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Reeling 2004: Chicago International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival


Chicago's 23rd annual lesbian and gay film festival continues Friday through Thursday, November 5 through 11. Unless otherwise noted, screenings are $9 at Landmark's Century Centre, $7 at Chicago Filmmakers, and $6 for all matinees (until 5 PM). Advance tickets can be purchased from 10 to 6 weekdays and noon to 5 Saturday at Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark, or anytime at; same-day tickets are available only at the venue box office 30 minutes prior to first screening of the day. Discount passes are available; for more information call 773-293-1447 or the festival hotline at 312-458-0639.


The 24th Day

A callow pickup artist (James Marsden) goes home with a pretty but dim young conquest (Scott Speedman) who takes him prisoner; he tries to charm his way out of the mess, and the balance of power shifts back and forth as secrets are revealed. Writer-director Tony Piccirillo adapted his own play, and despite the staginess of the premise this feature works pretty well. Marsden (X-Men) and Speedman (of the sitcom Felicity) are perfectly cast, relishing every dramatic beat, and the movie's HIV politics should be good for some heated discussion once the lights go up. 92 min. (HSa) (Landmark's Century Centre, 6:00)

Un amour de femme

A wife and mother (Helene Fillieres) enrages her husband (Anthony Delon) by falling for a bisexual dance teacher (Raffaela Anderson of Baise-moi) in this French TV movie (2001) by Sylvie Verheyde. Anderson is seductive as the dancer, an uninhibited pixie whose roving eyes complement her aggressive moves on the dance floor. What a pity that her conquest is played by Fillieres, a big, galumphing gal whose static performance is better suited to her occasional modeling work--though to her credit, she does suffer beautifully. With her at the center of the story, the affair almost dies of inertia; the film gets a much needed jolt when Delon enters in his wife's slip. In French with subtitles. 89 min. (AG) (Chicago Filmmakers, 7:00)

Cowboys & Angels

Set in County Limerick, this 2003 comedy drama by David Gleeson tries to break free of formula but finally succumbs to the warm glow of predictability as everything falls into place for the principal characters. Michael Legge plays a naive, sexually repressed civil servant who yearns to chuck it all and enroll in art school; Allen Leech is his new roommate, a gay fashion student who's reassuringly noble and cuddly. Though capable of picking up a strange man at a club, he's also a drug-free workaholic, providing a role model for anyone fortunate enough to bask in his life-affirming aura. 89 min. (JK) (Landmark's Century Centre, 8:00)

Dyke Drama & Other Comedies

The longest of the eight videos on this program are two 24-minute media satires. In Robyn Paterson's breezy Straight Hike for the Butch Dyke, a hetero "femme four" make over a butch dyke, banning her rainbow flags and hiding her dildos in nicely colored containers. Alanna Ubach's A Mi Amor Mi Dulce, in which a female baker lusts after a ditzy waitress in the rival shop across the street, is a camp parody of camp, with a ridiculous drag queen, the "big black sex machine" who betrays him, and a lesbian happy ending. In Todd Broder's amusing Butch in the City, a bored butch wonders about trying it with a man, though her friends try to discourage her with horror stories ("he came in my ear"). 95 min. (FC) (Chicago Filmmakers, 8:45)

R Nine Lives

Adapted from Michael Kearns's play Complications, this low-budget digital video spans nearly four decades in the lives of its gay characters, with seven vignettes linked by their sexual encounters. Kearns plays an alchoholic who lost his first lover to Vietnam and later partners to AIDS; a Latino man he picks up (Eric Turic) widens the story to include a closeted Hollywood power couple. Dean Howell is affecting as a recovering addict who finds love, but Dennis Christopher delivers the most visceral performance as an HIV-positive man who cares for his needy younger brother. Howell directed and collaborated with Kearns on the script, notable for its wry humor, pointed cultural insights, and highly charged eroticism. 77 min. (AG) (Landmark's Century Centre, 9:45)

Dyke Drama & Other Comedies

See listing this date above. (Chicago Filmmakers, 10:45)


