It’s kind of sad that Madeleine Olnek’s Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks the Same is my first Ed Wood movie, but the experience was fun in this new incarnation. The title, however, isn’t that self-explanatory, only referring to an ad that one of the three lesbian space aliens (Cynthia Kaplan) have given out, their mission on earth is to get their hearts broken.
Shot in cheap digital black and white, the main focus is on Zoinx (Susan Ziegler) who finds her Jane (Lisa Haas), without telling the latter that her stay on Earth isn’t permanent, that Jane is only part of her mission to rid herself on earthling love. But while they’re together, their budding love, the banter of the spies watching the, and the aliens’ creative behaviour actually seems natural. 4/5.
For fear of sounding reductive, here’s a movie about relatively lower middle class people in German-speaking Switzerland. In Off Beat, Lukas (Hans-Jakob Muhletahler), a Zurich based rapper in his mid twenties, is literally going down while his brother Sami (Manuel Neuberger) takes his place in the music game. The relationship between him and older his manager Mischa (Domenico Pecoraio) gets sour when the latter wants Sami into the fold, made more complicated because of drugs, alcohol and the secret romance between elder brother and manager.
The film focuses on the melancholy within Lukas instead of getting more conventional storytelling done. And we know his is a sad movie because it is set and shot in eternal night/dawn/twilight. What the audience gets instead are rap-like narrations, exposing Lukas interior thoughts, his surprisingly convincing love for Mischa as well as thoughts about his fragmented family, especially about his father who never appears on-screen.
We also see Sami ignoring his older brother the way adolescents do, even when the latter is being publicly humiliated or being helplessly young within the adult world he’s thrust himself into. Or Mischa’s reticence in revealing his romance with Lukas, or not doing anything to mend the brothers’ relationship. Or Lukas, a character well performed by Muhletahler, starting rap rivalries like their North American counterparts do. Extras include the worst rap song and the four most creative interpretations of the anthem-like Beethoven’s 7th I’ve heard so far. A slow-paced yet convincing drama. 3/5.
Leading Ladies is a dance movie. Toni Campari is a sane young woman, routinely dealing with Sheri (Melanie LaPatin), her stage mom, mostly to Toni’s sister, Tasi, who has competitive ballroom dancing and man problems. She also has Cedric (Benji Schwimmer), Tasi’s dance partner who is gay despite Sheri’s denial. Toni’s world gets crazier when a series of family events lead her to meet Mona Saunders (Nicole Dionne), who’s about to get a crash course in dancing and dysfunctional families.
I don’t know if “So You Think You Can Dance” completists exist, but the two alums, LaPatin and Schwimmer fill in for that void. True, they have the same acting level as kids in high school, camping it up and all, but we know that those scenes are just big fillers for the zany dance numbers. Besides, there are truths within the second half of the cliché ridden script, like a heartfelt discussion between Toni and the heartbroken Mona about striving for their relationship or Tasi’s pregnancy rant. 2/5.
Renée is a documentary about the tennis player/eye doctor Renée Richards, who made a splash in the 1970’s tennis scene because she was born Richard Raskind. There are two threads in this documentary about transformation. The first being the forces, like transphobia, that’s stopping her from taking the top spot. The second are her friendships as both Richard and Renée. We see her in present day dealing with her fractured relationship with her son whom she abandoned and occasionally visits. Renée could have been about both instead of just about Renée, but looking back now, that possibility would have been too depressing, but this film nonetheless decides to show her contentment in changing into a woman. This is also a sports film, and there’s focus on her interest in sports as a man and her technique and flaws on amateur and professional courts, shown in colorfully restored footage. Also Contains short but graphic depictions of sex change operations. 4/5.
Playing before the documentary is a short film called “Love and Other Red Spot Specials,” about a male-to-female transvestite in Australia. I was expecting Chris Lilley.
