Film FestivalFilm Festival Reviews: London 03

17th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
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Back to the SHADOWS FILM FEST page FESTIVAL SHORTS last update 15.Apr.03

back to the top FOOD OF LOVE
dir-scr Ventura Pons
with Kevin Bishop, Juliet Stevenson, Paul Rhys, Allan Corduner, Geraldine McEwan, Leslie Charles, Craig Hill, Pamela Field, Naim Thomas, Mauricio Cruz, Manu Fullola, Carlos Castanon
release US 25.Oct.02; UK 8.Aug.03 02/Spain 1h52 2 out of 5 stars
bishop and rhys There are some good performances here, and a few important issues, but the film is fairly ham-fisted in the way it approaches its story and themes. Paul (Bishop) is an 18-year-old piano student in San Francisco who gets a job turning pages for his idol, the famed pianist Richard Kennington (Rhys). So he's quite excited when he goes on holiday with his mother (Stevenson) to Barcelona and runs into Richard again. Soon they begin an affair. His mother is oblivious, but grows increasingly concerned by Paul's aloofness after he starts his first term at Julliard in New York. She figures out that he's gay, but then begins to wonder about his relationship with both Richard and Richard's manager (Corduner).
This is an extremely melodramatic tale of love, centring on the difficult relationship between a mother and her son, but encompassing questions of sexuality, discovering a vocation, trusting your loved ones, and so on. These are definitely vital things worth examining in a film, but Catalonian writer-director Pons (working in English for the first time) makes it all just a bit too serious and self-important, never letting the story develop a natural rhythm. This is especially frustrating since there is some very good acting from the virtually all-British cast, most notably from Stevenson (as usual), who plays the ditsy blonde American housewife to perfection, then gets under the surface brilliantly. Bishop is a bit more problematic; whether it's his performance or the way it's written/directed, Paul is so mopey and harsh that we never like him much. In the end this leaves a rather huge gap exactly where we need to find something to identify with. [adult themes and situations, language] 17.Mar.03 llgff
back to the top HOOKED
dir Todd Ahlberg
with Bob Miller, Corey Bryant, Joe Plambeck, Mario Salcido, Tim Lantzy, Richard Falk, Scott Jackson, Alan Holtsclaw, Ralph Bruckshen, Brian Hayes, Lane Morgan, Jeremy Gloff
release UK Apr.03 llgff 03/US 1h02 2 out of 5 stars
hooked This hour-long documentary is about internet chatrooms, specifically the ones gay men use to get instant, anonymous sex. The main premise, obviously, is that this kind of activity becomes an addiction. The issue is examined through a series of interviews with guys who have first-hand experience cruising on the web. What they have to say is quite enlightening, although most of it is rather generic. When they tell specific stories from their own personal background, however, the film springs to life and begins to actually address the situation, rather than just tell us about it.
Frustratingly, Ahlberg can't seem to decide who his audience should be. The film has one of those all-encompassing outlines that tries to tell us everything about gay internet chat (not very interesting) then suddenly becomes cautionary and very specific (gripping and provocative) ... then back to general stuff. As an audience member, we find ourselves wishing he had been more brutal in the editing process, leaving out the self-indulgent chatter and boring explanations and focusing more finely on the theme at hand. Because this is a very interesting and important issue that is rarely addressed on screen with such open candour. Technically, the film is sharply well-made, with a clever use of webcam perspectives and cutaways to roadway imagery (it's the internet superhighway, get it?). And it becomes quite powerful when it finally touches on the real issues of self-image and the fact that the way society treats gay men contributes to their need to find affirmation among their peers, even if it means treating each other as objects, not people. To be honest, this should have been the starting point. And maybe Ahlberg has only begun to speak about this. [themes, language, nudity] 19.Mar.03 llgff
back to the top 9 DEAD GAY GUYS
dir-scr Lab Ky Mo
with Glen Mulhern, Brendan Mackey, Steven Berkoff, Michael Praed, Vas Blackwood, Karen Sharman, Raymond Griffiths, Fish, Simon Godley, Abdala Keserwani, Steven Woodhouse, Carol Decker
release UK 19.Sep.03; US 18.Jul.03 02/UK 1h23 2 out of 5 stars
mulhern and mackey This bright and goofy British comedy is like a gay wannabe Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. It's about two Irish lads in London--Byron (Mackey) is living in squalor and is rather embarrassed when his old friend Kenny (Mulhern) arrives in search of fame and fortune. Byron has found that he can make money servicing the customers at the local gay pub, even though he's not gay. Kenny on the other hand seems to take to this profession rather more eagerly. But when The Queen (Praed) is found dead, Byron and Kenny make it their goal to find a legendary stash of money. As they go, they encounter an aging sugar daddy (Berkoff), a desperate dwarf (Griffiths), a creepy old guy (Fish, yes, the guy from Marillion), an orthodox Jew (Godley) with a size fixation, the scary woman (Sharman) who owns a seedy bar, and so on. Most of these people end up dead for some reason.
