Frameline, looking good for 30

  • by David Lamble
  • Wednesday June 14, 2006
Share this Post:
Andreau Thomas in Robert Gaston's OpenCam. Photo: Courtesy Wolfe Releasing
Andreau Thomas in Robert Gaston's OpenCam. Photo: Courtesy Wolfe Releasing

This 30th edition of Frameline's LGBT Film Festival is growing still more fabulous and hard to wrap one's mind around: 11 days (June 15-25), 260 films, five venues (Castro, Roxie, Victoria, Empire Theatre in West Portal and Oakland's Parkway dinner cinema) and a host of visiting luminaries. French film prodigy Francois Ozon gets the Frameline Award and debuts his latest, Time to Leave, along with a not-to-be-missed retrospective of four features. Opening night at the Castro features Puccini for Beginners from the director of The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love, Maria Maggenti, followed by Q. Allan Brocka's saucy treatment of the pop erotic novel, Boy Culture (Castro, 6/17) and the John Cameron Mitchell-inspired rock-n-roll documentary directed by Katherine Linton, Follow My Voice: With the Music of Hedwig (Castro, 6/19).

OpenCam A pretty-boy painter is befriended by a lurky-turkey of a DV cop on the track of an Internet serial killer. In gay films, chemistry is everything, and Andreau Thomas as painter/rent boy Manny, and Amir Darrvish as undercover cop Hamilton, take it to the max. It's not often that these skimpy genre stories cover up soft-core hanky-panky work, but when they do, they can sizzle.

Manny's friends are disappearing rather too quickly, murdered onscreen in the webcam connection that provides the film with its title. When Amir moves in as Manny's cop bodyguard/boyfriend, tensions and jealousies are aroused in Manny's spoiled crowd of twinks. While waiting for the web killer to make his move, Manny and Hamilton do some very brazen moves that are sure to please. (Castro, 6/17)

Wild Tigers I Have Known An auspicious feature debut by Santa Cruz native Cam Archer, Tigers is a delicious mixture of influences: the fiction of Scott Heim, the photo cheekiness of XY magazine, and the recent non-narrative work of Gus Van Sant exploring high school calamities.

In the savage hellhole of middle school, Jordan (Malcolm Stumpf) and Joey (Max Paradise) are best friends largely because they have no other friends. Jordan's fascination with another boy, the sexy, amiable lug of hunk Rodeo (Patrick White), drives a wedge between him and Joey. Jordan's beating at the hands of school toughs makes him sympathetic in Rodeo's eyes, and the odd couple starts hanging out in their beachtown's Netherlands, strange caves known to be lairs of mountain lions.

Archer fleshes out his very slim story with beautiful, impressionistic slices of his hometown. Tom Gilroy is hilarious as a school principal whose pep rallies have to be seen to be appreciated. Fairuza Bulk (Personal Velocity) is terrific as a stressed-out single mom trying to stay in touch with her troubled boy. Don't expect a huge payoff and you'll really enjoy this leisurely trip through a sensitive boy's troubled daydreams. (Castro, 6/18)

Go West "Somehow in the Balkans, it's easier to accept a family member who is a murderer than a fag." These words drop from the pretty lips of Kenan (Mario Drmac), a Muslim music student who finds himself fleeing his hometown of Sarajevo in the company of his butch Serb lover, Milan (Tarik Filipovic). Serbian militia looking for Muslim men to kill force fleeing refugees to drop their pants (Muslims are circumcised), and the resulting problem turns Go West into an odd kind of gender comedy.

