The 10th Portland Lesbian & Gay Film Festival (PLGFF) starts this weekend at Cinema 21, with plenty of boy-on-boy and girl-on-girl cinematic action. The fest continues through October 16, and while your cadre of dependable Mercury critics wasn't able to screen all of the PLGFF flicks this year, we did sneak a peek at a few. All films screen at Cinema 21; for more info, see Film Shorts on pg. 53 and Movie Times on pg. 55.
Fri Oct 6
Yes, it's another movie about Truman Capote. However familiar the subject, Douglas McGrath's Infamous quickly establishes its own rhythm, shuffling with ease between an amusing look at NYC social butterflyism and the darker, sardonic Kansas segments, aided and abetted by stellar performances from Daniel Craig and Jeff Daniels. Even better still is Sandra Bullock as Harper Lee, whose unpushy, Southern-fried minimalism proves an ideal sounding board for the flamboyance of the main character.
Admittedly, the depiction of said main character does have to deal with a rather large elephant in the room, given Philip Seymour Hoffman's towering performance just last year. As Capote, Toby Jones certainly has an edge over Hoffman in the physical department—with his hobbitish features and nasal drone, one suspects he was grown in a lab somewhere for this express purpose—and his lolling ease at impersonation permeates the surrounding film. McGrath and Jones can't match the intensity of the earlier film or actor—but Infamous' knowingly glib, facile tone makes for a fearsomely entertaining night out. ANDREW WRIGHT
Wed Oct 11
Amnesia is based on a true story, but that doesn't mean it's true—and it sure doesn't mean it's good. When a young gay man from the States (Dusan Dukic) is found naked in Montreal, apparently suffering from amnesia, he's taken in by members of the local gay community. He soon remembers the name "James Brighton," and concludes that this must be his name—but when his face appears on TV newscasts, a family comes forth and identifies him as someone else. The veracity of his amnesia called into question, our amnesiac leaves his gay Canadian friends and returns to the US to a family he doesn't remember (Mistake #1). There, he enters into correspondence with a graduate student with an interest in his case (Mistake #2), which triggers some disturbing memories. Meanwhile, the filmmakers unpack every possible interpretation of every possible theme one could locate in the story of a gay amnesiac. There are lots: recovering from amnesia as a metaphor for coming out of the closet; denial of homosexual impulses and alienation from self; and sexual oppression in religious institutions. Splice in some true-crime-style special effects, and you've got yourself a film that's no more "real" than it is "good." ALISON HALLETT
Sun Oct 8
Set in the political upheaval of Spain in the early '80s, El Calentito centers on Sara (Verónica Sánchez), a good girl who sneaks out one night to a club called El Calentito. Owned by a beautiful male-to-female transvestite, Antonia, El Calentito is a mecca for the unruly punk rockers of Madrid and ground zero for Las Siux, a ridiculous all-female punk band. When Sara passes out on the floor of the club's bathroom, she finds herself scooped up by Las Siux as their new member, quickly trading in her goody-two-shoes persona for eyeliner, fishnet tights worn as sleeves, and a determination to lose her virginity.
It's this pappy plot that takes up the foreground of the film, while more serious topics—such as the military coup that takes place on the night of their big gig, and Antonia's fears for her safety as a tranny in the midst of social upheaval—get pushed into the background, making way for some pretty embarrassing music. El Calentito is good for some hot Spanish chicks flashing boob and looking like fools, but look elsewhere if you want any meaningful examinations of political events or sexual identity. MARJORIE SKINNER