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Queer Eye for the Cinema: Films of LGBT Allure at the 2003 Chicago Film Fest

This article shared 2663 times since Wed Oct 1, 2003
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by Gregg Shapiro

Even though titles of interest to the LGBT community are not the priority for the Chicago International Film Festival, each year the programmers do what they can to include movies with appeal to queer viewers. Films such as Trembling Before G-d, Kissing Jessica Stein, Our Lady Of The Assassins, The Iron Ladies, Madame Sata, The Lawless Heart and Venus Boys all played the film festival in recent years. The 2003 Chicago International Film Festival continues the tradition with a queer eye toward the cinematic offerings. What follows are just a few of them.

Peter Hedges, who wrote the screenplays for What's Eating Gilbert Grape and About A Boy, wrote and directed Pieces Of April (Indigent/IFC), an amusing and moving digital video feature that takes place on Thanksgiving. April (Katie Holmes) is the eldest daughter of Joy (the remarkable Patricia Clarkson of Far From Heaven and High Art) and Jim (Oliver Platt). She has been a constant source of disappointment to her parents, but she wants to make it up to them by inviting them, her brother, sister and grandmother to her Lower East Side apartment for Thanksgiving dinner. The holiday is made even more poignant when it becomes clear that Joy, who has breast cancer, may not be around for another Thanksgiving dinner. After April's boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke) leaves to buy a suit at the 'retail store' where his friend Latrell (Sisqo) works (to Bobby's chagrin, it turns out to be a Salvation Army Thrift Store), she discovers that her oven doesn't work. April then tries to find a neighbor's oven that she can borrow. On her quest she meets Evette (Tony-award winning actress Lillias White) and Eugene (Isiah Whitlock, Jr), who are able to offer her their oven and cooking expertise for a couple of hours. Later, she meets shirt, tie, vest and watch-fob wearing asexual Wayne (Sean Hayes = queer interest), who has a pug and a self-cleaning convection oven. This discovery is short-lived, when she insults Wayne and is left with a partially cooked turkey. She eventually overcomes a language barrier and is able to finish cooking the turkey in her Chinese neighbors' oven. Meanwhile, her family is living through their own comedies and dramas on the drive into the city. The pieces of Pieces Of April come together beautifully by the end of the film, all of which is due to Hedges's sensitive script and the terrific cast. (Oct. 12 at Music Box and Oct. 13 at Landmark)

Yes Nurse! No Nurse! (Warner Brothers) is a zany, colorful Dutch homage to the Hollywood musicals of the 1950s. Yes Nurse, No Nurse begins with a Busby Berkley-esque number during the opening credits and then follows that up with a Singing In The Rain tribute rainstorm dance number ('together with a fella/under one umbrella') with Jet (Tjitske Reidinga) and Gerrit (Waldemar Torenstra). Jet lives in a questionable rest home (nobody rests) run by Zuster (Nurse) Klivia (Loes Luca). Her 'nasty neighbor' and cranky landlord Boordeval (Paul Kooij) is intent on evicting her and her brood and is constantly dragging the lot of them into court. In between trials, a circus arrives in nearby Flora Park, which leads into a song about joining the circus; the Hairdressing Salon Minerva, run by poofy and puffy Wouter (Paul de Leeuw) opens on the block; Zuster Klivia, who is always taking pity on impossible underdogs, invites Gerritt, the beautiful burglar from rainstorm dance number to move in and we get to see Gerrit feeding the pigeons and singing a song while in his tight white briefs. It seems that the sweet Wouter and unpleasant Boordeval have a romantic history, which is revealed in a song about the all-male 'Travel Society' to which they both once belonged, after Boordeval's cough drops are switched with the mood-altering pills created by rest home resident the engineer (Beppe Costa). How long will the pills that changed Boordeval's mood stay in effect? Will the residents of the nursing home be evicted? Can Jet and Gerrit overcome Gerritt's burglar past and live happily ever after? And what about the recently widowed Zorba the Griek (Pierre van Dujl)? For the answers to all of these questions, say yes to Yes Nurse! No Nurse! (Oct. 3, 4, 5 at Landmark)

Mambo Italiano (I D P), like both My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Kissing Jessica Stein, started out as a theater piece, so comparisons are inevitable. Also, the whole ethnic shtick makes association unavoidable. Still, there are plenty of reasons to like and recommend Mambo Italiano. Cute and closeted 27-year-old Angelo (Luke Kirby) still lives at home with his parents Gino (Paul Sorvino) and Maria (Ginette Reno) and his sister Anna (Claudia Ferri). A phone call to a gay helpline gives Angelo the courage he needs to come out to his parents, but not before he fills the viewer in on some details of his past. One of the most significant details is Nino (Peter Miller), a childhood best friend who abandoned Angelo at a critical time in their youth in favor of the macho bullies who tormented him. Years later, after Angelo moved out of his parents' home and into an apartment that is burglarized shortly after he moved in, the childhood friends are reunited as Nino is now a police officer assigned to the case. Past insults are forgotten and the two old friends are once again thick as thieves. On a camping trip, the pair discovers that they have more in common than they thought, including a mutual sexual attraction. At a pivotal point in their relationship, when Angelo is about to take significant steps out of the closet, Nino rejects the idea, and eventually Angelo, returning home to the comfort of his mother Lina (Mary Walsh) and then into the arms of a woman named Pina (Sophie Lorain). Undeterred, Angelo does what he can to get on with his life, which includes quitting his job and pursuing his dream of writing for television. At turns laugh-out-loud funny and bittersweet, Mambo Italiano teaches the audience some new dance steps, and offers an entertaining refresher course in other, more familiar moves. (Oct. 3 and 5 at Landmark)

