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Friday, December 3, 2021

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MoviesScreen GrabsScreen Grabs: The all-star queer LSD orgy that skewered...

Screen Grabs: The all-star queer LSD orgy that skewered Nixon’s White House

Frameline Fall Showcase brings Cockettes, Mayor Pete, more to screen. Plus: Passing, Cicada, Marguerite Duras, Albert Speer, more

Special cinematic events this week are several in number. Occupying the Castro Thu/11-Fri/12 is the Frameline Fall Showcase, which offers two evenings of four in-person screenings so you can get your off-season gay fest on. The kickoff is a new 4K restoration of 1971’s 33-minute Tricia’s Wedding, the Cockettes’ magnum celluloid opus. Its burlesque of the Nixonian White House’s premiere social event (daughter Tricia’s nuptials to Edward Cox) is a a bad-taste dragstravaganza even before disgruntled guest Eartha Kitt spikes the punchbowl with LSD, prompting an all-star orgy. Some of the film’s surviving participants will appear for an onstage interview and performance. 

Later that night there’s Mayor Pete, the new documentary (also available on Amazon Prime on as of Friday) about the out former Navy officer, mayor, senator, and current US Secretary of Transportation’s campaign for the Presidency last year. Director Jesse Moss, of the exceptional Boys State, will be present for a post-screening Q&A. Friday’s fare is big on romance: There are all six episodes of forthcoming subversive comedy “Bridesman,” the first scripted series from Grindr; and French writer-director Jacques Audiard’s (A Prophet, Rust and Bone) new feature Paris, 13th District, a B&W portrait of a bisexual quadrangle in the City of Love. For full program/ticket info on the Frameline Fall Showcase, go to www.frameline.org

Also starting on Thurs/11 is another LGBTQ+-inclusive event, the SF PornFilmFestival, which offers in-person events at Brava Center for the Arts Thurs-Fri, live streaming ones this Sat-Sun, then On Demand streaming repeats of that prior content through Nov. 28. You can get full info here; 48 Hills’ preview of the festival, and interview with veteran lesbian XXX filmmaker Nan Kinney, is here.

The Roxie is currently showing a very good recent gay dramatic feature called Cicada. Written by its co-stars, Cicada is a summery Manhattan hookup-turned-romance whose well-toned lovers each turn out to be understandably “difficult” people. Ben (Matt Fifer) a slightly-slutty sexual late bloomer willing to settle down a bit with the initially warier, semi-closeted Sam (Sheldon D. Brown). But both have serious, past-trauma-related issues to work on individually before they can hope to truly work as a couple. Adventurously mixing lyrical, improvisational, dramatic, and documentary elements, directors Fifer and Kieran Mulcare’s film is a deceptively simple narrative about credibly complicated characters.

Currently playing the Embarcadero (and launching on Netflix this Wed/10) is a very different kind of primarily two-character drama, English actress Rebecca Hall’s Passing. It’s an unexpected choice for her directorial debut, being based on Nella Larsen’s short 1929 novel, a significant product of the Harlem Renaissance. This faithful adaptation has Tessa Thompson as Irene, a doctor’s socially active wife who’s surprised to run into her long-lost childhood friend Clare (Ruth Negga)—then even more so to discover Clare is “passing” as a white woman, married to an oblivious rich white businessman (Alexander Skarsgard) who is openly racist. As a result, the two women’s reunion is somewhat awkward for Irene; but Clare insists on their renewed acquaintance, having clearly missed the community she’s exiled herself from. This renewed association comes with risks, however, ones that come to an awful fruition.

It’s a memorable tale that treats complex issues in a deftly personal way. If Hall’s treatment is (at least initially) a tad less subtle than the original story managed, she nonetheless uses fine performances and a sharp compositional eye to an effect that builds strength towards the climax’s full, shocking force. 

Race and prejudice are also the elephants in the room for a new documentary the Roxie is playing just this Thurs/11. Israeli director Vanessa Lapa’s Speer Goes to Hollywood tells the almost unbelievable tale of Hitler’s former architect and Minister of the Arms Industry a quarter-century after the war’s end—and after he’d served a 20-year prison sentence for war crimes, particularly the use of slave labor. Albert Speer was successful to an extent in recasting himself as a “good” Nazi, one who’d been magically unaware of the regime’s worst atrocities (i.e. the Holocaust) despite high rank and close friendship with Der Fuhrer himself. His whitewashing memoir Inside the Third Reich was an international bestseller. 

Despite its understandable controversy, Paramount rather astonishingly became serious about making a film version, and in 1971 dispatched young screenwriter Andrew Birkin to interview Speer at length for that purpose. Many of their exchanges were recorded (though as those tapes have deteriorated, what we hear in the doc is primarily read by actors), and even more than his squirrelly testimony at the Nuremberg trials (also amply preserved), they testify to an extraordinary degree of denialism. 

The erudite, gentlemanly, multilingual Speer is willing to confess his personal affinity with Hitler (“It was love at first sight”), and glosses over things like the “evacuation” of Jews as necessary regime tactics. But he pleads amnesia or innocence when it comes to Nazi crimes against humanity, though plenty of evidence exists that he knew the worst of it—indeed, he visited concentration camps, and worked captive laborers to death at his factories. Paramount finally got cold feet (although another studio later made a TV miniseries from Inside). But the fact that Speer’s revisionist history was even considered as a major Hollywood project makes this documentary an even more astounding portrait of a liar—whether a coldly deliberate or delusional one, we’ll never know. 

Lucky to have survived the world war Speer claims so little memory of was the late Marguerite Duras. She spent its years publicly working in an office for the collaborationist Vichy government, but secretly involved with the French Resistance. Somehow she also published a first novel in 1943, then gradually became a major cultural figure in the postwar era: A leading force in new French literature, encompassing plays and screenplays as well as print fiction. After penning 1959’s Hiroshima mon amour for Alain Resnais, she belatedly became a Nouvelle Vague director herself, spending nearly two decades (1967-1985) making rigorous, challenging features that despite their often uncommercial nature attracted stars like Jeanne Moreau, Gerard Depardieu, Dominique Sanda, Delphine Seyrig, and Robert Hossein. 

BAMPFA’s retrospective Marguerite Duras: The Seamless Past and Present, running this Thu/11 through November 28, provides a short sampler of her screen work in two adaptations and one particularly experimental original. There’s Hiroshima, which was an enormously influential worldwide arthouse hit at the time; and sixty-two years later, Suzanna Adler, a new version of Duras’ play (with Charlotte Gainsbourg in the title role) directed by Benoit Jacquot, whom she’d worked with as an actor. 


There will also (on Sun/21 only) be a new digital restoration of her own hitherto little-seen 1979 La navire Night, a narrative so abstract that its name players (Sanda, Bulle Ogier, Matthieu Carriere) are purportedly barely seen—in synch with the “faceless” relationships they portray as characters whose only interactions are via telephone. Posited as a film about the making of a film, Duras ends it with a mind-messing ironical sting typical for her, as she informs us in voiceover that “The story was never shot.”

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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