In Bani Koshnoudi’s ‘Fireflies’ (Luciernagas) Arash Marandi plays Ramin, who is from Iran. He somehow ends up in the port town of Veracruz, Mexico after stowing away in a ship (We find out later he has exiled from Iranian jail) In the beginning scenes, we see him negotiating to try to get on another ship, and he says he wants to go to Greece or Turkey. We later find out he is gay, and ha a boyfriend from home he talks to on video. His life is in some kind of limbo- he is staying at a hotel, and is working odd jobs. The film is more slice of life than narrative, as we see his day to day existence, navigating a foreign country and trying to get by as he learns the language and customs. The film could be slow-moving, and shows its indie leanings, but I gave it a little patience and found it rewarding. I was able to see a lot of the hurdles he is facing, and will be facing (we never get a resolution on his plight) and I was glad to see a film about a gay man looking for validation in different facets of relationships.
‘Wigstock’ was born to prove that drag queens can show themselves during the day, and not just at midnight shows at The Pyramid, across from Tompkins Square Park, where the festival was heard. Part of the fun was that the people in the audience were encouraged to wear a wig, in solidarity with the performers. I wasn’t there the very first year, but I was there when the event still felt like a family thing. Now, of course, drag via ‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race,’ is as mainstream as one gets, and drag nowadays is so commercial and finessed. During those time, drag was more about personality, and uniqueness – each queen had something intelligent and witty to say.
That, of course, is what ‘Wig’ tries to say. This documentary is as big as one can get – it is on HBO. and produced by a whole slew of people (Neil Patrick Harris and his husband among the eight listed) and has interviews with the OGs, like Lady Bunny and Linda Simpson. Sure, the message is repeatedly reminded, and shown (the archival footage from the 90s is special to watch) but the film is a bit all over the place. Did we really need all the footage of the new last Woodstock that seems so commercial and corporate? I guess they needed to prove their original point. But still, there are a lot of things that can be taken away from the film, and the children should be able to learn a thing or two from the ‘old queens’ who paved the way for them, so they can shamelessly watch ‘Drag Race’ now in the comfort of their couches.
Someone on Letterboxd described ‘Mi Mejor Amigo,’ as the Patagonian ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ and of course I did everything I could to see this film right away. And even though I wouldn’t describe the film as such, I thought the film, directed my Martin Deus was effective and sensitive, and I recommend it highly.
It is about a young man, Lorenzo (Angelo Mutti Spinetta) who is living a quiet life in the Patagonian region of Argentina. When Caito (Lautaro Rodriguez) comes to live with them, he finds himself confronting feeling sand a lot of the status quo that he has been comfortable with. The two develop a deep friendship, and Lorenzo ends up taking care and protecting Caito. I know some have described this as a gay coming-of-age movie, but that part is a little ambiguous. When Lorenzo’s mother confronts him about being gay, Lorenzo just shields his face and says that ‘I am not in love, I just feel bad for him.’
But is he? Lorenzo is shown pursuing and even having sex with a young girl, even as we see him almost swooning over Caito. I know some viewers would feel shortchanged by the relationship between Lorenzo and Caito, but I think I like it more that everything is subtle and could be interpreted either way. I have to say though that Spinetta is a fantastic actor, showing all the turmoil and confusion of being young and confused and unsure about everything he is feeling. I felt every emotion in his face, in his gaze. it may be my projection, but I felt the very deep love and affection he felt for Caito.
When people ask me ‘Do you miss New York,’ I always answer yes and no. Of course, I miss what the city has to offer, but at the same time, my New York, the one I loved, is really not their anymore. For better or worse, the New York City now is very different from the one I knew, and I am sure even if I were there, I would still miss the one I had.
