St. Louis International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

A schedule and capsule reviews of the fest's offerings

11:30 p.m.: In the Flesh. Ben Taylor. U.S., 1998, 105 min. Among its more notable achievements, In the Flesh will be remembered for introducing to the world a gay John Wayne. As a highly closeted but finally-ready-to-give it-a-shot police detective, actor Ed Corbin exudes a gruff and plaintive sexuality that, grunt for grunt, monotone to monotone, establishes a new realm for understated macho. When the detective finds himself falling for a hustler (a sweet Dane Ritter) he's investigating undercover, the film transcends its pulpy B-movie quality to become an interesting portrait of courage and friendship under fire. The rest of In the Flesh is a dubious guilty pleasure, and the plot tends to either plod or hurtle into the ridiculous. If you've ever pondered the homoerotic undercurrents of the Shadow, the Batman of The Dark Knight books or any other of the mysterious and sexually ambivalent masked men running around pop culture, this is the film for you. (MI)

Sunday, Sept. 12

12:45 p.m.: Blind Faith. Ernest Dickerson. U.S., 1998, 117 min. Made for Showtime and originally broadcast in February 1998, this film contains more worthwhile performances than its melodramatic and clunky script rightfully merits. It's 1957, and Charlie (Garland Whitt), a young black man in a middle-class Bronx family, is accused of murdering a white boy. He confesses, but his uncle/defense attorney John (the inspired Courtney B. Vance) knows he's lying. Determined to learn the truth and save his nephew, John suspends his law practice and dedicates himself to the case. The resulting trial unearths deep and volatile issues in both Charlie's family and in the community at large — external and internalized racism, filial and fraternal piety, and homophobia are played out in the movie's endless confrontations. Nearly every actor delivers grace, so it's a shame that the film pulls so many blatant punches, rendering the viewer weary and limp. A lighter directorial hand would have improved matters. (ML)

3:15 p.m.: Finding North. Tanya Wexler. U.S., 1998, 95 min. The straight-woman-buddies-up-with-gay-man scenario that proved so enjoyable in My Best Friend's Wedding and The Object of My Affection comes a cropper in this low-budget "road" movie. John Benjamin Hickey (of Love! Valour! Compassion!) stars as an AIDS widower whose "meet cute" with an unbelievably annoying Noo Yawka (Wendy Makkena of Sister Act) takes place during his attempt to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge stark naked. For reasons best known to scriptwriter Kim Powers and director Wexler, this Odd-Couple-from-hell decide to travel together to Texas to enact a mourning ritual devised by the hero's late beloved. This takes the form of a quasi-scavenger hunt with clues provided by tape-recorded messages from the deceased. Tender childhood memories are evoked, long-lost relatives are confronted, and our heroine learns some home truths about standing up for yourself and looking at life square in the eyes. She also gets laid (the strapping son of a motel manager doing the honors). Our hero, meanwhile, looks wan and confused — and no wonder. The tape-recorded message detailing his relationship with his lover — or anything about him, for that matter — was apparently unavailable. (DE)

5:15 p.m.: A Little Song, A Little Dance. A program of shorts featuring John Scott Matthews' "Back Story" (U.S., 1999, 21 min.), Keith Milton's "Twinkle Toes" (U.S., 1999, 15 min.), Tyler Polhemus' "Mmm! Smells Like Christmas" (U.S., 1999, 13 min.), Jennifer Maytorena Taylor's "Scary Sacred Cow Poker" (U.S., 1999, 3 min.) and Seamus Rea's "Ginger Beer" (U.K., 1999, 17 min.). NR.

7 p.m.: Love Stories. A program of shorts featuring Jennifer Arnold's "Maid of Honor" (U.S., 1999, 24 min.), Pratibha Parmar's "Wavelengths" (U.K., 1997, 15 min.), Isabel Hegner's "Peppermills" (U.S./Switzerland, 1998, 14 min.), Deborah Kirkland's "Slip" (Canada, 1999, 7 min.), Monique Tuyet Le's "Georgia" (U.S., 1998, 17 min.) and Laurie Colbert and Dominique Cardona's "Below the Belt" (Canada, 1998, 12 min.). NR.

9:15 p.m.: Lola and Billy the Kid (Lola and Bilidikid). Kutlag Ataman. Germany, 1998, 93 min., in Turkish and German with English subtitles. One might imagine that a film set in the Turkish-emigré, transvestite- prostitute subculture of contemporary Berlin would be (to put it kindly) of limited appeal. That's not the case with this astonishing first feature by Ataman. On one level the movie is a heartbreaking coming-out story in which a youth discovers his sexual identity while learning of the death of a long-lost brother who was also gay. On another level, it's a story of macho street hustlers so in thrall to gender posturing that they can't admit to their desperate longing for love and tenderness. And on still another level, it's a film about how immigrants carry the Third World culture they come from — and its strict rules and regulations — into even the most urbane of circumstances. Baki Davrak, Gandi Mukli and Erdal Yildiz play the principal roles. But the real "star" is the writer/director who, with this one film, becomes a name to conjure with in world cinema. With Husegin Karagoz's "Makbul: His Favoured One" (Turkey, 1999, 7 min.). (DE)

Monday, Sept. 13

5 p.m.: Gendernauts. Monika Treut. Germany, 1998, 87 min. We've come a long way from the time when ex-GI George Jorgenson announced to an astonished world that he had become a woman named Christine. In this delightful documentary, resourceful director Treut shows us just how far. Ever the intrepid scout on the furthermost corners of sex and gender, Treut has fashioned a film in which the words "I'm a man trapped in a woman's body" never pass anyone's lips. For the people on view here — largely female-to-male transsexuals, with a smattering of male-to-female here and there — don't appear to be trapped by very much, save a culture that looks at them askance. San Francisco Bay Area "trans" celebrities such as Max Wolf Valerio, Texas Tomboy, Stafford and Sandy Stone have far too many items on their dance cards beyond gender — from writing, to performing, to Internet communication — to be nailed down in any way. They're a fascinating bunch of people, and we are greatly privileged to meet them in this thoughtful, amusing and consistently surprising film. (DE)

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