Outfest 2001, the 19th edition of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, opens tonight at 8 with a gala premiere at downtown L.A.'s refurbished Orpheum, 842 S. Broadway, with the film version of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." The principal venue among several will again be the Directors Guild of America, 7920 Sunset Blvd., and as usual there will be a richly varied array of offerings and special events. The best films are so venturesome and universal in themes as to attract increasingly larger crossover audiences.
A homosexual pedophile once remarked in a documentary that men like him would never stand a chance if more parents expressed love and interest in their children. Michael Cuesta's startling, ultra-realistic "L.I.E." (DGA, Sunday at 6:30 p.m.) stars Paul Franklin Dano as a high school student living near the Long Island Expressway, mourning his dead mother and neglected by his womanizing, crooked contractor father. The troubled youth responds to the gruff paternal warmth of a burly, macho ex-Marine (the veteran Brian Cox). Director Cuesta doesn't condone this seemingly unlikely pedophile, yet dares to present him as a three-dimensional human being.
Kate Davis' emotionally wrenching "Southern Comfort" (DGA, Tuesday at 7:15 p.m.), winner of the grand jury documentary prize at Sundance, takes its title not from liquor but from an annual convention of transgendered individuals held in the Deep South. It's an event Robert Eads is determined to live long enough to attend. He's a wiry Marlboro Man type, a 52-year-old farmer in rural Georgia who was born Barbara and is dying from ovarian and cervical cancer. More than 20 doctors and hospitals refused to treat Eads, some saying they feared losing patients. With remarkable intimacy, tenderness and candor, Davis chronicles the final year in Eads' life, during which he began an unexpected romance with Lola, a male-to-female transsexual. Eads is at the center of a small transgendered community concerned with being treated like everyone else. This powerful documentary leaves one major question unanswered: Why didn't Eads and his friends reach out to the nationwide transgendered community for the treatment that might have saved or extended his life?
Romantic and contemplative yet gritty and brutal, Marcelo Pineyro's complex, demanding "Burnt Money" (DGA, Monday at 8:45 p.m.) takes us back to the corrosively corrupt Argentina of 1965 to tell the true story of the handsome lovers Angel (Eduardo Noriega), who hears voices and dreams of emigrating to New York, and the protective Nene (Leonardo Sbgaraglia). A bank robbery misfires bank robbery and they end up in exile in Uruguay, which is just the beginning of their Juannie and Clyde saga.
The success of "Queer as Folk" paved the way for introduction of another series from Britain's Channel 4, "Metrosexuality," whose six episodes--150 fun, fast-moving minutes--screen Friday at Harmony Gold, 7655 W. Sunset Blvd., with its creator and star Rikki Beadle-Blair present. Beadle-Blair plays a flamboyant hairdresser whose 17-year-old son is trying to get his two fathers to reconcile, which sets in motion a soap opera with serious undertones that celebrates the vibrant interracial, polysexual life in London's Notting Hill neighborhood.
A fine example of turning a low-low budget into a plus, Jeffrey Maccubbin's "Flush" (DGA Video, Friday at 9:45 p.m.; next Thursday at 7 p.m. and July 21 at 7:15 p.m.) is a funny, shot-from-the-hip picture that imaginatively interlinks three tales. A middle-aged, neurotic troublemaker (Sarah Conaway) zeroes in on the perfectly nice new young guy (Brett Coy) in her office in her craving for attention and companionship. Meanwhile, her adventurous high school student daughter (Taj Little) comes on to two boys (Shawn Quinlan and William Byrne), insisting that they fool around with each other before they fool around with her. Finally, a young man (Richardson Jones), who happens to be Coy's cousin, is having a difficult time in getting his live-in lover (A. Leslie Kies), an attractive, independent redhead, to say she loves him.
With the poignant "Come Undone" (DGA, Saturday at 7 p.m.), French filmmaker Sebastien Lifshitz takes a classic story of first love, involving a 17-year-old (Jeremie Elkam) falling in love with an equally handsome but somewhat older and far more experienced young man (Stephane Rideau) and experiencing a particularly difficult rite of passage; Lifshitz has effectively experimented with an elliptical, intricately structured style to heighten his film's impact. More on Outfest next week. (323) 960-0636.
LACMA's "A Weekend of Silent French Comedy" commences Friday at 7:30 p.m. with "Help!" (1924), an amusing and clever 37-minute collaboration between two legends, director Abel Gance and comedian Max Linder, in which the debonair star accepts a bet from a friend (Jean Toulout) that he will be able to stay in a haunted chateau (a veritable Magic Castle of spooky trickery) until the stroke of midnight. It will be followed by Rene Clair's delightful 1923 experimental debut feature "The Crazy Ray," in which a nutty professor suspends all life and movement in Paris with his invisible ray.
Saturday brings at 7:30 p.m. Georges Monca's "Rigadin, Cubist Painter," a lighthearted 10-minute spoof of Cubism in which the writer-comedian Prince Rigadin even dons a boxy smock in embracing the new movement in art. This whimsical curtain-raiser will be followed by Clair's 1927 comic masterpiece, "The Italian Straw Hat," based on Labiche's classic 19th century farce. A timelessly hilarious, gentle but spot-on satire on the bourgeois sense of propriety, the entire film turns upon a bridegroom's horse making off with a straw hat belonging to a married woman (Olga Tschekova) rendezvousing in the woods with a dashing lieutenant (Vital Gaymond). (323) 857-6010. Next weekend : "The Genius of Jacques Tati." (323) 857-6010.
The American Cinematheque's "Breaking Genres With Kiyoshi Kurosawa" opens Friday at the Egyptian with the director--no relation to Akira--present for a sneak preview of "Cure." A big-city police detective (Koji Yakusho) is coping with his wife slipping into madness just as he comes face to face with a singularly formidable foe, an insinuating young man (Masato Hagiwara) who has become such a master hypnotist that he can command his victims to murder one another.
Other Kiyoshi Kurosawa films screening in the series are similarly offbeat: "Charisma" (Saturday at 5 p.m.) is an ecological thriller centering on a poisonous tree and featuring a large ensemble cast; "Seance" (Sunday at 5 p.m.) is a scare show that also explores the plight of a gifted but unappreciated spiritualist. "Seance" will be followed by "License to Live," which delves into the predicament of a young man who awakens from a 10-year coma to find his family has disintegrated. All three films are from 1999; a pair of distinctive 1996 made-for-video yakuza thrillers, "The Revenge: A Visit From Fate" and its sequel "The Revenge: The Scar That Never Fades," screen after "Cure" and a discussion with Kurosawa. (323) 466-FILM.
A restored version of D.W. Griffith's landmark "Intolerance" (1916) screens Friday at UCLA's James Bridges Theater at 7:30 p.m. (310) 206-FILM. The Silent Society's "Silents Under the Stars" presents at the Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, Sunday at 8 p.m., Buster Keaton's 1927 "The General." (805) 370-2301.
A series of Japanese classics begins Sunday at Little Tokyo's Japan America Theater with Keisuke Kinoshita's 1954 "Twenty-Four Eyes" (1 p.m.) and Mikio Naruse's 1952 "Meshi" (at 5 p.m.) (213) 680-3700. "Amos Gittai 2001," composed of four films of the Israeli director, screens Wednesday and next Thursday at James Bridges Theater. (310) 206-FILM.