Liberty: 3 Stories About Life & Death

Pam Walton's video documentary (55 min.) looks at the interconnected lives of three close lesbian friends, two of whom are terminally ill. Also on the program: R.J. Spencer's 15-minute short Crush. (Chicago Filmmakers, noon)

R 15

Set in Singapore, this 2003 first feature by Roystan Tan uses unconventional narrative techniques to reanimate the familiar subject of troubled youth struggling to get by in a sprawling, indifferent city. Directing real-life street kids, Tan abruptly shifts focus from one character to another, as if mimicking their impatience and short attention span, and like Godard he playfully subverts his own material by having actors address the camera directly, spouting cultural and political asides. Loopy musical numbers add to the whimsical tone, mitigating an essentially grim subject, yet Tan is unstintingly graphic in chronicling the messy details of the boys' lives: street fights, suicide attempts, self-mutilation, and wholesale drug abuse. In English and subtitled Malaysian. 93 min. (JK) (Landmark's Century Centre, 1:00)

The Hidden Fuhrer: Debating the Enigma of Hitler's Sexuality

German historian Lothar Machtan caused an international uproar with his 2001 book The Hidden Hitler, which asserted that Hitler was gay. But judging from this video documentary, the furor over the fuhrer may be overblown. Scholars, journalists, and activists weigh in on the dictator's sexuality, presenting sketchy evidence (the fact that he destroyed most records of his past is offered as proof that he was gay) and much speculation. It's fertile territory for savvy directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (The Eyes of Tammy Faye), who've proved themselves adept at transforming gossip into entertainment. In English and subtitled German. 80 min. (AG) (Chicago Filmmakers, 1:30)

Dorian Blues

Coming out to his family becomes a liberating if terrifying prospect for Dorian, the teenage hero of Tennyson Bardwell's poignant, mordantly witty debut feature. Harassed at his high school, badgered by his conservative father, and overshadowed by his all-American quarterback brother, Dorian seeks counseling to learn how to declare his homosexuality (in one hilarious montage, he addresses a mannequin that stands in for his father). Some of the video's humor is overly broad, and several dramatic setups are too predictable (like the obligatory encounter with a bullying jock as Dorian fumbles to open his locker), but Bardwell manages a sincere portrait of what it's like to be young and closeted. With Michael McMillan and Lea Coco. 88 min. (JK) (Landmark's Century Centre, 3:00)

Saints and Sinners

Alison Honor's video documentary (71 min.) follows a gay New York couple's efforts to get their wedding sanctified by the Catholic church. Also on the program: Debra Chasnoff's 19-minute short One Wedding and a Revolution. (Chicago Filmmakers, 3:15)


Fine performances by the two leads distinguish this offbeat coming-of-age story from Canada, based on several stories by the notorious Bruce LaBruce. Cliff (Andre Noble), a suburban kid seeking out rough trade in the city, falls in love with Butch (Brendan Fehr of Roswell), a crack-smoking male hustler. Soon they're inseparable, but as Butch introduces Cliff to his world of tricks and all-night parties, Cliff begins to emerge from inchoate adolescence. Coscreenwriter Todd Klinck drew on his own experiences as a male hustler, which no doubt contribute to the boys' credibly inarticulate musings, but despite the actors' solid work the drama never quite coalesces. John Palmer directed; with Sarah Polley. 78 min. (JK) (Landmark's Century Centre, 5:00)

Venus of Mars

Like most documentaries about transgendered people, this 2003 video pushes us to rethink our deepest assumptions. Minneapolis rock singer Venus takes hormones and dresses like a woman, but he still lives happily with his wife of 20 years, Lynette. Director Emily Goldberg captures the paradoxical relationship between the public and private: Venus is aggressive onstage but quite shy in interviews, while Lynette willingly discusses his gradual transformation but draws the line at their sex life. Unfortunately this is simply too long, making and remaking its point. 105 min. (HSa) (Chicago Filmmakers, 5:30)