The message we get in ‘The Black Man in San Francisco’ is similar. It is a love letter to the city, and at the same time, it is an acknowledgement of how things have changed, as it is now inhabited by people who do not know the city. ‘You cannot hate San Francisco if you don’t love it,’ a character says, and those words resonate. It’s the same feeling when someone talks crap about a friend of yours. I can do it, but I sure hell will defend him if you say the same thing about him.
There’s not much narrative in the film, about friends who squat in a house in the city. Jimmie Fails stars as Jimmie Fails, who claim a house that he says was built by his grandfather in 1946. We learn a lot more about that house and the character, but in obtuse ways. Things are said and revealed but not directly told int he story telling. The scenes work like some sort of a puzzle. Int he beginning they kind of make little sense, but I was in my Uber on my way home when I realized how everything kind of fit. This is a film and a story that stays with you more as you think about it. Director Joe Talbot sets the film with such poetic shots – the city has never looked more beautiful, even as it shows what is bleak about it. I bet the film will benefit more from a second viewing, as I am sure there are details I missed. It’s an art piece, one that should be framed in a museum.
I could go all ‘critic’ on ‘Shooting Star,’ the ‘revealing new musical’ playing at the Hudson Theater in Los Angeles. Written by Florian Klein (known in the gay adult industry as hans Berlin,’ the show is, to be frank, on the bland side, and that is maddening because the gay porn industry is supposed to be scintillating and sexy in and of itself. And since this is a musical, I would have to say that the songs (by Thomas Zaufke with lyrics by Erik Ransom) should really be better. Looking at this on the surface level, it really is a bore.
But thank God the direction by Michael Bello lifts everything up. And the cast, led by Taubert Nadalini (as Taylor Trent) is top notch so the show makes for an enjoyable evening. Nadalini’s voice soars, even as he sings some pretty insipid lyrics. You don’t care, because he has charm to spare, and has sizzling chemistry with Nathan Mohebi, who plays Jesse Apollo. Bello’s directorial touch is mostly light, probably because he know there’s not much meat to the story (your typical farm boy to porn star tale) that there’s no sense extracting juice from something bone-dry. You will recognize a lot of talent on stage (My fave was Carson Robinette, who plays JR Andrews, ‘America’s Most Famous Bottom’) so everything else will be forgiven. Plus, they all look legitimate-stage ready, so really, what’s the harm? Check pretensions at the door, and I bet you will have an orgasm watching this.
I have this strange disease wherein I have to check out any film that is labeled a rom com. And to be honest, I haven’t really seen a satisfying one in a long while, to be honest. But I found ‘Plus One’ to be good representation of the genre. Written and Directed by Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer, it hits most of all the right notes. I have this thing wherein I kind of don’t trust films directed by two people, but the film felt cohesive in style and structure. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me want to fall in love. This is as close to a winner as one gets. A lot of people have been singling out Maya Erskine as the one who carries the film, and I have to admit it took a little bit for me to warm up to her. At first, I found her character annoying but the writers knew what they were doing and it a good payoff. I thought Jack Quaid was effective as well, kind of a ‘straight man’ to all of Erskine’s excesses. Their chemistry simmered, and int he end you pulled for them. The actors will make or break a romantic story. In here, they made the film blossom.
On a slighter note, I also saw ‘Ali’s Wedding.’ which a lot of people have compared to ‘The Big Sick.’ It’s not as nuanced a film, but this film covers a similar ground: the Muslim experience in the modern world, and how to balance and preserve traditional values as you evolve. This is more on the predictable side, all rote ideas plugged, but it has its charms.
Rural Iceland is the setting for Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson’s ‘Heartstone,’ about a pair of friends, Thor (Baldur Einarsson) and Christian (Blaer Hinriksson) who discover more about themselves one late Summer. Amidst domestic problems at home, but find solace int heir friendship. Christian seems to find more in the company of Thor, which the latter dismisses, and this results to Christian committing suicide. It’s a sad story of one’s coming out to himself, and the internal repercussions that go with it, Atmospheric Iceland is gorgeous and beautifully shot, and the story is as touching.