Film FestivalFilm Festival Reviews: London ’03

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

back to the top COCK & BULL STORY [aka Southside]
dir-scr Billy Hayes
with Brian Austin Green, Bret Roberts, Greg Mullavy, Kay Lenz, Sam Scarber, Wendy Fowler, Christian Payne, John Prosky, Kurt Caceres, Darin Heames, Robert Miano, Matt Westmore
release UK Apr.03 llgff • 02/US 1h45 2 out of 5 stars
roberts and mullavy Writer-director Hayes is the guy whose life inspired Midnight Express. Yes, really! And this is a gritty urban drama about boxing gyms in working class New Jersey. The main theme is sexuality, and the two main characters are more than a little suspect. Jack (Green) is an ex-boxer thug whose best pal Travis (Roberts) is the great white hope in the boxing ring. Everyone tells Travis he needs to stop hanging around Jack, but the two are inseparable, even though one is a violent brute and the other is a nice-guy athlete. Homoerotic tensions abound between them--is one of them gay, are both of them? And you suspect it even more when they continually issue such strong denials and show serious signs of jealousy. Eventually, Travis gets his big break in the ring; but it happens just as Jack gets into even more trouble than usual.
There are some interesting themes working here, especially the whole issue of denial in such a machismo culture. And the film looks quite good, shot with an edgy street vibe and an energetic level of performances that leave us wondering what the characters might do next. But the plot itself is corny, relying on cliches to propel it, down to trite subplots and some truly appalling dialog. Much of this reflects the theatrical roots--it's just too over-dramatised to work on screen. And in trying to reflect the suppressed sexuality, the Hayes makes it far too subtle and ambiguous. We never feel even a tiny sense of the internal struggle these guys must be going through, even though they're well-played. And Hayes goes overboard to reinforce the manliness of his characters, with constant effing-and-blinding language and excessive physical violence, both in and out of the ring. What he misses is the tenderness and emotion--even masculine emotion--that would have made the story come to life. [themes, strong language, violence] 24.Mar.03 llgff
back to the top I LOVE YOU BABY
dir Alfonso Albacete, David Menkes; scr Alfonso Albacete, Lucia Etxebarria, David Menkes
with Jorge Sanz, Santiago Magill, Tiare Scanda, Veronica Forque, Joel Angelino, Laura Ramos, Alicia Agut, Marilyn Torres, Boy George
release Spain 26.Oct.02; UK Apr.03 llgff • Fox 01/Spain 1h44 2 out of 5 stars
the cameo appearance This film has the same bright and watchable tone as many Spanish ensemble comedies, but the story is so uneven that you can't quite figure out whether you should laugh or be offended by it. It's basically a seriously dramatic love triangle with a zany comic twist. Marcos (Sanz) is new in Madrid, working in his aunt and uncle's cafe, and quickly noticed by another newcomer in the city, the Dominican single mother Marisol (Scanda). But his interests lie elsewhere, and one night in a gay bar he meets the charming actor Daniel (Magill) and starts a relationship, even though the two have little in common (Marcos hates ballet; Daniel hates football). Then one night in a disco, Marcos is hit in the head by a falling disco ball and wakes up straight. Soon he's dating Marisol instead. So Daniel turns to his pal Carmen (Forque) for advice on how to get his man back. He'll do anything.
