Quickies: Short Frameline reviews

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Intergalactic love intrigue in Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same

Below are some reviews of films that intrigued us from the upcoming Frameline Film Festival. Check out more of our coverage here.

Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (Madeleine Olnek, U.S., 2011) Who can't identify with that title? Metaphorically speaking, that is. Although Madeleine Olnek's B&W feature insists on etaking it quite literally, to pretty hilarious results. Lonely stationery-store clerk Jane (Lisa Haas) tells her shrink she dreamed a close encounter in which a space ship dropped a note her way that read "What are you doing later?" Shortly thereafter, she finds herself the object of amorous pursuit by Zoinx (Susan Ziegler), one of several bald-pated, high Peter Pan-collared exiles from planet Zotz who've been dumped in Manhattan to seek "hot Earthling action" and get their hearts broken — because it is believed back home that "big feelings" of love are destroying the ozone. Ergo, guilty citizens must be rendered "numb and apathetic" by off-shore interspecies romance before safely returning. Meanwhile two badly mismatched government operatives (Dennis Davis, Alex Karpovsky) are spying upon the intergalactic love intrigue. Go Fish (1994) meets Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), at last! June 25, 3:30 p.m., Castro. (Dennis Harvey)

The Evening Dress (Myriam Aziza, France, 2009) Everybody's crushed on a teacher at some point, and indeed everybody in Helene Solenska's (Lio) sixth grade French grammar class seems to have a crush on her. Why not: she's attractive, wears sexy clothing (by classroom standards at least), and addresses the occasional sass with challenging provocation rather than simple discipline. But shy, studious Juliette (Alba Gaia Bellugi) has a crush bordering on obsession, particularly once she misinterprets teach's attentions toward outgoing male student Antoine (Léo Legrand). You're never too young to have a nervous breakdown, and our heroine's increasingly reckless actions threaten to make her a pariah. Myriam Aziza's feature is in that My Life as a Dog (1985) realm of movies about unpleasant childhoods that aren't exploitative but at times grow truly discomfiting — it's a worst case-scenario of pubescent imagination run amuck amid the usual teasing and bullying of peers. It's a very good film if not an especially pleasant one. June 22, 4 p.m., Castro. (Harvey)

A Few Days of Respite (Amor Hakkar, Algeria and France, 2010) Quiet, bespectacled Moshen and his younger lover Hassan have fled Iran in the hopes of starting a new life together in Paris. They have only each other, and yet, because they lack visas, they must keep their distance while traveling to avoid arousing suspicion. While on a train in southern France, Moshen befriends Yolande, an older widow hungry for companionship who offers him a quick job painting her flat in a nearby small town. He agrees, forcing Hassan to continue hiding out, first in plain sight, and later, unknown to Yolande, in her attic, until tragedy drags everything out into the open. Algerian writer-director Amor Hakkar, who also plays Moshen, has crafted a sparse, intimate drama — emotionally enriched by its muted performances and minimal dialogue — about the lengths we are willing to go for love and the price we must pay in the process. Mon/20, 9:30 p.m., Elmwood; June 22, 9:30 p.m., Castro. (Matt Sussman)

How Are You? (Jannik Splidboel, Denmark, 2011) In the past few years Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, a Berlin-based artistic duo and romantic couple, have become international art world darlings known for their ambitious, playful, and critical large-scale installations, such as turning an exhibition space into a life-size replica of a New York City subway station or building a Prada pop-up shop in the Southwestern art mecca Marfa, Texas. At only 70 minutes, How Are You? can't help but be a whirlwind tour, air kissing the bigger issues (commodity fetishism, identity politics, commercialism, and the vexed relationship the art world has to all three) Elmgreen and Dragset's projects touch on while tracing the duo's career trajectory all the way to their victory lap at the 2009 Venice Biennale. Brief but solid. Sun/19, 6:30 p.m., Roxie. (Sussman)

L.A. Zombie (Bruce LaBruce, Germany/U.S./France, 2010) If you're going to see one Bruce LaBruce gay zombie erotic film, don't make it L.A. Zombie. Alas, the latest from the queer Canadian auteur doesn't hold up alongside its thematic predecessor, 2008's Otto; or Up With Dead People. Lacking any of Otto's subtlety, L.A. Zombie is all sex, no substance. Sometimes that works: LaBruce's The Raspberry Reich (2004) doesn't go light on the porn, and that's surely one of his best. But L.A. Zombie is lacking on all fronts. It stars noted gay porn actor Francois Sagat as a possible zombie (as in Otto, this is never made clear) who makes it his mission to fuck dead men back to life. Insert endless scenes of the zombie sticking his weird alien cock into gaping wounds and ejaculating blood onto corpses. If you can stomach that sentence, you can handle the film, but what's the point? LaBruce's past efforts have all the full-frontal male nudity without sacrificing the humor or cultural commentary. June 23, 9:30 p.m., Victoria. (Louis Peitzman)

