This year's Frameline is bursting with documentaries about legendary nightlife personalities. Call it the Party Monster effect. Following the release of two films about the tragedy of Michael Alig's breakneck rise and murderous fall, filmmakers have become more attuned to the significance of clubs in gay life or else they've realized that featuring outrageous club kids in their movies is a shortcut to notoriety.
Only available via online clips, the blaxploitation homage Starrbooty features an over-the-top RuPaul as a supermodel-spy who must go undercover as a New York City street hooker to rescue her kidnapped niece from an evil arch-nemesis. Pavlovian scenester stimuli Lady Bunny, Lahoma van Zandt, and Candis Cayne are on hand to spice up the (admittedly, a tad tired) proceedings. A cameo by heavily accented porn god Michael Lucas is priceless for its awkwardness.
From the other side of the country, and the comedy spectrum, comes Alexis Arquette: She's My Brother, which documents the transgender transformation of Los Angeles scene star (and actor!) Alexis Arquette. We follow Alexis exhaustively as she shops, clubs, and dishes on her future vagina until she throws a bitch fit at the end about the intrusiveness of the cinematic project (how postmodern). La-la Land drag luminaries Jackie Beat and Candy Ass (what, no Chi Chi Larue?) offer comments throughout.
The Godfather of Disco purports to tell the story of Mel Cheren, the storied gay West End Records founder who presided over such dance music innovations as the 12-inch single, the instrumental B-side, and the DJ dance mix and the release of groundbreaking disco nuggets like "Sesso Matto" and "Is It All Over My Face." Three decades' worth of superstar DJs and club promoters enthuse over their favorite West End releases of yore, but director Gene Graham gives us only snatches of the songs and little information about the commentators. Still, those in the know will find it hard to resist glimpses of old Paradise Garage flyers and photos and quick chats with nightlife doyens like Johnny Dynell of Jackie 60, DJs Louie Vega and Nicky Sano, and producer John "Jellybean" Benitez. Plus, there's a galloping stream of zingers delivered by the Village People's cowboy, Randy Jones.
Dynell also pays tribute to one of NYC's hottest clubs of the past decade in Motherfucker: A Movie, which follows six months in the lives of Motherfucker's four touchingly self-important promoters. Director David Casey works hard to import something other than sublebrity worship into his pic, giving us some beautiful camerawork, lessons about the inner workings of club promotion and operation, and a wealth of cameos by partiers both weathered and nubile, from Sylvain Sylvain and Bob Gruen to Willie Ninja and Moby to the Juan Maclean and Peppermint Gummybear.
It's all cool, but also a little pointless a slew of tipsy polysexual hopefuls grinding to the latest slick club music, hardly an ounce of genuine artistic inspiration or dangerous cultural exploration in sight. (To his credit, Casey allows some of the older commentators to make this point explicitly.) "We're all just doing our thing, waiting for the next revolution," one of the participants says. Hmm. (Marke B.)
ALEXIS ARQUETTE: SHE'S MY BROTHER (Matthew Barbato and Nikki Parrott, US, 2007). Fri/15, 7 p.m., Victoria
THE GODFATHER OF DISCO (Gene Graham, US, 2007). Sat/16, 3:30 p.m., Victoria; Tues/19, 4:30 p.m., Castro
MOTHERFUCKER: A MOVIE (David Casey, US, 2007). Tues/19, 7 p.m., Victoria
STARRBOOTY (Mike Ruiz, US, 2007). June 23, 8:30 p.m., Castro