Last week I asked Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras film festival director Richard King and festival coordinator Angie Fielder to nominate their favourite films, so this week I thought I’d talk about some of my hot picks of the Mardi Gras Film Festival 2002. Some of them are unlikely to be screened outside queer film festivals, so book early if you don’t want to miss out on some of these gems.
Director: Jon Shear
This debut feature from actor-turned-director Jon Shear has screened at festivals around the world to critical acclaim and it is no wonder. Shear, apart from acting in films such as Independence Day and appearing on stage in the original Angels In America, won awards for writing and directing whilst a student at Harvard University. These talents come to the fore in Urbania, shot over 18 days in New York for a minuscule $225,000. Urbania is intricately plotted, densely layered and deeply felt. The film has quite a hypnotic effect drawing the audience deep into a mysterious drama about transcendent love and the hallucinatory effects of loss. Dan Futterman is excellent as Charlie and Alan Cumming is outstanding as his friend Brett. Not to be missed.
MEMENTO MORI (YEOGO GOEDAM II)
Directors: Kim Tae-yong & Min Kyu-dong
My interest was aroused by this film which has been listed as a Korean cult classic, although I had some reservations about cult classics after my experience with the Japanese Ring films last year. My worries were unfounded. Memento Mori is a mesmerising combination of ghost story, mystery and lesbian romance. You may not think this mix would work in a film directed by two Korean men and set in a girls’ school in Japan. But it features excellent performances from all the young, first-time actresses. Directors Tae-yong and Kyu-dong had collaborated on an earlier film, a prequel of sorts, but Memento Mori tells its own story. It is beautifully shot and has been nominated and won awards at smaller film festivals around the world. Apart from the eerie, supernatural elements, Memento Mori raises and explores serious issues that some students are forced to face whilst at school.
BURNT MONEY (PLATA QUEMADA)
Director: Marcelo Pinyero
Burnt Money is based on a novel by Ricardo Piglia, which in turn was based on a real event that occurred in Buenos Aires in 1965. It is the fourth film from director Pinyero who has star status in Argentina. He is well known for tackling political themes and in Burnt Money he explores what he defines as a forbidden love story, one between two gay men who are also fugitives from the law. Burnt Money attempts to combine thriller with noir and a gay love story to limited success. It is a gritty story that is worth watching despite it being overlong at 117 minutes, the pacing slow and characterisations a little dodgy.
ALL OVER THE GUY
Director: Julie Davis
Also in the lightweight comedy vein is the American All Over The Guy, the third feature from Julie Davis, of the low-budget I Love You, Don’t Touch Me! and Amy’s Orgasm fame. Like her previous films, All Over The Guy is a funny take on human relationships, this time centred round a gay couple. Fortunately for Davis, she had the able assistance of Don Roos, whose previous films include the comedies Boys On The Side and The Opposite Of Sex. It’s pure entertainment ?a My Best Friend’s Wedding.
LIFETIME GUARANTEE: PHRANC’S ADVENTURES IN PLASTIC
Director: Lisa Udelson
Although at times Phranc’s Adventures In Plastic has the feel of a feature film, it is actually a documentary about how a folk-singing punk Jewish butch lesbian became a highly successful Tupperware lady. This documentary has everything: singing, dancing, pathos, tragedy and lots of kitsch how-to-sell-Tupperware clips from the 1950s and 60s. The scary thing is I remember going to Tupperware parties in the 60s! There is also something deeply disturbing below the surface too in that, no matter how successful you are as a gay man or a lesbian, you’re still part of a minority to be somehow shunned. Phranc is desperate to be Queen (or King?) of Tupperware ladies and will stop at nothing to spread the plastic message of founders Earl Tupper and Brownie Wise. If you see nothing else, don’t miss Lifetime Guarantee.
Peony Pavilion is Yonfan’s third and latest film to explore aspects of sexuality. He has made eight films since 1984 but is best known for Bugis Street (1994) and Bishonen (1998). The title Peony Pavilion is borrowed from a Kunju (a form of Chinese opera) title which was a symbol of love. Yonfan is one of Asia’s premier photographers and this is evident in the cinematography of his latest film. Peony Pavilion is set in a noble house in Suzhou, China, during the 1930s and tells the story of two women, Jade and Lan. Yonfan says Peony Pavilion is about women in love, not necessarily with each other or lesbian love. This is certainly true about Peony Pavilion which is beautiful to look at but lacking strength in its screenplay and direction.
FAMILY PACK (QUE FAISAIENT LES FEMMES PENDANT QUE L’HOMME MARCHAIT SUR LA LUNE?)
Director: Chris Vander Stappen
Chris Vander Stappen wrote the screenplay for the award winning Mie Vie En Rose and makes her directorial debut with Family Pack. The film has a very dull English title compared to the French What Were Women Up To When Men Walked On The Moon? Some of you will remember 20 July 1969 when men stepped onto that arid surface. Family Pack has a girl telling her partner that she must come out to her parents before man walks on the moon. This is a bittersweet story of familial misunderstandings with a lesbian twist among a family of oddballs. It is a little long and certainly over-the-top but still touching, funny and one of my festival favourites this year.
Director: Lukas Moodysson
Swede Moodysson’s first feature was the multi-award winning Fucking Amal, a.k.a. Show Me Love, about a lesbian relationship between two school girls. He describes his latest feature as a drama of relationships in a 70s commune. It’s all very Swedish, with the music of Abba and several painted Kombis, a gentle film that examines free sex, relationships and political correctness. Moodysson is aiming for a mainstream audience here (the film will be released in Australia in May) and although there are gay and lesbian characters, they are minor indeed. The film is sweet and entertaining although neither earth-shattering nor hard-hitting.
Queer Screen has announced some last-minute changes. Please note the following ticketing arrangements, which will come into effect from Thursday 14 February. Multiple ticket passes will no longer be available on the internet. The City Recital Hall box office, internet and telephone bookings will close at 6pm the day before the session. Tickets to the Academy Twin Cinema can now only be purchased in person at the cinema on the day of the screening. It is still worth turning up at the cinema before sessions advertised as sold out, as extra tickets may be released prior to the start of the session.