feminaust’s 2011 Lesbian Film Festival part 1

I sprained my ankle a few weeks ago (actually it’s probably almost a few months ago now) which had me on my arse, drinking too much (I hear isBambi making disparaging comments about the rarity of that event), watching too much TV and doing a lot of knitting.

Once I’d watched two season of NCIS (OMG is that an awful TV show full of misogyny, dangerous gender stereotypes and badly concealed contempt for women), the whole Harry Potter series and a fair bit more crap I realised that I was wasting my energy. That really, I should be taking my down time and using it fruitfully. So I started researching awesome lesbian cinema with a view to engaging with this sorta genre on a higher level than previously.

Now I love a bit of good lesbian cinema, if you delve deep into the feminaust archives you’ll find my review of a lesbian film from the 2011 Melbourne Queer Film Festival, A Marine Story. Although I realised pretty quickly once I started searching for top ten lists that I really hadn’t seen that much. So with the power of new technology at my fingertips I went searching and watching and the following is what I’ve come across. In chronological rather than personal preference order.

Better Than Chocolate : I first discovered Better Than Chocolate in my big brother’s not so secret hideaway with his cigarettes and alcohol. I must have been 14 years old and it was well before I’d even conceptualised my own potential lesbian-ness. But the image of the two girls rolling around covered in paint stayed with me and inspired my own attempt at body art, with a black marker on my first serious lover’s body.

It’s a sometimes saccharine film with some fabulous sex, very sexy cast and some strong feminist/activist overtones. Sometimes it feels like it’s trying to cover too much, too fast (divorce, censorship, transgender, coming out) but I think it manages it quite well. The song scene when the transgendered character sings “I’m not a fucking drag-queen” is exquisite.

Itty Bitty Titty Committee : Absolutely saccharine, but it all the best ways! Silly, ridiculous, funny, over the top, feminist/activist blowing shit up! Plus, you can absolutely feel the chemistry between the two leads, in fact, character Sadie’s chemistry is smashing out of the screen and spraying everyone within a 10m radius. I challenge anyone to walk away from this film without, personal character flaws aside, wanting to fuck Sadie.

Lost and Delirious: Powerful, sometimes odd, overkill on the bird metaphors and fuck do you just want to shake Tori until she sees sense but as a representation of what damage an all consuming, all powerful love can do to a young person, it’s pretty special. Paulie and Tori are senior students a a posh boarding school when new girl Mouse moves into their room. It doesn’t take Mouse long to realise that Paulie and Tori are lovers and the story that emerges is both unbelieveable and entirely plausible. It’s a great demonstration of how shite we are at talking to young people about relationships, love, sex etc in a way which makes sense in their own lives. If I’d seen this film 8 years ago, I would have felt completely connected with the content. That many years later however and I can both recognise the desperate emotions that Paulie and Tori are experiencing and also cringe at their naivety and utter belief in their own maturity to deal with the situation. Not the best film ever, not even really a great film but it will make you cry and the sex scenes are pretty powerful.

Room In Rome: weird… this film is basically a single night in a hotel rom in Rome with two stranger telling each other lies about their lives, having sex and planning a future together that will clearly never happen. The dialogue and cinematography are both excellent, the film is utterly beautiful, but it’s hard to connect with two characters who you never quite trust to be telling the truth. The sex scenes are hot and stunningly shot, but I’m not sure if they quite save the film from just being a bit odd. Plus there’s a song used which is repeated almost ad neausem, which for me, detracted from what was otherwise beautiful.

The World Unseen: This is a film set in a tragic time, when apartheid in South Africa was really kicking off and racial discrimination was both active and celebrated. The relationship between Miriam, an Indian mother of two and Amina, a known lesbian and cafe owner, was a bit unconvincing for me at the start. It really felt like Amina was lusting after Miriam but the feeling wasn’t mutual, it felt very forced in the beginning. But never fear! They certainly made it work in the end, the tension built and finally you really could feel the lust. Set in a backdrop of all sorts of horrid repression and discrimination, the film was sometimes underwhelming in its portrayal of the horrors of apartheid but at other times, especially in the utter dispirit of some of the characters, the sense of loss and helplessness was brilliantly demonstrated.

Saving Face: What really struck me about this film was how much it was just a regular film about love, family, desire, commitment, responsibility and life. Yes, it was a lesbian film, but the protagonists could easily have been inter-racial or inter-generational (as two of the lesser characters were). The relationship between Wil and her mother is reminicent of so many mother daughter relationships. In the end, while it was fairly mundane in that it followed the basic model of so many similar films, it was also one of my favourite from this festival. Because it was so like so many romantic comedies I’ve seen over the years and yet so so so different. There was none of the “gay girl seducing straight girl” boringness. The relationships were real and engaging. You could relate both with Wil for her reticience and with Vivian for her frustration and the end wasn’t soppy, it was sweet. The film plays on some cultural stereotypes but in a postive and loving way and in the end, it’s a cultural win for everyone involved! If you want a fun, light hearted, gay rom-com. Try this one on for size.

When Night is Falling: Sadly falls into the “gay woman seduces straight woman” genre that is all to familiar, however, there are some unexpected twists and turns and the general feeling of calm that the film exudes makes it feel a bit different. Camille, the protagonist, is a sombre, professor of mythology at a catholic college. After a chance meeting and accidental laundry swap at a coin laundrette she finds herself making friends with circus performer Petra. My only main issue with this film is the speed at which Petra falls in love with Camille. She is utterly captivated by her within moments of meeting and while I can accept that this is possible, the gay/straigh dynamic makes it hard for me. It is a beautiful film with great imagary and you really can understand why straight Camille ends up in bed with Petra, she really is utterly scrumptious, but it fails some of the reasonable reality tests that I like to impress upon films and is all a bit sweet and romantic for my taste.

That’s it for now. There were more films and more will come but I think that’s plenty for getting on with.

This entry was posted in Original comment/article, Reviews by MsElouise. Bookmark the permalink.

About MsElouise

MsElouise is a community programs worker and feminist from Melbourne Australia. She likes to travel, write, rant and make people feel uncomfortable about their assumptions. She hopes to one day be remembered for changing the world just a little bit. Right now she does this by proving that teenage girls are a higher order of beings.

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