- Category: Movie Reviews
- Written by Gilbert Seah
INSIDE OUT takes a new venue this year at the fabulous TIFF Bell Lightbox -in contrast to the first INSIDE OUT in which the audience sat on folded chairs.
This year’s festival features more full length films than videos and include several premiers like Thom Fitzgerald’s CLOUDBURST and Kathleen Turner in THE PERFECT FAMILY.
Of the excellent films screened, below are capsule reviews of a few films I caught that will help you in your selection.
For complete film program, show times, venue and ticket pricing, it is best to check the Inside Out website at:
BEAUTY (SKOONHEID) (South Africa/France 2010) ***
Directed by Oliver Hermanus.
Yes, there is a Queer Pam at the Cannes Film Festival and this film won it. The film is also South Africa’s entry for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award. But BEAUTY is a far from a pretty story. It is a gritty tale of the downward spiral of closeted but successful 40-year old married Afrikan man, Francois (Deon Lotz) as he lusts after the young and handsome Christian (Charlie Keegan) whom he meets at his daughter’s wedding. Trouble is that his other daughter also wants and dates Christian. Francois gets his gay urges out by occasionally engaging in sessions of group sex in the form of an orgy consisting of older men. But it is Christian he wants and his ultimate desire takes his to act out his extremes. BEAUTY is not a pleasant film to watch it successfully documents the self-hatred, violence and repression that comes from a depressed and frustrated lifestyle. Director Hermanus does not compromise his story and his characters come across as incredibly authentic. BEAUTY was also screened at TIFF last year and has enjoyed a reasonably successful run in the U.K.
BULLHEAD (Belgium 2011) ****
Directed by Michaël R. Roskam
Nominated for the 2012 Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film, BULLHEAD (beating the country’s other choice of the Dardennes’ LE GAMIN AU VELO) is both a gritty crime drama centering on the illegal hormone trade in cattle ranching and an intense and agonizing study of masculinity. The film begins with an absorbing voiceover saying how things are so bad that they could not be mentioned out loud or even silently in the head till it explodes until one is f***ed not only today or tomorrow but forever. Michaël R. Roskam’s film then unfolds to explain what he means. The person in concern is no angel either. He has put an opposing suitor into a coma and has threatened and beaten up many. Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a muscle-bound rancher who works on his family’s cattle farm, and is constantly pumping himself full of steroids, much the same way he does to his livestock. The reason is that he had his balls crushed by a mad kid and the steroids are to ensue he can stay as a man. Jacky is under pressure to partner with a mob-connected meat dealer named but the recent murder of a police officer investigating the “hormone mafia” makes him hesitant. His worries deepen when he discovers that the dealer’s assistant is his estranged childhood friend, Diederik (Jeroen Perceval) ; a turf war inadvertently causes the two men to meet for the first time in 20 years. Childhood flashbacks deftly sketch out his friendship with Diederik and grimly detail the moment that changed the course of one man’s life forever (the balls crushing). The gay slant on the film is slight, Diederik who happens to be gay. This is one excellent and riveting tale of revenge, redemption and fate. The title comes from Jacky’s nickname fro his look due to the steroids.
LET ME PEOPLE GO! (France 2011) ***
Directed by Mikael Buch
Short and sweet running around the 80 minute mark, LET ME PEOPLE GO! centres on two minority groups, the Goys (Jews) and gays. Nothing offensive here but harmless humour that is lightly entertaining and nothing much more. In the romantic comedy genre, the film tells the story of a misunderstanding and the prevalence of true love. The gay couple in particular is a Finnish one but when Ruben as mailman (a very queeny Nicolas Maury) comes across a package of 199,980 euros (the number was uneven but Ruben counted twice), he has to escape Finland to Paris to live with his Jewish family headed by matriach Rachel (Pedro Almodovar’s favourite actress, Carmen Maura). She wants him married but Ruben gets into more trouble than he can handle. All these problems would have happened anyway with the family even if Ruben does not visit. But the misunderstanding between the two lovers is eventually sorted and Ruben and his blond lover are back together. Carmen Muara and the film could have been much funnier in Almodovar’s hands.
LOVE FREE OR DIE (USA 2011) ****
Directed by Mackie Alston
20 years back, when I marched at the Pride Parade when visiting Britain, marching meant making a stand and as opposed to the present when it meant being proud. Watching this film brings back memories of both times of past and present. If there is a film that should be seen at this yea’s Inside Out for sheer exhilaration and pride for being gay the documentary LOVE FREE OR DIE is the one. This moving film documents the real-life story of the first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, when he was elected by the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire in 2003. The film begins in 2008, when the Anglican Comm met in Lambeth, England for their decennial conference. All consecrated Bishops were invited to the assembly bar one, New Hampshire’s Gene Robinson. As the Comm’s first (and only) gay bishop, not only was his invitation withdrawn but he was actively and forcibly prevented from participating in any part of the conference (including, in one farcical scene, entering Canterbury Cathedral). This is the story of his life with partner Mark and the fight for the Church’s acceptance of a homosexual lifestyle. The film weaves interviews with his family and other bishops with the long journey towards acceptance. The audience is treated with some very tense segments like a protestor who speaks out against Gene during his sermon on fear
It took courageous and strong-willed advocates like Robinson to drag the world to its feet
and hopefully others like you and me to see that it is people that make the difference between right and wrong.
