Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 16.Mar.05
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Bear Cub Cachorro   3.5/5
There's an intriguing weight balance here between light humour and much heavier issues. Some might label it a comedy, but the story's actually rather serious. Director Albaladejo seems to struggle with this, trying to get every aspect of life in here. But the odd mix somehow works.
  After his boyfriend's death, Pedro (Garcia Perez) is reluctant to enter into another relationship, preferring casual sex and close friendships in Madrid's bear community (lots of burly, hairy gay men). Then his sister Violeta (Lindo) drops off her 9-year-old son Bernardo (Castillo) while she travels for two weeks. Bernardo and Pedro are firm friends, but when Violeta is arrested in India, Pedro needs a more permanent set-up. And Violeta's despised mother-in-law Teresa (Ferrer) sees this as her chance to finally become part of Bernardo's life.
  There's a whole range of emotion--sensitive relationship between uncle and nephew, comical (and somewhat sexy) antics of Pedro's friends, helpful nosiness of his neighbours, Teresa's devious efforts to discredit Pedro, Bernardo's feelings of helplessness. And all of this is set in an unusual sub-subculture. The result is a fresh and surprisingly insightful look at human interaction, from the way we create families around us to the cruel realities of the world.
  Performances are likeable and full of believable details. All of the characters are brought to life by actors who refuse to rely on stereotypes. Garcia Perez and Castillo have a terrific almost father-son chemistry that's lovely to watch. Although Bernardo seems to know too much for a 9-year-old, we understand why, due to his liberal upbringing, and especially later when more is revealed. But Albaladejo unnecessarily includes a couple of random cruising scenes, apparently to remind us that Pedro isn't a saint. Where the film stumbles is in its tonal shifts from lively and comic to slow and mopey, from edgy and sexy to dark and potentially tragic. This might be realistic, but it also makes it hard for us to remain engaged. Still, this generous blend does effectively take us through a full range of emotional reactions.
dir Miguel Albaladejo
scr Miguel Albaladejo, Salvador García Ruiz
with José Luis García Pérez, David Castillo, Arno Chevrier, Mario Arias, Empar Ferrer, Diana Cerezo, Josele Román, Elvira Lindo, Pep Morell, Josep Tomás, Daniel Llobregat, Cali Caballero
garcia perez and castillo
release Spain 27.Feb.04,
US 5.Nov.04,
UK 7.Apr.05 llgff
04/Spain 1h40
London L&G Film Fest
15 themes, language, nudity, sexuality, drugs
11.Mar.05 llgff
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Mr. Leather   2.5/5
This simple documentary follows nine contestants in the 2003 Mr Los Angeles Leather contest. Along the way we learn pretty much everything there is to know about the gay leather sub-subculture. And while it's completely alien to outsiders, it's also strangely compelling viewing.
  The most intriguing thing about these men is their good-natured smiliness. These are all very nice guys, not terribly articulate or ego-driven, and also not necessarily very fit (although a few are seriously pumped-up). What they have in common is a love of leather clothing, from full replicas of police uniforms to metal studded g-strings and harnesses. And then some. There also seems to be a general understanding that leathermen are into expressions of hyper-masculinity: motorbikes, bondage and sadomasochism. But this might reflect the specific competition more than the actual diversity among leather aficionados.
  Basically the film seems to exist to validate a marginalised minority--which is exactly what the Mr Leather contests are doing. What's a bit peculiar is how seriously all these guys take the competition. There is no sense of irony at all here, despite an edge of campy excess that surrounds the entire event. The competition includes a formal section, jock strap, interview and a speech. And they begin the night with the National Anthem, earnestly noting that it's because "we're all Americans".
  OK, point taken. But the message is just too sincere for its own good. At least the lively personalities of the contestants and organisers come through strongly. And there's an astute comment on how these guys have had to come out twice--first as gay men and second as kinky gay men. Yes, leather is a legitimate fetish that adds to the diversity of society. But it's also just a bit of racy fun for those who find it a turn on. So laugh about it. Because for the rest of us it seems rather comical, really.
dir Jason Garrett
with Steven Blackwell, Rob Roberts, Terry Dean, Daddy Don, Shaun Smith, Gannon Grey, Rob Green, Dan O'Leary, Guy Baldwin, William Schindler, Tony Mills, Gene Marr
mr l.a. leather release UK 8.Apr.05 llgff,
US 8.Dec.06
05/US 1h10
London L&G Film Fest
15 themes, language, some nudity
12.Mar.05 llgff
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The Ski Trip   2/5
Colourful and extremely camp, this silly romantic comedy tries so hard to be festive and goofy that it completely ignores any potential for layered characters or meaningful comedy. It also suffers from some hackneyed writing, editing and acting.
