Queer As Film Folk

The fifth annual Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival does feel a little rudderless this year without founding director Robert Rosenberg at the helm, and the extension of screenings to Fort Lauderdale can make viewing a little difficult, since the films only show once. But there are some good films on offer, including shorts and documentaries. There's a Norwegian flick about cross-dressing called All About My Father, a queer take on Aristophanes's Lisistrata out of Spain, an Indian take on coming out in Mango Soufflé, and a bisexual Carmen out of Senegal called Karmen Gei. The festival, from Friday, April 25 to Sunday, May 4, will of course also include opening and closing parties, panels, and director appearances. Go to www.mglff.com for more information or call 305-534-9924

Some Northern Exposure

In Brad Fraser's Leaving Metropolis, the flesh is willing but the filmmaking skills are weak. This 2002 Canadian production centers on David (Troy Ruptash), a laconic, rangy artist in Winnipeg who suffers from the loss of many friends to AIDS and the ongoing medical crises of his transsexual pre-op roommate. David's so emotionally blocked he experiences a creative shutdown. In order to get his artistic juices flowing again, he reverts to his former profession as a waiter (huh?). Never mind, he takes a part-time job at a struggling downtown café run by newlyweds Matt (Vince Corazza) and Violet (Cherilee Taylor). Seeing that his employers' business is going down the tubes, David convinces his gal pal Kryla (Lynda Boyd) to give the café a plug in her widely read newspaper column. And soon the café is bustling with customers.

Pre-op Shannon (Thom Allison) can't leave Metropolis
Pre-op Shannon (Thom Allison) can't leave Metropolis
This French coming-of-age film has surprisingly subtle notes
This French coming-of-age film has surprisingly subtle notes

But meanwhile Matt is ever more curious about David and when he discovers David's an artist, Matt insists on seeing some of his paintings. Matt, once an aspiring cartoonist, is thrilled by David's work and sparks fly between them. Back at work, Matt masks his feelings but now David has found inspiration: He begins a series of nude paintings of Matt that he creates partly from memory, partly from imagination.

When Matt sees one of the paintings, he flips for David and an intense affair ensues. But Matt can't handle the duplicity and dumps David just when lust tips into love. When David decides to publicly display the paintings, Matt is faced with being outed or outing himself.

Fraser is known chiefly for his screenplay for Denys Arcand's 1993 feature Love & Human Remains (which also featured a gay waiter named David and his relationship with a straight girlfriend), and clearly has a feel for character relationships and dialogue. Leaving Metropolis, which is based on Fraser's stage play Poor Superman, features some steamy sex scenes (including considerable heterosexual action) and some interesting ideas, raising a number of questions about honesty and morality. But certainly the film's main asset is Corazza, whose gorgeous physique and emotional, honest portrait of the confused Matt should get festivalgoers' blood pumping. Fraser and cinematographer Daniel Vincelette linger on Corazza's sculpted body in iconographic, carefully lit visuals that echo the glorified portraits that David paints.

Unfortunately Fraser, a first-time director, falls into virtually every classic tyro trap imaginable. Like many a writer/director, Fraser seems overly in love with his own words. His talk-heavy scenes often feel stagy and arch. His direction never manages to establish a world -- for all the talk about Winnipeg, there's hardly any visual reference to the place and much of the movie looks like, well, a movie set. The entire dying-roommate subplot manages to be both irrelevant and shamelessly manipulative. Some melodramatic scenes in the late going -- a steam bath dream sequence and a montage of grieving characters -- are amateurish. Worse, the film's relentlessly monotonous pace and careful but listless camerawork only emphasize these weaknesses. The result is a film that should have come off better than it does. -- Ronald Mangravite

Leaving Metropolis closes the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, 7:30 p.m. at the Jackie Gleason Theatre, 1700 Washington Ave, Miami Beach

Boys In Speedos

An outing of another sort is the subject of Fabrice Cazeneuve's winning French-language film, You'll Get Over It (Tu Verras Ca Te Passeras), also known as A Cause D'Un Garçon. This honest, affecting, made-for-French-television production, a tale of a teen boy's struggle with identity and homophobia, is bound to be a festival favorite.

Written by newcomer Vincent Molina in what appears to be a true story, the film follows sixteen-year-old Vincent (Julien Baumgartner), a handsome lad who seems to have everything going for him. He's an A student in school, the star of the varsity swim team, and beloved of everyone, especially his girlfriend Noémie (Julia Maraval) and his best buddy Stéphane (François Comar). At home his parents dote on him, to the resentment of his older, unemployed brother Regis (Antoine Michel).

But Vincent hides a secret. He's gay and can't wait to get back to furtive romps with a casual lover whenever possible. Haunted by confusion and self-loathing, Vincent maintains this double life, going so far as to have sex with Noémie, but his deception ends soon after he encounters Benjamin (Jérémie Elkaïm), a new student who is generally reputed to be gay. Vincent and Benjamin eye each other in the school hallways, but Vincent keeps his distance until Benjamin follows him home. Some of their schoolmates happen to witness this and soon the news spreads around school. Vincent faces intense scorn and humiliation. His brother finds out and outs him to their parents, leaving Vincent no choice but to own up to the truth. Noémie is devastated and furious. Stéphane feels deceived.

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