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August 28, 2006

Report from Sarasota

My significant other decided we needed to get out of the house and away from the heat of Miami Beach for a couple of days last weekend. Her solution was to visit the "west coast" meaning the west coast of Florida. There was a Gay and Lesbian Film Festival at Sarasota which she figured may have some noteworthy films. We also went to Sarasota so she could visit some friends, so keeping on top of all of the screenings was not a priority. There was one very good film seen, plus two of interest, although the highlight of the weekend may have been the Sunday drive through Sarasota down to Longboat Key. The decision to only see three films turned out to be a good one in that as good as the movies may be at the Burns Court Cinema, the theater got a bit chilly and seats were not comfortable enough for even a two hour film.


Jean-Marc Vallee - 2005

As it turned out, all three films dealt with family relationships. I had read about C.R.A.Z.Y. last October when I was visiting Toronto. The French-Canadian comic drama has rightly received rave reviews. A hit in Canada, the film has yet to be shown commercially in the U.S., making me wonder why distributors have passed on a proven audience pleaser.

The title is taken from the Patsy Cline song, and also refers to the first initials of five brothers. Describing the plot almost makes the film sound like yet another coming out story, which is secondary to the exploration of self identity and family dynamics. The film is primarily about Zac, the fourth brother, following his birth in 1960 through 1980. In addition to growing up with four brothers who each have distinct, and sometimes incompatible, personalities, Zac's biggest problem is his ability to heal people telepathically. Catholic and French-Canadian identity are as important as sexual identity, contributing to both the humor and drama of the film. Music plays an important part indicating time shifts as well commenting on the characters. The eclectic soundrack includes Patsy Cline, Charles Aznavour, David Bowie, Jefferson Airplane and Stories. One of C.R.A.Z.Y.'s several scenes of audacious humor involves the singing of Sympathy for the Devil by the church choir and congregants.

Counterpointing the sight gags and fantasies is an essentially truthful presentation of how family relationships change and evolve. Sibling rivalries are outgrown, and parents eventually yield to the knowledge that their children are adults, though perhaps not the adults they envisioned at their birth. This is a film with several unexpected twists and turns that revels in the messiness of relationships, and life in general.


Love Sick/Legaturi Bolnavicioase
Tudor Giurgiu - 2006

I'm not sure how much I should comment on Love Sick as the film was not shown as intended. A technical glitch forced a choice in showing the film, on tape, to be screened in color with no sound, or in black and white with sound. After several false starts, the film was screened in black and white with no apology or explanation from anyone representing the festival. The narrative is about a young student from the country, Kiki, who moves to Bucharest primarily for school, but also to be with her girlfriend, Alex. Complicating matters is that Alex has had an incestuous love-hate relationship with her brother, Sandu.

The love triangle is not especially compelling. The plot synopsis makes Love Sick sound like a blend of Angels and Insects with Therese and Isabelle. What is more interesting is getting a glimpse of present day Romania. Except for the students having cell phones, the film could just as well have taken place thirty years ago. There are no computers in sight, Kika's father drives a battered old car that resembles a Yugo, and people in the country still travel by horse. Even the presentation of the sexual liasons seems, if not censored, at least coy. There is a scene of Alex and Sandu making love in the opening of the film, before the audience knows who they are, a scene that could be viewed as that of simple heterosexual coupling. The most explicit scene of Alex and Kiki consists of a brief display of topless foreplay in a field. Most of the time, Kiki's memories are less of lost love, than of a friendship manifested in ditching class, sleeping through movies, getting drunk and amiably wasting time.


Manuel Gomez Pereira - 2005

A couple of the men in Queens play a "Harry Potter" video game. There is also a quick glance at an Ocean's Eleven poster in a bedroom. Company pride is almost as much in display as gay pride with the Warner Brothers' tie-ins. Curiously, while Queens was made by Warner Brothers in Spain, the parent company passed on releasing the film in the U.S. The film is about three pairs of men who are about to be among the first gay couples in Spain to get married, and the men's parents, particularly their mothers. The narrative shifts back and forth showing the interaction between the six men and their respective parents, and the events that nearly undo the various wedding plans.

A reference to Almodovar is one of the film's jokes. One of the mothers is frequent Almodovar star, Carmen Maura. Other mothers on the verge of breakdowns include Marisa Parades and Veronica Forque. Manuel Gomez Pereira's characters, like this film, are almost family friendly compared to the various transgressive types to be found in Almodovar's films. While Almodovar is almost consistently subversive with his characters and narrative, Gomez Periera chooses to be heart-warming and go straight for the laughs.

Posted by peter at August 28, 2006 11:00 PM