Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Falling

Just out in the UK is Carol Morley's swooning girls drama, The Falling, which I referred to previously.

Here is an interview she did with Radcliffe and Maconie discussing the film. For some reason it won't embed.

But, I have been able to embed some of Tracey Thorn's music for the film.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Flare: Mood Swings

Broken Gardenias
Today's report concentrates on two films that combine comedy and drama, making for uneasy viewing.

In the Australian comic drama (?) Zoe. Misplaced, Zoe is attracted to her housemate Coal's ex, Nat, who reciprocates her feelings. And then Coal finds out.... What starts off as an amusing L Word episode progresses onto darker and darker territory, until it turns into a bit of a psychology lesson. I puzzled over the abrupt shifts in tone, wondering whether they worked or not. Then I pondered the characters' motivations and questioned whether I had missed some key hints. So, I guess it's a pretty effective piece of work, if duplicitous.

Broken Gardenias, an American road movie, looks great, with sweeping vistas of California, as its two loners, hunky butch Sam and forlorn Jenni, go to L.A., in search of the latter's father. A film that includes a suicide attempt early on that is played as one of a number of comic setbacks has an interesting notion of comedy. And I never quite warmed to it, despite Sam and Jenni's quirky budding friendship. It reminded me a little of By Hook Or By Crook, with Jenni's very mannered fragility setting my teeth on edge. Plus, the running joke of her ex-housemates shadowing the duo through L.A., arguing all the way, felt forced and gratuitous. Jenni is played by the film's screenwriter, so she must have felt highly invested in the story.

I believe both films were crowd-sourced, explaining their rough and ready feel, but getting the tone right is something that can really make or break a film, regardless of budget.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Flare: Marginal Communities

We Came to Sweat
Today's retrospective Flare viewing includes two shorts by Silas Howard and a documentary on the now-departed Starlite Lounge in Brooklyn.

Howard's two films focus on Bambi Lake, one-time Cockette and unlikely punk spoken word artist, whose song "The Golden Age of Hustlers" provides a narrative device linking the two, to explain her life, from her days as a hustler on Polk Street to today, when she admits she's not especially happy, as she sits glammed up outside a cafe. While I was not so taken with the recreation of the song with Justin Vivian Bond singing, I did find the short documentary, Sticks and Stones, fascinating and would like to know much, much more about this pioneering performer.

The Starlite Lounge was that rare thing: a black-owned bar providing a non-discriminatory space in pre-Stonewall New York. Kate Kunath's documentary, We Came to Sweat, picks up the story in 2010 as the bar is threatened with closure, a victim of the gentrification of its corner of Brooklyn. I would have liked to see more on the neighbourhood and the changes befalling it, but Kunath sticks close to the bar itself, which rather limits the scope of the story. I found the film overlong and repetitious, once the basic facts were established: the bar was established in 1962 and provided a safe space for its patrons. This point is repeated so often it becomes tedious. In the end, commerce wins out and the bar loses its leases and never reopens. What happens to the community is not pursued.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Flare: Sultry Summer Days

Teenaged girls. Rural towns. Unrelenting summer heat. What could possibly go wrong? Well, two films show what happens when girls looking for something to happen find what they're looking for.

The Argentine drama Atlantida is languid, understated and, well, a bit tedious. Swotty Lucia is left in charge of her younger sister Elena, who's broken her leg. Save for the occasional dawn swim, Lucia has not very much to look forward to, as she studies for her exams, hoping to move to Buenos Aires for uni. As the film unfolds over one extremely long day, Lucia finds herself attracted to Ana, a friend of her sister's, while Elena tags along with the family doctor. A storm is imminent, the signs are set..... but not much actually happens. Such a disappointment.

The Dutch drama Summer sets its stall out early, in another rural household, as Ms. Silent, later revealed to be actually called Anne, narrates the summer her life changed. This quirky and very stylish film captured my attention much more fully than did Atlantida, as Anne matter-of-factly describes the wife-beaters, rapists and child thugs who populate her town, all existing under the beady eye of the town business, the nuclear power plant that seems to have a hold, a force field, over everyone. When Lena, a mixed race biker, arrives in town, her presence seems to disturb the torpor in which everyone lives, including Anne. While the plot may lack orginality, the execution is spot on, and the soundtrack, of jauntily retro tunes, provides a kind of psychedelic haze through which the narrative unfolds. I actually have no idea in what decade the film is meant to be set. It could be anywhere from the 1960s-onward. Very impressive work from writer Marjolein Bierens and director Colette Bothof.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Flare: True Romance

Girltrash: All Night Long
Although the festival ended on Sunday, I shall continue reviewing films from Flare, courtesy of its new online preview service. Today's subject: romance.

Portrait of a Serial Monogamist is a Canadian comedy offering Elsie, a lead character whose first action is to dump her long-term partner, Robyn, and exit the premises, claiming it was for the woman's own good. I immediately didn't like her and her subsequent behaviour did nothing to endear her to me. A problem when the character seems to be the one the audience is meant to identify with. In fact, of the five or six characters who had most screen time, none was particularly engaging. I did rather like the bi-curious character Elsie tried to to seduce but then drove away. Quite frankly, by the end of the film I really didn't care whether Elsie and Robyn got back together or not, they were so cloying and annoying. The bi-curious woman had a lucky escape.

Girltrash: All Night Long is a musical set in Los Angeles featuring a band. A very promising start and I enjoyed its cheesiness immensely. Particularly good is Michelle Lombardo as the heartbreaking bassist everyone wants to bed. The character names are ridiculous: Colby, Tyler and Misty sound as if they are '80s soap opera characters. But, the film revels in its own ridiculousness and I found it entertaining, if a bit light-weight. Any film that sets its big shoot 'em up in a sorority house has something going for it.