Reeling: The 25th Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival continues through Sunday, November 12, at Chicago Filmmakers and Columbia College Ludington Bldg. Tickets are $7-$10, $5-$8 for members of Chicago Filmmakers; for more information call 773-293-1447.
The Gymnast Jane, a married ex-gymnast, is rehearsing dancelike aerial acrobatics with a young woman and falls for her. Their act includes a long kiss, hubby figures it out and gets angry, and a friend introduces the clueless Jane to the word bisexual. Numerous shots of the women twirling up and down hanging strips of red cloth are sensuous, even a bit erotic, but Ned Farr’s award-winning first feature is also irritating, with its calculated prettiness, pointlessly lush close-ups, and self-consciously cute lines like “Give a girl a complex, why don’t you.” 96 min. (FC) a Columbia College Ludington Bldg., 7 PM.
East Side Story Carlos Portugal’s colorful drama explores the antipathy toward homosexuals in Latino culture and the recent gentrification of east Los Angeles by white gay couples. Evoking a young Dean Stockwell, Rene Alvarado plays a closeted man who’s living with his grandmother and working at her Mexican restaurant. Just as he’s ending a relationship with another closeted man, his free-spirited aunt returns from Europe and starts dating his boyfriend. Portugal captures the gritty texture of the barrio and creates some memorable characters, but his modest drama is tripped up by heavy-handed plot developments in the second half. With Gladys Jimenez and Steve Callahan. 88 min. (JK) a Columbia College Ludington Bldg., 9 PM.
RJack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis “Maria Montez gave socialistic answers to a rented world,” declared underground filmmaker, photographer, and performance artist Jack Smith (1932-’89) in a statement that was reportedly printed and handed out at his funeral. It’s to the credit of Mary Jordan’s documentary that whatever else it overlooks, it makes that pronouncement comprehensible. Smith was a visionary anarchist artist whose pansexual and exotic utopian fantasies yielded only two finished films, Scotch Tape and Flaming Creatures, the first of which is mentioned only in Jordan’s final credits. He resisted commodification by continuously reediting his other films and reworking his live performances–a dazzling legacy that influenced everyone from Warhol to Fellini to John Waters. In some ways Smith’s art became commodified only after he died and his estranged sister gained control over his work, though that did lead to this documentary, a fascinating introduction to his special world. 94 min. (JR) a Chicago Filmmakers, 8 PM.
Dangerous Dykes Short works about girl gangs, surfer chicks, and a feisty dominatrix. 81 min. a Chicago Filmmakers, 10 PM.
Dyke Dramas Six shorts about women in love. 98 min. a Columbia College Ludington Bldg., 11:30 AM.
Ugly Duckings Fawn Yacker directed this video documentary about the staging of an LGBT-focused play at a girls’ summer camp. 83 min. a Chicago Filmmakers, noon.
Boy “Package” Nine shorts about adolescent romance, fear, and longing. 94 min. a Columbia College Ludington Bldg., 1:30 PM.
Happy Hookers Indian documentary maker Ashish Sawhny focuses on three male sex workers in Mumbai, where “alternative” sexual practices are still illegal. Also on the program: Parthiban Shanmugam’s Celestial Brides. 76 min. a Chicago Filmmakers, 2 PM.
The Fall of ’55 Back in 1955 a sex scandal in Boise, Idaho, escalated into a witch hunt after three respected local men were arrested for having sex with male minors. By the time the furor blew over, 16 men had been prosecuted for homosexual acts, some of them accused by young-adult hustlers. This video documentary by Seth Randal illuminates a chapter of gay history little remembered beyond Boise, but the material is poorly organized and the voice-over narration lackluster, which makes it difficult to follow the story’s many threads. 82 min. (AG) a Chicago Filmmakers, 3:30 PM.
Phoenix A high-flying executive (Gaetano Jones) deserts his petulant LA surfer boy (Chad Bartley) to salvage a business deal in Arizona; the clinging, naive lover follows him and discovers that he has a long-term romantic partner (Jeff Castle), a muscular but sensitive chef who dabbles in pottery. Unsurprisingly the two wronged men fall for each other, but their affair is so angst ridden I wanted them to just snap out of it. Michael Akers, formerly Martin Short’s personal assistant, directed this lugubrious video. 90 min. (AG) a Columbia College Ludington Bldg., 3:30 PM.
