dir Joshua Sanchez; with Wendell Pierce, Emory Cohen 12/US ***.
Adapted from a play by Christopher Shinn, this low-key American drama is still extremely theatrical, mainly in its use of dialog that's rather too on-the-nose. But the cast is excellent, nicely maintaining the ambiguity of characters who are never who we expect them to be. The title refers both to the number of main characters and to the fact that the events take place on the 4th of July. June (Cohen) escapes from his family barbecue to go meet Joe (Pierce), an older man he has been chatting to online. They see a movie, then go back to Joe's hotel room. Meanwhile, we also meet Joe's daughter Abigayle (Aja Naomi King), who thinks her dad is away on business. While her ill mum is sleeping, she sneaks out to meet Dexter (EJ Bonilla), who has been pursuing her relentlessly. All four of these people want something from the other, and the way they go about getting it is circuitous, awkward and a bit sad. The film's overwhelmingly downbeat tone kind of obscures some fascinating things that are going on here, mainly in the fact that the people in power aren't who we think they'll be. So in the end, it's smart and thoughtful, but also a bit gloomy and empty.
dir Sebastien Lifshitz; with Bernard, Catherine, Christian, Therese 12/Fr ****.
This beautiful, thoroughly involving documentary catches the everyday details of a group of retirement-age men and women along with the extraordinary stories of how they have lived with their homosexuality. These are engaging, articulate, bracingly honest people who have a lot to say about where European society is now. This relaxed and intimate film is beautifully shot with attention to detail, simply letting a handful of people talk about their lives while going about their daily routines. Some emerge with massive personalities, while others break our hearts with their remarkable life stories. The point is that their experiences are vastly different than young gay and lesbian people today, and we need to remember these things. In the end, their stories are not only fascinating, but urgent and relevant. And hugely resonant too.
Joy! Portrait of a Nun
dir Joe Balass; with Sister Missionary P Delight, Sister Hysterectoria 12/Can ***
A portrait of a fringe gay movement, this gentle, meandering documentary focusses on a man who lives his life under the name Sister Missionary P Delight, nicknamed Mish. Yes, this lifestyle is a bit ridiculous, but it has deep meaning for its participants, who also have something important to say. Mish was thrown out of the priesthood for being gay and turned to activism instead. With other gay nuns in San Francisco, he helped found the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, making political and religious statements by finding comedy in unexpected places. Called to a life of service, he now lives with a group of radical faeries in the Tennessee woods. The film is packed with photos and old film footage that are priceless. And the low-key, rambling doc style nicely matches Mish's cluttered, hippie lifestyle. Although the lack of cinema structure leaves it feeling a bit elusive.
dir Tom Shkolnik; with Edward Hogg, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett 12/UK ***
This low-key improvised drama has a rather misleading title. Writer-director Shkolnik astutely explores the bleak aimlessness of his central character, drawing knowing performances from the cast. But it's so gloomy that it's difficult to connect emotionally... REVIEW >
Future My Love
dir Maja Borg; with Jacque Fresco, Nadya Cazan 12/Swe ****
Swedish filmmaker Borg gets a little carried away with her own artistry in this mash-up of documentary, film essay and visual poem, which explores the question of why humanity hasn't sorted out our problems even with enough information and technology at our disposal. Borg combines music, historical footage and an elusive black and white parallel story to explore this theme. At the centre is an extended interview with genius futurist Fresco, who explains the technocracy movement of the 1930s, a realistic plan to wipe out hunger, poverty and unemployment. And why this hasn't happened is simple: greed. The rich aren't willing to abandon a system that is no longer working if I means they can't accumulate as much private wealth as they want. Which basically makes this one of those beautifully made films that clearly explain what's going on but leaves us with no hope for a solution. Well not in our lifetimes, at least.
[NB: I saw this film at last year's Edinburgh Film Festival]