|Our Paradise. PHOTOâSOURCE: FRAMELINE
In two weeks, Frameline36 begins, bringing hundreds of queer shorts, features and docs to area screens. Here is a roundup of ten titles to screen (or avoid) at this yearâs fest.
Gayby, [June 16, 7:00 pm, Castro] is writer/director Jonathan Liseckiâs hilarious feature, which originated as his fabulous short of the same name. Jenn (Jenn Harris) is a yoga instructor who asks her gay best friend Matt (Matthew Wilkas), a comic book artist/store clerk, to impregnate herâthe old-fashioned way. After some comically awkward procreational sex, Gayby focuses on Jenn and Mattâs experiences dating various men. Each comically struggles with their erotic desires in their new relationship(s) because they have to save sex for baby-making purposes. This terrific film, full of smart situations and smartass one-liners, benefits from Liseckiâs witty script and Harrisâ brilliant and deadpan comic timing.
Another amusing film is Love or Whatever [June 20, 4:00 pm, Castro], a sweet when it isnât stupid romantic comedy. Corey (Tyler Poelle) is a therapist whose superhot boyfriend Jon (David Wilson Page) leaves him for Melissa (Jenica Bergere), one of Coreyâs clients. Corey eventually finds solace with Pete (Joel Rush), a gorgeous, poetry-reading, pizza-delivering grad student he meets on Grindr. Insecure Corey is bolstered by his new relationship, but things become strained when Jon tries to reinsert himself back into Coreyâs life. Love or Whatever is charming whenever the attractive Rush or bubble-butted (and often bare-assed) troublemaker Jon are onscreen. And Jennifer Elise Cox lends solid comic support as Coreyâs quick-witted, foul-mouthed, and horny lesbian sister. Alas, Poelle strains to be funny, and the lame script hinders him.
Another film that mixes gay and lesbian characters is Stud Life [June 17, 7:00 pm, Castro and June 18, 9:30 pm, Elmwood]. This British import featuring a black butch, J.J. (TâNia Miller), and her gay male best friend Seb (Kyle Treslove), is strictly amateur hour. J.J. is a jaded wedding photographer who falls in love with Elle (Robyn Kerr). But Seb thinks Elle is bad news; he doesnât get along with her. The lesbiansâ relationship takes a turn for the worse when J.J. discovers something unsavory about Elle. The filmâs best moments have J.J. talking in direct address in podcast segments about dildos, lesbian sex, and being on the down low. This low-budget film presents worthwhile issues--being torn between a best friend and a girlfriend, and queer-bashingâbut Stud Life is too superficial to make viewers care about the characters or the resolutions to their simplistic situations.
The mumblecore porn entry, I Want Your Love [June 17, 9:30 pm, Castro] offers parting glances of San Franciscan Jesse (Jesse Metzger), anxious about his impending move to Ohio. Jesse tries to combat his despair through sex with a pickup and saying goodbye to his ex, Ben (Ben Jasper) and his roommate/best friend Wayne (Wayne Bumb). I Want Your Love is compelling because Jesseâs anxiety is palpable, especially when heâs bored. Viewers, however, will be stimulated during the copious (and lengthy) explicit sex scenes that show real intimacy between various couples. The cast of ordinary-looking guys give bold performances. While writer/director Travis Mathewâs film meanders a bit in search of a point, I Want Your Love still manages to be both impassioned and poignant.
In its first scene, the pretty, lurid, and ludicrous, Our Paradise [June 23, 6:00 pm, Castro] asks, âWhat gives us a hard-on?â For most viewers, it may be watching angelic Angelo (Dimitri Durdaine) and his young, soft flesh in various stages of undress. For the devilish Vassili (StĂ©phane Rideau) a hustler on the wrong side of 30, it seems to offing the older men who hire and/or reject him that excites him. Writer/director GaĂ«l Morel films the violent killings in Our Paradise more artfully than the copious sex scenes, which adds to the filmâs perverse qualities. The story has Vassili saving Angelo from death, becoming his lover, and pimping him out to clients uninterested in threesomes. Eventually the Vassiliâs crimes force him and Angelo to flee gay Paris for Lyon where they take up with Anna (BĂ©atrice Dalle), Vassiliâs old friend, and her young 10-year old son. A third act places the boys at Victorâs (Didier Flamand) remote country estate. Our Paradise gets increasingly more ridiculous as it goes along, making neither the love between Angelo and Vassili nor the various plot twists believable. Nevertheless, Rideau is fascinating as the aging hustler with murderous intentions and the film looks gorgeous.
