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|See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 15.Sep.19
All Male, All Nude: Johnsons
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Gerald McCullouch
prd Gerald McCullouch, Corey Tut, David Ramo
with Matt Colunga, Evan "Alexander" Peix, Eduardo "Javi" Cerezo, Chris Smith, Sean Harding, Jose "Raphael" Gonzalez, Yankiel "Yankee" Mompeller, Luis Felipe, Omar Mansoor, Gary Resnick
release US 15.Sep.19
Gerald McCullouch follows his 2017 documentary about Swinging Richards in Atlanta with a look at Johnsons in Ft Lauderdale. The film is better shot and edited, centring on 42-year-old Matt Colunga, who appeared in the earlier film before heading south with his husband Chris Smith to start their own club. McCulloch's loose approach once again avoids insight for a more straightforward interview-based style, so many comments feel somewhat pointless. And he also relies on footage from his earlier film to provide the nudity that isn't allowed in Florida.
As they established Johnsons, Matt and Chris wanted to discourages seediness and drugs, while contributing to their community in Wilton Manors, working to remain within the law. Still, they face discrimination from locals who don't mind female strip clubs, but have a problem with male strippers, even though many of Johnsons' dancers are straight, and even though they can't be naked on stage. Johnsons is run as a place people find through word-of-mouth. It has two spaces, a bar and a club. And the film also features footage of "friction lap dances" in a VIP area.
By intercutting scenes from his first film, McCullouch traces Matt's journey over more than two decades. He intersperses this with a range of dancers, shot intimately to catch personal comments (plus some voyeuristic changing-room moments). These guys are articulate, even if they don't say much. At 26, Alexander is a busy child entertainer, dressing as Spider-Man or Harry Potter by day, then stripping most nights. "If you're getting really close to a lot of people, you can't let them in," explains Javi about why he won't use his real name. "People get crazy! They forget that this is a fantasy." Or as Luis says, "It's the art of seduction."
Each young man has a specific story that intriguingly feeds into his goals and passions. But their problems seem generic. Like the first film, this centres on positive attitudes, even as they unconvincingly talk about being in control of their work. And as he plans to open another Johnsons in Dallas, Matt is their papa bear, breathalysing each guy to make sure he gets home safely. But like the first film, McCullouch sidesteps the fact that drugs are clearly a problem.
dir-scr-prd Gerald McCullouch
with Steven Marchi, Paul "Sean" Parker, Matt Colunga, Michael "Pierce" Garcia, Matt "Dallas" Frank, Alex "Troy" Meyer, Matthew Black, David Ohmann, Billy Sandberg, Justin Winchell
release US 5.Dec.17
All Male, All Nude
This fast-paced documentary has a home-made video quality to it, but it's also striking exploration of the experience of dancers at one of the only gay strip bars in the USA. The venue is Swinging Richards in Atlanta, and not all of the dancers are gay. Neither is the audience, which usually has women in it. Everyone chats happily with the cameras, talking about their lives and experiences, accompanied by unvarnished video of buck-naked performances, shot from the audience's perspective with very little interaction between dancer and audience. These certainly aren't airbrushed Chippendales, each with his own style and variable dancing ability. Some are remarkably acrobatic, all are adept at helicoptering. There are comments about legal issues, earning tips and, most engagingly, details of personal lives, such as Sean's struggles as a single dad of a 5-year-old son trying to start a relationship with a girlfriend. It's all so resolutely upbeat that it feels like something must be missing. Indeed, the final section is an eerie ode to a dancer who died suddenly for reasons that are never explained. This leaves the film feeling somewhat amateurish and unfinished. But it's a glimpse into a world that's rarely documented at all.
15 themes, language, nudity • 22.Aug.19
Memory The Origins of Alien
Review by Rich Cline |
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
Fans of Ridley Scott's 1979 classic Alieni will love this 40th anniversary documentary, which explores the origins of the project and goes on to deconstruct its most iconic scene. It's a thoroughly enjoyable film, with candid interviews with people involved in making the movie as well as various pundits. There's also some terrific backstage footage along the way, but the best part is the exploration of how the film came about in the first place.