In the documentary category, Don't You Worry, It Will Probably Pass is an absorbing film directed by Cecilia Neant-Falk. Falk opens the piece with the personal quote, 'When I was 14, it occurred to me that I liked girls. The year was 1985.' At the time, she placed an ad in OKEJ Magazine, a popular Swedish publication, to get in touch with other girls like her. She received responses from all over the country. As a filmmaker, 15 years later, she wondered what it would be like in the present day. She ran the same ad copy in 1999 that she had in 1986, and from the 80 responses she received selected three girls—Natalie, My and Johanna (a.k.a. Joppe)—and followed them with her camera (and also provided a camera for the girls with which to film themselves) for three years. In candid and compelling video interviews, the three girls speak openly about their sexuality, the issues that are raised for them in their mostly small hometowns with family members and friends, the search for role models, and falling in love. (Oct. 11, 12 and 14 Music Box)

Sexual Dependency (Cinema Vault) is an ambitious, if distracting, split-screen effort, directed by Rodrigo Bellott, which follows a series of interconnected stories, spanning two countries (Bolivia and the United States). The focus of the film are teenage boys and girls, ranging in age from 15 through college age, and the ways in which they deal with issues of sexuality, including losing one's virginity. One segment, set in America, focuses on misogyny and homophobia on a college campus, as well as a closeted athlete. (Oct. 9 at Music Box and Oct. 10 at Landmark)

Shattered Glass (Lions Gate), the impressive directorial debut of screenwriter Billy Ray, has an unusual distinction among the movies being shown at the film festival. Several of the lead and supporting cast members have starred in movies in which they have either played a gay character or the main character has been gay. Based on an article in Vanity Fair, which exposed young and rising journalist, and Highland Park High School graduate, Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen), a staff writer at the New Republic and contributing writer to Rolling Stone, Harper's and others, as having concocted a majority of his pieces, Shattered Glass is a depiction of the levels to which someone will go when they are under undue amounts of familial pressure and how trust can be irreparably damaged. The sexually ambiguous Glass is even taken for gay and tells the story of finding himself on the corner of 18th and T, in Washington, D.C., with a man's tongue halfway down his throat. The cast includes Peter Sarsgaard (Boys Don't Cry) as Glass's New Republic co-worker and subsequent editor Chuck Lane; Hank Azaria (The Birdcage) as Glass's former New Republic editor Michael Kelly; Steve Zahn (Happy, Texas, The Object of My Affection) as Adam Penenberg, a writer at Forbes Digital, who initially uncovers the discrepancies in Glass's work; and Chloe Sevigny (Party Monster, Boys Don't Cry, If These Walls Could Talk 2), Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures, But I'm A Cheerleader), and Luke Kirby (Mambo Italiano, Lost and Delirious), as fellow New Republic staff writers and editors who fall under Glass's spell. (Oct. 16 at the Music Box)

Also keep in mind Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space, a futuristic computer animated, black & white and color Japanese film written and directed by Tol that covers the time periods of 3500 B.C., 1469 A.D. and 2010 A.D. (Oct. 10 12 at Landmark ); Neon, a short feature about gay Arno/Nora, who is a meat packer by day and a drag performer by night (Oct. 10, 11 and 14 at Music Box ); and My Life Without Me (Sony Pictures Classics), which co-stars gay icon Deborah Harry as the mother of a 23-year-old woman (played by Sarah Polley) who keeps her cancer diagnosis a secret from her husband (Scott Speedman), her young children, her mother and her lover (Mark Ruffalo). (Oct. 10 at Landmark and Oct. 11 at Music Box)

39th Chicago International Film Festival films of interest to queer audiences (312-332-FILM,

Callas Forever (Franco Zeffirelli, Italy/UK/France/Spain/Romania)

Father & Son (Alexander Sokurov, Germany/Russia)

Little Men (Nariman Turebayev, Kazakhstan/France)

Mambo Italiano (Emile Gaudreault, Canada)

Sexual Dependency Rodrigo Bellott, (Bolivia/US)

Strayed (Andre Techine, France/UK)

Tamala2010: A Punk Cat in Space (T.O.L., Japan)

Three Kim Jee-Woon, Nonzee Nimibutr, Peter Ho-Sun Chan, South Korea/Thailand/Hong Kong)

The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 1, The Moab Story (Peter Greenaway, UK/The Netherlands)

Yes Nurse! No Nurse! (Pieter Kramer, The Netherlands)

DOCUMENTARIES: Don't You Worry, It Will Probably Pass (Cecilia Neant-Falk, Sweden)

SHORTS: Neon (Claus Withopf, Germany)

The Drive North (Tess Ernst, USA)

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