Sunday, March 30, 2014

BFI Flare: Tru Love and Conscious Coupling

Tru Love
When I booked my last day at the festival yesterday, little did I realise it would be the first day of equal marriage in the UK, and the trappings of weddings were all around: Sandi Toksvig was renewing her vows next door, the festival delegate centre laid on mimosas and the screen was showing footage of happy same sex couples getting spliced. Even Twitter was running a hashtag called #sayido. Oh, my. A bit much for early on a Saturday. Or any day. I shared a few grumbles with another old hand as we stood by the bar, ignoring the cocktails and chocolate hearts. Assimilation. Grumble, grumble. Homonationalism. Grumble. Privatisation of relationships. Grumble. Good luck to 'em, but my view is: #sayidont.

Grasping my glass of prosecco-free orange juice, I pondered my first viewing of the day. Tru Love. Oh, great. But, this turned out not to be so much a rom-com as a reflection on unfulfilled promise and what people settle for. A Canadian drama written by and starring Shauna McDonald, the film starts off as a bit of a sex farce, with McDonald's character Tru jumping out of bed with someone to rush back to a friend's to let in her mother, Alice. It seems Tru is always running away: from relationships, jobs, any form of commitment. As her relationship with Alice unfolds, Tru reveals some early hurts, such as losing her parents and being thrown out on the street, that may explain some of her behaviours. But, that doesn't make them any less difficult for those around her. Another relationship, between her friend Suzanne and Alice, also needs some attention, while Suzanne and Tru also have some simmering issues. And, so, though the film starts off looking pretty formulaic, it actually turns into quite compelling viewing, as one wonders how all of this will unwind. I was quite touched, even if I thought the ending left one important strand unresolved while wrapping up another unconvincingly.

My last two screenings were both shorts programmes, both of a very different character. You're the One, Aren't You? turned out to be about love (that again!), with a range of relationship dramas, comedies and even an animation in which lesbian astronauts save the world! The Spanish farce Vecinas was a highlight, as two lesbian couples decide to swap partners for the night, with amusing consequences. I especially liked the translation of confusion which spelled it as "confussion", surely a lesbian neologism that fuses fuss and confusion. I have definitely experienced "confussion" in my life.

And then it was on to Past (Im)perfect, the experimental shorts programme which featured the world premiere of Bev Zalcock's and Sara Chambers' The Light Show: A Trilogy. Bev has been telling me about these films as she's been working on them over the last year, and so I was quite keen to see them. And they are lovely, a mix of digital and analogue, with dollops of disco iconography (Helen de Witt's term), melancholia and nostalgia. It can be hard to get into abstract work sometimes, but the audience was rapt and the sound was great. I very much enjoyed it. Some of the other works were hard-going, most notably the last film, a 29-minute piece that seemed to be five or six films strung together. I should have known when the first section was one shot of a man shaving in a shower that went on for several minutes. The one bright spark was a girl singing Nirvana's "Dumb" a cappella in a locker room.

Everyone seemed to be attending parties in the evening, but I had to rush home, meaning I missed the Vagina Wolf screening, attended by none other than Guin Turner. I did see Turner sneaking out for a crafty fag, earlier in the evening as I took another turn in Killjoy's Kastle, as I wanted to listen to the footage of the zombie folk singers, which you can only hear on headphones. The performer featured is none other than Gretchen Phillips, whom I well remember from her days in Two Nice Girls. Here she was sending up the hoary days of lesbian folk singers, in an all-Canadian set. And her choices were Kathy Fire and Ferron! I am still not sure if her white braid, which she had to flick out of the way of her guitar, is real or was part of her costume, but she gave her zombie character her all.

I also ran into Carol Morley, currently in post-production on her schoolgirl drama The Falling, which she is prepping for the spring festival circuit. Grading starts Monday, and Tracey Thorn is doing the music, so that sounds fab.

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