Beware the Poet 

Gay Shorts that Ain't All Bad

One of the most annoying factions of experimental cinema includes films that mimic bad coffee shop poetry readings. They're the ones in which the filmmaker narrates the story in an Allen Ginsberg monotone, instead of letting the images speak for themselves and the viewer come to his or her own conclusion about the film's objective. "Show, don't tell," is the writers' early mantra, and it should be applied to non-linear filmmaking. There's nothing worse than bad poetry--except maybe bad poetry with accompanying abstract film. And while the upcoming Sensory Perceptions/ Northwest Film Center's queer shorts program, Love and Loathing in Vancouver, BC, has its share of these dreaded films, there are still several engaging shorts that make the program well worth your $7.50.

One is entitled "Queer Things I Hate About You," directed by Nickolaos Stagais. It's a constantly moving, one-shot image of a man and woman against a white screen. Minimal blue and pink sentences pop up throughout the film's five minutes--words depicting the stereotypes that gay and lesbians might have about each other. It's a funny piece, and doesn't exactly spell out its message.

In "Field Guide to Western Wildflowers," Wayne Yung passionately kisses 63 different men. The devil-may-care, warm images are superimposed over vibrantly colored flowers and their official names. The soundtrack of men talking about their first gay Asian kiss make for a sweetly upbeat film.

Laurel Swenson's "How to be a Recluse (7 Easy Steps)" has the makings of a poem film (dainty enunciation, ephemeral images, a weighty topic) but avoids being obvious or shallow thanks to gorgeous shots and sparse instruction. Similarly, Gordon Wong's "Shuet Ying: A Story of My Mother" uses delicate animation, colors, and shadows (yet no spoken words) to convey an idea. Both films are moving and use time/film limitations to their advantage.

Some of the films are unsettling and powerful (Kenneth Fletcher and Paul Wong's needle-sharing piece, "60 Unit: Bruise;" Jennifer Conroy and Nikola Marin's graphically sexual "Fuck This, Ginger") and some have a great sense of humor and/or culture ("Transmission," Ivan E. Coyote's very honest piece about a transgendered family). This is a very well curated program--despite some of the Burroughs poetry stuff.

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