There is no nudity in Naked As We Came [June 24, 4:30 pm, Castro], only naked honesty as Elliot (Ryan Vigilant) and his sister Laura (Karmine Alers) visit their dying mother Lilly (S. Lue McWilliams). Lilly is a bad, brittle mother, who apologizes to her children for mistreating them, and tries to guide them before she dies. Laura is an uptight, bitchy divorcee, while Elliot is a needy young man who inappropriately begins an affair with Ted (Ben Weaver), a writer who is staying with Lilly. Earnestly made, and woodenly acted, the stagey Naked As We Came urges its characters to embrace responsibility for their actions in between arty shots of nature and episodes of pot smoking and archery. None of the actors have chemistry with one another, and Elliotâs relationship with Ted feels particularly forced. The drama consists mainly of waiting for Lilly to die, so everyoneâviewers includedâcan get on with their lives.
An outstanding character study, based on Christopher Shinnâs play, Four [June 21, 7:00 pm, Castro] dovetails the stories of two couples that meet up for sex on the Fourth of July. June (Emory Cohen) is a shy, gay teen who arranges a hook up over the Internet with Joe (Wendell Pierce) a gregarious married man. The small talk between these strangersâwho go to a movie before retiring to a hotel roomâdeftly captures their awkwardness and strained intimacy. Joe tries to coax the visibly uncomfortable June to relax, but their encounter gets increasingly tenser. Meanwhile, Abigayle (Aja Naomi King) reluctantly meets up with Dexter (E.J. Bonilla) and allows him to smooth talk her. Four boasts a quartet of brilliant performancesâwith Pierce in particular a standoutâand a seductive rhythm that will rivet viewers as the characters come to terms with themselves and each other.
In contrast, Fourplay [June 17, 9:30, Roxie] is a mixed bag of unrelated shorts. The first entry, âSkokie,â is the weakestâa lesbianâs fantasies are unexpectedly realized by some zoophilia. âAustinâ takes the reality of a couple trying to have a baby into fantasyland as they couple up in an adult video store, while âTampaâ is lewd, crude and rude comedy about bathroom sex, overflowing with semen. The most intriguing short is âSan Francisco,â which depicts the intimate encounter between Aliya (Paul Soileau), a transvestite prostitute and Tom (Gary Chason), a straight man âlooking for something a little different.â Their evening culminates in a sex act that will either amaze or disturb viewers, much like all of the shorts in this collection.
A risky film about characters that take unusual risks, Unconditional [June 22, 9:30 pm Castro] is an unconventional love story that starts out seductive before it turns sinister. Twins Kristen and Owen (Harry McEntire) are caring for their disabled mom when a loan officer, Liam (Christian Cooke,) arrives at the door of their towerblock. Kristen fancies the handsome Liam, but Liam has designs on Owenâliterally.
After getting the youth drunk one night, he dresses the boy up in womenâs clothing and takes âherâ out on the town. Owen is drawn to Liam, who confesses love for Owenâbut only if/when heâs wearing a wig. While their secret relationship puts a strain on Kristen, things take a turn for the worse when Liam shows his darker sideâbullying others and demanding unconditional love from his âgirl.â Unconditional has some notable moments, but once Liam starts acting violently toward Owen, the film strains all credibility. The film will work best for viewers that completely buy into the far-fetched plot. Both McEntire and Cooke give remarkable performances, but itâs hard to care about the characters once theyâand the plotâgo off the deep end.
Not to be missed is Beauty [June 18, 9:30 pm, Castro], a potent and unsettling character study from South Africa. FranĂ§ois (Deon Lotz) fixated on the spellbindingly handsome Christian (Charlie Keegan), his friendâs son. As Beauty unfolds, FranĂ§oisâ closeted sexuality along with his bigotry (against âfaggotsâ and âcoloredâ) comes to light. Bored by his marriage and irritated by life, FranĂ§ois seeks out Christian, routinely spying on the irresistible young man in creepily effective scenes shot mostly without sound. Frustrated, horny, and running out of time, FranĂ§ois disturbingly acts on his pent-up desires. And Beauty builds its tension inexorably as FranĂ§ois waits and plots before pouncing.
A scene of FranĂ§ois--anxious, envious and breathing heavily in a carâis particularly intense. Lotz is magnificent as FranĂ§ois, but Beautyâs real magic is its slow burn approach that yields harsh violence and a quietly devastating (open) ending.
Â© 2012 Gary M. Kramer