The lovely Kenan, with the aid of false boobs and a cheap wig, passes so easily as a war bride that Milan's brother arranges for the couple to be married in their small Serbian village. Farce turns tragic when the village whore (Mirjana Karanovic) intimidates Kenan into performing with her while Milan is away on military duty. The hottest scene features female masturbation in a small metal tub. Jeanne Moreau turns in a cameo as a Paris TV host. (Castro, 6/19; Parkway, 6/21)

Time to Leave At 38, it may seem premature for cinema wizard Francois Ozon to make death his subject, but remember, Truffaut was dead at 52, and Jean Vigo at 29. Romain (Melvil Poupaud), 31, shoots pretentious, disposable fashion photography. Before a Japanese assignment, Romain discovers he's going to die (brain cancer), very soon. Ozon has fashioned a "masculine melodrama" about how an impossibly beautiful, petulant young man copes with a precious few months. Romain deals with his family, breaks up (after hot sex) with his unemployed German boyfriend (Christian Sengevold), and collapses in the arms of his beloved grandmother (Jeanne Moreau). In an allusion to Bergman's Wild Strawberries, he's haunted by a vision of his 10-year-old self just hitting life's mysteries. Cutting his lovely mane of hair, Romain leaves a piece of himself behind, then heads for Ozon's favorite destination, a crowded beach, where carefree humans of all ages frolic around his blanket. (Castro, 6/20)

8 Women A wheelchair-bound matriarch, her married daughter, a spiteful sister-in-law, a young maid, a loyal cook, two spunky teenagers and a glamorous stranger find themselves trapped in a snowbound mansion. It's the 1950s, and the only man for miles lies upstairs in bed, with a knife in his back. When Ozon realized that his plans to remake The Women were stymied (the rights to the George Cukor classic had been gobbled up for Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan), he turned to an obscure 1960s French play, 8 Femmes, by Robert Thomas. Touted as the young gay prodigy who could make his leading ladies glow onscreen, Ozon assembled a dream cast from five decades of French cinema — Daniel Darrieux, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Virginie Ledoyen, Ludivine Sagnier, Fanny Ardant, Emmanuelle Beart and Firmine Richard — dressing his divas to the nines, making each feel it was her film. The cast periodically interrupts the absurd plot for a musical number. After two hours, if you still care, you just may learn who killed Daddy. (Castro, 6/19)

Red Doors Georgia Lee's family comedy allows a lesbian hospital-worker to not be the most maladjusted member of her madcap Chinese/American clan. Julie finds her life tossed around by an unexpected affair with a film star, Mia, at her hospital's surgery to research a role. Julie's older sister Sam is having second thoughts about her pending marriage to the "perfect" white boyfriend, while younger sister Katie is conducting a terrorist campaign at her high school to win over a cute neighbor boy. Mom is trying to keep her family's loose ends from fraying completely, while Dad is caught between thoughts of suicide and becoming a Buddhist monk. Lee deftly switches back and forth between her distracted characters' multiple meltdowns, providing a slice of middle-class, suburban, Asian American life that has some of the texture of Ang Lee's The Ice Storm. (Empire, 6/21)

The Favor Pablo Sofovich's lively sex farce has two Argentine lesbians, Mora and Roberta, doing everything in their power to capture the sperm of Mora's macho brother Felipe. As with most comedies, the characters bear risible traits (Felipe inseminates turkeys for a living). Mora and Roberta live in a flat where the colors run riot and none of the appliances work except the refrigerator, where they store drinks and fresh clams, bait for their man-trap. Not Almodovar, but an amusing 80 minutes that end on the right note for a date-night crowd. (Castro, 6/19; Parkway, 6/21)

Sitcom As a child, Ozon feared his father's gaze. "My father had a Super 8 camera, and I didn't like his films. So one day I took the camera and said, 'Now I will make my own films.' I made family films with my brother nude, my sister doing strange things." A cinema terrorist, Ozon delights in ripping up the bourgeois family album, blowing up the prison of family life, and executing the inmates. "One of my short films was the story of my brother. He killed all the family, my mother, my father and my sisters. My family agreed to do the film with me because they said, 'If you do that in a film, you won't do that in reality! So we prefer to be killed in the film.'"

Later, the idea behind these sadomasochistic home movies turns up as Ozon's deliciously dark family farce Sitcom, in which Dad dreams of assassinating his family. Dad turns into a rat whose murder frees the family. "I wanted to destroy a family, and at the end of the film, another family appears — a new family with gay people, lesbian, sadomasochistic people! It's a family for the new millennium." (Roxie, 6/21)