Monday, October 15, 2007

SLGFF #2 - Inspiring doc trumps soft-focus girl-love

Maybe it was because just last week I sat through hours and hours of Ken Burns' epic WWII documentary The War. The best thing about that very good series were the testimonials by veterans and civilians, reminiscing about both the good and the bad of World War II. The simple yet moving documentary Tell (6/8) (as in "Don't ask, don't tell.") plays like a missing chapter of that mega series.

Interviewing military veterans from conflicts ranging from World War II to the current war in Iraq, the film spans generations of gay, lesbian, and even transgendered folks who have served the military with honor. Some were kicked out for admitting that they're gay, others stayed quite until they were honorably discharged or were able to retire. They range from soldiers and sailors, to linguistic experts, to reconnaissance pilots, to one of the highest-ranked officers of the Coast Guard, an Admiral who literally went to the personal ads to hire a female escort to bring with him to functions. I'm not surprised that there are gays in the military, I'm just surprised at literally how many there are. More than one of the interviewees point out that these closeted folks often prove to be the best soldiers, simply because they are out there to prove they CAN be. What the film lacks in visual interest (it is almost entirely a series of talking-head interviews), it makes up for with the stories shared. This screening was preaching to the converted, but I think Tell should be seen by all those in Congress that are waffling about repealing this ridiculous law. The military should be literally taking all volunteers they can get right now.

Unfortunately, I decided to follow-up with The Chinese Botanist's Daughters (Les filles du botaniste) (4/8). As there are so few lesbian movies to buzz about, this movie has apparently gotten some word-of-mouth on the festival circuit (which we all know means nothing--see Loving Annabelle). The film itself is undeniably gorgeous. The cinematography is mind-bogglingly beautiful, with China's lush green foliage, craggy cliffy mountains, and deep gray water serving as much of the backdrop, plus the actresses involved are both very attractive and alluring. But the story of an orphan girl Min Li (Mylène Jampanoï) sent to be an assistant to a master botanist (Ling Dong Fu) only to fall in love with his beautiful daughter An (Xiao Ran Li) comes across as shallow and boringly soft-porny. Heck, when Min Li stumbles upon An lying in luxurious sleep across steaming leaves in a misty greenhouse, her bare skin luscious and glistening with sweat... well, I just about had to suppress a giggle. An abandoned greenhouse serves as a tropical Eden-like Den of Love, and, with its clear walls, is just made for someone to stumble across the undercover lovers (which of course is how it all comes to an end). There was sniffling in the theaters at the end, and my friend T turned, stone-faced, to check my reaction at the conclusion. Without smiling, I pointed to my face and said, "Dry."

[2007 Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival]

1 comment:

Vickie said...

Oooh, Tell sounds good! Hopefully it'll play here next spring, either at our FOTG or HotDocs.

And I can't say I'm surprised by ...Daughter. Oh well.