Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

The best of the rest of the fest


Frameline 33 film festival features, week two

Wayne Virgo in Shank.
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These last four days of the Frameline 33 film festival are especially flush with foreign-produced treats, particularly British ones.

Shank "Good for you – we all need a little distraction every now and then." In Simon Pearce's adrenaline-rush exploration of boys doing boys in the gangland precincts of Bristol, England, distraction – in the form of drugs, raw sex and the practice of using cell phones to record acts of ultra-violence – is a way of life for a ragtag collection of young street thugs who prey on the innocent, with particular attention to bashing queers. The 21-year-old first feature director puts a hot young cast through their paces. The brooding Wayne Virgo is Cal, a mixed-race queer boy who is torn between his need for manly affection and the intoxicating power he feels at the apex of a loutish gang. It's headed, in an unusual and effective twist, by a nasty girl leader barely out of her teens, Nessa (the surly, sultry Alice Payne). Cal's tight with an especially vile if manly basher, Juno (Tom Bott). When not stomping queers, Cal and Juno take turns breathing pot smoke down each other's throats, waiting for a buzz.

One day, Cal resists Nessa and Juno's pummeling of a French exchange student, Olivier (Marc Laurent). This bold, out-of-character move puts Cal on the gang's enemies list, and throws him into a complicated, seriously hot affair with Olivier, which is particularly unsettling because of its tender nature.

Pearce whips a savvy script (by Darren Flaxton and Christian Martin) into a riveting tale of the highs and lows of a new techno generation who crave sensation at any cost. Undergirding this very authentic urban nightmare is a sense of British class violence dating back to Dickens. (Victoria, 6/25)

Hannah Free Chicago playwright Claudia Allen's stage play covering a 50+ year relationship between two Midwestern women who make radically different life choices becomes a big-screen soap opera/agitprop plea for acceptance for queer families. It's solidly grounded by a gritty virtuoso performance from Cagney & Lacey's Sharon Gless. Gless shows how far she's come since Revenge of the Stepford Wives with an understated turn as a ruggedly independent, backwoods, older dyke who, to her everlasting dismay, is spending her last days at the kind of rest home usually depicted on the Lifetime cable channel.

Hannah, trapped between a hospital bed and a wheelchair, spends most of her waking hours fantasizing that longtime lover Rachel is in the room with her, sparring about what their lives together could have been if not for Hannah's wanderlust and Rachel's homemaker genes. In reality, Hannah is prevented from visiting Rachel, who's in another ward tied down to feeding tubes and a respirator. Miraculously, a young woman appears at Hannah's bedside, ostensibly doing a college paper on belligerent seniors, and arranges for Hannah to make secret nocturnal trips to her comatose lover's bedside.

Most memorable are Gless' feisty rants directed against the minimum-security prison treatment afforded low-income seniors. Gradually, Hannah's struggle to put some closure to her complicated life with Rachel overcomes its Hallmark-card trappings and achieves some genuine poignancy. Gless and newcomer Jacqui Jackson are totally real as a surrogate grandma/granddaughter pairing: two women from different generations who get each other while most around them are bitter, fearful, or clueless. Direct

Scene from Hannah Free.
or Wendy Jo Carlton is more adept with the story's present-tense hospital scenes, with their layers of reality and fantasy, than the somewhat sugary flashbacks. Culture junkies will appreciate passing nods to Arthur Godfrey and that old soap-opera warhorse As the World Turns. (Castro, closing night, 6/28)

Fruitfly He's not Larry Hart, Cole Porter or Stephen Sondheim, but San Francisco's own H.P. Mendoza does have a witty way with a lyric, especially in a bawdy bar ballad sung by two unattached gay boys who discover that they're magnificently incompatible, in Mendoza's follow-up to his 2006 Bay Area song-a-thon Colma: The Musical.

"I'm what you call a versatile bottom. I'll give it a shot, but I'd rather you top."

"We're versatile bottoms!"

"I don't like people who hold in their voices. You should shout it loud when you're being plowed."

"Don't worry, honey, I shatter your windows. This chicken will cluck when he's being fucked!"

Mendoza's Fruit Fly picks up where Colma left off, as a deliciously dishy assortment of metrosexuals, gay boys, fag hags, lesbians and straight, ego-inflating performance artists battle for their share of coveted spots on stage. In the spirit of Avenue Q, Fruit Fly 's frisky cast musically opines about our notoriously fickle public-transit systems, shared-housing arrangements and such messy questions as, when does a blind date morph into a hookup? (Castro, 6/27)

Give Me Your Hand Fans of Pascal-Alex Vincent's volatile short Baby Shark (Worldly Affairs, Castro, 6/26) know that he's mostly into the violent, almost psychotic possibilities when twin boys are naked together. In this lusciously lensed if frequently enigmatic road-buddy flick, brothers Antoine and Quentin (convincingly portrayed by real-life twins Alexandre and Victor Carril) are on a fool's mission: hitchhiking from France to Spain to attend the funeral of a mother they've never met. After some minor mishaps, the bad blood boils over when Quentin pairs off with a humpy farmworker. Antoine gets his revenge with a bid to sell his bro's body to a seedy stranger. Fans of stories that hew rigorously to waves of ennui will love this one. For the rest of us, the film's watery fist-fight climax, a possible homage to Howard Hawk's Red River, bordering on fratricide, will have to suffice.

The brothers can be distinguished by Antoine's sexy scar, flowing like a permanent arch from his left eyebrow. (Castro, 6/25)

Champion As a boxing/mixed martial-arts fan, I bought into the hype that this lesbian erotic saga from Shine Louise Houston was a quasi-serious plunge into the world of dykes who strive to put other girls to sleep – not by reading them Gertrude Stein.

Sadly or blessedly, depending on your taste, this late-night program is pure pornography – filled with some pretty steamy action if you like strap-on dildo fucking and twitchy bottoms who howl and grunt their way to ecstasy. (Victoria, 6/26)

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