I wrote a piece for the Star Tribune ("Inside Out") outlining the Queer Takes series at the Walker this week. Given the number of films and the size of the article I wasn't able to be very critical or praiseworthy toward the films. Overall, it is a pretty great group of films that offers up something for everyone.
Before I Forget is the star of the series, in my humble opinion. Jacques Nolot stars, writes and directs this smart and eloquent film. The camera stares unflinchingly not only at beauty but also at humility and indeed, the complex human condition. In this case, the human condition is applied to an aging hustler (no doubt a version of Nolot himself) living with HIV for 24 years. It's a film about observation, and more specifically the observation of self-observation. Before I Forget is only Nolot's third feature, and the last in his so-called autobiographical trilogy. After reading an interesting article by James Quandt in the Summer 2008 issue of Artform ("Just a Gigolo") and seeing Before I Forget, I am more than anxious to see his first two, L' Arrière pays (Hinterland, 1998) seemingly unavailable and La Chatte à deux têtes (Porn Theater, 2002) that I vaguely remember screening here at some point.
One film that I did not touch on was Vivere, simply due to space and that fact that I felt it was the weakest film in the series (alas the only new lesbian feature.) Vivere follows three women on Christmas Eve: a teenager on the brink of adulthood, her twenty-something older sister who is bitter and lonely, and a matronly older woman (played by the legendary Hannelore Elsner) recently dumped by her lover. The film uses the structure of one story told three times, giving us new insights at each turn. It is meant to break down any generational presumption we might have have about these three women, but instead by the third pass the melodrama gets somewhat laborious. It is a sweet but downbeat film, but I selfishly just wanted the adorable Francesca (the older sister) to find a nice girl instead of making out with the dude in the bar.
If you are looking for a good lesbian film in the series, the obvious pick is Born in Flames. Ladies doing it for themselves may be some sort of pipe dream, but Born in Flames is an awesome 90 minute indulgence of this notion. I will forever carry around the image the gang of women on their bikes police the urban streets: I dream of being part of that gang and being saved by that gang. I recently re-watched Born in Flames and had totally forgotten about the final (now shocking) scene.
The documentaries in the series should not be missed. Whether you are familiar with Arthur Russell or not, music fans should all attend the screening of Wild Combination. I'm simply thankful that Russell was gay so this doc was included in the series. (Here's an article in the New Yorker from a couple years back about Russell.) Similarly fans of Don Bachardy's paintings or Chris Isherwood's writing will love the portrayal of these two fascinating men in Chris & Don. Most of the film is told by Barchardy's funny and touching narration.
Full Queer Takes schedule here.