It's never a good idea to use such a ludicrous plot device to drive an otherwise serious storyline. And the disco ball scene loses us completely, especially when a running gag involving Boy George tries to cash in on the idea. This is a shame, because the film has a charming tone that could have been engaging and enjoyable--it should be a sweet opposites-attract rom-com. But the directors never square the comedy with the drama, and they lose focus by concentrating far too much on Marisol's gaggle of gossipy friends, letting the central Marcos-Daniel plot drift badly in the process. Meanwhile, Daniel's attempt to win back Marcos is extremely unconvincing; we can't believe it for a second, and as a result we lose interest in the characters altogether. Even though the film is still watchable, the plot is just too clunky to work on any level. And for a story with sexuality as its central theme, the filmmakers undercut it with an overriding anti-gay sensibility that throws everything even further off balance. [themes, language, sex] 12.Apr.03 llgff
back to the top MANGO SOUFFLÉ
the gang's all here
dir-scr Manesh Dattani
with Ankur Vikal, Faredoon Dodo Bhujwala, Rinkie Khanna, Atul Kulkarni, Sanjit Bedi, Denzil Smith, Heeba Shah, Darius Tara Porewala, Veena Sajnani, Mahmood Faroqui
release UK Apr.03 llgff • 02/India 1h30 2 out of 5 stars
Dattani adapts his play for the big screen, but doesn't go nearly far enough. The solid themes and story are drowned out in stilted and awkward filmmaking. It's an ensemble comedy-drama set in Bangalore, about Kamlesh (Vikal), a guy who has just broken up with his mysterious boyfriend and calls all his buddies (Bhujwala, Shah, Bedi and Smith) over for dinner to tell them that they have to keep the relationship secret. This isn't easy for a group of chatty, catty people like this, and they sense some sort of conspiracy. Especially when Kamlesh's sister (Khanna) arrives with her new fiance (Kulkarni) in tow. Secrets come tumbling out of the closet as farce combines with gritty reality.
The main problem is the film's 1970s production style, complete with glaringly coloured film stock, perplexing music, strained performances and stiff direction. It's just not easy to see as the contemporary story it so obviously is. Much of the dialog is the kind of over-written stuff that works well on stage, but not on screen. And the same can be said about the direction, which is stagey and corny. That said, there are profound issues about sexuality and society that are well worth examining, and in its own clumsy way the film does deal with them! Relational secrets are pretty much the same the world over, and Dattani really captures the idea that just because these people are in rural India doesn't mean the issues are any more black and white. Indeed, he's clearly trying to recreate a New York gay-scene comedy. But for Western audiences, getting beyond this film's goofy style to the solid centre is a real chore. [themes, language] 22.Mar.03
dir Laura Nix
with John Cameron Mitchell, Stephen Trask, Miriam Shor, Michael Pitt, John Mitchell, Joan Mitchell, Theodore Liscinski, Donovan Leitch, Andrea Martin, Peter Askin, Mistress Formika, Mike Potter, Parker Posey, Francis Ford Coppola, Ann Magnuson, Joan Jett
release UK Apr.03 llgff • NewLine 02/US 1h26 4 out of 5 stars
mitchell as hedwig This is quite simply one of the best making-of documentaries ever made! It examines the entire phenomenon of Hedwig and the Angry Inch from a germ of an idea through to an award-winning film with knowing interviews, behind-the-scenes clips and astonishing archival footage. But more than that, it gets well under the skin of the whole Hedwig thing, answering just about every conceivable question anyone might have ... and then some.
John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask are at the centre here, talking about their creation lovingly and tellingly--their sharp wit and astonishing creativity come through loud and clear (as if we had any doubts after seeing the film!) as we follow them through the early days experimenting with the character in New York clubs to the Off-Broadway sensation to the film production process and the Sundance awards ceremony (the film won both the audience award and best director). There's nothing superfluous here; and the film doesn't leave us wanting more, besides watching the feature film again!
This is an extremely well-assembled narrative documentary, tracing the story coherently and collating clips from all over the place--and it's great stuff too! It gives us much more than we'd ever dream to ask, and at the same time draws out Hedwig's themes and ideas with force and emotion. If it hedges its bets at all, it's in the avoidance of conflict. There is clearly some tension between Trask and Mitchell, and understandably so since both are equally involved in creating the character but Mitchell gets all the accolades. Also, the interviews with Mitchell's parents are telling and fascinating, but avoid their obvious discomfort with their son's sexuality. This was commissioned by NewLine for inclusion on the Hedwig DVD, then expanded into a feature of its own, although it has only been seen at festivals. It's a must for all Hedwig fans. It's the ultimate companion piece to an extraordinary film. [themes, language] 12.Apr.03 llgff
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© 2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall