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ST. LOUIS INTERNATIONAL LESBIAN AND GAY FILM FESTIVAL

A schedule and capsule reviews of the fest's offerings

The eighth annual St. Louis International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival begins Sept. 8 and continues through Sept. 16 at the Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Blvd. Tickets are $6.50 (general admission), $5.75 (students and seniors) and $4 (weekday rush-hour shows); a five-film pass is available for $28. Tickets may be purchased at the Tivoli box office or by phone at 862-1100, ext. 0. For more information, call 997-9846, or access the festival Web site at www.slilagfilmfestival.org.

Capsule reviews are written by Diane Carson, David Ehrenstein, Mike Isaacson, Melissa Levine and Gary Morris. "NR" indicates the program is not reviewed.

Wednesday, Sept. 8

6 p.m.: Opening-Night Reception. Hors d'oeuvres and two beverages (beer, wine, soda or juice) for $10 at the Delmar Restaurant & Lounge, 6235 Delmar.

7:30 p.m.: Bedrooms & Hallways. Rose Troche. U.K., 1998, 96 min. Bedrooms & Hallways has all the makings of a breakout hit — even with straight audiences. The second feature by director Troche, this comedy of gay male manners is radically different from her 1994 no-budget debut film about New York lesbian bohemia, Go Fish. And Troche more than rises to the challenge — marking her as someone sure to crop up on studio short lists of directors of sophisticated adult fare. The clever script by Robert Farrar centers on a shy, just-turned-30 gay guy named Leo (Kevin McKidd) who joins a men's consciousness-raising group to brighten up his life — only to find himself having an affair with one of its otherwise straight members (James Purefoy). Complications ensue when Leo discovers his new amour is the ex-lover of an old female friend (Jennifer Ehle). And when he begins to spark with her, that (as they say on the sitcoms) is where the fun really starts. The principal trio is fine, and Simon Callow (of Merchant-Ivory fame) is quite funny as the painfully sincere men's group leader. But the best scenes belong to Tom Hollander (Saffron's horrid fiancé on Absolutely Fabulous) as Leo's sharp-tongued roommate, who's having an affair with a real-estate agent (Hugo Weaving of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) who loves nothing better than to stage trysts in the houses he's selling. With Heidi Ellis' "The Catch" (U.S., 1999, 10 min.). (DE)

Thursday, Sept. 9

5 p.m.: Beloved/Friend (Amic/Amat). Ventura Pons. Spain, 1998, 90 min., in Catalan with English subtitles. This is one of those movies where you scratch your head and say, "Well, um, what did you think?" Beloved/Friend is a European film, with all that implies: long, deep conversations; elliptical looks; and the pace of a charity golf tournament. The plot involves a male hustler who has knocked up the daughter of the best friend of one of the hustler's male clients. Right. Still, the portrayals of family and loneliness are quite compelling, and there is an honesty to the endeavor that always keeps your attention. Purely for the adventurous and patient. (MI)

7 p.m.: Stages. A program of shorts featuring former St. Louisan Scott Young's "Shooting Star" (U.S., 1998, 7 min.), Samara Halperin's "Shari Shapiro's Slumber Party" (U.S., 1998, 4.5 min.), Jennifer McGlone's "I've Never" (U.S., 1998, 8 min.), Lisa Ganser's "Stalking Mike Hawke" (U.S., 1999, 8.5 min.), Wendy Popadynetz's "People Like Us" (U.S., 1999, 7 min.), Paula Walker's "Seed: A Love Story" (U.S., 1997, 20 min.) and Laurie Schmidt's "Sleep Come Free Me" (U.S., 1998, 18 min.). NR.

9 p.m.: Beauty (Bishonen). Yonfan. Hong Kong, 1998, 101 min., in Mandarin and Cantonese with English subtitles. A gay love story set in modern Hong Kong that dramatizes a real-life public scandal involving pictures of nude or seminude policemen and a wealthy photographer. NR.

