SCREEN GRABS “The LGBT community is starting to like Donald Trump very, very much” said (who else but) Donald Trump on the campaign trail in 2016, right after the Pulse nightclub massacre—provoking an epidemic of appalled eye-rolling and unkind laughter from said community.
Two years later, nobody is laughing: As POTUS, this professed “real friend” to gays is pandering to his far-right base by rolling back anti-discrimination and other laws directly impacting queers at a pace that must be making First Lady Pence absolutely giddy with Jesus-flavored excitement. As a result, this year’s Pride Month and all the events it contains—not least Frameline—may prove the most politically charged since the height of the AIDS crisis over a quarter-century ago.
Not only are gays (once again) under siege by this administration, so is SF (as a “sanctuary city”), and California in general. Hell, this POTUS has even managed to alienate Canada. As That Petrol Emotion once sang, “What you’ve gotta do in this day and time/You gotta agitate, educate, organize,” and one way of doing that is in forums like the world’s first, biggest and oldest gay film festival. For more details on this year’s program, which starts Thursday, see below.
If on the other hand you’re desperately seeking escapism, this week offers the usual summer array of debuting remakes (Superfly), sequels (Incredibles 2), and raunchy all-star comedy (Tag). A little further off the beaten path there’s Hearts Beat Loud, a dramedy with music from the writer-director of the tepidly heartwarming I’ll See You in My Dreams and The Hero; and at the Roxie, Maria Allred’s indie ensemble piece The Texture of Falling, a sort of erotic-thriller mosaic. The Roxie is also opening the much-praised Nossa Chape, a documentary about the tragic plane crash that befell a lesser-sung Brazilian soccer team in November 2016 (a terrible month on SO many levels), and the heroic if sometimes fractious effort to build Chapeco’s team anew.
It’s the summer of 42 for Frameline, aka the SF International LGBTQ Film Festival. In tune with the progressive currents of the moment—much as they may be fighting upstream—over half of the 153 titles included this year are women-directed projects. The thirty-nine countries represented include ones as far-flung as Tonga, Qatar, Lebanon, Paraguay, and Kosovo.
Of course, plenty will hit very close to home, like opening night selection Transmilitary. Fiona Dawson and Gabriel Silverman’s documentary looks at the issues facing an estimated 15,000 trans personnel actively serving in the U.S. armed forces at present, at a moment when their tentative gains under the Obama administration are being aggressively undone by a hostile new White House regime. The filmmakers and several of their subjects will be present at the screening.
Ending the festival on Sunday the 24th (also at the Castro) will be a more frivolous nonfiction study, Matt Tyrnauer’s Studio 54, about the legendary NYC dance club that defined the high (in every sense) disco era. “Centerpiece” programs scattered throughout the eleven-day schedule include the delightful-sounding absurdist period piece Wild Nights with Emily, starring SNL’s Molly Shannon as 19th-century poet Dickinson, directed by Madeleine Olnek of Co-Dependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same. Plus Icelandic drama And Breathe Normally; When the Beat Drops, a Paris Is Burning-type documentary about bucking, an emerging underground gay dance performance idiom; and Bonding, a gay-man-and-straight-female-
Other special events include a revival of late gay cinema pioneer Arthur Bresson’s newly restored 1985 Buddies, the first narrative feature about AIDS; and a tribute to influential local documentary maker Debra Chasnoff, who died of breast cancer last year at age 60. She’ll no doubt figure in Dykes, Camera, Action!, a survey of out lesbian cinema over the last half-century. The similarly scaled 50 Years of Fabulous, sketching the history of SF’s drag-centric charity org the Imperial Cousil, is also among numerous other titles by and about Bay Area residents.
The above-mentioned just scratches the surface of the 2018 Frameline schedule, which will take place at various SF venues as well as the Elmwood in Berkeley and Piedmont in Oakland. Thurs/14-Sun/24. More info here.
After both her parents die—it’s hinted they died scandalously of AIDS—6-year-old Frida (Laia Artigas) is taken in by her aunt and uncle (Bruna Cusi, David Verdaguer). They’re warm and accepting, with a three-year-old daughter (Paula Robles) of their own to offer as playmate; living in the country, their situation is as favorable as one could hope for under Friday’s circumstances. But, of course, she’s processing a trauma she’s too young to understand, and which would be destabilizing at any age.
