Queer Takes Festival offers cinema from a GLBT perspective


This year’s GLBT Pride has a cinematic element at Walker Art Center: Queer Takes, screening from June 21 to 24. Weighted toward films from other countries, the festival ranges from a musical to a murder mystery.

Wed. June 21, 7 p.m.
20 Centimeters (Spain/France)
Ramon Salazar’s look at a transgender woman’s struggle to earn the money for her final surgery (to do away with the “20 centimeters” that’s the last obstacle to her female identity) balances a tragic undercurrent with humor, a kind of Cinderella story and drawing on great Amreican musicals. From the opening shots, where Marieta/Adolpho is being obviously abandoned outside Madrid after turning a trick to a hilarious job interview to become a railroad station cleaner to delightful dreams where she sings and dances, Monica Cervera has real range. Supporting characters add color but Cervera is the linchpin of the film. There’s plenty of film references and while a transgendered woman is the heart of the film, “20 Centimeters” is also a valentine for film lovers. Real entertainment with fun choreography and moving moments.

Wed. June 21, 9:15 p.m.
A Year Without LoveL (Argentina)
In Western countries, new drug regimes mean people with HIV/AIDS can live healthy lives for years, but in developing countries the diagnosis remains grim. With the news that he has AIDS, Pablo, a native of Buenos Aires, is given a year to live. Pablo is an unpublished poet who makes his living teaching French, so it makes sense that he would start a diary to document his search for a love life and a cure. He ultimately finds a leather circle, where he explores alternative sexuality that expresses the contradictions he battles daily and is the means to reaffirm he’s still alive, even as he faces his death. Struggling with poverty, he’s forced to live with an aunt with whom he has a love-hate connection. Regular lunches with his father are another family connection. This is a far more daring look at AIDS than American films have ventured. Directed by Anahi Berneri, this is her first feature film and it was the winner of the 2005 Teddy Award for best gay feature at the Berlin Film Festival,

Thurs. June 22
Evening of short films

GIRLS Short Shorts, 7 p.m.
If there’s something missing from Queer Takes, it’s lesbian and bisexual women or transmen in the feature films. But, the first program of short films is a variety of female perspectives. Australian films dominate. The title tells what the film Coming Out At Work is Hard to Do is about. Moustache is fun gender-bending. Granny Queer is a welcome look at a lesbian elder.The U.S. weighs in withHung and Who’s the Top? is in beautiful black & white. Canada and Switzerland are also represented.

BOYS Short Shorts, 9 p.m.
Black and white video dominates the men’s short films with films from the U.S. Australia and Canada.

Fri. June 23, 7 p.m.
Time To Leave (France)
This is an elegaic study about the meaning of life focused by having to face death, without sentimentality or easy resolutions. The film takes for granted the protagonist being gay and is also totally universal. Romain (Melvin Poupaud) is a 31 year old gay fashion photographer diagnosed with a terminal tumor. Rather than being heroic. Romain, is self-absorbed, intially angry and ultimately goes on his own solitary journey to come to terms with his own death. He defies social expectations by not telling his family or his young lover, Sasha—but, instead pushes almost all of them away.

The exception to this is his grandmother, played by the great French actress Jeanne Moreau, as a kindred spirit, who also made her own life choices that were judged selfish. Moreau is luminous and her scenes with Poupaud ring with truth. Melvin Poupaud gives a nuanced performance that reveals Romain’s grappling with angry grief, dispair and acceptance. How his relationship to his camera changes is exquisite as reality and metaphor: more trancendental awareness and detaching simutaneously. Although only having one pivotal scene. Daniel Duval, as Romain’s father, is incredibly moving.

In Time To Leave, we really see the emotional journey of a man in a way that’s still too rare. This isn’t a “disease film”, like Philadelphia or the many “movie of the week” cancer films. It’s a film about facing death, which ultimately means facing one’s life and one’s self. Solitude pervades the film even as Romain grapples with how to do that on his own terms. A casual encounter provides a way for Romain to recognize and reaffirm the ‘circle of life” even as he accepts his own life’s end.

Despite the subject matter, Time To Leave isn’t depressing at all. Director Francois Ozon has made something so sublte. His moments of childhood memory, the streets of Paris and the French countryside, and the film’s ending on a beach frame a story that speaks truths all of us will have to face. Highly recommened, this film lingers with great perfromances and perfect images. Time To Leave is the second film in Ozon’s trilogy about mourning. The first was Under The Sand (2000), starring Charlotte Rampling.

Fri. June 23, 9 p.m.
Wild Tigers I Have Known (USA)
One of the most exciting films at this year’s Sundance Festival, it’s a look at the onset of adolescence, identity and sexuality that dares to keep it real. Logan is a lonely 13 year old with a crush on an older boy, Rodeo—a wild boy who’s not attracted to other boys and is Logna’s friend on walks in the woods.

Logan ends up creating a female persona, “Leah” (over the telephone) to communicate his longing to Rodeo. Eventually, he takes this further, experimenting with female clothing and wigs.

The film’s director, Cam Archer is 24, and so hasn’t forgotten the wild recklessness of that edge between childhood qnd adulthood. In one interview Archer remarked, “To be 13, in my opinion is like being in the middle of a horror film.You really don’t know if it’s better to let it kill you of if you should run for your life until you find that special safe place where no one can bother you.”

Malcolm Stumpf plays Logan and is a 14 year old who had a small role as Madonna’s son, Sam, in the film The Next Best Thing and this is his leading role debut. The other two boys, Patrick White, as Rodeo and Max Paradise as Logan’s best friend science nerd, Joey, are also making their debut.

Archer’s made a previous short film, hobbycrush and several music videos, so music is integral to Wild Tigers. Gus van Zant is executive producer, which is a real vote of confidence for this film, despite some uneven moments as it mixes psychosexual emotions and the poetry of adolescent dreams to tell an uncoventional story that resonates with teenage angst and hope. Cam Archer is a filmmaker to watch.

Sat. June 24, 7 p.m.
Strange Fruit (USA)
See the full-length review of this African American murder mystery with a gay perspective. Referencing Sidny Poitier’s classic, In The Heat of The NIght, it’s a mix of real suspense and character study rooted in the black family. Supporting characters like a 60-something owner of a black gay bar, outside the small Louisiana town where the murder is set, anchor the film.The leading man played by Kent Faulcon will make you both stand up and cheer as well as swoon.

Sat. June 24, 9 p.m.
Broken Sky (Mexico)
Sexual passion propels this film from the first scene, which lovingly focuses on two young Mexican men’s embrace and a voice-over saying “I remember you. Only you. In the morning. Only you. In the afternoon. You. In the night.” It’s as if the great Latin American poet from Chile, Pablo Neruda, had written his “20 sonnets and a song of dispair” from a gay male perspective and with film instead of a pen. This is sensual cinema of lyrical beauty, the body as the means of the most true communication. This gorgeous film revels in a sensual cinema that remembers that film’s root is image, not words.

Queer Takes: Wed. June 23 to Sat. June 24, Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin (next to the Sculpture Garden), Minneapolis (612) 375-7600 www.walkerart.org