Break ups were a common theme at Chicago’s annual LGBT film festival. Characters kept having affairs, getting dumped or running into their exes. I covered the recent Frameline Festival and How To Get Away With Mordor has covered Outfest. But there was plenty still to see at Reeling.
Baja Come Down (2020, US). Lesbian couple goes on a road trip to save their broken relationship. It’s hard to invest as they’re clearly sick of each other. They pick fights and recite sad poetry. The inevitable is delayed by long shots of fields, seascapes and skylines.
Beyto (2021, Switzerland). Turkish immigrants force their gay son to marry a woman. He’s a passive fool so it’s hard to sympathize. I spent the film waiting for him to assert himself as the story rained abuse upon him and his hapless bride. A frustrating watch.
Down in Paris (2021, France). Narcissistic film director spends a night collecting stories from lost souls on the streets of Paris. His self-pity grows tiresome but the film provides a showcase for a flock of character actors.
Isaac (2020, Spain). Lawyer cheats on his wife with his ex-boyfriend. I’ve seen this story before but rarely with men so despicable. The film finds black comedy in their narcissism. But a late attempt at pathos rings hollow.
Love, Spells and All That (2019, Turkey). Ex-girlfriends seek a spell to quell their feelings for each other. The film starts at an 11, then dials back to make room for nuance. The actresses have chemistry and the story goes in interesting directions. Recommended.
Mascarpone (2021, Italy) (aka Maschile Singolare) A gay baker rebuilds his life after a divorce. He enters the hook up scene with the help of some snarky friends. The film is slow and formulaic. But Giancarlo Commare (Skam Italia) is a likable leading man.
My Fiona (2021, US). When Jane’s best friend dies, she bonds with the widow. The romance is tropey and takes a silly turn. But Jane is a dynamic character. And the screenplay understands how grief can flip between gallows humor, scalding rage and cold self-interest in seconds.
One in a Thousand (2020, Argentina). Bashful lesbian comes of age in the projects. The film indulges in lengthy scenes of the characters hanging out in near silence. Patience is required.
See You Then (2021, US). Kris spends an evening catching up with the ex-girlfriend she abandoned before transitioning. The monologue-heavy screenplay feels more suited to the stage than film. There’s a lot of small talk to sift through before they begin a genuine conversation.
At the End of Evin (2021, Iran). A trans teen is offered a job by a creepy rich man. Then ignores the red flags. The camera films from a first-person perspective. The gimmick is clever. But the naïve lead is so passive that it feels like a video game with the controller disconnected. Avoid the spoiler filled imdb synopsis.
Poppy Field (2020, Romania). A closeted cop breaks up an anti-gay protest at a cinema. Things go haywire. Internalized homophobia and toxic masculinity fuel this claustrophobic thriller. Recommended.
Saint-Narcisse (2020, Canada). Drifter investigates a mystery involving witches, monks and incest. Bruce LaBruce revels in mixing Catholic horror, queer camp and softcore porn. A wild ride held back slightly by inexperienced actors.
Boy Culture: The Series (2021, US). Jason Cacares’s young pimp sets Derek Magyar’s aging hustler up with quirky clients. Cacares has charm but Magyar’s wooden performance drags the show down. (Header image is from Boy Culture: The Series.)
Boulevard! A Hollywood Story (2021, US). Melancholy documentary about songwriters Dickson Hughes and Richard Stapley. Their claim to fame was an unproduced musical of Sunset Boulevard. This story is juicy but gets short shrift. The rest of the film is a dry look at their disappointing solo careers.
Invisible: Gay Women in Southern Music (2021, US). Queer songwriters discuss their careers in country music. Many began as singers but weren’t willing to stay closeted. Their performances reveal the talent we missed out on. There’s a palpable outrage at an industry rife with misogyny and sexual harassment.