Friday, Sept. 10

5 p.m.: Rice and Potatoes. Todd Wilson. U.S., 1998, 58 min. Do you know what a "rice queen" is? He is an older gay man who wants to be with a young Asian man. Fascinating, no? Well, actually, no it's not, as this well-meaning but constantly dragging documentary proves. A series of interviews with men (mostly in their well-appointed living rooms) about their experiences and desires dating or being an Asian man, the film tries to take a matter of personal taste and desire and elevate it to the realm of social order and psychological interest. Problem is, the film's PBS tastefulness runs counter to its essentially Jerry Springer undertow. After the first 10 minutes, you find that most of the interviewees like talking about their intimate desires just a wee bit too much. Like being trapped at the Chinese-food dinner party from hell. With Andrew Soo's "Liu Awaiting Spring" (Australia, 1998, 13 min.), Kian H. Huan's "A Seeker" (U.S., 1998, 6 min.) and Paul Lee's "The Offering" (Canada, 1999, 10 min.). (MI)

7 p.m.: 2 Seconds (2 Secondes). Manon Briand. Canada, 1998, 100 min., in French with English subtitles. Ah, so that's mountain biking — careening down actual mountains at death-defying speeds, the world a stripy blur. (Who knew?) In the opening scenes of this lovely, patient film, we're introduced to the grueling world of competitive mountain biking — and then, with the film's protagonist, we're forced to leave. Considered washed up at 28, Laurie (Charlotte Laurier) is fired from racing. So she packs a bag and returns to Montreal, where she becomes a bike messenger, replacing one kind of speed and danger with another. (You can take the woman off the mountain, but you can't take her off her bike.) It's lonely and painful, but with the help of a moody Italian ex-cyclist and her physicist brother, Laurie learns some lessons about time, speed and, most important, pace. The actual lesbian content of this film may be true to the title — 2 Seconds — but who cares? Laurie is a wide-eyed, French-faced wonder, with a heart as soft as her body is taut. The film is well-drawn, beautifully paced and humane. One fault: Its parallels are a bit too tidy. (ML)

9:15 p.m.: The Velocity of Gary* (*Not His Real Name). Dan Ireland. U.S., 1998, 102 min. Ireland's impressive debut feature, The Whole Wide World, died quietly at the box office despite making many a critic's 10-best list for 1996. His follow-up, The Velocity of Gary, may suffer the same fate, given its modest budget and a storyline focused on male bisexuality. That would be a shame, because the film has much to recommend it despite a sometimes stagy air traceable to its origins as a solo theater piece. Vincent D'Onofrio plays Valentino, a charismatic porn star who presides over a motley miscellany of beautiful losers — girlfriend Mary Carmen (Salma Hayek), boyfriend Gary (Thomas Jane) and various drag queens and porn-star parasites. When Valentino becomes ill with AIDS, these already shaky alliances shift considerably before stabilizing into a semblance of family. A believably bittersweet mood and strong acting drive the film; particularly notable are Hayek, who exudes passion while deftly dodging the "hot Latina" stereotype, and D'Onofrio, who's both powerful and poignant as the world-weary stud. (GM)

11:30 p.m.: Beefcake. Thom Fitzgerald. Canada, 1999, 93 min. A meditation on the golden age of softcore male erotica. With Luc Felt's "Piglet" (Germany, 1998, 3 min.). NR.

Saturday, Sept. 11

12:45 p.m.: The Trio (Das Trio). Hermine Huntgeburth. Germany, 1997, 97 min., in German with English subtitles. One of the more complex and original films of the festival, this German film captures an intriguing portrait of bisexuality. As the film begins, a con artist, his male partner and the con artist's daughter are out making their rather lucrative way pickpocketing. When the partner is injured, a young drifter joins the twosome, with both father and daughter strongly attracted to their new teammate. The ensuing action is both funny and stark, and the film ultimately asks some compelling questions about the conflict between age, family and desire. There is a clarity, intelligence and cheerfulness to the film that never lets it get ridiculous, and the performances are all sharp. Of all the seven films I previewed, The Trio was clearly the most confident and competent. (MI)

2:45 p.m.: After Stonewall. John Scagliotti. U.S., 1999, 88 min. The sequel to the equally well-assembled Before Stonewall, After Stonewall documents the past 30 years of lesbian and gay history — from the infamous Village riot that sparked the movement through Ellen and Anne. Narrated by Melissa Etheridge, After Stonewall takes an appreciative and evenhanded look at each of the following: early gay-civil-rights organizations; disco; San Francisco in the '60s and '70s; gay bathhouses; women's-music festivals; racism and classism within the gay-civil-rights movement; the changing position of lesbians and gays in religion, politics and sports; AIDS; ACT UP; Queer Nation; and lesbian chic. Along the way, we're treated to interviews with lesbian and gay luminaries such as Elizabeth Birch, Larry Kramer, Harry Hay, Jewel Gomez, Barney Frank and Barbara Smith (among many others). Footage of Audre Lorde and Harvey Milk — and even, God help us, some very young Clintons — is truly uplifting. (ML)

