for
it; the first time it happened I thought it was
because the production had run out of money. It
seems impossible to make a film set in Paris in
1968 without somehow referencing Jean-Luc Godard,
but this gimmick just feels like a lesser artist
copying a great master’s work; it looks the
same, but there’s none of the passion or intellectual
But just like his characters,
we can forgive Avellis for flying letting his lofty
ideals bring him too close to the sun now and then.
After all, their wings have already taken them to
such great heights.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Reviewed by Frank
Major props to Newfest for selecting
an arty, maddening and divisive work to open the
19th New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender
Film Festival (now, that’s a mouthful, yikes!).
At the screening, ballsy Brit
filmmaker Duncan Roy (AKA) warned the audience:
“If you’ve read the book (by icon Oscar
Wilde) you’ll get it, if not, you’ll
be struggling.” He went on the explain that
there had been many a walkout at the Miami showing
and he hoped the same thing wouldn’t happen
in NYC. There were some, not many.
Roy also offered, to those NOT
in the know, that the original novel, The Picture
of Dorian Gray, was more explicitly gay. Ergo,
his adaptation was based on that earlier version.
Actually, this Dorian can be seen
as a modern version with an 1890’s sensibility.
And once you accept the deliberate indie-art house
approach you’ll find yourself immersed in
this mesmerizing film.
“All youth is beautiful.”
“Youth is fleeting.”
Roy ambitiously sets out to explore
the pretty-boy human’s relentless need to
hold onto his looks, whatever the cost. There is
an inherent vanity in most of us, but in Dorian,
it is all-consuming, He surrounds himself with sycophants
and voyeurs that live for him. And we get the feeling
he is as much repulsed by the aged as he is obsessed
with his own beauty. Roy, however, adds a disease-twist
to the script that makes it even more urgent, gay
Dorian (David Gallagher) is a
rich, NYC media-celeb. The portrait is a video installation
piece that a young artist named Basil pours his
soul into. Basil (an effective Noah Segan) falls
for Dorian who gives him his body but not his love.
The work begins to haunt Dorian, prompting him to
make his proverbial deal with the devil (in this
case a very hot and doable devil played by the delicious
Michael Goduti). As the Dorian in the video gets
older and more ravaged by disease, the real Dorian
remains strikingly gorgeous and becomes evil incarnate.
The movie is loaded with many
a quotable Oscar Wilde-ism, mostly delivered by
a nerdy but diabolical character named Henry (who
kept reminding me of Niles on Buffy the Vampire
Slayer). The production values are first-rate
and the film does not meander too much. In the last
third, the film does spend too little time exploring
Dorian’s now violent nature, though.
Former teen heartthrob David Gallagher
(7th Heaven) does not have it easy. He
is certainly stunning and has a mysterious and dangerous
look about him. He also commands the screen (quite
reminiscent of Hayden Christensen). But the material
tends to overwhelm him. And, in the end, he cannot
quite handle the intensely dramatic moments key
to the character’s downfall.
As Henry, Christian Camargo fairs
much better. He is able to show the complexities
of his character and his own ambiguities.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
is a fascinating curio that will anger some and
delight others as it deals with themes that many
a gay may find hits way too close to home.
Closing Night Film 2007 Newfest
by Frank J. Avella
Newfest wisely selected Save
Me as its closing night presentation. A deeply
thoughtful call for love and understanding, the
film is well-crafted, powerfully acted and defty
The pic follows wayward Mark (Chad
Allen), a gay drug addict who is brought, initially
against his will, to Genesis House, a Christian
recovery program specializing in “ sexual
brokenness.” The home is run by matriarch
Gayle (Judith Light) and Reverend Ted (Stephen Lang).
At this oasis Mark meets a slew
of other sexual misfits attempting to walk the straight
path via the love of Jesus. These include, Scott
(Robert Gant), who Mark develops a special friendship
with. Gayle, noticing a possible relationship developing
does everything she can to nip it in the bud as
she has her own ulterior motives.