Mango Kiss

A hip young lesbian couple (Daniele Ferraro and Michelle Wolff, both charming) decide to have an open relationship, which permits them lots of role-playing and S-M games. For a while this video holds out the tantalizing prospect that it will endorse promiscuity, but in the end the characters' gleeful exploration of the kinky fringe masks a fairly traditional moral about the value of monogamy. Writer-director Sascha Rice oversells the comedy, which gets a bit exhausting, but this is sweet enough. 85 min. (HSa) (Landmark's Century Centre, 7:00)

Superstar in a Housedress

"Jackie is just speeding away / Thought she was James Dean for a day," rapped Lou Reed in "Walk on the Wild Side." But writer-performer Jackie Curtis, who died of a drug overdose in 1985, was more than some androgynous speed freak; his satiric, sexually ambivalent take on popular culture influenced John Waters, David Bowie, Bette Midler, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. This documentary features clips from Curtis's movies, footage of his stage productions, and illuminating interviews with such colleagues as Lily Tomlin (who also narrates), Harvey Fierstein, Holly Woodlawn, Joe Dallesandro, Paul Morrissey, and off-off-Broadway producer Ellen Stewart. Evoking Curtis's enigmatic mystique and eccentric personality, filmmaker Craig Highberger also delivers an invaluable chronicle of New York's barrier-smashing underground arts scene circa 1968 to '74. 95 min. (Albert Williams) (Chicago Filmmakers, 7:45)

Eating Out

If this movie is any guide, today's college kids speak an incomprehensible argot of pop-culture references ("Don't Heche me into a Maria!") and spend an inordinate amount of time with their shirts off. The frequently shirtless hero (Scott Lunsford) inexplicably falls for a young woman (awkward Emily Stiles) who has a thing for gay men; his gay roommate (American Idol reject Jim Verraros) convinces him to chase after her frequently shirtless gay roommate (Ryan Carnes), which leads to wacky mix-ups and a stunningly unfunny climax. Q. Allan Brocka directed his own script. 90 min. (HSa) (Landmark's Century Centre, 9:30)

From Boys to Men

Tyrrell Shaffner's satirical Different (2003) presents a mostly gay world in which straights are closeted and ministers preach against heterosexuality: The captain of the high school football team lusts after Justin, whose dark secret is that he likes girls, and when he's caught kissing one he's taunted as a "hetero." Joe Dirtl and Michael Irpino's The Mezzos (2002) is based on a similarly funny switch: two chunky hit men in the middle of an enforcement action debate the merits of Sondheim and Lloyd Webber. Welby Ings's Boy is an affecting story of a young male hustler who learns more than he should about a fatal hit-and-run while trolling in a toilet; it's a bit pretentious, but it gives a strong sense of the protagonist's vulnerability. Of the four other videos on the program, some are amusing, some dull. 88 min. (FC) (Chicago Filmmakers, 10:00)


Clara's Summer

Everyone at sports camp shows more skin than Clara (Selma Brook), an insecure beauty who hides her extra pounds under ankle-length skirts. Her roommate and best pal (Stephanie Sokolinski) ditches her for a popular boy, leaving her defenseless against teens who zero in on misfits like sharks on chum. French coming-of-age films are remarkable for their protagonists' philosophical--often coldly clinical--approach toward losing their virginity, and Clara, wounded by her friend's rejection, not only explores her lesbian proclivities but also adopts the pack mentality. Patrick Grandperret, who directed this 2003 digital video, previously collaborated with Claire Denis and Maurice Pialat, two other directors fascinated by cruelty. In French with subtitles. 85 min. (AG) (Landmark's Century Centre, noon)

I Look Up to the Sky Now

Barbara Bickert's 64-minute video documents teenagers in a film program at a New York City LGBT community center. Also on the program: Salome Chasnoff's 17-minute short A Fish (Almost) Eaten by a Shark. (Chicago Filmmakers, 1:00)