Avant Queer Experimental shorts by Tom Kalin (Swoon), Jean-Gabriele Periot, and others. 90 min. a Chicago Filmmakers, 5:30 PM.
Mom Costars Julie Goldman and Emily A. Burton are much better served by this road movie than by their last feature together, The D Word (2005). Burton plays a buttoned-down video producer who wants to be a broadcast journalist but makes ends meet by conducting man-on-the-street interviews for a marketing firm; Goldman is her camera operator, a gregarious, easygoing lesbian. The story is shapeless and its ending disappointingly cliched, but the women’s travels from one assignment to another are filled with observational humor that makes this video a watchable vehicle for two likable actresses. Erin Greenwell wrote and directed. 70 min. (AG) a Columbia College Ludington Bldg., 5:30 PM.
Love Sick Halfway through this Romanian drama, two lesbian lovers debate the Vicomte de Chateaubriand and the difference between love and illness, giving an intellectual gloss to a movie that mostly just titillates. The women are fellow university students in Bucharest, one a serious, well-behaved country girl (Ioana Barbu), the other a needy, impetuous city dweller (Maria Popistasu of Crash Test Dummies) mired in an incestuous relationship with her sociopath brother (Tudor Chirila). Director Tudor Giurgiu favors flash over substance, and for a film about passion this is a curiously cold exercise, the source of the women’s ardor a mystery. In Romanian with subtitles. 86 min. (AG) a Chicago Filmmakers, 7:30 PM.
20 Centimeters Monica Cervera, the comic sourpuss of El Crimen Perfecto, plays a preoperative male transsexual prostitute whose narcoleptic dreams are rendered on-screen as a series of elaborate musical production numbers. With a mug like hers Cervera must have realized this was her big chance to star in a musical, and she gives a dazzling performance. The wide-screen song-and-dance segments are a lot more fun than the sub-Almodovar story connecting them, which also involves crude street whores and a dwarf who wants to play the cello. I didn’t believe for a second that Cervera was a biological male, but this 2005 Spanish feature proves she’s more than capable of carrying a picture on her own. Ramon Salazar directed. In Spanish with subtitles. 109 min. (JJ) Tickets for the screening and a closing-night afterparty are $25, $22 for members of Chicago Filmmakers. a Columbia College Ludington Bldg., 7:30 PM.
R Avant-Garde Masters: Andy Warhol & Jack Smith Fred Camper has described Andy Warhol’s Couch (1964, 58 min.) as “14 unedited camera rolls, each showing the couch in Warhol’s ‘Factory’ from a different angle. The various figures assembled around it form a series of powerfully blocked compositions, their mood overtly erotic: a great many bananas are consumed, one nude woman fails to attract the attention of a guy working on his motorcycle, and almost everyone stares off into the distance with a bored languor that has come to characterize a whole school of fashion photography. In the last third the sex becomes explicit, and the erotic glances of the early scenes give way to the viewer’s voyeuristic participation, one of Warhol’s major subjects.” Reviewing Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures (1963, 45 min.), Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote, “Forget everything you might have heard about Smith’s legendary bisexual, orgiastic, superlow-budget experimental masterpiece–a lot more is going on here, artistically and otherwise, than either Jonas Mekas or Susan Sontag has ever suggested. This jubilant, celebratory film holds up amazingly well; despite its notoriety and censorship during the 60s, it’s more than just an orgy of nude and seminude bodies. The camera and even the cheap, hothouse decor participate in the joyful free-for-all, suggesting both the privacy of a Josef von Sternberg wet dream and the collective force of a delirious apocalypse. But the simplest way to describe it is to call it a vision.” a Chicago Filmmakers, 1 PM.
R Homoeroticism in the Avant-Garde The two Kenneth Anger masterpieces on this program of shorts mix worshipful fetishism and self-parody. Fireworks (1947) is a sadomasochistic fantasy in which even the light patterns have a phallic force, as in a shot of a gang of sailors set against a black background. Scorpio Rising (1963) is a paean to bikes and bikers and the power seen in a motorcycle or the reflections in a belt buckle. Among the other four works, Curt McDowell’s honest if somewhat muddled Confessions (1971) begins with a moving long-take confession to his parents about his sex life, and James Broughton’s Hermes Bird (1979) is one of the most ludicrous films ever: a cock in profile gradually gets erect as Broughton’s voice intones, “Holy acrobat…sacred firebird.” 116 min. (FC) a Chicago Filmmakers, 3 PM.