Miwa: A Japanese Icon (Pascal-Alex Vincent, France, 2011) Chanteuse, star of stage and screen, outspoken champion of gay rights, drag queen: Akihiro Miwa has worn these many titles on her taxi-yellow, hair-like tiaras since she first rose to prominence as an androgynous torch singer at Tokyo jazz clubs in the 1950s. But it wasn't until her dazzling star turn as the titular jewel thief in the camp classic Black Lizard (1968) that Miwa became a household name throughout Japan. Despite its clear admiration of its subject, Pascal Alex-Vincent's documentary gives Miwa the Wikipedia treatment, resulting in a film that shares the unfortunate distinction of being both heartfelt and dull. Even his interviews with the lady herself come off as lusterless. Do yourself a favor, and track down a copy of Black Lizard instead. Mon/20, 1:30 p.m., Castro. (Sussman)

The Mouth of the Wolf (Pietro Marcello, Italy, 2009) This experimental narrative is a mix of archival footage and dramatic vignettes depicting the great love between two unlikely entwined souls who met in prison: ex-hood/longtime jailbird Enzo, a.k.a. Vincenzo Motta), and sometimes drug-addicted transsexual Mary Monaco (who died last year after filming). It's also a lyrical appreciation of Genoa, the fabled northern Italian seaport that's experienced tumultuous changes for over two millennia. Pietro Marcello's unpinnable "docu-fiction" — Motta and Monaco apparently play themselves, a highlight being a 12-minute, nearly unbroken-shot dual interview — is frequently gorgeous cinematic poetry. If you seek the more conventional rewards of prose, you'll probably be bored. However: anybody looking for Daddy should be informed that Enzo is pretty much the last word in unreconstructed macho-manliness. June 22, 9:30 p.m., Elmwood; June 24, 11 a.m., Castro. (Harvey)

Smut Capital of America (Michael Stabile, U.S., 2010) San Francisco. It's smutty! You already know that, but do you know how deep-down and dirty it really is, in a historical sense? Basically we invented hardcore pornography in the 1960s (OMG, pubic hair!) and this lively local short, soon to expand to full-length, tells that story through fascinating archival footage, no-punch-pulled interviews with folks like John Waters and pornologist John Karr, and titillating naughty bits. Throughout there's a feeling that a vital part of the story of sexual liberation, gay and straight, is being unearthed. And the raunchy tales of Polk Street hustlers, sticky-floored cinemas, and buck-wild hippie girls throwing open their golden gates will flood you with San Francisco pride. The short plays as part of the "Only in San Francisco" program with Running in Heels: The Glendon 'Anna Conda' Hyde Story and Making Christmas: The View From the Tom and Jerry Christmas Tree. Sun/19, 11 a.m., Victoria. (Marke B.)

Weekend (Andrew Haigh, U.K., 2011) The mumblecore-y movie many of us who lived through the 1990s wish was made back then: all that's missing is the purposefully retro Cure soundtrack. Two scruffy, hipsterish, actually attractive Brit boys enjoy an ideal weekend fling. There is a fixie involved. Commitment-phobes each — one because he isn't quite into the gay scene, one because he's too full-on liberated for relationship gibberish — they gradually and adorably deal with their emotional attraction. By no means is this My Beautiful Launderette, and the melancholy self-regard might come a bit thick (Weekend was a big hit at the SXSW film fest, so ... ), but it's a well-acted, lovely film that examines the state of cute white skinny young bearded gay blokes today. Fri/17, 4:15, Castro. (Marke B.)

Without (Mark Jackson, U.S., 2011) This first feature by Seattle's Mark Jackson (not to be confused with the Bay Area theater talent) is a stark reading of the psyche of 19-year-old Joslyn (Joslyn Jensen), newly arrived as temporarily caretaker to nearly-vegetative, wheelchair-bound Frank (Ron Carrier) while his kids and grandkids are on vacation. Left with this almost completely helpless charge — requiring butt-wiping, wheelchair-to-bed lifting, and regular transfusions of the Fishing Channel as stimulant — Joslyn seems to wallow in rather than escape her problems. Which appear to consist largely of a lesbian relationship whose gasping breaths we witness in occasional flashback. Isolated by no Internet or cellphone reception, not to mention her own powers of repression, Joslyn gradually looses grip as Jackson's narrative grows more disturbing and ambiguous. Sat/18, 6:30 p.m., Victoria. (Harvey)

Frameline 35: San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival

June 16–26, most films $9–$15

Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF

Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, 2966 College, Berk.

Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., SF

Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., SF

www.frameline.org

 

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