Using death as a comic tool is a risky thing to do, and even the zaniest tone can't overcome this central problem as people drop like flies either accidentally or casually murdered, usually for the wrong reasons. It's extremely absurd, but not quite witty enough to work. And it doesn't help that the film as a whole is very derivative, relying on overused post-modern narration, freeze-frames, invented catch phrases and sassy title graphics. Even though this is mildly funny (and fairly raucous with a rowdy cinema audience), the problem is that the filmmakers think it's much more hip than it is. You know you're in trouble when they expect a big laugh from a trio of old ladies talking graphically about sex. Sigh! Anyway, writer-director Lab Ky Mo shows some visual promise, and even the plot itself is inventive and freewheeling. Meanwhile, Mackey and Mulhern are very good actors, surrounded by ridiculous stereotype characters that at least make us laugh from time to time. [18 adult themes, language, vulgarity, innuendo] 15.Mar.03 llgff
back to the top OPEN
dir Steven Pomerantz with David and Steven, Brandon and Bill, Dave and Todd
release UK Apr.03 llgff 03/US 51m 3 out of 5 stars
open This documentary tackles a taboo subject, asking whether a gay couple can sustain long-term monogamy. To find out, the filmmaker talks to three couples who have chosen "non-monogamy" in their relationships, apparently because the alternative is impossible to achieve. David and Steven are the most revealing couple, since they have split up after 10 years together as a result of infidelity and jealousy, highlighting the main problem with open relationships: If both partners aren't equally committed to both the relationship and the openness, there will be trouble. After five years together, Brandon and Bill are in the middle of this struggle. While Dave and Todd seem almost eerily at ease with their open lifestyle.
This is frank, honest and surprisingly informative, mostly because it sticks with the personal experiences of these three couples, never trying to make general statements one way or another. The film never gets salacious or vulgar (it's all interview footage with only a few illustrative stills). All sides of the issue are examined, including safety and health, and it soon becomes clear that jealousy is the big issue. Director Pomerantz genuinely seems to go into this with an open mind, looking for an answer to that central question. And even he seems disappointed that the answer is apparently no, gay couples cannot be monogamous over time. It's quite revealing to see the various men admit this, because each of the six comes from a different place to this realization, even though some hold onto a kernel of hope! Is this due to cultural conditioning, trying to apply straight values to a gay environment? Or is it simply due to the lifestyle itself, the refusal of homosexuals to follow any rules? It's an interesting discussion that has applications for straight relationships as well. And it's certainly a great conversation starter! [strong themes, some language] 19.Mar.03
back to the top SUDDENLY [Tan de Repente]
the gang's all here
dir Diego Lerman; scr Diego Lerman, Maria Meira
with Tatiana Saphir, Carla Crespo, Veronica Hassan, Marcos Ferrante, Beatriz Thibaudin, Maria Merlino, Luis Herrera, Ana Maria Martinez, Susana Pampin, Laura Mantel
release US 27.Aug.03; UK 13.Feb.04 02/Argentina 1h30 3 out of 5 stars
With heavy echoes of Jim Jarmusch's Stranger than Paradise, Argentine director Lerman starts this little film as a tense thriller then settles into a gently comic examination of people and relationships. Marcia (Saphir) is a full-figured shop clerk who's stalked by a pair of skinny lesbian bikers who call themselves Lenin and Mao (Hassan and Crespo). They kidnap her and hit the road in a stolen car, and for awhile we wonder what might happen next. But events quickly turn comic as they head off to visit Lenin's Aunt Blanca (Thibaudin), a hilarious old lady who shares her home with the hapless Felipe (Ferrante) and the uptight Delia (Merlino). As all of these characters play a sort of chess game of mistrust and exploration, the film merely watches, laughs at them and identifies with their feelings.
This isn't a straight-on comedy by a long shot. It's a quirky character study that will make everyone in the audience laugh at different places, mostly at the way the people on screen react to each other. The film's charm rests in the fact that nobody behaves the way you expect them to. Liaisons form and break up, then regroup and settle down in unexpected ways. Lerman's film is perhaps a bit too subtle for general audiences, especially after the edgy promise of the opening sequence when we think we're heading for a Thelma & Louise type road movie. The rest of the film seems rambling and pointless by comparison. But the black and white cinematography is beautiful and revelatory, letting the cast toy with each situation while tantalizingly capturing the scenes from telling angles. In the end nothing much happens. And everything in the world happens as well. All of a sudden, when the characters (and we) least expect it. [15 themes, language, nudity] 11.Apr.03 llgff
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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall