SIFF 2013 kicked off Thursday night with the star studded opening night gala of Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” with Mr. Whedon and several members of his cast and a “Who are they?” roster of local “celebrities” in attendance.
Things almost immediately start getting REAL gay at SIFF the opening weekend with tonight’s screening of FIVE DANCES, the tender story of adorable young dancers in NYC and their first loves. (Note: Mr. Strangeways is a SUCKER for tender young love stories set backstage in the world of ballet!) Cutie pie Ryan Steele is the star, (he’s in “Matilda: The Musical”, which sadly means he can’t be here for the screening) but director Alan Brown is on hand for Friday night’s 7pm screening at SIFF Cinema Uptown and Saturday’s 1:30pm screening at the Harvard Exit. (Fun Fact: Mr. Brown is also the novelist of the very popular book, “Audrey Hepburn’s Neck” from a few years back.) More info on FIVE DANCES:
Recently arrived from Kansas thanks to a ballet scholarship, Chip (Ryan Steele, lead dancer in the 2013 multi-Tony nominee Matilda) hopes that his years of hard training haven’t been all for naught. Joining a small SOHO-based modern dance troupe, Chip soon discovers that a dancer’s career and personal life are inseparable, their experiences and romances paralleling the challenges of artistic expression. Structured around a five-section dance and set mostly in the troupe’s rehearsal space, this is a raw, real, and refreshing examination of the politics of movement. Featuring kinetic energy from the likes of New York’s finest dancers (Reed Luplau, Catherine Miller, Luke Murphy) and choreographed by the famed Jonah Bokaer.
Things are a wee bit raunchier with INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR, the naughty co-directed film from Travis Mathews and actor James Franco. INTERIOR is an interesting experiment of a film, which is not surprising considering the creative path of both directors…Mr. Mathews is best known for queer films that push the boundaries of frank sexual imagery on screen (last year’s controversial I WANT YOUR LOVE), and Mr. Franco has continued to confuse mainstream media with his tendency to alternate big Hollywood projects like RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and OZ THE GREAT AND POWEFUL with small, quirky and very independent projects like this film.
INERIOR. LEATHER BAR “imagines the 40 minutes of sexually explicit footage, cut to avoid an X Rating, from William Friedkin’s controversial 1980 film Cruising. However, Interior. Leather Bar. is not that footage. Nor is it a documentary. Nor a porno. It is an experiment in boundaries, one that uses the language of film and the workaday camaraderie of a film set to break down the barriers between the straight and queer worlds. Franco may be the magnet that brings together this production, but the star is Val Lauren, a self-professed Al Pacino fanatic and long time friend of Franco’s, who reluctantly agrees to star in the new footage. Lauren worries that his comfort level will be overly challenged and, as a straight actor, appearing in an explicitly sexual gay film may upset his career. That, according to Franco, is the point, to challenge oneself to face uncomfortable situations and to make art that celebrates sex in all its forms, be it straight or gay, S&M bootlicking or sloppy oral sex.” – from the SIFF description.
The film screens Saturday, May 18 at 7pm at The Egyptian on Capitol Hill, and repeats on Sunday, the 19th at the same venue at 3:30pm. Director Travis Mathews will be in attendance. (Mr. Franco is off promoting his newest directorial effort at Cannes.)
PIT STOP is another film examining gay male sexuality and relationships, but its small town Texas setting is a far cry from the urban raunchiness of INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR. Director Yen Tan is Malaysian born but Texas based, and his film similarly features a clash between different types of cultures.
Inspired by the overlooked gas stations and rest stops of the Texas highways, Yen Tan’s Pit Stop illustrates the parallel lives of two gay men living in a small rural town. Ernesto lives with his younger ex-boyfriend Luis as he waits for him to form plans for his future and move out. He avoids confronting Luis about his lack of motivation by devotedly visiting the hospital bedside of a comatose ex-lover and reading him gossip magazines. Suffocating feelings of inertia begin to close in on Ernesto until he demands Luis move out immediately, hoping that he doesn’t end up old and alone like him. Meanwhile, Gabe is a construction worker still very much involved in the home life of his ex-wife and daughter despite recently having come out as gay. Heartbroken over an ill-ending affair with a married man and watching his ex-wife’s love life blossom, Gabe struggles with the idea of a romance all his own. These coexisting tales weave through each other in a slow and minimalistic pace, focusing on the similar emotional isolation of the two main characters until they are at last brought together. Tan emphasizes the unhurried measure of the plot as well as the unembellished setting in a way that completely absorbs the viewer in this quietly stirring character-driven drama.
PIT STOP screens Sunday, May 19 at 6:30pm at Harvard Exit and repeats Monday, May 20 at 4:30pm at Pacific Place.