Sunday, October 19, 2008

SLGFF 2008 #2 - Murderous ghosts and killer drag queens

The Festival of the Gays loves novelist Sarah Waters. Seattle got to host her in a virtual lesbian-rific hootenany a few years ago when she came to present the theatrical premiere of Tipping the Velvet, then a couple years later, SLGFF hosted Fingersmith. So it is no surprise that SLGFF screened Affinity (4/8), her third adaptation (all have been adapted for British television).

Unfortunately, Affinity is Waters least-gripping novel, and that is reflected in the film. The story takes place in Waters' fave Victorian era, and follows a single society lady, Margaret Prior as she decides to go out of her comfort zone (and the pressures of her mother to marry) and become a regular visitor to the local women's prison. There she becomes intrigued and then besotted with the lovely inmate Selena Dawes, who is imprisoned for a murder she claimed she did not commit. It was a sinister male ghost who was the murderer, she claims (she is, after all, a medium to the spirits). Margaret is so obsessed with her new bosom friend that she believes heart and soul in her innocence, especially as unexplained supernatural things happen, like when she finds a lock of Selena's hair in her own bed. You can see it coming... in order to run away, Margaret needs to escape her prison of society life, and Selena her literal prison. But it may not be so easy.... What was missing from both the novel and the adaptation is the more blatant romance, and, well, sexiness of Waters' other stories. This leaves for a lot of repression and blank-faced repression. Affinity is OK, but it never really takes off as being something memorable.

The fest this year has tons of documentaries, some with local roots like Testimony (and tomorrow's For My Wife...). Testimony (4/8) is a well-meaning talking-head feature that interviews a variety of queer folks about the question: Can one be queer and religious? The resounding answer is YES! So much so that I couldn't help but feel that there could have been more diversity in these folks' answers. Their backgrounds are of various Christian denominations, Jewish, and Jehovah's Witness, but they are all overwhelmingly white, and look comfortably upper-middle-class based on their backyards and homes where the interviews took place. Everyone seemed so, well, happy that it didn't acknowledge in any depth the hurt and rejection that is faced by many gays as they are rejected from their church or religious community after coming out as gay. I think I just wanted more grit.

Funny enough, there was more dirt to be found in the charming behind-the-scenes Pageant (6/8), which follows half a dozen contestants as they vie for the Miss Gay America title. The rules: No hormones. No surgical enhancements. But everything else, in the female impersonator arena sure looks like fair game! Follow these earnest contestants, some whom enter year after year, as they represent their states with pride. They may be flight attendants, or work at Disney World in their real lives, but oh how they blossom on stage in full drag. My jaw dropped at some performances, particularly those of adorable drag veteran David Lowman, aka Coti Collins. Coti's Reba McEntire and Judy Garland impersonations have to be seen to be believed. Pageant has the homey charm of films like Spellbound and even Best in Show, and it certainly worth checking out.

1 comment:

Vickie said...

Bummer about "Affinity." AND "Testimony." Here's hoping "Pageant" makes it here next year...