- Op-Ed Columnist : Between Torment and Happiness (nytimes.com)
The Advocate For Fagdom, about the life and work of Toronto film director Bruce LaBruce, is structurally a bad film. It uses clips of LaBruce’s films that discredits him as scatter brained. The interview subjects explain the provocateur’s work and doing so aimlessly, eventually going off into diatribes about an idea of queerdom and making LaBruce its main representative. A subject even audaciously claims that the shock audiences and actors get from LaBruce’s work is because male actors are more ‘shy’ about performing nudity and sexuality than their female counterparts.
Nonetheless, I just can’t write this movie off because LaBruce is essentially interesting. The POV footage of LaBruce’s hometown are raw and endearing. That there’s one subject who actually discourages LaBruce’s use of the latter’s experimental film influences. That John Waters talking censorship in Ontario is actually pretty funny. He also talks about the men in LaBruce’s early work with clips that surprisingly aren’t gratuitous. And yes, we probably share the same taste in men. The film is a good introduction to the man, which the only thing it needs to be. 3/5.
- Hot Docs 2011 (jwhyteappleby.wordpress.com)
You want me to knock an AIDS documentary? Fine, sometimes the end of the interview segments are slowed down before fading out, but that only happens twice. And of course, there was no mention of the hateful acronym GRID, but then this isn’t a pedantic regurgitation of the facts.
David Weissman’s We Were Here is interested in people. It lets its San Franciscan interview subjects begin at the beginning, Ed Wolf as a gay man who couldn’t fit into the cliques, Paul Boneberg continuing the spirit of the hippie era, artist Daniel Goldstein’s early days giving out flyers with Harvey Milk, Guy Clark as a flower shop owner, Eileen Glutzer taking her college feminist ethos and befriending gay men. They were frank and at times humorous about their perceptions about gay sexuality and activity, talking about it as a form of rebellion, an inevitable part of masculine wiring or simply calling it love between friends and boyfriends. Archive photos and footage is very helpful in many sections, showing for instance the big billboards for bath houses when they were still legal in the city, or general images of the men in the peak of their youth which are innately tragic.
The documentary also eases into the beginning of the AIDS crisis, coming into their lives rapidly. Strong young men were becoming sickly, filling up beds and dying days later. The five separate lives of the subjects become strung together through activism. Glutzer as a nurse braves wards with AIDS patients. Goldstein becomes one of the first affected by the outbreak and survives through medical flukes and emotional rough patches. The film bravely shows the men’s appearances change after being infected and veers into different questions and responses within and outside the community. As a young gay man, admittedly I still don’t realize the disease’s real effects. The film is more hopeful than depressing, showing creative ways in which the LGBT friendly community helped each other, but both sides of the coin still exist, and I should probably watch this documentary every day. 4/5.
- The Image They Left Behind (towleroad.com)
Christoph Honore’s Man at Bath features cruelly volatile characters, focusing on a French gay couple falling out of love, mostly because Emmanuel (Francois Sagat) rapes his boyfriend Omar. Omar gives his boyfriend a week to move out of his apartment, which is convenient since he’s going to New York for film work with Chiara Mastroianni. The film then shows scenes of Emmanuel hooking to earn money to Omar picking up Dustin, a young Quebecois/Al Pacino lookalike to scenes when the couple are in the apartment. We’ll assume that it’s Emmanuel imagining his boyfriend in that space, both connecting sexually.
There are some good things. Like there’s no hint of subversion in Sagat’s emotionally versatile performance or that singing indie rock before sex is actually cool or Emmanuel having sex with three different guys in his soon-to-be ex boyfriend’s apartment might just be the best revenge ever. But are these characters depicted with distance or self-awareness? That could have saved the film, as well as some editing and organizing the plots from priority a, b or c. 1/5.
Before the main event, there was a screening of a short called The Lady is Dead, about a heavily made-up old woman watching LGBT men and women of all shapes, two of which are twinks who weigh exactly like my right thigh. 2/5.