BFI Flare 2019, the BFI's yearly festival dedicated to screening upcoming queer cinema and LGBTQ films, was once again upon us for its 33rd edition. We were throughly impressed by the high calibre of films presented this year which ranged from a re-interpretion of teen coming of age movies, a Hollywood take on world reknowned literary hoax starring Kristen Stewart to a deptiction of a trans individual in her twilight years. Below is a round-up of films we managed to see throughout the week.
A tightly knit group of four handsome friends, three guys and a girl, congregated in a stunning modern villa under the Portuguese sun, for a long getaway. Predictably, sexual activity between the four is rife as audiences are left trying to decipher the continually morphing inter-relationship dynamics between them, as they lounge around the pool all day in skimpy designer swim wear, drinking gin & tonics anticipating the arrival an elusive David, (so elusive that I cannot recall whether he actually makes an appearance at the end of the film) who they all seem to have had a thing and is inexplicably, for each one, the love of their life. As cliché after cliché uncovers personal exposes straight out of a Latin American telenovela. The narrative and dialogue is so sub-standard, that protagonists are having to make up for it with cringey over-acting. Still though the setting and its four protagonists are beautiful enough to look at while the time passes by.
A rude awakening was awaiting me in Neverland, but not in a bad way, more in the vein of impressed surprise, a sense of jolt by the freshness and the audacity of this film. Starting off with a seemingly accessible narrative, 17-year-old Jakob (Simon Fruhwirth) is an anxious teenager living with his emotionally detached dad and senile grandad and has a penchant for live gay-cam chatting. As he reluctantly embarks on a nauseating career at the abattoir his dad works at, coupled by the sudden death of his grandad, further spurred on by a hook-up with webcam pal 26-year old Kristjan, proceedings begin to veer off script as events start to take on the essence of a bad acid trip. Literally that is when Kristjan gives Jakob a hallucinogenic pill, facilitating in warping the storyline to reflect Jakob’s complex mental state through prolonged montages of striking psychedelic surrealist imagery to a deafening soundtrack of hardcore techno. Director/ Writer Gregor Schmininger shows great promise in subversive and forward thinking film-making,
Giant Little Ones
Coming-of-age, high school teen flicks seem to pre-occupy queer cinema a fair amount and yet despite how cute, funny or clever some of these films may be, the genre currently feels over-saturated, stale and unoriginal. However, Giant Little Ones' director Keith Bowman turns the genre on its head and further fine-tunes it offer us a unique version that not only gives a fresh new perspective but also gives an acutely sensitive observation. The lead is not some lonely, arty side-cast but a popular athlete Frank (Josh Wiggins), where school is haven from the troubles at home, his dad (played by Kyle McLachlan) left his mum from another man. It’s when an unexpected encounter on his 16thbirthday initiated by his best friend Ballas (Darren Mann) leads to fatal consequences.
Pedro is a 70-year-old nurse who is obsessed with Greta Garbo, swipes drugs from his work place and offers hand jobs to willing patients as a form of relief. Pedro is having to look after his friend Daniela, a trans cabaret singer, who is now dying of kidney failure due to a boozy life on the night club circuit. As the hospital try to admit Daniella into the men’s ward, Pedro instead helps her check out whilst simulteanously meets and falls for a younger man, a convict, helps him in escaping, embroiling himself in the process. Greta is a gritty drama showcasing the lives of marginalized individuals in the later part of their lives, where director Armando Praca explore more existential and sombre themes of queer life; loneliness, death and the intricacies of love relationships
After the documentary Author: The JT Leroy, comes the film version, based on the true story account of a literary hoax by author Laura Albert who created the persona of gender ambigious JT Leroy and released several best selling books under that guise. Kristen Stewart embodies the uber stylish androgynous JT Leroy, a made to measure role which sees Stewart perfect even further her signature understated, underplayed acting style. However, its Laura Dern who steals the show as the as the self-involved, new age, kooky, larger than life, liberal San Francisco literary genius who also doubles up as JT’s pseudo over-bearing cockney agent Speedie. Noteworthy performances by Diane Kruger as a career focused, bisexual French actress as well as an appearance by Courtney Love in unusual more tender motherly role. A dazzling effort by Justin Kelly, who brings it once again with his colourful, edgy and narrative driven story-telling, matching his previous equally riveting efforts, King Cobra and I Am Michael.
The BFI Flare Festival 2019 run from 21st to 31st March.
Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_.
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