Sunday, March 31, 2019

BFI Flare: the Great Deception

So, to the final day of BFI Flare although I shall avail myself of the online screeners to do more posts later. If there has been a trend in this festival it seems to be a move away from happy endings and even decisive endings. I can only think of one film that offered a conventional happy ending and that was a woman joining a threesome so not that conventional.

JT LeRoy
Tonight's closing film was JT or JT LeRoy or, as imdb has it Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy, so perhaps the distributors have yet to settle on a title. The uncertainty suits its subject, a shape-shifting author revealed to be two women in a great literary scandal that passed me by in the early noughties. I had vaguely heard about it but was never invested in the original books, fictionalised memoirs of a gay teenager who did sex work. Or so the devoted readers and celebrity endorsers thought. In fact, Laura Albert, a frustrated novelist living in San Francisco, had created the works under the LeRoy nom de plume and then enlisted the help of her partner's sister, Savannah, to provide the face of JT. As played out in JT et al, it's quite fascinating to consider their intentions and how caught up they both became in becoming what Savannah (Kristen Stewart playing it low-key) calls a tearaway teen or words to that effect.

I had concerns over just how queer the story would be and how well it would suit Flare, but it turned out to be quite polymorphous. There is an interesting thread about taking on another body that is quite resonant of trans identity issues. Savannah hints at gender dysphoria and is only too happy to avoid carbs in order to keep "curves" away. She also has a fling with a glamourous actress who is apparently based on Asia Argento. Laura (Laura Dern unleashed), for her part, has previously done sex work and dated women and is quite happy to have phone sex with the aforementioned actress to keep her sweet. It's quite astonishing to think that it happened or at least a version of it did: this is Savannah's story and she was heavily involved in making the film. Her brother even provides the music.

Even more bizarrely, Courtney Love, one of the original duped celebs, turns up in a small role as an LA producer who wants to turn one of the novels into a film. I only realised when her name came up in the credits, and I had to go back and work out which role she played as she is unrecognisable. Hole's "Celebrity Skin" is used over the credits, adding an extra meta reference. The film raises many important questions that linger: what is truth? how much reinforcement do we need from others? who gets to be a public voice?
And true to form, the ending leaves us hanging as Savannah looks to New York for her next move. It's worth googling all involved to see what they did next.

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