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Film Reviews

PICK SHORTBUS Hedwig and the Angry Inch star/creator John Cameron Mitchell’s eagerly awaited sophomore effort has already generated reams of ink over its subject matter — sex — and Mitchell’s decision to work with mostly nonprofessional actors willing to engage in real bouts of coitus uninterruptus. But beneath that outré exterior, Shortbus is, like Hedwig, a gentle paean to pansexuality, acceptance and good old-fashioned human desire, set in an idealized boho New York City where artists and other assorted misfits haven’t yet been priced out of existence. Mitchell’s characters are an agreeably diverse lot: a Chinese-Canadian sex therapist (Sook-Yin Lee) who’s never had an orgasm; a former child star (PJ DeBoy) who loves everybody, “especially cute people”; his boyfriend (Paul Dawson), a former hustler turned Jacuzzi lifeguard; and an acerbic dominatrix (Lindsay Beamish) who, like most everyone else in the film, just wants to feel something. Together and separately, they find their way to an underground salon “for the gifted and specially challenged,” where a cross-dressing “mistress” of ceremonies (Justin Bond) presides over a carnival of carnal pleasure. (My favorite: the pile of bodies at rest and in motion in the “sex not bombs” room.) The sex in the movie is “real” not just because it isn’t simulated, but because the bodies taking part in it are of all shapes and sizes, including a great many that would never pass a Hollywood screen test. But the boldest provocation of Mitchell’s sweet, tender and gently funny film may be its exuberant celebration of community and togetherness at a cultural moment rife with fatalism and disconnect. (Sunset 5) (Scott Foundas)

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING  When they say The Beginning, they really mean it: In producer Michael Bay’s prequel to his 2003 remake of the 1974 horror classic, we flip back through the Leatherface family album all the way to 1939, when the badly disfigured future chainsaw-wielder crawls out of his mother’s womb on (where else?) a slaughterhouse floor. Then it’s on to the Summer of Love, when Leatherface finds himself the victim of meatpacking-industry downsizing and, resourceful lad that he is, turns his attention from bovine to human pursuits. Enter the requisite carload of nubile young things — two brothers (Taylor Handley and Matt Bomer) en route to Vietnam, their respective girlfriends (Diora Baird and Jordana Brewster) in tow — about to discover they’re what’s for dinner. Few surprises lie in store for connoisseurs of torture cinema, though unlike its 2003 predecessor, this Massacre owes less to Bay’s attention-deficient aesthetics than to the measured, Georgia O’Keefe-on-acid sensibility that guided Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel’s much-cannibalized original. The director, Jonathan Liebesman (Darkness Falls), has a strong graphic sensibility — the decrepit farmhouse where most of the action takes place looms on the desolate horizon like some godforsaken Tara — and the overall tone is less punishing than you’d expect. The longer it stays on the screen, the closer the movie comes to the full-throttle nihilist comedy that Hooper himself seemed to be striving for in his own misbegotten Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, from an obese woman used as a makeshift doorstop to none other than Gunnery Sergeant Hartman himself (a flamboyant R. Lee Ermey, as Leatherface’s adoptive uncle) taking sadistic glee in dispensing with flag-waving patriots and beatnik draft-dodgers alike. (Citywide) (Scott Foundas)


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