Thursday, October 20, 2005

Reel Affirmations

Where have I been? Some have asked. More have speculated. [See postings of Friends to the right for that.] Among other things, I've been fully immersed in the DC Gay and Lesbian Film Festival -- Reel Affirmations. That, and my WEbring postings officially died with the impossibly hard assignment posted by Ms. Write Again Soon, which became all the more difficult when I mistakenly read Red's and realized her imposing genius.

But I thought I'd share how cathartically great last night was, especially in light of how utterly horrifying Odete was tonight. [“Odete casts an irreducibly strange eye on grief, love, and hysterical pregnancy and is both an ironic interrogation of gay male identity and a metaphysical black comedy about the looniest of fag hags - Film Comment” -- in fact, it was simply an excruciatingly slow tale of a highly disturbed woman who fed off the grief and pain of anything around her.]

First, there was WTC View:

"New York City, September 10, 2001. An ad appears in the Village Voice for a roommate. Selling point: the apartment has a view of the World Trade Center. Thus begins this emotionally charged and haunting film. As the days progress, Eric, the handsome young gay apartment dweller, is confronted with a cross-section of New Yorkers as he interviews potential roommates. While he learns their stories of 9/11, he slowly reveals his own, as everyone tries to put their lives back together. Intense, tender, and therapeutic, WTC View is a warm and highly personal human drama that highlights the resiliency of the human spirit. Dir. Brian Sloan, 2005, USA, video, 102 minutes."

Movie was wonderful. Also perhaps the first film I've seen that has tried to grasp vignettes of the emotional responses in NYC on the days and weeks post-attack. The Director was there, who apparently first wrote and directed this for an off-Broadway production. When he brought it to film, he kept the same cast, who brought the story alive, and staging in one apartment, which made it comfortably intimate. It was a touching portrayal. At the same time, it brought back haunting details that hadn't crossed my mind in months, if not years, including the smell, the missing posters plastered on every corner, the constant vigils, the awkwardness of casual conversation. It was also a touching story about the main character and his struggles.

What got me thinking the most was how much many of the characters were left struggling with their own existence. That isn't a memory I have from that time. I think in part it is because while I was in NYC, it wasn't my city -- I was but a visitor. But even more importantly, I was already in a place of transition. I was moving forward through my education, and that gave me purpose and a destination. Many of the characters were in their late 20s, and I imagine I would have responded differently if it were today. Life is a bit more stagnant now, as there isn't anything new or big on the horizon. So perhaps it would have motivated a search for something new. I was also blessed to be in a position, on account of school, to see friends on a regular basis. So I didn't have to, as a result, seek out people I had grown apart from and reach out to them. We had no school, and were mostly stuck in the same building together. I imagine if it were today I would redouble my efforts to spend time with those who I care about. Thankfully, I've been busy doing that lately anyway.

Unfortunately, the movie was on a scratched DVD, and we didn't get to see the end. But the journey was emotional enough, so I'll gladly look for its release next year, distributor willing.

Immediately following, I met up with several friends and caught Hard Pill:

"It’s an insidious but intriguing question: if a pill could make a gay person straight, would it ever be worth taking? John Baumgartner’s suspenseful debut feature explores this charged topic, turning in a highly original work of gay science fiction, and sketching a near future that is distressingly not inconceivable. Tim Barrens is a lonely gay man who’s sick of dead ends. Doted on by women friends, spurned by other gay guys, and resorting to sex with a straight buddy, he’s enlivened by news of clinical trials for a new pill that may change his sexuality, and perhaps (he hopes) improve his life. But can his very personhood survive this test? Baumgartner’s taut screenplay and direction, supported by a sterling cast, take on a chilling prospect, drawing provocative conclusions. – Courtesy of Outfest. Dir. John Baumgartner, 2005, USA, video, 93 minutes."

While some in toe thought that perhaps this would be comedic romp through the trials of becoming "straight," I was expecting something closer to what it was -- a more sad and searching tale. There thankfully was no cliché message at the end, such as "you can't run from yourself!" But unfortunately I'm not sure there was any other lesson either. This didn't make for a bad movie, I actually really enjoyed it, but an epilogue would have been nice. Instead, it became a somewhat discomforting view of not only the main characters unhappiness, but also the depths of the unhappiness in those around him.

After several hours of this, I was moved, but perhaps a bit sullen. Still, three cheers to two wonderful film festival selection, that I hope will be brought to a wider audience soon...

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