The Los Angeles International Gay & Lesbian Film & Video Festival, which continues through Sunday at the Directors Guild, 7920 Sunset Blvd., offers such a wide variety of programs that no one could hope to see them all.
Among the hottest tickets are Gregg Araki's "Totally F***ed Up" (Tuesday at 7 p.m.), a wry study of alienated gay and lesbian teens--and the no-budget filmmaker's most mature work to date--and John N. Smith's highly praised "Boys of St. Vincent" (Wednesday at 7:30), a two-part, four-hour Canadian TV film based on an actual incident of sexual and physical abuse on the part of a priest running an orphanage.
Not all the films and videos were available for advance screening but among those previewed are a number of winners.
Eric Mueller's "World and Time Enough" (tonight at 9) is a bit awkward and callow in places but on the whole is an engaging look at two young lovers--Mark (Matt Guidry), a fiery conceptual sculptor and activist who is HIV-positive, and Joey (Gregory G. Giles), an HIV-negative trash collector who tends to keep much of what he finds. The Minneapolis-based Mueller calls his film "the first X-Generation romantic comedy from America's heartland." But for all its whimsical touches, it deals seriously with gays' longing for family ties despite brutally alienating experiences. Mueller makes us aware of how omnipresent memories of childhood can be.
One of the strongest, most accomplished films in the festival is Maria Luisa Bemberg's "I, the Worst of All" (Thursday at 9 p.m.) in which a radiant Assumpta Serna plays the aristocratic 17th-Century Mexican poet and cloistered nun, Juana Inez de la Cruz, whose brilliance and beauty attract the new vicereine (the equally stunning Dominique Sanda), but whose outspoken ways inevitably invoke the wrath of church officialdom.
Isaac Julien's "A Darker Side of Black" (Saturday at 4 p.m.) is an incisive and disturbing study of the homophobia that has been emerging in gangsta rap and reggae, starting with Jamaican musician Buju Banton's 1992 "Boom Bye Bye," which called for the shooting of all gays and lesbians. The talented maker of "Looking for Langston" and "Young Soul Rebels" does not merely expose and protest this trend, but looks for its historic roots in slavery, colonialism, chronic poverty and ignorance. Banton and his successors resort to religion to justify their homophobia; Julien also makes clear that much of this music is also exceedingly demeaning to all women--straight or gay.
New Zealand filmmakers Stewart Main and Peter Wells have more than met the tricky challenge of pulling off all-stops-out deliberate high camp with their gorgeous and outrageous "Desperate Remedies" (Saturday at 9 p.m.), a lurid Victorian tale of lust and power, set in stunningly stylized period settings wherein everyone is scheming away beneath a facade of propriety. The central figure is the regal Dorothea (Jennifer Ward-Lealand), an ambitious shopkeeper in a fictional colonial town who is determined to save her addicted sister from her dope-dealing lover, and who is adored by her beautiful companion (Lisa Chappell). "La Forza del Destino" appropriately appears on the soundtrack.
Sunday afternoon brings two affecting--and effective--AIDS documentaries. Manhattan-based Gregg Bordowitz's "Fast Trip, Long Drop" (2 p.m.) is a video diary, spanning several years and recording the filmmaker's blunt and honest attempt to deal with his HIV status and eventual AIDS diagnosis. Bordowitz makes good use of parade and demonstration footage, skits and some amazing archival footage of daredevil stunts. Juan Botas' "One Foot on a Banana Peel, the Other Foot in the Grave" (4 p.m.) records the interaction between a group of men, including himself, who receive medication regularly together at a Greenwich Village physician's office/clinic. What emerges is a portrait of quiet heroism as these men sustain each other in the face of deteriorating health and, in some cases, imminent death.
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