This seemingly casual, leisurely first feature by writer-director Carla Simon was Spain’s Oscar submission this year, and it’s won numerous awards elsewhere. No wonder—lyrical, naturalistic, low-key, it captures confused children’s emotions with a stealthy assurance you scarcely notice until the film knocks the wind out of you. Opens Friday, Clay. More info here.
Just a few weeks ago the Italian Cultural Institute hosted a day-long, five-feature Antonioni marathon at the Castro, but that was nothing: This two-month “comprehensive retrospective” at the Pacific Film Archive provides a definitive wallow in cinema’s principal poet of postwar spiritual malaise. Starting this Friday with his 1960 international breakthrough L’Avventura, featuring his long-running muse Monica Vitti, it ranges both backwards to encompass his often impressive apprentice films (including shorts, documentaries, and dramas more closely aligned with the neo-realist vogue) and forward to his other early 60s masterpieces, his fascinating English-language trilogy (Blow-Up, Zabriskie Point, The Passenger) and idiosyncratic later works The Mystery of Oberwald and Identification of a Woman.
Along with Fellini, Bergman and Godard, Antonioni had perhaps the greatest influence among European directors on the medium’s radical upheavals of form and content in the Sixties. This touring series features primarily 35mm prints, many freshly struck for the occasion. Fri/15-Sun/Aug. 19, PFA. More info here.
LOST LANDSCAPES OF NY
Locally based film historian and archivist Rick Prelinger has been delighting audiences here and elsewhere for years with his “lost landscape” evenings culling together retro celluloid views of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Detroit. Last year he put together his first program of vintage clips from the Big Apple throughout the 20th century—as seen in industrial films, home movies, and other “found footage”—winning favorable comment from the NY Times’ critic Manohla Dargis. The same bill makes its SF debut in a one-night benefit for the Internet Archive at its Richmond District headquarters. Fri/15. More info here.
Though she hasn’t had the kind of breakout hit that makes for international stardom, in both leading and support roles English changeling Andrea Riseborough has made it clear over the last decade that she’s one of the most fascinating actresses on either side of the Atlantic. In writer-director Christina Choe’s intriguing debut film, she plays the titular lost soul, a thirtysomething oddball without job or social life in a colorless American suburb. Nancy escapes into fictitious online personas acted out with oblivious strangers, and no wonder—she’s stuck in a fairly miserable domestic situation with a sickly, nagging mother (the currently ubiquitous Ann Dowd).
When that situation abruptly changes, however, Nancy becomes fixated on a TV report of an older couple (Steve Buscemi, J. Smith-Cameron) whose daughter was presumably kidnapped 30 years ago, never found or heard from again. Does Nancy really believe she might be this missing child, or is it just another role she’ll adopt in her desperate search for acceptance? Trembling on the line between character study and thriller—we’re never quite sure just how far Nancy will go—the film leaves a less-than-indelible impression in the end. But as usual, Riseborough is arresting, original, and completely committed. Opens Friday, Opera Plaza and Shattuck Cinemas. More info here.
MI VIDA LOCA
As this year’s Frameline and films like Nancy suggest, women behind the camera are finally beginning to get their full due. Such was certainly not the case twenty or thirty years ago, when female directors were still considered a novelty, and even big hits like Wayne’s World (Penelope Spheeris), Clueless (Amy Heckerling), and Desperately Seeking Susan (Susan Seidelman) didn’t guarantee their makers the kind of major big-screen career that men almost certainly would have been granted.
Another talent of that generation, Allison Anders, likewise inevitably wound up going primarily into TV work (including shows like Sex and the City and Orange is the New Black), but then and now, her feature work has stayed stubbornly “indie.” After the very New Wave-hipster 1987 debut Border Radio and 1992’s female-ensemble sleeper dramedy Gas Food Lodging, she made this acclaimed 1994 look at life among young women in a poor, gang-ridden Hispanic neighborhood of L.A.’s Echo Park. Anders herself will be at this rare revival screening—one so rare, indeed, that the best available print being shown will be imported from France, with French subtitles translating the original English and Spanish dialogue. Tues/19, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission. More info here.