4:45 p.m.: Miguel/Michelle. Gil Portes. Philippines, 1998, 110 min., in Filipino with English subtitles. The title of this film gives away its central conceit — boy becomes girl — but that's no matter, because the film is concerned not with the sex change itself but with its emotional effects. When we first meet Miguel (Romnick Sarmenta), he's a young Filipino man headed for America. A few minutes later, seven years have passed, and he returns to his native shores as Michelle, having kept his sex change from his family. They're shocked and ashamed; Michelle is patient, kind and very clear about what she wants — acceptance. The film follows her efforts to obtain it, from her family, friends and native community. Miguel/Michelle is not a particularly complex film, and it's compromised by sentimental music and rocky emotional transitions, but it's a sweet and moving modernization of some age-old conflicts: child/parent, new/old, West/East, boy/girl, etc. It seems that, in these universal matters, the universal emotions prevail. (ML)

7 p.m.: Better Than Chocolate. Anne Wheeler. Canada, 1999, 101 min. Romantic comedy of the most soufflé-light sort is in the offing with this attractive Canadian production about a bookstore clerk named Maggie (Karyn Dwyer), whose affair with a traveling sketch artist (Christina Cox) is interrupted by the sudden arrival of Maggie's flighty, emotionally needy mother (Wendy Crewson). The real interest, however, devolves from a subplot involving a male-to-female transsexual lesbian (Peter Outerbridge). And that's not to mention the musical numbers. Lesbians looking for featherweight fun are sure to enjoy this production, directed by Wheeler from a screenplay by Peggy Thompson. Others may long for something slightly more substantial. But it's hard to find too much fault with a film whose high point is a musical number entitled "I'm Not a Fucking Drag Queen." (DE)

9:15 p.m.: Defying Gravity. John Keitel. U.S., 1997, 92 min. Two frat boys sit on a cliff, gazing wistfully over a mountaintop. After moments of agonizing silence, Frat Boy One says, "So, are you in, like, love with him, dude?" At this delicious moment, Defying Gravity becomes a camp classic, a film future generations of gay men will host dinner parties for and howl with laughter over. The story of a frat boy sleeping with a brother but flirting with Muffy, the film feels like the mutant fusion of an Abercrombie & Fitch ad and an episode of Starsky and Hutch. There's mystery, pathos and a hospital reconciliation that makes one yearn for a film adaptation of Medical Center. Primary to all camp, the more sincere it gets, the more you giggle. As Griff, the popular frat boy desperate to wear heels, Daniel Chilson is sublime in his ignorance of sexuality and acting. For all the wrong reasons, this one is not to be missed. (MI)

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)

7 p.m.: Intimates (Ji Sor). Jacob Cheung. Hong Kong, 1997, 117 min., in Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles. It's hard to avoid using the word "epic" to describe this movie, which alternates between present and past, West and East, young and old, and cool blues and warm reds to tell the story of two women whose love for each other spans 50 years and thousands of miles. Wai, a young Chinese architect living in the United States, travels to mainland China with Foon, an older friend of her family, who is intent on reconnecting with an old friend. Wai's boyfriend dumps her, and as Foon comforts Wai about this loss, the older woman begins to reminisce about her own romantic past. Her truest love turns out to have been Wan, the woman with whom she hopes to be reunited. For the most part, Intimates is a moving, elegantly drawn portrayal of a fairly unexposed time and place, but the film does lapse into melodrama (the cloying music hardly helps). However, the biggest problem is the subtitling — small and white on a frequently white screen. For a substantial portion of the movie, the titles are all but impossible to read. (ML)

9:30 p.m.: Head On. Ana Kokkinos. Australia, 1998, 104 min. Head On takes on the real tough stuff. Alex Dimitriades plays Ari, a 19-year-old whose beauty and sexuality run against the power and history of his proud but unraveling Greek family. Full of shame and hatred, Ari resorts to the crudest and ugliest forms of sexual expression, servicing random tradesmen in back alleys and clubs. As his internal conflicts threaten to explode and the family pressure to conform intensifies, Ari resorts to drugs and liquor, and the results aren't pretty. The film makes the mistake of trying to offer the obligatory drag queen as fairy godfather yet has the courage to not offer redemption at the end. When salvation finally is present, Ari blows it. Literally. This is a tough, dark and often compelling portrait. (MI)