NOTRE PARADIS (OUR PARADISE) (France 2011) ***
Directed by Gael Morel
A hardly satisfying though watchable feature because of its content, NOTRE PARADIS tells the story of two hustlers, an older Vassili (Stephane Rideau from WILD REEDS), past his prime and the much younger and beautiful Angelo (Dimitri Durdaine). But this is the type of film with lots of sex scenes and hot nude bodies that gay male audiences love to see at a gay film festival. The lead character Vassili discovers and saves Angelo (Angel) who he has found unconscious in the Bois de Bologne of Paris. They rob clients while Vassili kills them believing that they are no good to mankind. They also believe that their final paradise is the country mansion of Vassili’s old rich client and pal. This is a nasty little story about two nasty people who deserve nothing but the worst. Director Garel does not offer any redeeming qualities or proper reasons behind the couple’s bad deeds. The result is a film in which the audience wants bad things to happen to the protagonists. At least they get what is eventually due to them. BETTY BLUE’s Beatrice Dalle has a supporting role as Vassali’s old girl friend, Anna. Rideau and Dalle who both looked so beautiful in their early films both look their parts here, as ageing characters past their prime. The central characters might resemble Arthur Rimbaud and Verlaine, but the film is more simplified than that the title suggests.
SAGAT (France 2012) ***
Directed by Pascal Roche and Jerome M. De Oliveira
Likely the most rauncy of all th films screened at Inside Out, SAGAT is a documentary about porn star Francois Sagat. Sagat won pron prfromer of the year in 2007. As one interviewee says to the camera, no one cannot be turned on by Sagat. With his rippling physique, chiselled profile and trademark hairline tattoo, gay adult film star Sagat is a true enigma. He’s an exhibitionist with the heart of a poet who loves to push the boundaries of erotic entertainment, whether he’s starring in avant-garde films (Man at Bath, LA Zombie) or performing in Paris nightclubs with an act that combines Tom of Finland with a splash of Leigh Bowery. The film attempts to show the man behind the persona. Footage include interviews of his family back in Cognac where he is from with talk about how he was the bullied skinny kid at school in a small town. Film directors interviewed include Christophe Honore and Bruce La Bruce who gave him a leading role in his gay movie L.A. ZOMBIE (where the caption reads: He came to f*** the dead!). Don’t expect an eye opening doc with a message of any sort. This film being what it is – a doc on a porn star - be prepared instead for lots of hot nude scenes, though Sagat’s willy is always censored out.
STUD LIFE (UK 2012) ***
Directed by Campbell Ex
Writer/director Campbell Ex''s new gay movie could be very well be a straight story as the premise is a problem that befalls both the straight and gay community. When one falls in love, how is one to handle the jealousy of the new loer and of the best friend. In STUD LIFE, which is set in the grittier areas of London, J is a ''Stud'' (Y''Nia Miller) Lesbian or butch. Together with her best friend Seb (Kyle Treslove), a gay pretty boy, they work as wedding photographers. When JJ falls in love with a beautiful diva, Elle (Robyn Kerr) JJ and Seb''s friendship is tested. JJ is forced to chose between her hot new lover and her best friend. STUD LIFE should be a feast to both lesbian and gay boys. The hot lesbian love scenes and the cute looks of Treslove should keep both sides of the audience happy. The lead characters are no angels. They have their mood swings, unreasonable demands and dead end jobs that do not pay much, except for maybe Elle''s that pay too well for a reason. Director Ex does not judge her characters and let them do what they wish, leaving the audience to determine whether they are fond of Ex''s characters. But one thing is for sure. Their emotions are heart felt and the hurt they feel is well portrayed by the unknown cast to good effect. The atmosphere of the scummy side of London is authentic, one in which an innocent bystander could get beaten up just for the hell of it. Despite the well worn territory the story treads upon, STUD LIFE still comes across as engaging drama. The film is also filled with charm and contains an amazing original soundtrack.
SPEECHLESS (HK 2012) **
Directed by Simon Chung
The film begins with a picturesque scene of a river and the countryside that looks (and likely is) a place in France. As the camera pulls back, the audience sees a disoriented foreigner in a countryside in China. The police picks the foreigner (turns out later that his name is Luke) and bring him to a hospital as Luke does not seem able to speak. When the authorities decide to commit Luke to a mental asylum a male nurse, Han escapes with him to his old school where gay feelings erupt. It turns out in this mystery that Luke was beaten up after falling in love with his friend’s brother. The film moves at a slow but acceptable pace and the sex scenes are hot. But the mystery unravelled does not really satisfy and the fact that Han is gay is not quite convincing. But the film offers a look at how the Chinese look at gays as well as other Chinese odd traits like accepted police brutality and silly hospital procedures.