Save Me is a complex
and fascinating film with a smart script. It never
pokes fun at the work done at Genesis House and
the film is more potent for it’s nonjudgmental
ways. We truly feel that Mark has been spiritually
healed and Gayle contributes to that, but so does
his love for Scott. The audience is asked to meditate
on the nature of sexuality and where religion should
or shouldn’t come into play. The film also
shows just how important parental approval is to
most people and how parental condemnation can lead
to despair and destruction for many.
Chad Allen is an absolute revelation
as Mark. It’s a haunting and heartfelt performance
that anchors the film. Robert Gant (Queer as
Folk) is surprisingly effective and proves
he has grown quite a bit as an actor. Alas, the
heart of Save Me is the extraordinary Judith
Light. It’s a difficult role (especially for
a vociferous gay rights advocate) but she manages
to do remarkable work. It’s a career peak
for her and she should be remembered when the year’s
best are being decided.
One of the many wonderful things
about Save Me is watching openly gay actors
play gay for a change. I was a huge fan of Brokeback
Mountain, but after a while I grew tired of
hearing how brave Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal
were for taking on gay roles since they were DEFINITELY
heterosexuals. (Ledger even quick-married and had
a baby--golly, how het can you get...or how paranoid...)
If they were truly brave they would have not felt
the need to declared their sexuality! So multiple
kudos to Chad Allen and Robert Gant for playing
gay, being gay and, especially, for doing terrific
Newfest is to be congratulated
for presenting exciting and diverse films this year
like: The Bubble; The Picture of Dorian
Gray; and Save Me. These films take
innovative steps forward, not just in gay cinema,
but in cinema.
Efi Mouriki & Vladimiros
Reviewed by Frank J. Avella
Straight Story is “statement”
movie that is actually a delightful meditation on
sexuality and works more than it doesn’t.
Made in Greece, where homosexuality
is frowned on by the majority, the film depicts
a world in a sexually upside-down manner: most folks
are gay and that is the norm. Heterosexuals are
considered the deviants and are shunned. (the fabulous
off-Broadway musical, Zanna Don’t,
had a similar take on things).
Into this queer dominated world is born a misfit
named Yiannis (the scorchingly hot Anthimos Ananiadis)
who, much to the chagrin of his two fathers, prefers
women! Specifically one woman, Sofia (beautiful
Kanellina Menouti in a very poignant turn), who
happens to be in a monogamous relationship with
the flighty Zeta (Meni Konstantinidou). After a
drunken night of passion between Yiannis and Sofia,
things get increasing complicated and soon all straight-hell
Straight Story is smartly
written and socially aware without ever being too
didactic. It fluctuates between the serious and
comedic (very La Cage Aux Folles-esque at
times) a bit too much but the balance is usually
blended well. It’s to be applauded for showing
a milieu that was imagined in a Harvey Fierstein
passage in the great play Torch Song Trilogy
where everything was for and about gays and you
were told that that was the right way to be.
The film features a final reel
twist that places an exclamation point on the theme
of sexual acceptance and, I believe, enhances the
Reviewed by Frank J. Avella
The opening sequence of Tan
Lines shows the lead character, Midget (Jack
Baxter), in close up listening to music on his cd-walkman.
This music transports the teen away from the mundane
and stifling reality he lives every day in his small
Australian town. Midget lives (and shares a bed)
with his mother in a one room apartment. He and
his friends are surfer stoners. And he occasionally
performs sexual chores for a whacked-out old lady
and her niece.
Enter Cass, the older brother
of Midget’s best friend, who comes back to
town after being banished by his family for sleeping
with his male teacher. Midget forms a bond with
Cass and they embark on a sexual affair. This sweet
yet wobbly relationship is at the heart of Ed Alderidge’s
first film. It’s an impressive movie that
feels invasive at times, which is to say: real.
