Film FestivalFilm Festival Reviews: London ’03

17th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
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Back to the SHADOWS FILM FEST page ï FESTIVAL SHORTS ï last update 20.Mar.03

back to the top BEYOND VANILLA
dir-scr Claes Lilja
with Claes Lilja, Kevin Dailey, Cole Tucker, Chi Chi LaRue, Antonio Ferrell, Sasha Michaels, Jennifer Schneider, Tony Mills, Mark Masterson, Darren Sharpe, Jay Wiseman, Nina Hartley
release UK Apr.03 llgff • 02/US 1h32 3 out of 5 stars
beyond vanilla This frank documentary about the more taboo types of sexual expression somehow manages to be informative and insightful without being prurient or salacious. That's no mean feat! The film is compiled from interviews with a wide range of people, from porn stars and sex professionals to normal working men and women. The comments are broken down vox pop-style by subject, while director Lilja walks us through the scene. And I mean the whole scene. Starting with mildly quirky sexual practices and moving into much more extreme areas. It's not always easy to watch, but the basic idea is that "all sex sounds grotesque when spoken about without experience."

As this wide variety of men and women talk about the whole range of sexual experience, we are struck by a few key things: There's nothing new under the sun. These are things that have always gone on, but are rarely discussed, especially in such a candid, instructive way! Points are made about how even the bondage/masochistic routines are sex, not violence. And it's also interesting to hear about the importance of trust, commitment and awareness, as well as the dangers (and joys?) of becoming addicted to pain and pleasure. It does get rather explicit; this is not a film for the squeamish on any level, especially when it looks at knife play, piercing, fire, electric shock and more. If just reading that list makes you cringe, steer clear of this film! On the other hand, it doesn't seem nearly as strange once you understand why some people might be drawn to these practices. This is not a sales pitch either; it certainly won't make you want to try something outrageous. But it may help you admit and possibly explore your own fantasies.

[very strong adult themes, language, nudity] 5.Mar.03 llgff

back to the top LEAVING METROPOLIS
taylor, corazza and ruptash
dir-scr Brad Fraser
with Troy Ruptash, Vince Corazza, Lynda Boyd, Cherilee Taylor Thom Allison, Arne MacPherson, Tom Anniko, Paul Stafford, Christopher Sigurdson, Susan Kelso, Blake Taylor, Kirsten Johnson
release UK Apr.03 llgff • 02/Canada 1h29 2.5 out of 5 stars
There's a terrific story within this uneven film, adapted and directed by Fraser from his play Poor Superman. One key problem is that the whole Superman link is so underdeveloped (due to copyright problems apparently); he would have done better to leave it out completely, since it's merely distracting and confusing in the film. The story centres on David (Ruptash), a gay painter in Winnipeg who takes a job as a waiter to get back his muse. His entire social circle seems to consist of his pre-op, HIV-positive transsexual flatmate (Allison) and his fag-hag journalist pal (Boyd). His new bosses at the cafe are the married couple Matt and Violet (Corazza and Taylor), and soon he's intimately involved with both of them--helping Violet promote the cafe and igniting Matt's suppressed homosexual lust.

Yes, it's basically a sexy love triangle between David, Matt and Violet, but Fraser both over and undercooks it. Some elements are just too much (do we have to have a character dying of Aids in every gay-themed film, especially when it has little bearing besides explaining David's fear of commitment?), while other parts are badly underdeveloped (the superficial lustiness never generates enough depth to merit the dramatic conclusion). Fraser relies on simple cliches to explain both characters and plot turns, while the dialog is just a bit too clever and the cast is rather far too gorgeous, muscly and tanned. That said, there are some excellent themes at work here, especially as each character is pretending to be something they aren't. With the exception of Boyd (who only has a stock Will & Grace/Sex and the City role to work with), the cast plays it extremely well. Corazza is easily the standout. It's a good story that could perhaps have used an outside eye to reshape both the script and direction a cinematic audience ... and to draw out a few subtleties beneath the theatrical surfaces.