Love in Thoughts

Based on a true story, Achim von Borries's period piece recounts the friendship between two prep school classmates: Paul, a poet from a modest background, and Gunther, a reckless homosexual from a wealthy family. Invited by Gunther to his family's summerhouse, Paul falls for his bewitching sister Hilde. They start a flirtation, but Hilde is already involved with Hans, Gunther's ex-lover. Sharing some rather jejune notions regarding things of an amorous nature, Paul and Gunther form a suicide club, pledging to kill themselves if they experience love and then lose it. Von Borries obviously feels there's something profound about his sensitive young characters, but faced with their dull narcissism no one else is likely to. With Daniel Bruhl, August Diehl, and Anna Maria Muhe. In German with subtitles. 90 min. (JK) (Landmark's Century Centre, 1:45)

Amores Locos

Gonzalo Aburto's 50-minute drama is about a Latino bisexual who faces an HIV scare when a condom breaks. Also on the program: Boja Vasic's documentary Defying Gravity (47 min.), about the founder of the Havana-based dance troupe Danza Voluminoso. (Chicago Filmmakers, 2:45)

Poster Boy

In this fair-to-middling DV drama an ultraconservative senator's closeted gay son is caught in the political cross fire when he has a fling with a political protester. Screenwriters Ryan Shiraki and Lecia Rosenthal cop most of the standard moves of coming-out movies--neatly schematic conflict, secondary characters with distinctive quirks, a gestural plotline--then juice up the melodrama, but they redeem themselves somewhat by refusing the pat happy ending. Director Zak Tucker is a bit too fond of jump cuts as signifiers of edginess. Still, when the material doesn't get in the way he's pretty good at getting across the emotional content. Leads Matt Newton and Jack Noseworthy have genuine chemistry, which certainly helps. 98 min. (HSa) (Landmark's Century Centre, 3:30)

Kinky in Pink

Most of the 11 videos on this program concern the search for identity and the struggle against stereotypes. Wayne Yung travels to Germany in search of a boyfriend in his My German Boyfriend, finding his preconceptions ("Germans are sophisticated") matched by the Germans' ("Asians are so industrious"). Pendra Wilson's More Than Hair Care Products (2003) sets big, hairy men against the young, smooth bodies prefered by gay culture, and Clark Nikolai and Martin Borden's Men on Fur on Men (2003) offers a nicely sensuous study of bodies in extreme close-up--you can almost feel hair touching hair. Alberto Ferreras's Bigger is a disturbing look at the male obsession with size: a man who's grotesquely swollen his cock and balls with almost two pounds of silicone is happy even though he can no longer get fully hard. 100 min. (FC) (Chicago Filmmakers, 4:45)

R Do I Love You?

In this 2002 video, writer-director Lisa Gornick tries to understand herself as a lesbian by aggressively interviewing past lovers (male and female) as well as her tolerant boho parents. This could easily have turned into an academic exercise, but Gornick injects a healthy dose of levity, balancing the inherent solipsism with goofy riffs on infidelity, gay fashion versus straight fashion, and talking to parents about sexuality. She treats everyone as fair game, especially herself, and in the end she and her writer friends seem to analyze their relationships instead of enjoying them, deconstructing love to the point where they lose it. 75 min. (JK) (Landmark's Century Centre, 5:30)

Naked Fame

Porn stars rarely enjoy a second act in show business, but Colton Ford, a gay heartthrob in titles like Porn Struck II and Closet Set: The New Crew, gives it his best shot in this offbeat DV documentary (2003). He and Blake Harper, his costar and life partner, quit the sex business and move out of their residence, a hotel wired for 24/7 Internet chats and webcam shows. It's startling just how familiar their fans can get, both online and in person, but scenes in which Ford meets with record-industry honchos and a manipulative producer suggest that the music business is almost as exploitative as the porn business. Christopher Long directed. 86 min. (AG) (Landmark's Century Centre, 7:00)

Round Trip

This 2003 Israeli video reminds us that racism and homophobia aren't just American problems. A woman bus driver leaves her husband, drags her children from their settlement town to Tel Aviv, and hires a Nigerian immigrant to care for the kids. Soon the two women fall in love, and when the husband finds out about his rival, it's hard to tell whether he's more offended by her gender or her race. This is perfectly competent but never achieves the emotional impact it seeks; director Shahar Rozen takes a raw, almost documentary approach, which feels odd when the script slides into melodramatic coincidence. In English and subtitled Hebrew. 95 min. (HSa) (Chicago Filmmakers, 7:00)


