Frameline celebrates 20 years of "New Queer Cinema" — and beyond
Elsewhere in the fest, French writer-director Virginie Despentes's Bye Bye Blondie has a mosh pit soundtrack and follows, clumsily, Araki's frenetic and unrestrained example. Béatrice Dalle (1986's Betty Blue) and Emmanuelle Béart (2002's 8 Women) play former teenage punk rock sweethearts who met in a mental institution and reunite after a long estrangement to reenact the past and rip open old wounds. A high point, though not for their relationship, occurs when Dalle's slightly unhinged character tells a woman at a highbrow cocktail party, populated by Paris's public-intellectual set, that her dress is sectarian, before physically assaulting another guest. Cloying and soap operatic, offering the gauzy fantasy fulfillment of a Harlequin Romance, Nicole Conn's A Perfect Ending nevertheless earns points for its premise of an uptight housewife who employs the services of a call girl — and for casting Morgan Fairchild as a madam who uses her Barbie collection as a staffing organizational tool.
Other queer stories are more successfully delineated. Aurora Guerrero's coming-of-age tale Mosquita y Mari, which screened at the SF International Film Fest in April, soulfully and subtly captures the ambiguous friendship that develops between two Latina high schoolers struggling with unspoken feelings as well as pressures both familial and financial. In Joshua Sanchez's Four, adapted from a play by Christopher Shinn, Fourth of July fireworks and a mood of lonely isolation serve as a backdrop to four disparate individuals' uncomfortable attempts to find physical and emotional connection. Stephen Cone's The Wise Kids is set in and around a Southern Baptist church in Charleston, South Carolina, and tracks a trio of teenagers as they sort out the facts of their religious and sexual identities.
There's a startlingly small quantity of queer baby-making going on in this year's fest compared with recent years, and the family proposed in writer-director Jonathan Lisecki's romantic comedy Gayby (as well as Ash Christian's Petunia) is not necessarily nuclear or easy to encapsulate in kindergarten on "Let's draw our family tree!" day, marrying the concept of queer family to the Heather-has-two-mommies narrative. The film's gay-boy Matt and straight-girl BFF Jenn decide that it's time to settle down and start a family together, but reject the idea of turkey basting or consulting a fertility specialist in favor of comically awkward, highly unerotic, goal-oriented sexual intercourse.
Come to think of it, their method could resonate with the procreation-only, can't-wait-to-be-raptured crowd, who might be less enthusiastic when the pair switch to good old-fashioned DIY insemination and Matt's friend Nelson (a scene-stealing Lisecki) brings over a container of holy cat cremains to sanctify the proceedings. Either way, with queer spawning sometimes serving as the rope in a tug-of-war argument about heteronormativity, queer identity, transgression, and basic rights, an unruly rom-com about queer family planning is a fitting entry in a genre and a festival that have both grown into panoramic representations of the queer world.
June 14-24, most shows $9-$11