Friday, 27 March 2015

Flare 4: Emerge from the deep

One of the highlights of this year's BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival was the appearance of 83-year-old screen icon Tab Hunter in person - still looking great while answering questions after screenings of the new documentary about his life by Jeffrey Schwarz (I Am Divine). The British Film Institute does a great job at bringing filmmakers and actors over for this festival, including a huge number from the local London cinema scene that make it feel like a class reunion every year at various drinks receptions and parties over the 10 festive days. Here are some more highlights...

Tab Hunter Confidential 
dir Jeffrey Schwarz; with Tab Hunter, Allan Glaser 15/US ***.
While this documentary about the 1950s heartthrob feels a bit gentle and overtly positive, it manages to focus attention on how the Hollywood studio system routinely moulded its stars into a carefully managed image, creating a whole generation of artists who were living a lie. This makes it an important document, even if a much grittier film is needed to dig up the darker edges of the story

Stories of Our Lives 
dir Jim Chuchu; with Kelly Gichohi, Janice Mugo 14/Ken ****
Based on true accounts, the five segments in this film are artfully shot in black and white and played with raw honesty and pointed human insight. As a collection, it has an even stronger impact because the filmmaking is both artful and straightforward, reflecting a deeply repressed, harsh society through stories that are very sad but are also full of hope. These are important voices that demand to be heard. (Gala screening)

Jamie Marks Is Dead 
dir Carter Smith; with Cameron Monaghan, Noah Silver 14/US ***.
This soft-spoken film is both a sensitive teen drama and one of the most inventive ghost stories in recent memory. It's haunting and visually stunning, with moments that are deeply moving and genuinely horrific. And at its core it's a thoughtful exploration of adolescent yearning to make sense of unexpected feelings.

Everlasting Love [Amor Eterno]
dir Marcal Fores; with Joan Bentalle, Aimar Vega 14/Sp ****
Arch and over-stylised, this clever film also manages to remain eerily natural, as writer-director Flores insinuates all sorts of freaky secret-society goings on. The idea is to trace love from that first flash of lust to something more eternal. And while the plot is somewhat undercooked, as it were, it's also thoroughly involving, unnerving and ultimately haunting.

54: The Director's Cut
dir Mark Christopher; with Ryan Phillippe, Mike Myers 98-15/US ****
On its original release, Miramax executives cut nearly 15 minutes of footage from this film, deleting all of the gay content in a misguided attempt to appeal to wider audiences. The result was a movie that made little sense since this also eliminated much of the character motivation and complexity. Writer-director Christopher has now restored that material in a director's cut. Some of these scenes are VHS quality, which gives the film an intriguing period touch. More importantly, this restored material adds a serious kick to the plot. It's a much better film now, more focussed on the central journey of Shane O'Shea (Phillippe). As a result, it's more resonant and makes a much more provocative comment on the time and place.

The Duke of Burgundy 
dir Peter Strickland; with Sidse Babett Knudsen, Chiara D'Anna 14/UK ****
After Katalin Varga and Berberian Sound Studio, no one expects British filmmaker Strickland to make a straightforward movie, and this is far from the mainstream. Yet despite its superficially shocking premise the film is actually about the core elements in any relationship, and this is beautifully revealed through vivid filmmaking and raw performances... FULL REVIEW >

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