By Amy Nicholson
By LA Weekly critics
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Anthony D'Alessandro
Every summer, I jump at the chance to review Outfest films because it’s a festival that still feels very local, which is a lovely thing, and also ’cause as a gay guy myself, I too want to see movies featuring half-naked men. Still, as much as I and my fellow L.A. Weekly reviewers root for Outfest, it’s time for me to state in print that the festival’s programmers often make me more than a little crazy. Year after year, they fail to trumpet the few truly interesting films that come their way, opting instead to promote the tried and true. It’s as if they have no faith in their audience, believing them to be as shallow minded as the rest of America thinks L.A. queers are. Time and again, the films highlighted by special boxes in the all-important festival catalog, as well as those selected for the heavily promoted Gala events, are movies that look sexy and outrageous on the outside but all too often turn out to be the same old same old. (See the documentary The Saint of 9/11, the neglected gem of last year’s fest, which is now available on DVD.) This tactic is defensible — like all film festivals, Outfest needs to attract corporate sponsors and fill seats — but after 25 years and great success, it’s time for Outfest’s leadership to work harder in guiding their loyal, movie-savvy audience toward challenging, thoughtful, grown-up films. For me, two films this year that deserve that loud banging of the drum are The Bubble, from Israel, and While You Are Here, from Germany. You’ll find reviews of both below, along with notes on other Outfest flicks that we’re recommending.
ANOTHER WOMAN (France) In a film originally produced for French television, actress Nathalie Mann is very good as Lea, who was once a man named Nicholas who abandoned his Parisian wife and children for a new, transsexual life in Geneva. Back in Paris after 10 years, Lea wants a relationship with her children, but the ex-wife isn’t exactly thrilled. Although director Jerome Foulon lets his film’s earnest and overly predictable third act drag on, this high-toned melodrama is elegantly produced, and kind of fun in the midsection, when secrets are revealed and faces are slapped. (Directors Guild of America, Sun., July 15, 8 p.m.) (CW)
THE BUBBLE (Israel) A film too relevant to be ghettoized as just another gay movie, this superb new drama from the American-born, Israeli-based director Eytan Fox (Yossi & Jagger, Walk on Water) begins with a young Palestinian named Ashraf (Yousef Sweid) showing up at the Tel Aviv apartment of Noam (Ohad Knoller), an Israeli reservist with whom he locked eyes at a military checkpoint. They hit it off immediately (“So that’s how Jews kiss,” Ashraf says), and soon Noam and his friends are disguising Ashraf as an Israeli so that the two men can stay together. The first half of The Bubble takes place in a Westernized, hipster district of Tel Aviv, where Noam and his friends protest for peace in the afternoon and go to raves at night. When Ashraf must rush home to Gaza, it becomes Noam’s turn to take on a disguise and cross into hostile territory. This split structure allows Fox to take us deep inside two worlds rarely seen on Western movie screens — places where a person’s attempt to resolve issues of family and sexuality and love don’t stand a chance against outside pressures that are ceaseless and dizzying in their complexity. As one young lover says to another, “If only we could make the politics disappear.” (Directors Guild of America, Sun., July 15, 6:30 p.m.) (CW)
CAT DANCERS (USA) In the 1950s and ’60s, Ron and Joy Holiday became world renowned as acrobatic ballet dancers, eventually adding lions and tigers to their act. In 1988, they took on a young protégé named Chuck Lizza, who became a lover to both Ron and Joy. Documentarian Harris Fishman lets Ron tell the trio’s respective life stories, up to the series of tragedies that destroyed everything. Fishman is reliant on Ron’s viewpoint to a fault — not one friend or co-worker appears to testify to this 14-year love triangle. That makes for a film with a nuance-free focus, but a story that can’t quite be resisted. (Directors Guild of America, Sat., July 14, 8:30 p.m.; Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, Fri., July 20, 7:15 p.m.) (CW)
EAST SIDE STORY (USA) This vibrant romantic comedy from writer-director Carlos Portugal and co-writer Charo Toledo pokes fun at WeHo gays who move East to gentrify the barrio and drive up property values. But at heart, the film is a love story, and a charming one at that. After a long affair with Pablo (David Beron), a closeted real estate agent, 29-year-old restaurant manager Diego (Rene Alvarado) feels sparks with the unhappily partnered gay gringo (Steve Callahan) across the street, all of which has him on the verge of coming out to the world. Although Portugal overplays the notion of shallow white gays, he draws solid, grounding performances from all, particularly Alvarado, who’s a heartbreaker on every front. This movie deserves a theatrical release. (Regent Showcase, Sun., July 22, noon) (CW)
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