[themes, sex, language, nudity] 10.Mar.03 llgff

back to the top STORIES FROM THE ROAD
dir Kyle Keyser
with Kyle Keyser, Amanda Mazur, Bill Raisor, PJ Harvey, Craig Duffey, Rob the Sound Guy, Skip Peacock, Margaret Fiedler, Rob Ellis, Kona Rainbow
release UK Apr.03 llgff • 02/US 56m 2 out of 5 stars
pj harvey There's a disarming charm to this unhinged documentary made by a couple of music fans as an excuse to get to meet their idol. Atlantans Kyle and Amanda decide to follow PJ Harvey on her European tour and somehow get the brainwave to make a documentary about it, as a way of getting into the concerts. Their friend Bill comes along, even though he hasn't a clue who Harvey is. And somehow Harvey's people grant them access, so they're off to Munich with a load of expensive video equipment and no idea how to use it. They bluff their way through the concert though, and follow the tour to Milan for more adventures. Then the next three gigs (Marseilles, Madrid and Lisbon) are cancelled due to illness. But back home they keep trying, and are given access to Harvey's concerts in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington DC.

Watching these chuckleheads is pretty funny, like an extended comedy clip from David Letterman's show. It's snappy, silly and funny, livened up with goofy graphics and animations, witty editing and straight-to-camera shtick. On the other hand, it never even remotely tries to be a documentary about PJ Harvey's tour. Besides the concert footage (which brings the narrative to a screeching halt every time), we learn nothing at all about her. In fact, the filmmakers blow three excellent chances to interview her, which is pretty painful to watch. They're just so timid and amateurish, yet at the same time they have a tenacious spirit that wins us over. Perhaps if they were less obsessed with beer (they drink a lot of it) and sex (they apparently get none) they might have achieved their goals. But it is quite good fun watching their antics. And when they wake up in DC the morning after the final concert, it's September 11th, 2001, and there are more important things in the world after all.

[themes, language] 20.Mar.03 llgff

back to the top TOM
dir Mike Hoolboom; with Tom Chomont
release UK Apr.03 llgff • 02/Canada 1h15 2.5 out of 5 stars
chomont This is almost a documentary of the New York artist Tom Chomont, looking at his life and work in the style of his films. It's a surreal weaving of images and stories as Chomont occasionally talks about his childhood and how he lives with Parkinson's Disease. The kaleidoscopic imagery is a mixture of original video, archival footage and clips stolen from mainstream films past and present. They're edited together fluidly in often confusing combinations that are strangely beautiful and involving. It's not terribly easy to watch, but it is absorbing, and the stories Chomont tells about his life are quite fascinating, even as he delivers them in a deadpan style accompanied by a collage of disconnected imagery. We also get a brief stroll through Chomont's increasingly pornographic filmography--intriguingly arty museum pieces done in the same heavily edited and manipulated style. Over all, Hoolboom captures this man beautifully, although the film does leave major gaps in his life, bringing up questions that are never remotely addressed. But it doesn't really matter; in the end this is a portrait not a documentary. And it's rather lyrical and beautiful if you let it flow over you.

[themes, adult images] 17.Mar.03 llgff

back to the top YOSSI & JAGGER
knoller and levi
dir Etyan Fox; scr Avner Bernheimer
with Yehuda Levi, Ohad Knoller, Aya Steinovitz, Assi Cohen, Hani Furstenberg, Sharon Raginiano, Yuval Semo, Yaniv Moyal, Hanan Savyon, Erez Kahana
release UK Apr.03 llgff; US 26.Sep.03 • 02/Israel 1h05 4 out of 5 stars
Don't let the short running time fool you: this is one of the most satisfying and well-made gay romances we've seen in a long time, apparently based on the true story of two Israeli army officers. Yossi (Knoller) is the senior one, trying to maintain his macho image as a leader, while Jagger (Levi) is the music-loving life of the barracks. They sneak quite moments alone whenever they can--and when no one's likely to spot them. Jagger wants to tell the world about their love, especially since a female soldier (Steinovitz) is after him. While Yossi isn't sure he's ready to come out of the closet at all. But their relationship will be changed forever when they are sent out on a night raid.

Surprisingly for a film this short, the character are extremely well-drawn--not only the leads, but also the entire company. Each person has a role in the story, and each comes to life naturally. It's almost like a fly-on-the-wall documentary at times as we see army life behind the scenes. At the centre, Yossi and Jagger are terrific characters, extremely well-played and generating strong responses both from the other characters and us as an audience. This film packs a real emotional punch, without ever resorting to manipulative movie trickery. it also wisely avoids the politics and concentrates on the camaraderie and barely suppressed longings and jealousies amongst the ranks. And the final scene is so tender and touching that you can hardly take it in. A lovely little gem of a film, well worth looking out for.

[themes, language, violence] 9.Mar.03 llgff

See also: YOSSI (2012)

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© 2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall