Saturday, 4 April 2009

LLGFF 9 & 10: Song and dance

The BFI's 23rd London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival is into its second weekend now, with a wide range of films on offer, plus special events, discussion forums and, of course, lots of parties. Here are some highlights from this weekend...

Fig Trees ****

Pictured above, this is another outrageously inventive rant from Greyson, similar to his pop musical Zero Patience, but this time playfully using opera to look at the life of notable Aids activists Tim McCaskell from Canada and South African Zackie Achmat. Mixing new interviews with film clips, satirical music videos (an increasingly funny list of Top Aids Songs!), animation and Gertrude Stein's opera Four Saints in Three Acts, this film keeps us mesmerised with its multi-screen, subtitled lyricism, constant comical touches and an underlying sense of anger at the greed of pharmaceutical companies and government inaction (or worse) that have resulted in the loss of literally millions of lives. It's extremely bold and inventive, and well worth seeing, but will struggle to cross over to mainstream viewers.

Greek Pete ***
A scruffy semi-documentary about a London escort, this film has value as an exploration of a seedy side of society in which sex has been completely removed from love. Pete is a very watchable central figure, beautiful but shallow, and not remotely likeable. But the film exposes this with raw honesty, even if it's clear that some sequences are completely fake (at one point Pete actually lets slip that he's playing a fictional character in the film). This is one of the most popular films in the festival - before anyone has seen it, all screenings have been sold out, and more have been added. It will be interesting to see if it lives up to the hype for London's escort community and all their, erm, friends.

After Him [Apres Lui] ***
Catherine Deneuve gives a rippling, emotional performance as a woman whose son dies in a car crash, leaving her utterly shattered. To fill the void, and try to achieve a kind of peace with herself, she begins obsessing about her son's best friend (Le Clan's Thomas Dumerchez). The film is sharply well shot and acted, with a seriously intense script by those French masters of familial angst, Gael Morel and Christophe Honore. It's a genuinely wrenching film with a darkly emotional tone that really catches a sense of loss and yearning, mixing creepy stalker behavious with maternal hope.

Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon *****
One of my favourite films of the festival so far, this is a brilliantly well-assembled documentary about pornstar Jack Wrangler, who shook up the gay scene with his energetic, beefy films and then shocked everyone by switching to straight porn and marrying a woman. This fast-paced, entertaining doc really gets into this story with revealing interviews and lots of film clips that tell Wrangler's story with humour and even some emotion. It also goes even further to cleverly explore the entire porn industry, including the way it has changed from relative respectability in the 1960s and 1970s to the disposable stuff that's produced today.

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