April 27th, 2009

movie popcorn

Movie reviews

It was a four-movie weekend.

First up, at the Tribeca Film Festival for FILM IST… a girl and a gun, an avant garde film by Austrian artist Gustav Deutsch, who makes his films by assembling clips from hundreds of other movies. The title and premise were intriguing, as was the festival program’s admonition that it was for adult audiences only, which apparently was because he used footage from the Kinsey Institute’s collection, which included some early bondage and bestiality films. I was also encouraged by the fact that his other art films have surprising high (8.0+) viewer ratings at IMDb.

It looked like everything was taken from older films in the public domain, much of it either silent or silenced. Almost everything was in black and white, but the filmmaker had drenched each clip in vivid hues of yellow, blue, and purple. The film was engaging enough for its full 93 minutes (!), and according to the credits footage was taken from over 140 different movies, but I think I would have liked the movie even better if there had more intercutting between even more short scenes, suggesting connections or abstractions, rather than so many longer protracted scenes where you would get involved in the original narrative.

I like the film’s score even better, also a collage of all sorts of disparate music (Bohren & Der Club of Gore, Soap & Skin, to name just two) woven together into a dramatic and eclectic wall of sound. Gustav Deutsch isn’t the next Guy Maddin, but I’m glad to have seen it, since it probably will never be broadcast or easily available on DVD.

But even better was seeing the film with Brian/wonderboynj, and over a lovely café dinner, getting to hear some of his stories about growing up gay, moving to NYC, and his experiences with some of his heroes and idols, Yoko One, Keith Haring, and Andy Warhol.

A guilty pleasure of mine are movies featuring The Fool, naifs, and idiots – from Jim Varney to Jerry Lewis to Laurel & Hardy. You can add Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean character to that list, so on a lazy Saturday morning I sat down to watch Mr. Bean’s Holiday. What a curious oddity, a G-rated film for adults. While the casting of a boy and much of the slapstick would make it seem it was made for kids, there’s too many subtitles (while the near-mute Mr. Bean doesn’t communicate much at all beyond his haplessness, much of the other characters’ dialog is in French and Russian!), as well as an extended subplot sending up pretentious art films and directors (and the film festivals and audiences that indulge them). Although it’s no Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, it had all sorts of delightful bits, including a cameo by the brilliant French actor Jean Rochefort, and the film opens and closes with one of my favorite earwig songs, “La Mer.”

I’m also a huge fan of George Burns & Gracie Allen. One of the movies Gracie made without her husband, but playing the same feather-brained character, is Mr. and Mrs. North. It’s cut from the same cloth as the Thin Man movies, and clearly was made because of their popularity. It features a convoluted murder mystery as complicated as anything Raymond Chandler wrote, made all the worse by Gracie’s attempts at both solving the mystery while at the same time trying to cover up for friends that might be implicated. Being a comedic mystery, one surprise was an early instance of a homosexual killer, one I doubt Vito Russo caught in his Celluloid Closet. Although the intimation is subtle (it was 1942 and Hollywood was hewing close to the Hayes Code) it’s also pretty clear. Is it better or worse that the killer just happens to be homosexual (that is, he doesn’t kill because he’s homosexual, as Hollywood would give us so many times later), or just that this inclusion was so gratutious? See if you can spot the homo here: http://www.tcm.com/video/videoPlayer/?cid=222369&titleId=83668

Back to the Tribeca Film Festival for Outrage, the documentary about outing closeted gay politicians. The film was directed by Kirby Dick, who also made Twist of Faith (about sexual abuse by Catholic priests) and This Film Has Not Yet Been Rated (about the MPAA’s heavy censorious hand and double standards regarding sex and violence), both of which were nominated for Best Documentary Academy Awards, so you know he’s a good filmmaker as well as not fond of hypocrisy and abuses of power.

Outrage pulls no punches, names names, and backs up all its assertions with plenty of evidence. The film shows not just the relationship but the continuum from closeted politicians to homophobic gaybashing. I only wish he had been harder on the complicity of the establishment media in not pursuing these stories as aggressively as they report on other subjects. It’s a good film, never boring and moves quickly. It will be released in major cities early next month and expands to a wider release from there. You should see it.