Jack Baxter personifies the confused
and antsy teenager who is attempting to discover
who he really is, sexually and otherwise. As Cass,
Daniel O’Leary mixes confidence with a tremendous
need to be accepted. Together they make a combustible
Tan Lines in loaded with
quirky and insightful scenes, some even hilarious.
One of the best involves various Catholic paraphernalia
(the Pope’s photo, a statue of the Madonna,
etc...) arguing with one another, in Italian, about
The bittersweet pic is to be admired
for going a bit beyond the typical coming out films
and not compromising it’s characters to make
some social or political statement.
Love – A Program of Short Films"
Reviewed by Julia Sirmons
Three very different films stood
out as stellar depictions of “Twisted Love”
in the NEWFEST screening of seven diverse shorts
lumped under this title.
In a program dominated by the
comic and satiric, Brandon Harris’ dark Evangeleo
focused on the scarier, more pathological side
of love gone awry. The film’s young heroine
struggles to find herself under the potent and imposing
influence of her formidable mother (a scholar and
preacher) by expressing her frustrations, anxieties,
and repression in a creative writing class. There
she meets a young African man, and the two begin
a complex romantic relationship. Things get sticky
(both figuratively and literally) when she starts
to suspect that he may be batting for the other
team. This leads her into a downward spiral of dark
fiction and darker fantasies. As increasingly disturbing
images of betrayal of violence appear on the screen,
the audience becomes uneasily aware of what they
are looking at. Are these visualizations of the
girl’s stories, portrayals of her fears, depictions
of her fantasies, or an unimaginably frightening
reality? Superb acting, direction, and editing,
coupled with an interesting premise and a fresh
take on the more sinister sides of queer identity
crises make Evangeleo a clarion call from
a bold new voice in gay filmmaking.
On a lighter note, the entry by
director Kurt Koehler was a fantastic film that
took its inspiration from a parodic springboard.
Koehler tells the tale of a forlorn lesbian who
can’t fully commit to her foxy new gal because
of a traumatic incident in her past. When a gang
of leather daddy dykes start hassling said foxy
gal, she warns them not to make her angry, but they
carry on, forcing her metamorphosis into The
Incredible Dyke, big and muscly and a perfect
Tinky Winky shade of purple. The film is funny,
clever, and endearing, knows the limits of its premise,
and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
But the pièce de resistance
was the final film of the evening, Bruce Labruce’s
Give Piece of Ass a Chance. Any new film
by Labruce, the Canadian filmmaker, photographer,
writer and all-around queer provocateur, is cause
to cheer, but Give Piece is something truly
special. The film’s ingenious premise gives
plenty of opportunity for Labruce to show off his
trademark visual wit and style, and his groundbreaking
combination of independent cinema and pornography.
Sometime in the mid-‘70s
a cult of revolutionary lesbians kidnaps a prissy,
WASP-y heiress, hoping to strongarm her industrialist
father into making sex toys, not war. She’s
resistant at first, but once she’s (forcibly)
introduced to the pleasures of orgiastic Sapphic
love, she pulls a Patty Hearst, runs off with her
foxy captors and never looks back. The scenes of
her conversion are vintage Labruce: erotic, sleazy,
sexy, and funny, with just the right dash of good-natured
camp tossed into the mix.
In the hands of a less gifted,
imaginative or funny auteur, the story could have
become derivative and run out of steam long before
the final frame. Fortunately, Labruce seems to have
instinctive sense of (and affinity for) the particular
historical and cultural moment he’s emulating;
the set dressing and costuming are pitch-perfect.
There’s no dialogue (only a truly kick-ass
soundtrack), but Labruce’s brilliant use of
styling, captions, subtitles, and mocked-up newspaper
pages evocatively communicates everything the audience
needs – and desperately wants – to know.
But Give Piece reaches
even further heights of cinematic fabulousness with
its brilliant and charming plot-outside-the-plot.
