Friday, June 19, 2009

Assume Nothing

Friday, June 19, 2:15 pm, Castro Theatre, ASSU19C
North American Premiere

Rebecca Swan is a professional photographer and a gender activist. She produced a book called Assume Nothing with photos of several gender-variant individuals, challenging the notion that there are only two possible genders and even the idea that "male" and "female" are ends of a linear spectrum. In this documentary, we meet Swan and some of her subjects, delving into the per­son­al histories of androgyny, intersex, drag, and transgenderism, including some specifically South Pacific perspectives. For example, the Maori (indig­enous New Zealander) language has a gender-neutral pronoun for people, and traditional Sa'amoan culture reveres the fa'afafine (roughly, MTF). It's an intimate look inside some of the most personal aspects of identity. Highly recommended.

Assume Nothing, dir. Kirsty MacDonald, New Zealand, 2009, 80 min.; view trailer

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The Naked Civil Servant

Naked Civil SvtFriday, June 19, 12:00 pm, Castro Theatre, TBA119C
5 bells

Quentin Crisp was truly a trailblazer, with blazing red hair to under­score the point. In London from the 1930's onward, he took his homo­sexu­ality not as a secret shame to be hidden from the world, but as a badge of identity to be shouted from every rooftop. Before World War II, Crisp occasionally worked as a rentboy, selling his services for 7s6d (37½p in decimal), sometimes earning a 10-shilling (50p) note. By the time the war began, he had found other sources of income, but was nonetheless arrested and tried on charges of "soliciting for an immoral purpose." His testimony in his own defence shines as the high point of the film, although his arch wit shows in both the dialogue and the voiceover throughout the film.

In 1975, The Naked Civil Servant played on PBS in the United States, creating quite a stir, especially outside the major cities of the East and West Coasts. It also earned both the director and the star (John Hurt) BAFTA awards. Hurt reprised the role in the 2009 sequel, An Englishman in New York, completing the story of Crisp's remarkably unique life. Both films are on my MUST SEE list.

The Naked Civil Servant, dir. Jack Gold, UK, 1975, 77 min.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Country Teacher (Venkovský učitel)

Thursday, June 18, 10:05 pm, Castro Theatre, COUN18C
Monday, June 22, 9:30 pm, Elmwood Theatre, COUN22E

A young science teacher leaves his prestigious prep-school job (and his over­bearing mother) in the big city, relocating to a small village school. He befriends a single mother and her teenage son, becoming almost part of the family, watching the boy's freely and openly sexual relation­ship with his girl­friend. But then a fuck­buddy from the city comes for a visit, throwing the teacher into a fog of uncertainty, rejecting sex without love but not sure how to find both together.

The story line treads uncom­fortably close to stereo­types of gay men as pathetic emotional cripples who can't function in society. Indeed, the teacher is moping almost throughout the movie as he sits by on the sidelines, before he takes an even more disturbing turn. The cinematography is beautiful and the acting and directing are top-notch, but the central character knocks the film down a peg or two in my recommendations. Near the end, the towns­people show a surprisingly unstereotypical side. On the whole, I give it 3½ out of five bells.

The Country Teacher (Venkovský učitel), dir. Bohdan Sláma, Czech Republic, 2008, 113 min., in Czech with English subtitles; watch the trailer

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An Englishman in New York

Englishman in NYThursday, June 18, 7:00 pm, Castro Theatre, ENGL18C
5 bells

Thirty-four years ago, Quentin Crisp was intro­duced to a worldwide audience by the film The Naked Civil Servant, illuminating his life of openly flamboyant homo­sexuality. John Hurt, whom young­er audiences will recognize as everyone from Mr. Ollivander, purveyor of magic wands to Harry Potter, to Chancellor Sutler, the über-villain of V for Ven­detta, played Crisp in a break­through performance that earned him a BAFTA award for best actor. Hurt returns to the role, picking up Crisp's story where the first film left off, with the newly famous "civil servant" moving to New York City.

Naked Civil SvtI remember seeing The Naked Civil Servant when it was broadcast on PBS in the 1970's, although I didn't yet identify with the central figure — probably best for my odds of surviving puberty in Dallas, Texas. The sequel, though, picks up shortly before the time I my­self was living near New York City as a college stu­dent, just beginning my coming-out process. Where the first film dealt with Quentin Crisp as a gadfly in the London of the 1930's to early 1970's, bucking the ubi­quitous pressure to conform to hetero­sexual norms, the sequel focuses more on his "fish out of water" experience among the post-Stone­wall gay culture of New York. Some­one as eccentric as Quentin Crisp is not fated to truly fit in anywhere, it seems.

John Hurt's performance is as breathtaking as his inauguration of the role, and indeed director Richard Laxton said he could not have imagined par­ti­ci­pating with anyone other than Hurt in the lead role. The supporting cast was fabulous as well, rounding out a worthy opening film for the Frameline fes­ti­val. Definitely a MUST SEE.

An Englishman in New York, dir. Richard Laxton, USA, 2009, 74 minutes.

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Frameline 33 begins....

The 33rd annual Frameline International LGBT Film Festival is underway, marking the beginning of my total immersion. For the next 10 days and 11 nights, I will basically wake up, go to movies, come home, and go to sleep, with occasional brief breaks for food and mental health breaks, because, after all, what could be a better way to celebrate the longest days of the year than spending them inside a dark theater? 8^}

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