Mo'Nique makes her first return to the big screen alongside newcomer Julian Walker (above) in Blackbird, showing at the British Film Institute's Flare: London LGBT Film Festival. The festival was a flurry of parties and screenings over the weekend, with the highlight being the presence of movie icon Tab Hunter in attendance to talk about a documentary tracing his life and career (alas, I was unable to attend, but I'll catch up with it this week). More film highlights...
dir Patrik-Ian Polk; with Julian Walker, Mo'Nique 14/US ***
Strong topical themes make this film worth seeing, even if the script drifts over-the-top in the final act, piling on just a few too many issues, emotions and coincidences. But the fresh cast is strong, and the film has a lovely musical sense about it. It also says some very important things about the clash between religion and sexuality.
dir Celine Sciamma; with Karidja Toure, Assa Sylla 14/Fr ****.
Building on the effectiveness of her gender-challenging Water Lillies and Tomboy, writer-director Sciamma creates a series of fascinating characters that continually jolt us out of our expectations. This film is stunningly well-made, peppered with unforgettable goosebump moments even as it refuses to answer all of the questions it raises.
dir Chandrasekaram Visakesa; with Dasun Pathirana, Jehan Srikanth Appuhami 14/Sri ***.
From Sri Lanka, this film is made in a distinctly local style that will feel hesitant and awkward to a Western audience, but it offers sharp insight into a culture still struggling to deal with questions about sexuality and gender identity. It's also infused with warmth and a cheeky sense of humour. And the characters are so strong characters that they don't need to say too much.
Something Must Break
dir Ester Martin Bergsmark; with Saga Becker, Iggy Malmborg 14/Swe ****
Beautifully shot and edited to get into the mind of its young central character, this Swedish drama explores how it feels to live outside the lines society has drawn for you. It sometimes an overpoweringly dark drama, with relentlessly bleak undercurrents, but there's a spark of hope that maybe people can find ways to love and accept each other.
Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity
dir Catherine Gund; with Elizabeth Streb, Laura Flanders 14/US ****
Intense and intriguing, this documentary traces an outrageously inventive, physical form of artistic experssion that combines dance, gymnastics and circus movement. From a desire to see a human being fly, Elizabeth Streb develops what she calls "extreme action". So even if the filmmaking is somewhat serious and straightforward, the performances are visceral and thrilling... FULL REVIEW >
dir-scr Vincent Boujon; with Vincent Leclercq, Matteo Montenegro 14/Fr ****
This simple, straightforward documentary has an unusually loose narrative that's evocative and experiential rather than informative. Along the way, filmmaker Boujon inventively uses a relatively simple situation - a group of five HIV-positive men going skydiving - to explore some much bigger issues. It's involving and moving, and rather amazing.
The Golden Age of the American Male
dir Bob Mizer; with Joe Dallesandro, Blackie Preston 12/US ***
This is a very simple compilation of vintage gay-interest movies made by Mizer's AMG Studios using home-movie techniques to shoot scenes celebrating the male physique. These fit young men are wearing posing pouches or completely naked enacting contrived scenarios that are so hilariously absurd that even they can't stop laughing. If this collection contained some information about how or when they were made, it would be a much more valuable document. As is, it's an amusing, intriguing glimpse at a forgotten corner of movie history.