In modern-day Toronto, a cute geeky-chic girl, laden
down with gender studies textbooks, stop short and
squints behind her hip frames. Those women gathered
on the sidewalk…could they be? But nobody’s
seen or heard from them in 20 years! In her puzzled
glance, infused with hope and longing, perfectly
sums up the audience’s longing for the potential
for fun and freedom ensconced in the moment that
Labruce is portraying. When the gender studies student
flings her textbooks to the ground, ditches her
wimpster boyfriend, and runs off to join the lesbian
underground, it’s the delicious satiation
of that desire – a desire that Labruce shares
and has spent his entire film encouraging.
It’s a perfect ending to
a perfectly fabulous film. Baby, if this love is
twisted, who wants to be straight?
"Women on the Verge:
Women's Comedy Shorts"
Reviewed by Julia Sirmons
A perfectly wacky smorgas board
of comic shorts was shown at “Women on the
Verge: Women’s Comedy Shorts,” a program
organized by NEWFEST.
Riotous and clever standouts included
Mary Guzman’s Worst Case Scenario: Butch
Edition, a grainy black-and-white film shot
in Super 8 in the manner of an old ‘50s instructional
video, that offers the butch dyke with a femme girlfriend
etiquette advice in dealing with a variety of social
situations. The voice-over narration was written
to pitch-perfect sardonic effect, and witty subtitles
added to the parodic humor. The acting, composition,
and locations all augmented the film’s comic
genius; which, judging from the raucous reaction
from both the dykes and femmes in the audience,
managed to accurately pierce a vital nerve within
the lesbian community.
Jim Zulevic’s Old Maid
was another great short that used a satiric launching
point to create a subversive, funny flick. Another
black-and-white film, Old Maid was filmed,
written and edited very much in the style of The
Twilight Zone, Psycho, and Hitchcock’s
television series. In Zulevic’s film, a high-strung,
single lesbian who’s hearing the very loud
tick of her biological clock, hosts a weekly game
of Old Maid with her friends that gets uncomfortably
competitive. The friends try and stage and intervention,
but to no avail, and the tension mounts comically
and uncomfortably as the main character’s
desperate attempts to get rid of the symbolically-charged
Old Maid card become more manic, desperate, and
Two of the shorts took the premise
of the mock home video and used it to great effect.
Spanish director Roberto Caston’s funny, vivacious
Nati’s Requirements gives the audience
a look at the heroine’s unexpurgated online
dating video submission. In between listing her
very specific requirements for that special guy
(or girl), she chats with the cameraman, a gayboy
pal, instructing him on what to cut out and how
to angle the camera to best accentuate her cleavage.
queer take on the Italian-American family experience,
Castrato Di Matteo’s Audition, focuses
on the title character, a boi with an exaggerated
sense of his macho homosexuality and big Broadway
dreams. As his jump-suited, fake-nailed girlfriend
ineptly films his audition tape amongst interference
from his stereotypically whiny mother, Castrato
struggles to make his passionate artistry shine
through to the casting director of Mamma Mia!
Terruso’s pitch-perfect portrayal of Castrato
seals the deal with this film.
But NEWFEST programmers saved
the best, and most intriguing, for last, with Canadian
director Alison Reid’s clever, dark, and endearing
Succubus. The film centers around a lesbian
couple – the fantastically named Lilith and
Athena – who are trying to breed. Athena is
a scientist working on a technique to create a human
embryo out of two eggs, only the science isn’t
quite there yet, and Lilith is tired of waiting
and wants a baby now. She’s content to settle
with a baby that’s as close to “theirs”
as possible – with some help in the zygote
department from a family member, consent or no.
Bringing a new meaning to “biological determinism,”
Lilith is hell-bent on getting her baby, with or
without Athena. And she’s not afraid of using
her cat rescue equipment, either. A potent yet well-balanced
mixture of suspense, comedy and poignant interpersonal
drama, Succubus was the perfect ending
to a series of shorts about women on the verge:
it sums up the complexity of women’s desires
– and the crazy steps they’re willing
to take to satisfy them – elegantly and perfectly.