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Film

New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Film Festival
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.



Eytan Fox’s
The Bubble (Buah, Ha-)
2007 Newfest


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 it.


 

Russell P. Marleau’s
The Curiosity of Chance

2007 Newfest

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

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 school!

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 British.

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!




Gene Graham's
The Godfather of Disco
2007 Newfest

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.

Unfortunately, Graham’s 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 go on.


 

Casper Andreas’
A Four Letter Word
2007 Newfest


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 this one.


 


Alexis Dos Santos’
Glue
2007 Newfest

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 story.

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
The Lair

2007 Newfest

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.




Károly Esztergályos’
Men in the Nude (Férfiakt)
2007 Newfest



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 Hungary.

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.

László Gálffi 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 aging wife.

Károly Esztergályos’ is an impressive director. Certain moments reminded me of Ingmar Bergman’s work--which is a great compliment, indeed!

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).


Alesandro Avellis’
My Super 8 Season
2007 Newfest

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 change.

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 up.

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 ferocity.

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.


Duncan Roy’s
The Picture of Dorian Gray

2007 Newfest

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

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.”
Hence...

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 and modern.

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.




Robert Cary’s
Save Me
Closing Night Film 2007 Newfest

 

Reviewed 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 directed.

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 work!

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 Kiriakidis’
Straight Story
2007 Newfest


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 breaks loose.

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 film immensely.


 



Ed Aldridge’s
Tan Lines
2007 Newfest


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 pair.

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 homosexuality!

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.





"Twisted Love – A Program of Short Films"
2007 Newfest

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"
2007 Newfest

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 hysterical.

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.

Laura Terruso’s 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.



Succubus

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.


 


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