Shadows Film FestArthouse films ’06
Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 2.Apr.06
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Filthy Gorgeous The Trannyshack Story   3/5
With its comprehensive approach and insider material, this lively documentary is essential for drag queen fans. Everyone else will probably find it too detailed, although the performance pieces are fantastic.
  The epicentre for Trannyshack is a San Francisco bar called The Stud, where cross-dressing performers poke lacerating fun at every aspect of society. They're clearly trying to be more outrageous than the next guy, straining a little too hard at times to shock their audiences. But they're also having a lot of fun, and the vibe is infectious. Some are strikingly beautiful (such as L'Amore), a few are hilariously hideous (Phister Sisters) and most are just silly (Hecklina). What they have in common is a trashy refusal to take themselves seriously.
  The film is loaded with interviews and footage of the shows. It's cleverly edited through various themes and incidents, giving everyone gets a chance to comment on events like the night when Vinsantos started a fire on stage or when Precious Moments "accidentally" had sex on stage or when Squeaky Blonde and Peaches Christ do a musical ode to the Manson murders.
  The filmmakers also delve into their backgrounds, including introspective reasons why each has gone into this lifestyle and what they do in their day jobs. They talk about their sex lives, the HIV/Aids issue, how they've created a family of drag queens or kings and about how unexpected this career has been. The footage of the shows is energetic and often completely crazed. It's not always as shocking as it thinks it is, but it's frequently jaw-dropping.
  Where director Mullens loses the general audience is in trying to include everything you could possibly say about the scene--thorough details and irrelevant sideroads that aren't terribly interesting to anyone outside. There's also a sense that these people think they're the only drag queens on earth. And while their world is colourful, vibrant and hysterically entertaining, they perhaps should get out and see that they're not actually that original on a global scale.
dir Sean Mullens
with Nikki Star, The Steve Lady, Precious Moments, Suppositori Spelling, Hecklina, Glamamore, Vinsantos, Renttecca, Squeaky Blonde, Peaches Christ, Rusty Hips, Electro, Jordan L'Amore, Princess Kennedy, Juanita More Michael McElhaney, Robbie D, Miz Ana Matronic, Holly Woodlawn
welcome to trannyshack release US 24.Jun.05 sfiff,
UK Mar.06 llgff
05/US 1h24
london l&g fest
18 strong themes, language, sexuality, nudity
24.Feb.06 llgff
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Harold’s Home Movies 3.5/5
For this straightforward, simple documentary, filmmakers Plourde and West strong together a series of short films made by O'Neal over half a century, accompanied by a DVD-style voiceover commentary from O'Neal and his life-long partner Torgerson. What emerges has a strong impact on three levels.
  First, these amateur shorts are amazingly accomplished, especially since the opening one was made in 1939. It's about a filmmaker editing a movie to enter into a contest; all of the shorts are beautifully shot in pristine colour and edited with witty title cards. They're from various genres: travelogues of San Francisco, scenes of friends frolicking on holiday or partying in nightclubs, and newsreel-style images of various events.
  The second layer is the content, tracing gay history in the years before Stonewall, when men didn't even know there was a word for what they were experiencing. Hal and Torg talk about how the Navy ship didn't sail into port, it swished; everyone on board was gay. (Don't ask, don't tell anyone that now!) We see groups of men relaxing, completely open about their sexuality at a time when it was still criminal. These are scenes segments of today's society would deny ever happened, preferring the image of a world that growing increasingly liberal. But this is evidence to the contrary. There's also amazing footage here of Japanese internments during the War, sharp-dressed (and cross-dressed) 1940s parties, 1970s protest marches. This is priceless footage.
  Finally, there's the relationship between Hal and Torg themselves, represented in the over-arching narrative of all the shorts and their accompanying dialog. They talk candidly about their 50-year relationship, how they lived closeted lives as a teacher and government employee, and survived against the odds. "We've never walked out on each other. But there's been lots of gunfire."
  The cumulative effect is strikingly emotional and involving as it examines an artist, a society and a relationship. Plourde and West's only mistake is to add such an intrusive period-based musical score. But the people in these films look almost eerily modern--these attitudes, fashions and physiques can be seen everywhere today. And these two old men, aged 94 (Hal died shortly after recording his comments) and 73, have a lot to teach us.
dir Jason Plourde, Sean David West
narr Harold O'Neal, George Torgerson
holiday snap release US Mar.05,
UK Mar.06 llgff
05/USA 1h04
london l&g fest
some themes
27.Feb.06 llgff
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Three of Hearts A Post-modern Family   3.5/5
The filmmakers spent an astonishing eight years tagging along with this unusual family. What they've documented is beautifully detailed, a revealing look at people who plot an unconventional path and then struggle to stay on it.