Israeli filmmakers Adi Barash and Ruthie Shatz spent a year following two teenage hustlers for this 2003 video documentary about runaways in Tel Aviv's gay sex-trade district, known as Electricity Garden. Nino, a Palestinian refugee from the occupied territories, spends most of the film trying to avoid jail, while Dudu, his best friend, slides deeper into drug addiction. Their resilience despite hunger, eviction, legal scrapes, and violent johns is touching, as is the support of their social workers and frustrated attorneys. Particularly candid scenes featuring Nino's chief patron, an aging Israeli homosexual, reflect the filmmakers' skill and empathy. In Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles. 90 min. (AG) (Chicago Filmmakers, 9:00)

You I Love

A catalog for the Philadelphia gay/lesbian film festival referred to this quirky 2000 comedy as the first positive portrayal of homosexuality in Russian cinema, a distinction that carries it only so far. The light satire on consumer capitalism springs neatly from a gay-straight love triangle: Timofei, a slick young advertising executive, courts Vera, an ambitious TV newscaster obsessed with food, then finds himself coveting Ulumji, a free-spirited Mongolian man who lives in a zoo with the reindeer. But having established these charming oddballs, directors Dmitri Troitsky and Olga Stolpovskaja seem unsure what to do with them, so they add a distracting subplot in which Ulumji is snatched by his homophobic family. 87 min. (JJ) (Landmark's Century Centre, 9:00)


R Dear Pillow

With a mercilessness that suggests Todd Solondz, writer-director Bryan Poyser tackles our modern obsession with sex, as a horny teenage boy bonds with a gay neighbor who writes porn for a living. The boy is desperate to get laid but still uncertain about his sexuality; the older man seems to be on the prowl, but he's also willing to set the kid up with a woman as long as he can film it. The graphic, rambling dialogue rings true, and Rusty Kelley is utterly convincing as the teenager, whose inner struggles register in his awkward, closed-in posture and inability to look anyone in the eye. This is the kind of story that leaves you feeling vaguely dirty, but that's a good thing. 85 min. (HSa) (Landmark's Century Centre, 6:00)

Beaver Run Cafe

Anita Gouloomian's 2003 indie video takes place in northern California, where a troubled, insomniac woman arrives at a gay-owned truck stop (an oxymoron if ever there was one) and immediately attracts the attention of a wisecracking waitress with a mysterious past. Gouloomian presents a likable cast of characters, but her predictable comedy drama is as lightweight as your average sitcom. The gay characters could just as well be straight; that may be the point, but if so, it's a minor one. The insipid musical score is by a band named Finding Stella. With Rebecca Friese and Tammy Massa. 88 min. (JK) (Chicago Filmmakers, 7:00)

Slutty Summer

Casper Andreas directed this video drama about waiters at a New York restaurant. (Landmark's Century Centre, 7:45)

Chicago's Own

In the most professional and slickest of the three videos on this program, Jeff Smith's Dragonseed (2003), a cynical, arrogant art dealer seduces an art student, then proves he's a jerk by not letting their one-nighter last the night. Loving Mr. Wrong turns out even worse in Mariano DiMarco's My Porn Star (2003), in which a film student meets the porn star he's long worshipped, deceives him into becoming the subject of a documentary, and seems shocked and disappointed to find him turning tricks. Bill Kelman's Succubus uses a barely coherent story about a doctor who's been hoping to create a lesbian superrace while running a "school for retards" to create multiple layers of parody. 75 min. (FC) (Chicago Filmmakers, 8:45)

International Boys Shorts

Short films and videos from France, Australia, Norway, Germany, Israel, and the U.S. 134 min. (Landmark's Century Centre, 9:45)