Dan O'Bannon grew up as a fan of sci-fi movies and comics. His first foray into movies was with the screenplay for the space comedy Dark Star. His next script started off as Memory, then was retitled Starbeast. By the time shooting began with Ridley Scott, it was called Alien. O'Bannon hand-picked HR Giger to design the aliens, based on classic imagery and Francis Bacon paintings, and Scott never doubted that for a moment. Then on-set, the film's success depended on the infamous chest-bursting scene, which was planned meticulously for maximum effect.
The late O'Bannon, Giger and Bacon all appear in archival interviews, as does the still-busy-at-82 Scott. On-screen interviews with Bannon's and Giger's widows offer superb insight, as do cast members Cartwright and Skerritt, editor Rawlings, and producers Shusett and Powell. Visually, Philippe includes a lot of film clips as well as backstage footage, personal snapshots and a lot of artwork that documents the comics, films and artwork that influenced O'Bannon's imagination before he even began working on his script.
The film also explores how Alien was nothing like the other science-fiction films of its day (see Star Wars or Close Encounters), mainly because it wasn't quite sci-fi at all. Alien is a claustrophobic horror film with strong political overtones. The crew was a careful collection of classes clashing against each other. And the ship was called Nostromo, and its shuttle Narcissus, not coincidentally names used by anti-colonial novelist Joseph Conrad, whose Heart of Darkness was being filmed at the same time as Apocalypse Now.
The words and images of the filmmakers and cast members are the strongest elements in this doc. Other more analytical comments from journalists and bloggers adds some colour, but perhaps digs too deep to find meaning. A conversation with Ridley Scott is conspicuously missing, especially since he has re-entered Alien's mythology with two recent films. But his presence is strongly felt here anyway, and fans will love the material Philippe has uncovered and presented in such an engaging way.
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Malcolm Ingram
prd Malcolm Ingram, Monte Zajicek
with Lynn Koval, Shawn Perryon, Lisa, Gia Gunn, Danielle, Rick
release UK Mar.19 flare,
Canadian filmmaker Malcolm Ingram makes a companion piece to his 2006 doc Small Town Gay Bar. With a quietly urgent pace, intimate interviews and a strong sense of social justice, this is an important cinematic work exploring efforts to create LGBTQ events that offer an antidote to hatred coming from the White House. Ingram lets stories unfold without comment, taking the audience on a tour of two Mississippi communities.
The film opens with Trump's inauguration, watched by Lynn, owner of a Biloxi gay bar called Just Us and mother hen to a community. She observes that America needs a big mirror to reveal its deep divisions and backwards momentum. Cut to a visual history of racism and discrimination in the South, leading to the present-day battles for inclusion on a variety of levels. Meanwhile, Shawn is owner of Club Xclusive in Hattiesburg, facing severe racism and homophobia from locals.
Lynn is working to organise the first Gulf Coast Pride ("I think we've blended in enough," she says. "It's time to come out of the closet"), while Shawn is setting up what she calls Unapologetic Black Gay Pride. Both want to create an event where queer people can gather and feel good about the future. Amid endless red tape and other obstacles, including an invasion of spring breakers, neither Lynn nor Shawn are the kind of people to back down. Lynn helped rebuild Biloxi after it was levelled by Hurricane Katrina; Shawn refuses to give up after harsh police treatment.
Ingram's approach is to let people talk, illustrated with newsreel and archival clips. This leads to an extended exploration of Katrina's aftermath, plus detailed descriptions of the groundwork required to launch a Pride event. This also allows people to speak openly about personal experiences and feelings. For example, Danielle is a trans woman who was rejected by her family and is terrified after a series of horrific murders in the region. But she has found a home as a drag performer and bartender at Just Us.
The film gets a little bogged down in detail, for example tracing the personal struggles as Lynn and Shawn try to get their events off the ground. And it mentions but kind of skips over Mississippi's so-called "religious freedom" law, which legalises discrimination. But there's a terrific sense that Pride events are being found by a younger generation that never knew the size of the community or the history that went before them. The joy on their faces is infectious.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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