The festival is primarily digital, but tonight, December 4, Outshine will host a drive-“out” screening of Anna Kerrigan’s Cowboys.
New Times has some recommendations for what to watch if you’re struggling to figure out what films to check out in this edition.
Ask Any BuddyOne rarely gets the opportunity to discuss gay pornography and cinematic principles of Lev Kuleshov simultaneously, but Evan Purchell’s Ask Any Buddy creates that forum. A video mashup that quilts together fragments from over a hundred pornographic films from the 1960s through the '80s, the final product provides a rich mosaic of queer urban life. Equally pleasing to a queer historian or TikTok-er suffering from ADHD, Ask Any Buddy is a much-needed cinematic elegy to a unique period of queer life bookended by the Stonewall Riots and the AIDS epidemic.
Despite its disparate parts, the film achieves a relaxing fluidity through Purchell’s careful and playful editing, which utilizes match cuts, artificial landscape, and some of Sergei Eisenstein’s theories of montage. The film's structure underlines the commonality between the cinematic experience with the culture of cruising to great effect. Its use of thematic sections clearly establishes the iconography and geography of queer sex, from the subway to the showers to dark movie theaters in wonderfully meta moments. Ask Any Buddy is really a delectable slice of gay life on screen.
Beyond technique, the film poses several powerful theses to take away from its collage of images and bodies. From the significance of representation to the politics of sex to the assertion that sex is political — Ask Any Buddy is also, importantly, about queer revelry. A document such as this is something pure and radical in contrast to the growing contemporary mainstream portrayal of queerness that's constantly compromised and sanitized. This hybrid work of archive and anthropology is the perfect film to emerge as we are forced to reimagine queer spaces and community responsibly. –Trae DeLellis
My Little SisterPerhaps one of the most prestigious entries in this year’s festival, My Little Sister is already Switzerland’s selection for International Feature Film at this year’s Academy Awards. While the LGBTQ material here is scant (and somewhat inconsequential), what queer doesn’t love a woman-on-the-verge narrative starring one of contemporary cinema’s greatest actresses: Nina Hoss. The German actress, best known for her collaborations with filmmaker Christian Petzold, plays the titular sister as she cares for her older (by two minutes) brother as he goes through a harrowing bout of cancer.
The concept isn’t the most original, but it's a sweet-but-never-saccharine tale of a brother-sister bond elevated by the terrific chemistry between Hoss and Lars Eidinger. At times it even appears as if Hoss and Eidinger are mirroring one another. The film hinges on the disruption of their equilibrium as they must adjust to his cancer diagnosis and treatment. His successful stage career is sidelined, and, as a once-successful playwright, she experiences a prolonged bout of writer’s block. As the film develops, the focus shifts to Hoss as she tries to balance the demands of her life as a daughter, mother, wife, and sister.
Actresses-turned-directing duo Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond appropriately favor naturalism in the film’s design and direction, allowing the performances to illuminate. My Little Sister manages some electrifying thrills and builds to a pitch-perfect breaking point when the normally composed and controlled Hoss is able to explode. A showcase of subtle acting, the film is one of those wonderful European exports that manage to capture the excitement of simple and delicate humanist storytelling. –Trae DeLellis
No Ordinary ManDiscussions around trans history are fraught with danger, of the mischaracterization and assumption that someone is something they are not. To look at jazz musician Billy Tipton’s story is to be faced with one such example: He lived his life as a man, was married to women, raised three adopted children with one of his wives, and was outed upon his death as being trans (referred to by many tabloids and talk shows as a woman simply because he didn’t medically transition), shocking the nation.
No Ordinary Man, a fascinating documentary by Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt that features interviews with several trans creatives (from actors to academics) discussing his story, is a quiet and lovely tribute to a man that not many may necessarily know of. What’s most interesting about the doc is how it navigates transmasculine history and weaves the stories of others into Tipton's story.
It’s a documentary that is uninterested in making broad proclamations about representation — like this year’s shallow Disclosure — and focuses on creating a space for trans men to present nuanced conversations about what the experience of being trans is like for them. One of the film’s most interesting moves is featuring an acting exercise for several performers involved, allowing them to interpret some scripted scenes of Billy Lipton’s life in an audition room in their own unique way.
And while many a filmmaker would focus exclusively on Tipton’s history, Chin-Yee and Joynt also place their empathetic lens on his son, Billy Jr. His presence in No Ordinary Man is sweeter than one might expect, his fondness for his father clear from the get-go, and the documentary provides him with a chance to see how meaningful the musician’s life was for others. It challenges the stories the tabloids told and proves that, as saccharine as it might sound, Billy Tipton was far more than an ordinary man; he was an inspiration to trans men everywhere. –Juan Antonio Barquin
Summer of 85With his 20th feature in nearly as many years, Francois Ozon remains one of contemporary cinema’s most astonishing and underrated filmmakers. Ozon's latest is a sun-soaked and tragic tale of first love, a chameleon of tone and genre, playfully subverting notions of identity and sexuality throughout his body of work. Adapted from Aidan Chambers’ young-adult novel, Dance on My Grave, a text revered for the early adoption of positive gay themes in 1982, Summer of 85 continues a superb streak in Ozon’s oeuvre as a master filmmaker.
While there will be surface comparisons to Call Me By Your Name, Ozon’s film offers a greater narrative complexity as it weaves a seaside summer romance with a dark and desolate aftermath akin to film noir. One thing clear from the moment the protagonist breaks the fourth wall in the introduction, Ozon is a filmmaker in complete control, and his enthralled spectator is strapped in for the wide. Summer of 85 is an excellent and one of those films you can’t help but want to live in.
All the technical elements are top-notch. The continuity of the editing as the tale shifts from past to present, the contrast in the cinematography, great attention to costuming, and some tremendous use of music and sound design are all admirable elements. The two young leads, Felix Lefebvre and Benjamin Voisin, capture the clumsiness and ecstasy of first love with the ease of a summer breeze. It would be criminal not to single out the scene-stealing performance by frequent Ozon collaborator Valerie Bruni Tedeschi as a kooky and comically invasive mother with the best of intentions. After you finish this delightful film, make sure you seek out more of Ozon’s work, who, like Almodóvar and Fassbinder, is one of the most striking auteurs working in queer cinema. –Trae DeLellis
Outshine Film Festival. Through Sunday, December 6; outshinefilm.com. Tickets cost $7.50 to $100.