R The Graffiti Artist

First-time actor Ruben Bansie-Snellman is terrific as Nick, a friendless, alienated skateboarder and tagger who shoplifts his paints and works by night. His face and eyes convey just the right mix of zonked-out disaffection and emotional yearning as he reaches out to another teen, Jesse, who comes from a more affluent home. They tag together, photographing each other in front of their joint efforts, and have sex--after which Jesse abandons Nick. Director James Bolton lets these taciturn kids speak through gestures and glances: the first scenes have no dialogue, and the painting scenes are broken down into multiple angles in a way that celebrates the act that gives meaning to Nick's life. 80 min. (FC) (Landmark's Century Centre, 6:00)

R Where the Girls Are

Two very good documentaries, a mockumentary, and an impressionistic paean to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (Lisa Vogel's Michigan Fever!). Sharon Barnes's Confession: A Film About Ariel Schrag shows the cartoonist as a passionate, complex character who wanted to major in "disease" in college and is thrilled to see herself being trashed on the Internet by a high school classmate. Tricia Cooke and Jennifer Arnold skillfully intercut people talking about the lesbians who attend Dinah Shore golf weekend in Palm Springs in Where the Girls Are: one elderly resident is upset to have had them "press up against me." Logan Kibens uses TV-news reporting style to portray a relationship she had with a woman she met online in Rough Cut (2003), which has talking heads, "documentary" footage, and an authoritative narrator. 83 min. (FC) (Chicago Filmmakers, 7:00)

200 American

The promise of this low-budget video (2003) is quickly undone by laughable dialogue, uneven acting, and some unaccountably screwy plot twists, one of which involves white slavery. A well-heeled CEO (Matt Walton), smarting from a breakup with his long-term boyfriend, responds to a sex ad and strikes up a friendship with a male hustler (Sean Matic), eventually offering him a job with his ad agency in exchange for a steady diet of sex. Producer-writer-director Richard LeMay proves that a gay romance can deliver as much smarmy titillation as a straight romance (one character actually compares himself to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman). 84 min. (JK) (Landmark's Century Centre, 7:45)

Drag Kings on Tour Sonia Slutsky's 80-minute video chronicles the travels of a Toronto-based drag-king troupe. Three short videos bring the program's running time to 96 minutes. (Chicago Filmmakers, 8:45)


This odd effort from David Moreton (Edge of Seventeen) starts out as light comedy but gets darker and dumber with every step. Seeking closure, a graphic novelist (David Sutcliffe) pursues his vanished boyfriend (Antonio Sabato Jr.) all the way to Argentina, and we're supposed to root for him as he insults his way through a strange culture. ("If you're going to arrest me, at least do it in English!") Sutcliffe lets his five o'clock shadow do most of the acting, but all the male pulchritude can't make up for a muddled script. 105 min. (HSa) (Landmark's Century Centre, 9:15)


R The Road to Love

A French-Algerian sociology student in Paris (Karim Tarek), straight but shooting a documentary about gay culture in the Maghreb, has a tough time interviewing young Arab emigres until he meets a flight attendant (Riyad Echahi) who's intrigued by both film and filmmaker. Like Eric Rohmer's sympathetic but clueless heroines, the student blunders into enlightenment; though he persists in intellectualizing his fascination with homosexuality, his body language changes the more time he spends around his new friend. Shot on digital video, this 2003 French romance is slowed by the hero's indecision and hampered by minimal production values, but its sweetness and buoyancy are hard to resist. Remi Lange directed. In French and Arabic with subtitles. 70 min. (AG) (Landmark's Century Centre, 6:00)

Cause of Death: Homophobia

This absorbing video (2003, 51 min., in Hebrew with subtitles) considers the Israeli phenomenon of gay men murdered by their consorts--more than 50 such crimes in the past two decades. Director Ran Kotzer investigates the links between ancient and modern prohibitions against sodomy, a macho ethos that favors the penetrator, and a veil of silence (perpetrators deny they're gay, while bereaved families hush up the victims' homosexuality). The power dynamic is further complicated when middle-class Israelis are slain by Arab hustlers. Also on the program is Stephen MacLean and Ebsen Storm's video The Tasty Bust Reunion (2003, 52 min.), about a 1994 police raid on one of Melbourne's hottest gay clubs. (AG) (Chicago Filmmakers, 7:00)

R Beautiful Boxer

If this 2003 Thai feature weren't based on a true story, you'd never buy it: hoping to earn money for a sex change, a former Buddhist monk (Asanee Suwan) becomes a competitive kickboxer and rises to the top of the field. Fortunately director Ekachai Uekrongtham handles the material with reasonable restraint, and you can't help but cheer on the hero as he defeats one homophobic thug after another. The cinematography tends toward cramped framing and busy composition but opens up nicely for the exciting fight sequences. In Thai with subtitles. 116 min. (HSa) (Landmark's Century Centre, 7:15)


A gay auto mechanic and sometime S-M porn actor bonds with an alienated suburban runaway in this video by Arsen Karougian. 78 min. (Chicago Filmmakers, 9:15)

Brush Fires

Seven women from the Chicago-based "improvisational filmmakers" collective Split Pillow directed the seven respective vignettes in this serial-style video about a flirtatious woman, her lesbian roommate, and a troubled young girl. 109 min. (Landmark's Century Centre, 9:30)


The Adventures of Iron Pussy

The experimental filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul (who got his MFA from the School of the Art Institute) has proved himself a real original with films like Mysterious Object at Noon and Blissfully Yours. This 2003 video, codirected by Michael Shaowanasai, is a campy action adventure about a shy nobody who doubles as a butt-kicking government spy. Indefatigably cheerful about its own silliness, enlivened by muscial numbers and asides about Thai politics, it often feels like it's about to collapse into giggles. It's worthy of its title, if not its celebrated director. In Thai with subtitles. 90 min. (JR) (Chicago Filmmakers, 6:30)

R Dyke Delicious Shorts

Several of the seven videos on this program are enjoyable postmodern comedies full of almost surreal exaggeration. The mom in Colette Burson's Cinderella takeoff Little Black Boot (2003) makes the fairy tale family look nurturing, but the dateless girl is a hit at the prom when she goes as a boy. The middle-aged actress who can't get work in Cherien Dabis's Memoirs of an Evil Stepmother is so horrified when her stepdaughter becomes a star on her former soap that she undergoes plastic surgery, and after that fails to impress her agent she hires a hit man. Barbara Green's You're Still Young offers emotional authenticity: a middle-aged woman glimpses her younger self in a suicidal teen cutter in a diner and reaches out to tell her that things will get better. 91 min. (FC) (Landmark's Century Centre, 7:00)

South Asian Shorts

The centerpiece of this program, My Friend Su (54 min., 2001), is a meandering portrait of an Indian man who says he isn't gay even though he loves men, because he feels he's really a woman. Director Neeraj Bhasin presents him in indulgent, real-time long takes, and despite a few moments of emotional authenticity this video is an unrevealing, crushing bore. Much better are two of the three shorts. In Georgina Maddox and Shalini Kantayya's Bombay Longing (2001) bright fruits in close-up become metaphors for sex and love; in Tejal Shah's Untitled III (2000) two women are seen as body fragments floating in darkness, simultaneously evoking togetherness, absence, and loss. 78 min. (FC) (Chicago Filmmakers, 8:30)

R Straight-Jacket

Rock Hudson's sham marriage inspired this diverting comedy set in the 1950s, when Hollywood was being terrorized by politicos in search of perverts, pinkos, and potheads. Secretly gay matinee idol Guy Stone (Matt Letscher) takes the advice of his butch manager (Veronica Cartwright) and weds his producer's starstruck secretary (Carrie Preston), but his heart lies with the lefty novelist (Adam Greer) whose prolabor polemic is the basis of his latest picture. Writer-director Richard Day wittily evokes 50s cinema--the lush soap operas of Douglas Sirk, the glossy comedies of Ross Hunter, the gritty dramas of Elia Kazan--and the players deftly balance flip caricature with a surprisingly moving depiction of those trapped in the celluloid closet. 96 min. (Albert Williams) Tickets are $15. (Landmark's Century Centre, 9:00)

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