No, seriously, there were themes today – two films had Symbolic Squirrels of Immanent Wrongness and two had Symbolic Viewmasters of Lost Innocence; one, the best of the day, had both. The one I liked least – but only by comparison – also had an annoying hum, which gave me something of a headache and a tendency to zone out, though I think it was still probably the least good of the three.
Morning was spent – because I do have work to do – reading a novel about massacre and love in War Of Independence Bangladesh. Quite good, actually. I dithered, and got involved in being Wrong on the Internet, and only just made it to the BFI in time for Drool, which starred the effervescent Laura Harring – formerly of Mulholland Drive as Anora a battered housewife who develops a crush on her new African American neighbour, Imogene, and semi-accidentally shoots her husband dead when he discovers them making love. (She is provoked both by his attempt to kill her and his near-fatal shooting of their young son, who is only protected from death by a football helmet.) Imogene drives Anora, Anora’s disaffected children and the corpse across several states to see the cosmetics queen for whom she works and who has experience in these matters. Lots of experience.
The secret to winning over Tabby and Pete turns out to be LOTS OF MAKEOVERS. This is an odd film in that it is an example of that rare phenomenon Lesbian Camp. There is a lot of squeeing, and a lot of moody teen Tabby scribbling in her notebook distorted Gothic caricatures of events and people and some real tenderness.
I was on cloud 9 for a good hour afterwards. I shall watch out for anything else writer/director Nancy Kissam does.
And felt even better after Strella AKA A Woman’s Way, a wonderful Greek film set in the trans subculture of Athens – which reminded me more of my teens in Manchester and my twenties in Chicago than any other film about trans subcultures I have ever seen. It makes the point that whores and dancers usually have a whole lot else going on in their lives, especially if that whole lot is not drugs.
Stella turns tricks and imitates Callas in a nightclub and is busy rewiring a former brothel and help with the care of a dying community elder Mary who brought her up as a kid. She gets involved with Yiorgos, an ex-con from the country who is looking for his estranged son after a long stretch in jail -Yiorgos is waiting for his prison boyfriend to get out, but has fallen for Stella – who often goes by Strella because Trella means crazy – and you spend much of the film going ‘they’re not going to go there surely?’ and then they do, and then they do some more. And I am not going to spoil you further except to say that this is not a Greek Tragedy, because it is about a lot of charmingly amoral queers who are pragmatic enough not to cry over spilt milk.
Well, they may cry a bit, but mostly for dramatic effect and when Callas is singing ‘Vissi D’Arte’ on the soundtrack. But happy endings, of a sort, are on the way…
Director/co-writer Panos Koutras made this with a non-professional cast for not much money and you really would not know it. He took time to rehearse them and that time shows – they are at once naturalistic and – when appropriate – hilarious and poignant.
Probably my top film of the festival so far.
Plan B is an Argentinian comedy of sexual manners; dumped by his girlfriend Laura, Bruno decides to exploit the rumours of his replacement Pablo’s bisexuality, and hilarious consequences ensure. Actually, they are touching rather than hilarious, because both Pablo and Bruno develop feelings they never expected, even if we did. This is a very good film about the breaking down of compulsory heterosexuality – Pablo and Bruno are both unthinking twits for whom being a faggot has always been one of the worst things they can imagine. Until now.
All quite cute, but shot in the dingiest of colour and with the aforementioned headache-inducing buzz.
Yiorgos finds a Viewmaster he lost as a child and Bruno gives Pablo one. Imogene runs over a squirrel which has to be buried in a way that foreshadows the eventual burial of Cheb and Yiorgos is haunted by a hallucinatory squirrel which has some relationship with one on his Viewmaster disc and which forgives him at the end. In the first moments of the film, he hands his boyfriend a copy of Great Expectations which turns out to be a very perverse sort of foreshadowing.
I looked in at the Wotever party and came home to blog. Tralala! I am still buzzing.