Tuesday, Sept. 14

5 p.m.: It's Elementary. Debra Chasnoff. U.S., 1996, 77 minutes. As a society, we're still remarkably incapable of discussing, with intelligence and reason, our own sexuality, especially its inclusion in school curricula. The debate intensifies immensely over the presentation of lesbian and gay topics to elementary- and middle-school children. Cutting through the hysteria that attends such issues, documentary filmmaker Chasnoff models the perfect response: Listen to and trust the children, who often show more sensitivity and insight than many adults. Over a four-year period, with her partner, Helen Cohen, Chasnoff plunged into the controversy, interviewing enlightened and Neanderthal principals, board members, teachers, parents and students. Her team would arrive at schools never certain whether they would receive permission to shoot or that teachers and parents would feel safe enough to speak their minds for the record. The result of Chasnoff and Cohen's persistence is one of the best, most enlightened documentaries of the year. Interspersing very brief video clips from news reports, politicians' speeches, and talk-show hosts and guests, Chasnoff perfectly illustrates the essence of pervasive negative images and media's exploitation of them. But the heart and soul of this brilliant work is fascinating footage shot in six elementary and middle schools from New York City to San Francisco, from Cambridge, Mass., to Madison, Wis. Seeing the ways brave teachers guide and reach out to responsive students should, as Chasnoff hopes, help us take the next step in teaching respect for all. It's Elementary points us in the right direction. (DC)

7 p.m.: Eileen Is a Spy. Sayer Frey. U.S., 1998, 74 min. With a Q&A and meet-and-greet with director Frey after the film. Inspired by the children's classic Harriet the Spy, Frey's movie is a hybrid between a documentary and a drama — but it's not a docudrama. Protagonist Eileen (Tami Hinz) is a nervous, damaged woman coping with trauma by hiding behind her notebook, in which she records observations about others. As we watch her story unfold, we're periodically treated to a visual and aural montage of women's testimony about childhood, sex, men and women — though more than anything they talk about fathers, who seem to have had the greatest effect on all of the above. The juxtaposition between Eileen's drama and the nonfictional testimony flirts (admirably) with failure: It's unusual and a bit jarring. But in the end, it works quite well, perhaps because the nonfictional revelations represent what Eileen could — or should — be recording in her journal. Best of all, the film is unflinching in the face of pain; it never panders to false hope. (ML)

9:15 p.m.: 24 Nights. Kieran Turner. U.S., 1999, 97 min. You can make several arguments against 24 Nights: It's film-school clunky and predictable, occasionally drifts and could use some cutting. But all of its crimes are ultimately excused because, quite often, 24 Nights is very, very funny. The unoriginal premise — a sweetly idealistic man writes a letter to Santa asking for a boyfriend for Christmas — is carried aloft by some sharp comic writing and a few performances that are bull's-eye. A few nice character touches — the protagonist is wittily dependent on his bong, and the Southern object of his affections is actually funny dumb — and some original plot points gradually join to give the film a joyous rhythm and flavor. If you can remember "Ring My Bell," the poker game using 45s for chips is one of the funniest film scenes of the year. Undeniably fun, winning and sweet. With a Q&A and meet-and-greet with director Turner after the film. (MI)

Wednesday, Sept. 15

4:45 p.m.: Fire. Deepa Mehta. Canada/India, 1994, 104 min. Lesbianism as a powerful tonic to the suppressions of Indian culture is the subject of Mehta's contemporary melodrama. Radha (played by megastar Shabana Azmi) is the traditional "good wife" who never questions her husband, a sect-follower who tests his libido by forcing her to lie naked next to him every night so that he can resist temptation. Sita (Nandita Das) is her younger, more modern-thinking sister-in-law, whose arrival coincides with Radha's increasing alienation. Sita is horrified by her own marriage to self-absorbed philanderer Jatin (Jaaved Jaaferi): "This devotion thing is overrated," she says flatly. The film, a deft mix of pathos and humor, lovingly details their increasingly indiscreet trysts. A wizened, judgmental granny provides a wordless black-comic Greek chorus (she's mute from a stroke); the high point occurs when the house servant nervously masturbates to a video called The Joy Suck Club while Granny watches in horror. Fire was shot in India at the same time Mira Nair's Kama Sutra was causing a scandal; Fire's upfront treatment of lesbian amour, normally a taboo subject in the country, went happily unnoticed. (GM)