  Sam and Steven had been a couple for seven years when they met Samantha and decided to become a faithful threesome. "You can't call it monogamy, can you? Is it polynogy?" (They settle on triogamy.) They were only in their 20s at the time, and didn't worry about disapproval from their families or friends, although in 1990s New York it doesn't seem that outrageous. The filmmakers enter the story just as Samantha discovers she's pregnant, and then follow the family over the years as they have a second child. And split up.
  Kaplan mixes new interviews with home movies, stills and fly-on-the-wall footage that captures some deeply personal moments. The interviews are revealing and intimate--Sam, Steven and Samantha talk openly about their relationship and feelings, claiming to be unconcerned about who's the father of their first child (although we can tell they are all obsessed by the question). They openly discuss sex and how it isn't the central issue in their relationship, and eventually talk about expectations, family pressures and personal discoveries. They know full well they are violating society's conventions, and they can't begin to dream that it will actually progress in an unexpectedly normal way.
  There are several astonishing sequences, including both family and 20-year high school reunions that confront their relationship head-on. We travel with them through the birth of their two children, their own backgrounds and the stresses of modern life and running a business. Along the way, it feels like we're eavesdropping on the fascinating, provocative conversations of strangers. And as the filmmakers compile a thorough portrait of these people, the film takes on a level of emotional resonance that's gripping and real. We may not understand why they decided to live the way they did, but watching them take this journey makes us realise that we're not so different really.
dir Susan Kaplan
with Sam Cagnina, Steven Margolin, Samantha Singh, Sienna Singh, Summit Singh, Sabina Margolin, Tami Margolin, Dutchie Cagnina, Stanley Margolin, Marion Margolin, Keely Cagnina, Rome Cagnina
sam, steven and samantha release US 19.Oct.05,
UK Mar.06 llgff
05/US Thinkfilm 1h35
london l&g fest TORONTO FILM FEST
15 themes, language
26.Feb.06 llgff
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20 Centimetres   3.5/5 20 Centímetros
Meandering and silly, this colourful Spanish musical is also wickedly funny and surprisingly provocative.
  Marieta (Cervera) is a trashy hooker with narcolepsy. While asleep, she dreams that she's the flamboyant star of a musical version of her life. But there's a problem: she was born a man and to save up for a sex-change, she takes a job (as a man) cleaning an office. Then she discovers that her lust-object delivery guy (Puyol) actually likes her. But he also prefers that she keep her 20 centimetres of masculinity. What's a girl to do?
  Writer-director Salazar maintains a sassy, hilariously rude tone that plays gleefully with the wacky, camp characters and situations (such as the dwarf O'Dogherty, who puts on a balaclava so no one recognises him when he robs a shop--think about it). There's a kind of raw, gritty take on that Almodóvar-esque blending of absurdity with genuine emotion. And it really gets us involved with this fringe community and the residents' outrageous dilemmas.
  Performances match this as well, as the feisty cast dive in to each vivid character. Cervera brings a wonderfully honest attitude to Marieta; she may be a cross-dressing tramp, but she's also full of longings and insecurities, and her deepest desire puts her at odds with the man she loves. These sobering touches add a remarkably involving counterpoint to the film's chaotic comedy--a striking contrast between the glaring grey light of reality and the colourful musical fantasies.
  Salazar directs the production numbers on a lavish, street-filling scale, merrily indulging in musical theatre themes (West Side Story, Grease), hits from Madonna to Queen, and even a freaky vampire set piece. The result is rather uneven and repetitive, as the film zigzags between the real and the surreal, but it's consistently entertaining. And in the end, it's also remarkably bittersweet, with some surprising insights into transgender life. And our lives as well.
dir-scr Ramón Salazar
with Mónica Cervera, Pablo Puyol, Miguel O'Dogherty, Concha Galán, Najwa Nimri, Pilar Bardem, Rossy de Palma, Lola Dueñas Juan Sanz, Richard Shaw, María Lalane, Inma Olmos
puyol and cervera release Sp 10.Jun.05,
US 27.Oct.06,
UK Mar.06 llgff
05/Spain 1h52

london l&g film fest
15 themes, language, nudity, sexuality
15.Feb.06 llgff
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall