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Back to the SHADOWS FILM FEST page • last update 14.Mar.02

back to the top CHOP SUEY
dir Bruce Weber
with Peter Johnson, Teri Shepherd, Frances Faye, Rickson Gracie, Diana Vreeland, Naomi Campbell, Jeff Aquilon, Christian Fletcher, Wilfred Thesiger, Jan Michael Vincent, Robert Mitchum, Judy Garland
release US 5.Oct.01; Edinburgh Film Fest Aug.01 • 01/US 1h38 3 out of 5 stars
peter and friendsREVIEW BY RICH CLINE
This rather odd documentary feels like a combination of about four unfinished docs, punctuated by random shots of beautiful men accompanied by unconnected voiceovers featuring nostalgic memories of days gone by! The title comes from a camera club created to photograph and film the strikingly beautiful Johnson, a late-teen wrestler from Wisconsin who's photographed in a variety of gorgeous locations and who narrates the film with Weber like a director-star DVD commentary. This material is interlaced with: a look at the life of jazz singer Faye, including extensive conversations with her long-time partner Shepherd; a series of "studio conversations" looking at famous photographers and their famous subjects; and very lively conversations with Vogue editor Vreeland. The main theme here is the relationship between a photographer and his subject, and in this is also brought out brilliantly in short docs about the Brazilian jujitsu champ Gracie, the surfing Fletcher family and touching bits involving actor Vincent, the British explorer Thesiger and water polo player-turned-model Aquilon. Weber's freeform approach here is effective, and his images are always striking and surprisingly moving, drawing out a real soul-connection between the various people that has universal meaning. Only the Faye segments fail to address this theme, making them feel wedged in here only because Weber loved her music (and rightly so!) and because he had such terrific footage of and about her. OK, there's a tenuous connection through Johnson's presence in the Shepherd scenes, and it is indeed wonderful material. But frankly it should be a separate film. [language, nudity] 11.Mar.02 llgff
back to the top EL REY DE ROCK ’N’ ROLL
dir Marjorie Chodorov
with Robert Lopez, Lena Marie, Pinky Villandry, Jose David Saldivar, Pierre Smith, Crissy Guerrero, Michelle Habell-Pallan, Ruby Blackstock, Michel Chanelle, Jimmy Evans, Armando Paul Bustomante, Kristian Hoffman
London L&G Film Fest Apr.02 • 01/US 57m 2½ out of 5 stars
Robert Lopez is El VezREVIEW BY RICH CLINE
This fairly entertaining documentary about the Latino Elvis impersonator El Vez is notable in the way it explores the entire idea of instant celebrity. Robert Lopez quite literally stumbled into this career, and it's quite interesting to watch the way he handles it, creating a fully formed character and then going far beyond the obvious comedy value to use El Vez as a mouthpiece for political and social awareness. The performance footage is a bit rough around the edges (very home-video in sound and picture quality), which is unfortunate and results in the musical side of things getting a short shrift. And director Chodorov only skims the surface of Lopez's personal life; even though what she touches on is fascinating, we want to know far more about what drives him ... and what he does when not in character (which doesn't seem too often). She also doesn't really deal with the schizophrenic life of a character performer--Lopez is two completely different people, in and out of costume, and we get lots of people observing that fact, but no one ever grappling with the idea. Even so, it's very interesting, often funny, and Lopez in either guise is a charismatic presence. With a bit of polish in the production and just a little more probing in the question-asking, this could be a very strong doc indeed. [language, themes] 10.Mar.02 llgff
back to the top SCOUT’S HONOR
dir Tom Shepard; scr Meg Moritz
with with Steve Cozza, Dave Rice, Tim Curran, James Dale, Pat Buchanan
Sundance Jan.01; London L&G Film Fest Apr.02 • 01/US 57m 3½ out of 5 stars
Cozza speaks outThis Sundance-winning documentary traces the Scouting for All campaign launched by 12-year-old Steve Cozza, a straight Boy Scout who felt it was unfair that the Boy Scouts of America was discriminating against homosexuals. He says simply that the Boy Scout oath "to be physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight" applies to people of any sexual orientation. The film documents actions taken by the national organisation to expel not only members it knew were gay but also those involved with Scouting for All--including Cozza's dad and the 71-year-old Rice, a charter member of Cozza's troop with 59 years of dedicated service. That Cozza is allowed to continue toward his Eagle Scout badge is a remarkable story in itself, punctuated by death threats, TV appearances and the court cases of both Curran and Rice. The film isn't very balanced, mostly because the Boy Scouts refused to comment, but also because the whole thing is so straightforward. They're the only non-religious organisation in America that actively discriminates against homosexuals, all the while claiming the moral high ground and ignoring their inclusive principles. And gay teens are statistically the highest at risk of suicide--so alienating them isn't exactly helpful! Shocking stuff, really. And while the film is a bit close to its subject--rather too touchy-feely--there's an important message here that needs to be shouted loud and strong. [themes] 13.Mar.02 llgff
back to the top THE TRUTH ABOUT GAY SEX
dir Kristiene Clarke
London L&G Film Fest Apr.02 • 01/US 57m 3 out of 5 stars
This made-for-TV documentary is making the festival rounds, and it certainly offers an informative, entertaining look at the gay subculture ... with an almost scientific attention to detail. Sometimes it seems to go to far with the medical diagrams and extremely frank discussion of exactly what happens during gay sexual encounters. Much better are the segments in which men take the camera crew on a tour of their lives--into their bedside table drawers, onto London streets, to the parks, into the very, erm, active public loos. These portions are actually both cleverly shot and very engaging, mostly due to the sheer personality on display from the interviewees. There's a helpful glossary of terms running along the bottom of the screen, and overall the film will satisfy anyone's curiosity on the topic. Although it seems just a bit too pleased with itself at times (gleefully showing the toys, for example), it's clever and witty enough to actually pass on helpful information without being pushy or moralistic. [strong themes and imagery, language] 11.Mar.02 llgff
back to the top WEBCAM BOYS
dir Radd • scr Perry Dance
with Ant, Kip O'Neal, Dino Phillips, Matt Sizemore, David Stone, Rick Hardy, Jeremy Fox, Cory & Cody, Zack Allen, Scott Thornton, Memory Lane
London L&G Film Fest Apr.02 • 01/US 57m 3 out of 5 stars
2studbrothers.comREVIEW BY RICH CLINE
Getting behind the scenes of the live-sex webcam seems like a rather silly thing to do, but this documentary is probably much more revelatory than it set out to be, opening up these guys to some rather intense soul searching (almost all of them cry on camera as they remember difficult times in their lives). Most of them have terrible backgrounds--violent parents, drug-addiction problems, financial woes ... and worse. And they have dealt with them in the obvious ways: Seeking instant affection, and a lot of it, in a very public forum on the internet, letting a camera into their homes 24 hours a day while they perform for unseen strangers around the world. More than a little of this material is deeply disturbing, which is all the more surprising as it seems conceived as a promotional video for Ant and his stable of webcam boys. But there's actually something here--a powerful comment on what happens to damaged souls and how they can begin to find dignity and peace (and it's only the beginning for all of them!). There are a few moments of comic relief (most notably a hilarious pub version of Family Feud hosted by the Church Lady-like drag queen Memory Lane), and more than a little bit of sexual bragging. But the overall impression is like watching these guys in therapy. Some of it is just a bit too intimate and painful, but it reveals a lot about society. The final question asked to these guys ("Do you think God loves you?") seems so out of place ... but is probably the most telling of all. [strong themes, language, nudity] 10.Mar.02 llgff
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© 2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall