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Lesbian and Gay Film Festival


The eighth annual edition of the Chicago Lesbian and Gay Film Festival runs October 7 through 13 at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport; then continues October 14 through 16 at Chicago Filmmakers, 1229 W. Belmont. Tickets for the ten-day event cost $4-$5.50 per show (except for the opening night reception and film, which costs $8), with series tickets available at $50 for the whole package or $25 for six screenings. For program information and updates, call Chicago Filmmakers at 281-8788.

ANITA--DANCES OF VICE Rosa von Praunheim's Anita--Tanze des Lasters alternates between two versions of nude dancer Anita Berber, a star of Berlin cafe society of the 20s: an elderly woman today who claims to be Berber (Lotte Huber) and is confined to a mental ward (in black and white), and her imagined version of Berber in the 20s (in color, portrayed by Ina Blum). Von Praunheim uses some striking expressionistic intertitles and on the whole does some interesting things with period evocation, but after a while his procedures become mechanical and repetitive (1987). (Tuesday, October 11, 9:00)

BLACK AND WHITE Winner of the Camera d'Or at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival for the best first feature, Claire Devers' film describes the relationship that develops between a white, married accountant who works at a sports center and a young black masseur. (Sunday, October 9, 8:45)

BRITISH SHORTS Julian Cole's Ostia is a stylized re-creation of the last night of Pier Paolo Pasolini's life, with Derek Jarman (Caravaggio) playing Pasolini. Kenneth Butler's documentary, Before the Act, concerns England's 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which decriminalized homosexuality between consenting males over the age of 21. Charlotte Metcalf's Vivat Regina, described as "a seriously camp affair," deals with the chorus boys from La cage aux folles on the day that the show closed in London, apparently due to fears about AIDS. All three films were made in 1987. (Saturday, October 8, 3:00)

CROWS Ayelet Menahemi's new Israeli featurette, receiving its Chicago premiere, follows the communal life of a group of homeless youngsters in Tel-Aviv as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl who leaves her country home for the city and is taken in by a group of young homosexuals. On the same program, Patrick Mimouni's short French feature Bertrand Is Missing, another Chicago premiere, charts the relationship between a 12-year-old boy who runs away from home and the eccentric man who takes him in. (Tuesday, October 11, 7:00)

EMPIRE STATE Ron Peck's second feature (Nighthawks was his first) is set in the night world of London's East End, and develops several different plots, Altman-style, which converge at the chic Empire State nightclub. Described as "a political satire in the style of a gangster thriller," the film has a cast of characters including a pimp-hustler-drug dealer, an old-style gangster, a young punk, and an American businessman (played by Martin Landau) with a taste for semi-rough trade. (Saturday, October 8, 5:00)

THE EVERLASTING SECRET FAMILY Michael Thornhill's new Australian feature about a secret, centuries-old homosexual club features some of Australia's best-known actors, including Mark Lee (Gallipoli) and Arthur Dignam. A Chicago premiere. (Saturday, October 8, 9:00)

EXTRAMUROS Miguel Picazo's 1986 Spanish film, receiving its Chicago premiere, focuses on the passionate relationship between two nuns in the 17th century who are forced to leave their convent and threatened by the Inquisition. Based on the novel of the same title by Jesus Fernandez Santo. (Sunday, October 9, 6:30)

FRIENDS FOREVER Coming-of-age short feature from Denmark, about a 15-year-old boy who moves to a new school and makes friends with a tough student outcast; Stefan Henszelman directed (1986). (PG) On the same program, Richard Kwietniowski's English short Alfalfa, described as a "gay dicktionary" and "fag thesaurus." (Friday, October 7, 9:15)

IN A GLASS CAGE This first feature by Catalan director Agustin Villaronga, which made the top of Village Voice critic Elliott Stein's ten-best list last year, may not be for everyone, but it is certainly disturbing, powerful, and accomplished in what it sets out to do. The plot focuses on the sadomasochistic relationship between a former concentration camp doctor, who has retired to Spain in an iron lung, and the obsessive and ultimately murderous male nurse who takes care of him. A somber mixture of suspense, grim humor, and baroque perversity, it builds to a frightening conclusion. (Thursday, October 13, 9:00)

INTIMATE POWER Yves Simoneau's 1986 Canadian suspense thriller concerns an armored-car heist that goes wrong. Members of the gang include a burly security guard, his lover (a waiter), a 50-year-old ex-con, the ex-con's son, and a solitary woman in her 30s. (Wednesday, October 12, 9:00)

I'VE HEARD THE MERMAIDS SINGING Polly (Sheila McCarthy), the "organizationally impaired" heroine of Canadian writer-director Patricia Rozema's whimsical first feature, gets a secretarial job at a chic Toronto art gallery and becomes infatuated with Gabrielle (Paule Baillargeon), the sophisticated curator) while taking everyday photographs and indulging in eccentric daydreams in her spare time. Her rude encounters with the corruption and hypocrisy of Gabrielle's world form the main substance of the story, which caters to middlebrow cultural insecurities even more doggedly than Woody Allen usually does. While it's refreshing to find lesbian sensibilities represented honestly in a mainstream context, and the film is not without its other virtues (the performances are adept, and the conclusion is intriguingly open-ended), the cutesy style tries to promote the heroine's dim-witted innocence in such an antiintellectual fashion that the movie's self-righteousness may set your teeth on edge. The very title of the film, which misquotes a line from Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," is symptomatic of the pretensions in store. (Saturday, October 8, 1:00)

KAMIKAZE HEARTS Alternately distressing, instructive, contestable, and fascinating, Juliet Bashore's documentary about a lesbian couple working in the porn industry--a cynical older woman (Sharon "Mitch" Mitchell), who is a seasoned porn star, and her lover (known as Tigr), who is an uneasy newcomer to this world, where drugs play a significant role--offers a disturbing glimpse of the modification of bodies, feelings, and lives. The camera's presence seems to have a shifting role in the film, moving from (seemingly) impartial witness of certain events to stimulus and catalyst for certain others, and this tends to confuse and shift one's relationship to both the film and its characters. Rarely has the alienation implicit in the porn business been exposed as it is here, but in the process of making these revelations, the film raises a few questions about its own tactics of exposure, exploitation, and complicity. And it isn't only porn that gets deconstructed; the central relationship between Mitch and Tigr seems to be figuratively and literally taken apart by the film as well. (Wednesday, October 12, 7:00)

MANUEL AND CLEMENTE Javier Palmero Romero's 1985 Spanish film, based on the true story of a gay couple who cashed in on the religious-visionary business in 1968, is reportedly a comedy that is not only about the religious-prophecy racket, but also about Spanish politics at the end of the Franco era. (Sunday, October 9, 4:30)

NINETEEN NINETEEN A former Russian aristocrat and a transplanted European Jewish woman become emotionally entangled as they relive their psychoanalytic pasts in the Viennese apartment of their onetime analyst, the legendary Dr. Freud. With Paul Scofield and Maria Schell; Hugh Brody directed (1985). (PG) (Monday, October 10, 7:00)

OUT OF OUR TIME Casi Pacilio and L.M. Keys's independent feature, receiving its world premiere here, juxtaposes two circles of women--a literary and artistic group of Chicago women around 1930 and a contemporary group of feminists. Two women who are highlighted are Jacquelyn Matthews, a journalist and novelist in the 30s, and her granddaughter Valerie Ward, a typesetter for a small urban feminist newspaper and a poet; the frustrations of both women as writers is part of the film's subject. On the same program, Doreen M. Bartoni's short Hazel's Photos, in which a group of contemporary women muse over found photos of turn-of-the-century women. (Sunday, October 9, 2:30)

SHE MUST BE SEEING THINGS Sheila McLaughlin's 1987 independent feature, receiving its Chicago premiere, focuses on a lesbian relationship, between a black civil-rights lawyer and a filmmaker, that is beset by obsessional jealousy. When the lawyer stumbles upon the filmmaker's diary, which describes her previous sexual relationships with men, the lawyer begins to follow and spy on her. The filmmaker, meanwhile, is working on a project about a 17th-century nun who flees from her convent and accidentally witnesses an adulterous affair. (Thursday, October 13, 7:00)

TINY AND RUBY: HELL DIVIN' WOMEN Greta Schiller and Andrea Weiss, whose 1986 short International Sweethearts of Rhythm chronicled the racially integrated all-woman big band of the 40s, focus here on that group's featured player--Tiny Davis, a trumpeter who was once billed as the "female Louis Armstrong," is now in her 70s, and until recently still played in Chicago blues clubs. This 40-minute film, to be shown with International Sweethearts of Rhythm, deals with a rather unique and fascinating subject: the life of a female jazz musician who has lived openly as a lesbian. Davis's anecdotes thus deal with two subcultures, that of jazz and that of the gay community, between the 30s and the 70s. (Friday, October 7, 7:00)

VERA Sergio Toledo's first feature, from Brazil, describes the life and experiences of a fierce tomboy, Vera (Ana Beatriz Noguieira), who wants to be a man. Coming from a difficult boarding school background, she forms a relationship with a beautiful young woman named Clara, and her intense desire to be treated like a man leads her to consider a sex change operation. A brutal depiction of sexual conditioning, but as a treatment of gender confusion, it's questionable whether this has much more to say about the subject than the treatment of Linda Manz's character in Dennis Hopper's Out of the Blue; despite a liberal orientation, it's surely no less bleak and defeatist. (Saturday, October 8, 11:00 am)

THE VIRGIN MACHINE Monika Treut, the West German filmmaker who directed, with Elfi Mikesch, the 1984 Seduction: The Cruel Woman, follows the progress of a young feminist journalist (Ina Blum), involved with several men (including her brother), who eventually leaves for San Francisco and becomes involved in the city's lesbian community. The black-and-white cinematography is by Mikesch. (Saturday, October 8, 7:00)

WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS? Pedro Almodovar's Spanish film taps into the mainstream of American humor in the 80s, with its emphasis on comic underreaction to bizarre events and disconnected, skitlike structure. But the central figure--a put-upon lower-middle-class housewife played with a nice balance of exhaustion and appeal by Carmen Maura--represents a provocative minority viewpoint that's unusual for the genre, and the events that Almodovar has spun around her (her taxi-driver husband is secretly in love with a German opera singer, her youngest son moves in with a gay dentist, and her mother-in-law collects sticks and lizards while dreaming of a return to her native village) spring from the same Spanish reserve of the improbable and hallucinatory that Bunuel explored (though much more profoundly). Diverting, with a light suggestion of talent. (DK) (Monday, October 10, 9:00)

WOMEN'S SHORTS Half a dozen films, all made last year and all receiving their Chicago premieres: Abigail Child's Mayhem is an avant-garde film noir combining black-and-white found footage with original images; Karen Lee's Shell concerns a woman's paranoia about her attraction to another woman; Valerie Tereszko's Canadian Human on My Faithless Arm concerns a woman threatened with the loss other daughter because of her sexual leanings; Barbara Hammer's No No Nooky TV is a satirical treatment of "dirty pictures" that uses computer techniques; Deidre Fishel's Separate Skin explores the struggles of a child of Holocaust survivors; and Cathy Joritz and Marille Hahne's West German The Finster Spinsters' Manifest rounds out the program. (Sunday, October 9, 12:30 pm)

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