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Saturday, July 20, 2024

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Arts + CultureMoviesScreen Grabs: A joyful reunion at 20th Queer Women...

Screen Grabs: A joyful reunion at 20th Queer Women of Color Fest

LGBTQ+ movie season bursts to life. Plus: 'Bound' returns, Film Noir classics, Valie Export celebrated, more

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No doubt as usual next week, many people will have their calendar cleared for just about everything save Frameline, whose 48th edition will be the first in decades not to have the closed-for-renovation Castro Theatre as home base. But we’re already well into Pride Month, and there is no lack of queer content currently available onscreen in addition to (or if you can’t wait for) the Big Kahuna’s opening on the 19th.

Celebrating its own milestone 20th anniversary this weekend is the International Queer Women of Color Film Festival, an occasion whose significance for past attendees is noted by the theme “Joyful Reunion.” This year’s three-day event will take place Fri/14-Sun/16 at the Presidio Theatre Performing Arts Center in the Presidio National Park (not to be confused with the nearby Presidio Theater, a commercial cinema on Chestnut), and admission is entirely free, though online reservations are encouraged.

It opens Friday night with “Charting Home,” a collection of 10 shorts by indigenous makers from around the world. Further themed shorts bills including “Queer Black Currents” and “Waves of Love” follow, plus documentary feature Finding Her Beat (about women in the traditionally male Japanese musical discipline of taiko drumming) on Sunday afternoon. There will also be a panel discussion, “Unshakeable: Queer Women of Color Filmmakers,” Saturday at 5 pm. All programs will have subtitling, audio descriptions and/or ASL interpretation for the hearing or sight impaired. For complete info, go here.

Looking back to queer cinema of the past is a three-part series at the Roxie that offers a sort of Kucharamathon. The late lamented George Kuchar and surviving sibling Mike, originally a filmmaking duo, will split a bill of their solo directorial shorts on the afternoon of Sun/16: George’s Asphalt Ribbon and I, An Actress (both from 1977), plus an in-person Mike’s 1975 Bloodsucker and 2013 Happy Birthday. It’s actually the last of four programs in an inaugural Studio 8 Film Festival  presented by SF Arts Alumni (a group dedicated to the legacy of the equally late and lamented SF Arts Institute), preceded by one at Oakland’s Shapeshifters Cinema on Fri/14, and two at SF’s Balboa Theater on Sat/15.

But it’s just the beginning for the Roxie, which on Tues/18 will show Ali Catterall and Jane Giles’ Scala!!! (more info here), a documentary about the London rep house cinema that for 15 years (1978-1993) was the place for cult movies—horror, gay, punk, kung fu, et al. It inspired a lot of budding filmmakers and hosted more than a few bands (including Throbbing Gristle and pre-fame Spandau Ballet) before a lawsuit over a “secret” screening of then-UK-banned Clockwork Orange shuttered its doors.

The movie may overestimate the uniqueness of this scene—you could have found equivalents in many US cities during the same timespan. But it’s a fun flashback with clips aplenty from the likes of EraserheadSalo, JubileeThe HungerUn Chant d’amourFaster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!Taxi Zum KloPink FlamingosThe WarriorsWithnail and IPink Narcissus, and Thundercrack! That last-named B&W bisexual porno Gothic written by George Kuchar and directed by Curt McDowell was a particular favorite at Scala—indeed it was probably more successful there than anywhere else. If you’ve never seen the crazy 1975 whatsit, here’s your chance: It will immediately follow the documentary on Tuesday night.

Recently arriving on home formats are two recent features spotlighting LGBTQ+ rights issues around the globe. Reem Morsi’s Canadian Queen Tut is a slick if formulaic crowdpleaser about a closeted new arrival from Egypt (Ryan Ali) who falls in with a weary trans activist’s (Alexandra Billings) attempts to save a beloved community gathering place from redevelopers—whose forces are unfortunately led by our hero’s father (Dani Jazzar). It was released this week by Cinephobia to US DVD and video-on-demand.

Agniia Galdanova’s Queendom, which played Frameline last year, is a nonfiction portrait of another gender-nonconforming activist: Russian performance artist Jenna Marvin nee Gennadiy Chebotarev. Her Pussy Riot-style public provocations in wildly imaginative costumes do not, needless to say, go down well in the increasingly, violently homophobic cultural climate encouraged by Putin. Greenwich Entertainment releases the feature to On Demand platforms this Fri/14.

At least queer-adjacent in her own pioneering performance-art expressions of feminist self-examination and cultural critique is the subject of SF Cinematheque’s program Sun/16 at CounterPulse. “Women Men Animals: Film & Video Works by Valie Export” reaches back as far as nearly 60 years ago to encapsulate early screen efforts by the Austrian multimedia creator whose anti-patriarchal/bourgeoise visions “center on the human body as a medium of information.” Much of the program hails from the early 1970s, offering monochrome videotape miniatures that include live performances. Two 1980s offerings, however, offer much more highly worked assemblies of theatrical, installation, filmic and editorial elements, in color.

Near-last but far from least, next Tues/18 sees the Criterion Collection release in a blu-ray Special Edition of the Wachowskis’ first—and arguably still best—feature. 1996’s Bound has Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly as co-conspirators and lovers in what’s not just one of the great neo-noirs, but way up there amongst mainstream Hollywood depictions of lesbian love and lust. It will include a host of extras including interviews with the principal participants, including sexpert “technical consultant” Susie Bright, and more input from commentators including another SF treasure, B. Ruby Rich.

God knows there wasn’t much that can be claimed as feminist or gay-positive in the original run of film noirs…but we love them anyway. You’ll get plenty of opportunity to indulge that affection for the next couple months via BAMPFA’s series “Film Noir Classics: America’s Dark Dreams,” which runs at the institution’s downtown Berkeley auditorium July 14 through August 4. It starts this Friday night with Billy Wilder’s 1944 Double Indemnity, the classic James M. Cain-drawn tale of a femme fatale (Barbara Stanwyck) who lures a not-so-wiseguy (Fred MacMurray) into an insurance-scam murder plot from which no one will emerge unscathed.

The remainder of the program likewise sticks to well-known, well-deserved favorites in the genre, including titles from directors Nicholas Ray (In a Lonely Place), Jacques Tourneur (Out of the Past), Michael Curtiz (Mildred Pierce), Otto Preminger (Laura), Robert Aldrich (Kiss Me Deadly) and Stanley Kubrick (The Killing). There’s also no less than three from the underrated Robert Siodmak (Phantom LadyThe KillersCriss Cross), a late Alan Ladd/Veronica Lake vehicle penned by Raymond Chandler (George Marshall’s The Blue Dahlia), and Sunset Boulevard—a later Wilder joint with some notable similarities to Indemnity.

The state of Hollywood gay representation at the time is fairly well represented by John Huston’s Dashiell Hammett-derived 1941 The Maltese Falcon. Sophisticated audiences then recognized what was being signaled when private eye Bogart and secretary Lee Patrick smirk at the arrival of a fancily dressed new client who reeks of gardenia cologne—Peter Lorre as Joe Cairo, a character regarded with greater contempt even than the leading female figure (Mary Astor) who turns out to be a pathological liar and murderess. For the BAMPFA series’ program details, schedule and ticket info, go here.

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