COMING TO A GAY FILM FESTIVAL NEAR YOU: PRIVATE EYES, TATTOOS AND, YES, VAMPIRES
Every summer we get a healthy injection of lesbian cinema during the height of the LGBT film festival season. Unfortunately, that healthy injection is sometimes spiked with a deadly drug known on the street as BALM. (That’s Bad Lesbian Movie, for those of you who haven’t done the drug yet.)
BALM initially seems like a good idea — possibly even soothing and self-affirming — but about 10 minutes into the trip, the horrible side effects start to kick in. You’re overcome with visions of bad acting, stilted dialogue, ridiculous plot and really, really low-budget production values. It really messes with your ability to believe in the possibility of good lesbian movies, and that can be debilitating.
BALM may indeed strike again this summer. I can’t guarantee that you won’t escape an unwanted, unexpected fix. But here are a few films that might be worth seeing, if only for the eye candy (which is a little-known antidote to BALM):
2 Minutes Later — In this noir thriller, lesbian detective Abigail Marks (played by Jessica Graham, below with the bob) is hired by semi-closeted Michael to find his missing, estranged twin brother Kyle. Gay male twins, lesbian private eyes and hard-boiled escapism — what’s not to love? Wait: Don’t tell me. I’d rather be surprised.
Spider Lilies (Ci Qing) — This Taiwanese drama/romance about cybersex and tattoos is making its way around the festival circuit this year after winning the 2007 Berlin Film Festival’s Teddy Award for best feature. But maybe those German film fans were missing something (as in, spoken knowledge of Mandarin), because a friend of mine (Hi, Yuin!) saw it in Taiwan recently and reported the following:
Spider Lilies had some very compelling moments, but unfortunately most of the time it felt
like an amateurish mess. The central story is straightforward and should have been engaging — two young women
conquer their own demons to realize the desire they have for each other. The older of the two, Takeko, is played by Hong Kong hottie Isabella Leong.
The film sets Takeko up as half-Taiwanese and half-Japanese, perhaps as a way to explain
Isabella’s obviously non-Taiwanese-sounding Mandarin.The younger woman, Jade, played by Taiwanese pop princess Rainie Yang,
is a little girl lost who lives with her clueless grandma and works as a webcam porn girl.
The film uses lots of flashback to explain Takeko and Jade’s pasts. The flashbacks showing
grade-school Jade’s interaction and attachment to high-school Takeko are the best parts
of the film. They’re realistic, touching and actually quite intense despite (or maybe
because of) the youth of the girls. For most
of the movie I was distinctly aware of the wooden acting from all involved, the unrealistic
and silly dialogue, the story marred by meandering subplots that lead nowhere, and the
unfortunate lack of interaction and chemistry between the two leads.
Yuin noted, though, that "viewers who rely on subtitle rather than the spoken dialogue may be spared
some of the bad acting, much of which result from the way the lines were delivered by the
My conclusion? If you don’t speak Mandarin, Spider Lilies might be kinda pretty — especially if you like tattoos (and which lesbian doesn’t?), which play a prominent role in the film. If you do speak Mandarin, pretend like you don’t (bring earplugs?) and just read the subtitles. Because you can’t deny it: Rainie and Isabella are certainly easy on the eyes.
Vampire Diary — So far this vampire movie from the U.K. is only screening at Frameline, but it’s early days; it may still come to a town near you. I have no idea if it’s good or bad, but hey, it’s a lesbian vampire movie! Apparently it follows "a coven of Goths" who dress up as vampires and hit London clubs "in search of thrills." One of them, Holly (Morven Macbeth — she should win some kind of award for that name alone) is a documentary filmmaker following these Goth vampires around, until one night she notices a woman who looks "different" from the others.
Yes, the other woman, Vicki (Anna Walton), is a real vampire! The film is shot as a series of video diaries, and apparently it takes us "through a seductive netherworld into a grainy journal of erotic enticement and teeth-chattering horror … spiced up with smoking-hot Sapphic sexual awakenings."
You know, the LGBT film festivals often showcase very serious movies, such as the German film Vivere (from director Angelina Maccarone of Unveiled) and the British film Tick Tock Lullaby about lesbians seeking motherhood. I, for one, want some schlock and romance in the summertime. So I’ll be at Vampire Diary and Nina’s Heavenly Delights and, even, Itty Bitty Titty Committee.
OK, and I’m gonna see Spider Lilies, because I can’t help it — I like tattoos.