Sunday, October 14, 2007

SLGFF #1 - Or as we like to call it, The Festival of the Gays!

'Tis that time of year again, when The Gays emerge from their bars, nightclubs, and knitting circles, and head into the movie theater for the promise of *perhaps* catching a good gay-themed film at the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. Having seen a lot of these films, they tend to be hit or miss (and when they miss, whoo-boy, they tend to be exceptionally stinky... the type of movie where if it were straight, it wouldn't even be touched by festivals with a 10-foot pole). But when there is something good out there... something perhaps so good that it is good as a movie-movie, rather than just a gay movie, well, everyone can rejoice. So, without further ado, we delved into Opening Night of the 2007 Festival of the Gays...

The Opening Night film looked promising. The Walker (3/8) has a stellar cast, ranging from Kristin Scott Thomas, to Lili Tomlin, to Lauren Bacall, to Ned Beatty, to, well, Woody Harrelson in the title role. A "walker," in the world of Washington, DC, is a man who escorts big-shot politician's wives to phancy-pants events when her man is not available. Woody plays Carter Page III, a foppish man with cheesy 80s moustache and nice wig that he keeps in a jar by the door. His Virginia drawl is so thick that it sounds like his mouth is full of molasses, and I know that I wasn't the only one who couldn't understand a word he was saying for the first 20 minutes. Regardless, he is a walker who charms his lady-friends like Lily, Lauren, and Kristin--so much so that they meet weekly to play poker and dish political gossip. That is until Kristin finds her lover (who is NOT her husband) dead in his home, and Carter decides to cover for her, unwittingly finding himself in the middle of an investigation. The concept of the film is interesting... it takes place in the modern Bush administration, and points out that a homosexual man is the most convenient fall-guy to destroy in a scandal, but at the same time it goes nowhere with this, except to imply that all of Carter's old girlfriends drop him like a hot potato as soon as his name is unfairly tainted. Woody's weird accent aside, the movie is a contrast of exceptionally good acting (by Scott Thomas) and welcome screen company (like Tomlin and Bacall), with bafflingly poor side plots, like Carter's relationship with his edgy artist lover, played by hottie German actor Moritz Bleibtreu (Run Lola Run). There is no compelling reason to explain why these two are together, and there is absolutely no chemistry between the actors. Plot-wise, the film kind of muddles along, and is strangely dull when it should have been scandalous. Overall, the vibe at the party following the film is that people thought The Walker to be one big MEH.

I have the theory that foreign films are often inherently better than American ones, so I next decided to see Vivere (6/8), the latest film by German director Angelina Maccarone (who directed the very good Unveiled previously). Francesca (Esther Zimmering) is a weary young woman who is basically supporting her Italian father and teenage sister Antoinetta (Kim Schnitzer), taking the place of a mother who abandoned them years before. It is Christmas Eve, and Antoinetta runs away from home, off to Rotterdam to be with her rocker boyfriend. It is up to Francesca to literally drop everything and take off in her cab for a three hour drive to find her little sister. On the way, Francesca comes across a car accident and picks up the victim, a 60-ish woman who we find out is named Gerlinde (Hannelore Elsner), who has her own sorrows and lost love to be slowly revealed. With nowhere else to go, Gerlinde stays in the cab all the way to Rotterdam, and soon the three characters' overlapping perspectives are revealed, one at a time. At first, after half an hour or so, when the story suddenly seemed to come to a head, and then flipped backwards to start at the beginning with Gerlinde, I thought the leap of narration was a bit of a jolt. But it all slowly started to come together, and it was an interesting twist (especially when two characters interpret the same moment slightly differently). Yes, it is an old trick, going all the way to Rashomon, but it worked. The three actresses were very good, especially Esther Zimmering as Francesca, who was so hungry for affection and attention, that her attempt to seduce Gerlinde is both sweet and heartbreaking. All three female roles were well-written and complex, which is always a delight in any film.

Finally, my first Saturday night of the fest was topped off by the Xanadu Sing-Along. It is hard to rate Xanadu (4/8 for the film, 7/8 for the Sing-Along). It is by no means a good movie, but now that I've seen it a couple times recently, I appreciate its cheesiness, bad acting, and dull-to-delightful plotline. And you have to love Gene Kelly's adorable earnestness in a role that would literally destroy his big-screen career. Plus, I just had to see it on a big screen. Everyone knew that when I watched it at home recently, for the first time in years, I was agog at how HOT Olivia Newton-John was in the closing climactic "Xanadu" medley. When she comes out prancing awkwardly in high heels, wearing her parachute-pants-glitzy-disco-diva one piece... WOW. Her hair is crimped and fluffy; her smile open, inviting, and flirty; her lips glossy. Her skin is so dewey and California-golden that you just want to lick her oft-exposed shoulder. Or whatever. Needless to say, a fun time was had by all, and big points go out to my pal ShehryBobbins, who dressed up fantastically as 40s-crooner-Olivia and was robbed... ROBBED in the costume contest! Drat to the winner! Rollerskates and a big Dolly Parton wig do NOT an ONJ make! Cheers also go to the woman in line who dressed as one of the muses (she was also robbed in the awards, coming in third!). We didn't realize how perfectly right-on her costume was until the opening credits when she not only stood in front of the theater audience, under the movie screen, reenacting her likeness coming to life and bursting out of the mural, but she pranced, muse-like, up and down the aisles for the entire song. Hoorah!

[2007 Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival]


Vickie said...

I can only imagine your glee at the Sing-Along. ;-)


I miss the Seattle FOTG.

Linda said...

I dare anyone to say that Olivia is NOT hot in the first couple of minutes of this final medley of Xanadu.
(I'm a little torn about the other guises, like oiled-up leopard-print ONJ and space-alien ONJ, for instance.)

Sure she is a little wobbly dancing on heels, but that can be forgiven. And note the presence of the breakdancers from the Breakin' movies! Trivia: This was the first time breakdancing was featured in a major film! :)

Jennifer said...

OMG, I'm still laughing at the line about licking her shoulder...or whatever. It'll come to me at the oddest times, and I feel like tears of laughter are just going to spurt out of my eyes. Brilliant, Linda, brilliant! Ooh, and do you love the barette she's wearing? It's so totally 80s!

Linda said...

I love how in this photo, her hairstyle and puffy dress are all schoolgirl-fresh and innocent, but then there is that exposed shoulder, golden skin, and ever-so-subtle come-hither look. Oh, Olivia... you saucy minx!