Full coverage of the Seattle Gay and Lesbian film festival can be found here.
For the first time in awhile, it seems that the lesbians and the gays are on parallel tracks with where their content is. Three Dollar Bill Cinema’s choices of films for the first day represents just how close we are getting in terms of how we want to display ourselves as a unified force. Even though these parallels are probably unintentional, they begin to show the conscious or subconscious behaviors that drives any given community.
Friday’s opening film, Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs Gravity, is a lesbian parallel to Thursday’s grand opening film, Back on Board: Greg Louganis, in that both are about long journeys of athletic people who force their bodies to maneuver with perfection. In Back on Board, the goal of a diver is to be graceful and precise. But, Born to Fly focuses on a dance troupe whose movements are meant to break the rules of grace and physics.
Elizabeth Streb began studying dance in the 1970s and became fascinated with breaking all the rules of dance and motion. Her choreography frequently entails dancers slamming their bodies against the ground, clear sheets of plexiglass, boxes, and various other objects in order to present a sense of impact and to break out of our physical limitations. Her stages can have moving floors, swinging I-beams, or giant circus stunt wheels, trying to break out of the mechanics these obstacles possess, while still being precise. By searching for the edge of the human body, Streb found an extreme rhythm and beauty in her various numbers. With such extreme stagings, director Catherine Gund chose to go a more traditional route with the filming of the pieces, capturing the beauty of the precision in an extremely conventional manner. What Gund loses with the conventionality of her camerawork, she regains in an unusually precise telling of Streb’s upward mobility from dancer to choreographer to owner of studios, making it an essential watch for an artist who seeks to become self-sustaining.
In the next pair of screenings, gays and lesbians searched for the edges of love by having parallel cross-generational romances. Both Gerontophilia and Tru Love showed at the same time, and both stories hit a lot of the same notes, even if they were rather different. Gerontophilia tells the story of Lake, a practically-jailbait-aged boy, who is obsessed with the elderly male figure. After taking a job at a nursing home, Lake falls in love with the elderly black queen, Melvin, and they drum up a romantic relationship, to the chagrin Lake’s girlfriend and Melvin’s family. Similarly, Tru Love tells the story of Tru, a mid-30s woman who falls in love with her heterosexual friend’s recently widowed mother, Alice, who is now freed to express her Sapphic love as she pleases, to the chagrin of Tru’s lover and Alice’s daughter.
When I first saw Bruce LaBruce’s Gerontophilia, I had noted that it was a film far gentler than LaBruce’s usual fare, eschewing hardcore pornography and queercore aesthetics for a leering fetishistic camera and indie aesthetics. I did note that LaBruce was fetishizing both the extremely young and the extremely old by frequently having both in states of undress (no full frontal), though the quantity of the nudity was far less than I had come to expect from LaBruce. Putting Gerontophilia next to Tru Love accentuates the radical choices LaBruce employs in displaying the bodies of the young and old together. Tru Love has one scene of a side character in a t-shirt and panties. The politically-charged physicality that pervades Gerontophilia is all but absent from Tru Love‘s emotional searching.
I’m not saying Tru Love is bad for not being radically-motivated about its expressions of non-youthful desire. It’s a brave movie in a society that still obsesses over youth in terms of romantic and erotic content (though, lately we also have movies like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). Still, Tru Love is a far safer film than Gerontophilia, containing only one scene of foul language that would need to be excised for a PG or PG-13 rating. The performances of Kate Trotter and Shauna MacDonald save the film from it’s Lifetime trappings, making this a feel-good romantic film for most ages.
On the other end of the spectrum was The Third One, an Argentinian film that outlines modern sex in that brief period of time after the internet went huge and before Smartphones took over the dating world. A rather young boy meets two older-to-him gentlemen while camming online. They decide to hook up, and go through the stages of the threesome hookup: the dinner, the brief in between break, the awkward start, and the hot sex. In a way, it largely resembles an updated version of Nicholson Baker’s Vox in that we learn a lot about the various parties along the way. It’s not nearly as political as Vox, but it does break down a lot of familiar steps to doing that online meet-up/date/hookup from about 2001-2008. With a 20-minute sex scene (in a 70-minute movie), Guerrero keeps the movie focused on what it was always about, a hookup that might lead to more.
One could look at The Third One as a coming of age story for the new millenium. If you didn’t hook up in high school, you probably hooked up online instead. But, even if you did, you still understand the nervousness of being the younger third wheel coming to have sex with a more experienced person, and the comfort you reach by the end of the night. Outside the maturation, The Third One is still fascinating for getting all the notes just perfect. It captures those cutting jabs in front of the other to make sure it’s known that you won’t be broken up. Who can forget the awkwardness of the too heavy come on, and the awkward semi-dodge of that come-on. Or, what about the negotiations of the chat room? The Third One is an honest, and funny, story that tells a familiar situation in a fresh way.
The first day closed with a midnight screening of Hedwig and the Angry Inch with subtitles for a sing-along! They also handed out tambourines, which I thought might be a bad idea, especially since the group behind me were talking about how they had 8 drinks at the wedding’s open bar just before the movie. But, the tambourines were actually an amazing addition, so color me pleased (especially with getting to enjoy Hedwig at the Egyptian for the first time.