7 p.m.: Siblings/Parents & Babies. A program of shorts featuring Carl Pfirman's "Boy Next Door" (U.S., 1998, 13 min.), Catherine Crouch's "One Small Step" (U.S., 1999, 29 min.), George Camarda's "The Olive Tree" (U.S., 1999, 26 min.) and Geoffrey Nauffts' "Baby Steps" (U.S., 1999, 25 min.). NR.

9:15 p.m.: Edge of Seventeen. David Moreton. U.S., 1998, 100 min. Neither gay-activist agitprop, nor a tale of homophobic horrors filled with insensitive parents and brutal schoolmates and ending with a pistol-whipped corpse tied to a fence by a highway, nor a socially conscious polemic about one youth's effort to challenge the establishment, Edge of Seventeen is instead a calm, clear-eyed portrait of a particular kid trying to figure out — like teenagers of all kinds the world over — who he is and where he fits in. Eric (Chris Stafford) is a whole lot luckier than any number of gay kids today. His parents love him unreservedly. He has a best friend (Tina Holmes) to confide in. And when he Takes the Plunge and goes to the local gay disco, he walks right into the open arms of the most wonderful lesbian den mother the world has ever known (the irrepressible Lea DeLaria) Still, his first affair with a sexy smoothie (the very, very hot Anderson Gabrych) ends badly. A subsequent fling with a casual pickup is no better. And he fails to face up to the fact that his best friend is desperately in love with him. Everything turns out happily by fadeout time, but not before screenwriter Todd Stephens and director Moreton have made any number of important points about what growing up gay really means in white middle-class America. Edge of Seventeen is reaching wide release at a most auspicious moment. The theaters are filled with gay teenage coming-out stories. But they're all British in origin, and none of them deal with sex as frankly and (thank goodness!) as erotically as this one. (DE)

Thursday, Sept. 16

4:45 p.m.: Alive and Kicking. Nancy Meckler. U.K., 1996, 100 min. Britain's Channel 4 excels at engaging, literate gay dramas, and in this case also manages to avoid the maudlin air of most "AIDS movies." Tonio (Jason Flemyng from Hollow Reed), an ego-driven gay dancer, fights and makes up with his troupe, has a tortured affair with an overweight psychiatrist and is just beginning to suffer from AIDS. The dialogue is alternately snappy ("My face is leaving in five minutes — be on it") and sober ("My body betrayed me"). One of the best scenes is a comic hetero flirtation between Tonio and a lesbian pal when both are sick of their mates. He suggests she go down on him. "Lick your willie?" she says. "That's heinous!" When he complains that her tits "get in the way," she rails at his lack of comprehension: "They're supposed to get in the way!" (GM)

7 p.m.: Show Me Love. Lukas Moodysson. Sweden, 1999, 89 min., in Swedish with English subtitles. We've just been through a cycle of gay male teenage coming-out films (Edge of Seventeen, Get Real and Like It Is), so it's more than appropriate that Show Me Love should spotlight the travails of lesbian teenagers. And this tale of a scorned outsider (Alexandra Dahlström) falling for the most popular girl in school (Rebecca Liljeberg) is as sensitive, insightful and unsensational as you could wish. (DE)

9:15 p.m.: When Love Comes. Garth Maxwell. New Zealand, 1998, 94 min. When Love Comes deals with a middle-aged pop diva (Rena Owen), trying to put her singing career on track, who joins forces with a lesbian punk-rock duo (Nancy Brunning and Sophia Hawthorne). But the emotional core of this New Zealand mood piece belongs to her gay best friend (Simon Prast), who's trying to figure out what to do about a substance-abusing wild-child lover (the gorgeous Dean O'Gorman) who keeps rushing in and out of his life. Writer/director Maxwell aims for (and often achieves) the emotional texture of Antonioni — which is a far cry from his day job as one of the main movers and shakers behind the Hercules and Xena television series. (DE)

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