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Behind the Reel

By |2005-10-20T09:00:00-04:00October 20th, 2005|Entertainment|

By R.J. Beaumia

ROYAL OAK – Triangle Foundation’s Reel Pride Michigan GLBT Film Fest kicks off this weekend at the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak. BTL reviews a small sampling of the festival’s diverse line up of over 20 feature films and over two-dozen shorts.

Gay Sex in the 70s: For those of us who had gay sex in the 70s this documentary is a total kick, a stroll down memory lane with its alleys and clubs with their raunchy back rooms reeking of men. For those who weren’t around during the pre-condom era the hedonism won’t be so nostalgic, but watch it anyway: Imagine a hypersexual world without the deadly consequences but with all the fun.
“Gay Sex” intercuts interviews with those who were there (writer and activist Larry Kramer; photographer Tom Bianchi, to name a few) along side archival video and film footage and photographs to evoke post-Stonewall gay male life in 1970s New York. From porn to parades it’s all here. The piers, the clubs, the bathhouses, Fire Island — every notorious, legendary sex venue is recalled in vivid detail. We experience the joy, camaraderie, and freedom of a certain place and time long gone.
My favorite recollection: Guys waiting to get gonorrhea and syphilis treatments cruising and negotiating sex hook-ups while sitting in the clinic reception room.
Of course it all comes crashing down with AIDS in the early 80s, but the men here have few regrets, feel no shame, and are generous and kind toward their younger, sybaritic selves. And that’s what gay liberation is all about.
“Gay Sex in the 70’s is playing with “That Man: Peter Berlin” on Sunday, Oct. 23 at 9:30 p.m.

Loggerheads: Although sometimes a little difficult to follow, director Tim Kirkman has made a wonderful, moving, gentle film about family dynamics that calls into question the very definition of family and what it means to part of one.
Lonely stranger Michael (Kip Pardue) has come to a sleepy North Carolina beach resort to observe the behavior of Loggerhead turtles laying their eggs in the sand. He is befriended by George (Michael Kelly), the manager of a seaside motel who recently lost his partner in a freak accident.
A preacher and his wife Elizabeth (Chris Sarandon and Tess Harper) struggle with the absence of their estranged gay son, thus putting a strain on their marriage and their relationships with their neighbors and church congregation as well.
Middle-aged Grace (Bonnie Hunt) and her mother (Michael Learned) have difficulties understanding and loving one another due to shared events in their pasts, which contributed Grace’s mental breakdown.
Through non-linear storytelling, Kirkman demands audience participation to help piece together these seemingly unrelated narrative elements. He teases by withholding information, but as we put into place what we’re handed our work is our reward.
The characters are emotionally vulnerable, people whose experience is refracted through troubled inner lives. They triumph by overcoming fear, convention, and prejudice. As we watch them evolve, their richness of spirit brings peace and acceptance of themselves and others.
Beautifully photographed and with refreshingly minimal editing and camera movement, “Loggerheads” pays tribute to the films of Yasujiro Ozu by using them as a template to tell a touching, uniquely contemporary American story.
“Loggerheads” is showing on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 9:30 p.m.

100% Woman: This good Canadian documentary follows transgender woman Michelle Dumaresq as she struggles for acceptance on the women’s professional mountain-bike racing circuit. Michelle encounters prejudice — fellow racers think she has an unfair advantage because they assume her musculature is still that of a man’s — only when she begins to win more and more races.
What makes the story particularly interesting is that her loudest critics are her best friends and, miraculously, remain so throughout their disputes. They even take up petitions to give to the sport’s governing board to have Michelle disqualified from the women’s circuit.
While watching I couldn’t help thinking, “This could only happen in Canada.” The utter civility of the dispute and its eventual outcome could never happen in this country. In the U.S. an athlete like Dumaresq would be trounced by the governing board and denounced on Fox News every hour on the hour.
“100% Woman” is showing with “100% Human” on Thursday, Oct. 27 at 9:30 p.m.

Hate Crime: The vigilante movie goes gay: “Hate Crime” is “Death Wish” with aubergine walls.
Robbie and Trey (Seth Peterson and Brian J. Smith) are a couple enjoying the suburban life in Dallas until they encounter their new next-door neighbor Chris (Chad Donella), the homophobic son of a local preacher (Bruce Davison), who spews anti-gay epithets and threats. One night Trey goes out to walk the dog in the park where he becomes the victim of an apparent hate crime that eventually costs him his life.
Although Chris is the prime suspect, his father’s own bigotry and pulpit power kick into action so that the police department, itself rife with homophobia, turns around the investigation so that it centers on Robbie, whose motive to kill might have been Trey’s life insurance policy.
Incensed and forced to prove his innocence Robbie, together with Trey’s mother (Cindy Pickett), set out on their own investigation and find not only a solution to the crime but to injustices towards gays as well.
This turgid crime melodrama is pretty camp. The characters are cut-outs, repositories of simple emotions cold and hot. But as with “Death Wish,” deep down inside you’re pretty happy about sweet revenge.
You have to have a very strong suspension of disbelief for this one, but it’s good to see the gay everyman win one for a change.
“Hate Crime” is a real popcorn grinder, fun that can be best appreciated on DVD.
“Hate Crime” is showing Sunday, Oct. 23 at 10:30 a.m.

Left Lane: On the Road with Folk Poet Alix Olson: I must say upfront that I’m no fan of performance poetry, but this documentary won me over simply because of its subject, Alix Olson. She’s the synthesis of a Pentecostal preacher, Jack Kerouac, Gloria Steinem, and Rosa Luxemburg.
“Left Lane” follows Olson on a cross-country tour. Like a guerilla-dyke Mary Poppins, she seems to leave magic and genuine good feelings wherever she goes. With unaffected candor and a lot of talent, we see Olson tearing up the stage with poetic jeremiads concerning everything from vaginas, to the evilness of Wal-Mart, to falling in love. She’s intelligent but not pretentious, and her energy is infectious. Good show.
“Left Lane: On the Road with Folk Poet Alix Olson” closes this year’s festival on Friday, Oct. 28 at 8 p.m.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.