  Six months after breaking up with his boyfriend and now facing his 30th birthday, Corey (writer-director Jamal) is still wallowing. So his friends propose a ski trip to liven up his life. His best pals are a camp drag queen (Fleming) and an outspoken lesbian (Cruz). Also along for the "fun" are the nice guy (Rankin) who clearly has a crush on Corey, the slut (Xavier) who brings along a muscly escort (Haaz) as his date, and the bitter and twisted fashionista (Hale). It's not going to be pretty, especially when Corey's ex (Blagrove) shows up.
  Jamal makes the most of his low budget, keeping the action mostly inside various living rooms and kitchens. Outdoor scenes are edited with pop music Jamal can't possibly afford to clear rights to. This makes the film feel a bit like a play--a collection of chats and confrontations punctuated by brief transitional sequences. Fortunately most of cast is good. Jamal is charming and a bit befuddled as Corey; Rankin is perhaps the most realistic person in the film, simply because he's the least queeny; and Cruz has several hilarious moments all her own. On the other hand, Fleming, Xavier and Hale are simply over-the-top cliches who are never remotely believable. And with dialog this corny, exaggerated characters come across as vapid stereotypes.
  But this is the kind of thing you can accept when you're watching something as slight and fluffy as this film. Much harder to bear are Jamal's relentless visual flourishes. He edits the film like a hyperactive child, annoyingly using every transitional effect in his editing software. There's even a Benny Hill montage thrown into the mix. Much of the humour is similarly empty-headed and random. And the whole story hinges on an incredibly contrived plot point. So by the time the film starts moralising about finding true inner beauty, we just roll our eyes in exasperation.
dir-scr Maurice Jamal
with Maurice Jamal, John Rankin, Daren Fleming, Cassandra Cruz, Emanuel Xavier, Nathan Hale, Haaz, William Blagrove, Clay Drinko, Liz Beckham, Sharon Freedman
xavier, rankin, jamal and fleming release US Nov.27.04, UK 8.Apr.05 llgff
04/US 1h24
London L&G Film Fest
15 themes, language, innuendo
13.Mar.05 llgff
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That Man: Peter Berlin   3.5/5
This intriguing documentary traces the iconic Peter Berlin over the past 40 years, during which he created a standard of masculinity that's yet to be undone. From his birth in wartime Germany up to his current life in San Francisco, he's a man who has refused to play by the rules.
  Basically, Berlin never did anything. He just created a personal style and put it out there. But it was such a bold, blatant expression of sexuality that everyone noticed. His self-portraits are definitive images of the 1970s--with that Dutch-boy haircut, taut bare torso and hide-nothing trousers. And filmmaker Tushinski lets the people who knew him and observed him tell his story, then hands the film over to Peter himself, now in his early 60s, still looking remarkably boyish and still living in virtual solitude.
  As it progresses, we get a feel for the man--we understand why he survived the Aids outbreak when most of his friends didn't. We hear him talk about close relationships with Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe and Sal Mineo. And most of all we see that for Berlin, sex is a visual, not physical, thing. Which is a rather striking commentary on the last three decades of the 20th century.
  The film is simplistically assembled, using chapter headings and straightforward interview footage. The editing is extremely tight, but there's nothing gimmicky about it. And Tushinski has two aces in his hand: Peter himself and an astonishing archive of portraits, snapshots, home movies and film clips that let us see the full scope of Berlin's "work" as a street performer, porn star and society glamour boy. All while his private life remained completely hidden.
  This personal perspective is surprisingly touching, and it does get beneath the surface, even if it leaves much of his personal life untouched. Who was Peter when he wasn't striding around like a much more sexual prototype of John Travolta's opening strut in Saturday Night Fever? Or when he wasn't teasing gay men in various cruising grounds? Perhaps this is the point after all: Celebrity and fame are illusions.
dir Jim Tushinski
with Peter Berlin, John Waters, Armistead Maupin, Wakefield Poole, Jack Wrangler, Rick Castro, Dan Nicoletta, Robert W Richards, Guy Clark, Lawrence Helman, Robert Boulanger, Ray Chance
berlin release UK 23.Oct.06 dvd
04/US 1h20
London L&G Film Fest
18 themes, nudity, language
12.Mar.05 llgff
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall