Strong, Diverse Outfest Looks at Sex and Relationships


Outfest ’96 continues at the Directors Guild, 7920 Sunset Blvd., through Sunday with an array of films high in quality and rich in variety, plus several panel discussions.

Screening tonight at 9:15 is Bruce LaBruce and Rick Castro’s outrageous “Hustler White,” in which the fortunes of a handsome Santa Monica Boulevard hustler (Tony Ward) are followed as a way of providing a guided tour of kinky sex. As usual, LaBruce, who co-stars, goes right up to the edge of porn without quite crossing the line. With performance artist Ron Athey.

Cheryl Dunye’s lively “The Watermelon Woman” (Wednesday at 7 p.m.) is as engaging as the beautiful, vibrant Dunye herself.

She has cast herself as a Philadelphia video store clerk and aspiring filmmaker captivated by the elegant Guinevere Turner (one of the stars of last year’s “Go Fish”) and by documenting the life of a largely forgotten black movie actress of the ‘20s and ‘30s and her romantic relationship with one of Hollywood’s few female directors of the period. Dunye is concerned with the validity of interracial relationships and with calling attention to the often neglected role of blacks in the movies.


The lovemaking in this film is stunningly erotic, as it is also in Nicole Conn’s lyrical period vignette “Cynara,” which screens Thursday at 7 p.m. along with other lesbian short films.

Throughout the week, shorts will screen with features and in special programs. Lee Wind’s knockout “Sex Insurance, Inc.,” which screens Tuesday at 9:15 p.m., preceding the feature “Red Ribbon Blues,” spoofs infomercials with musical production numbers.

Joshua Rosenzweig’s hilarious “Scream, Teen, Scream!” (Thursday at 9:15 p.m. as part of a program of shorts) stars the inimitable Jackie Beat as a teenager hosting a Halloween slumber party the very night a serial killer is on the loose. The result is a delicious drag sendup of “Halloween” and other teen horror flicks.

Chris Newby’s austere yet often funny “Madagascar Skin” (Wednesday at 9:15 p.m.) finds a shy young gay man (John Hannah), whose good looks are marred by a large port wine birthmark on his face, holed up in a remote, abandoned South Wales cottage with a shady, barrel-chested, middle-aged guy (Bernard Hill) who may be on the lam.


From the start, the gay man is attracted to the rugged, macho older man, and Newby keeps us guessing as to whether an intimate relationship will be possible between the two.

Nikla Cole and Sarah Kerruish have done a terrific, fluid job on filming Michael Kearns’ brave and brilliant one-man show “Intimacies” (Saturday at noon), in which they deftly frame Kearns’ triumphant portrayals of six very different people with AIDS with interviews with Kearns, who talks of his life and career, living and working openly with an HIV-positive status and preparing to adopt a baby.

“Intimacies” is a tremendously effective and moving experience, one of the highlights of the festival, especially for those who didn’t see “Intimacies” on stage.

Fina Torres’ effervescent “Celestial Clockwork” (Saturday at 7 p.m.) is a giddy comedy starring Ariadna Gil as a Caracas bride who flees her own wedding for Paris, where she hopes to fulfill her dream of becoming an opera singer--and also finds romance. Threatening to derail her dreams is Arielle Dombasle’s amusingly devious video maker. For festival information: (213) 782-1125.


Elegant Yet Tedious: Veteran Italian master of the macabre Dario Argento’s brand-new “The Stendahl Syndrome” (American Cinematheque at Raleigh Studios, Friday and Saturday at 7 and 9:30 p.m. and midnight) is as elegant as it is tedious, a dubbed-into-English, overly long (two-hour) tale of a young Rome policewoman (Asia Argento, the director’s daughter) who is overtaken by the personality of the serial rapist who attacks her. (213) 466-FILM.