After going for broke with last year's big 10th anniversary blowout, ImageOut scales itself back a bit this time around. There aren't as many films and shorts, but that doesn't mean the quality has suffered. You'll find 40 programs of varying length and very varying content, and we've seen most of them. Here's City's guide to what you shouldn't miss and what you might want to skip.
Andrea Meyerson, USA, 60 minutes (Second show added: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, October 11, Cinema Theatre)
6:30 p.m. Friday, October 3, Little Theatre
ImageOut kicks off in style with a sold-out film, visiting stars and directors, and a big party at Starbar (123 Liberty Pole Way). Laughing Matters is an Original Kings of Comedy-type documentary about four popular lesbian standup comedians from very different backgrounds, whether originally hailing from Amish country (like Suzanne Westenhoefer) or our very own Upstate New York (like Kate Clinton --- see City interview). As far as the comedy goes, Margaret Cho is much funnier, but these four women are able to garner more laughs from their off-stage interviews. Westenhoefer, Clinton, and director Meyerson will all be in attendance.
C. Jay Cox, USA, 110 minutes
9:15 p.m. Friday, October 3, Little Theatre
C. Jay Cox, the screenwriter of the abysmal Sweet Home Alabama, shows far more promise with Latter Days, his directorial debut. The film starts with the familiar cliché of throwing together two very different people who, even though their relationship is prickly at first, will no doubt ride off into the sunset together... or at least that's how it seems. Cox's story takes a couple of surprising twists and turns, which make you wonder how badly Hollywood may have ruined his story for Alabama. (Cox and lead actor Steve Sandvoss will introduce Latter Days.)
Alexandra Juhasz, USA, 50 minutes
2:15 p.m. Saturday, October 4, Little Theatre
James Watt's worst nightmare comes to fruition in this video love letter a mother leaves to her son, Gabe. It sounds a lot like The Gaithers Trio's "Because He Lives," but it's about a "complicated American dream" which was lived out in a feminist commune at Amherst College a couple of decades ago. To Watt's delight, there aren't any cripples, but the players do include lesbians, divorcees, blacks, and Jews. Director Juhasz, who will accompany her film to Rochester, catches up with her old buddies, all of whom have scattered about the country and boast unique families of their own. Most have children with really silly names, and each voices concerns and complaints that aren't much different from those of the straightest, whitest parents. Though they do seem slightly more thoughtful.
Preceded by three short shorts, including Triskaidekaphobia, in which a teenager waxes poetic about his fear of homophobia.
Melissa Levin and Roxana Spicer, Canada, 53 minutes
4:15 p.m. Saturday, October 4, Little Theatre
The first ImageOut doc that reminds people the Harvey Milk School isn't the only sanctuary for gay and lesbian teenagers focuses on the lives of three unique kids who take part in Toronto's Triangle Program, a secondary school for "at-risk" LBGT kids. Adina has the added pleasure of being the daughter of a prominent local rabbi who refuses to let her into his temple. The two boys --- Richard and Adam --- look so similar, I couldn't tell them apart. One of them had a guidance counselor at his previous high school try to teach him how to walk in a less-gay manner, while the other is too scared to introduce his boyfriend to his less-than-accepting family. Director Levin will be in attendance.
Madame Satã (BEST BOY-ON-BOY SCENE)
Karim Aïnouz, Brazil/France, 105 minutes
6 p.m. Saturday, October 4, Little Theatre
João Francisco dos Santos' life is the basis for this colorful, award-winning movie about the flashy Brazilian cabaret star. Set in Rio de Janeiro, the film follows about one year of Francisco's life before he's tossed into the clink for a crime that remains a mystery until the end of these proceedings. We see him as a slightly glamorous behind-the-scenes dresser to a popular but Crawford-esque singer. We also see Francisco's home life, which involves gritty slums, petty theft, and prostitution. In other words, his professional life is a 9, while his personal life is only like a 2. Satã is worth catching for the photography and for Làzaro Ramos' performance as Francisco, which have both been honored at different film festivals.
Robin's Hood (BEST GIRL-ON-GIRL SCENE)
Sara Millman, USA, 77 minutes
1:30 p.m. Saturday, October 4, Little Theatre
A nifty re-telling of the classic Robin Hood tale, only this time, ol' Robin and Little John are played by women who get it on. In the opening credits, we see a bank robbery gone bad, while everything that follows plays out in one long flashback. Robin (Khahtee V. Turner) is an Oakland social worker with a wenchy boss who accuses her of caring too much. The daughter of a whore and a thief, Brooklyn (Clody Cates) is a French expatriate mechanic who boosts cars and sells fake IDs for a living. Before long, the duo is knocking over banks to help their impoverished Oakland community... except we kind of know how it's going to end from the opening credits. A nice twist does keep things interesting, though Hood is plagued, like most video productions, by bad sound and iffy acting.
Lock Up Your Sons and Daughters: Anti-Queer Films
Total running time: 93 minutes
10:30 p.m. Saturday, October 4, Dryden Theatre
There's nothing funnier than those campy old educational films from the '50s and '60s (they'll be saying the same thing about Thirteen in 2033). This collection features seven shorts that preach the evils of being attracted to people of the same sex. There's even one from Sid "The King of Calamity" Davis, who you may know as the greatest creator of classroom films. Curator Bill Taylor will introduce these little nuggets of pure insanity. And remember, kids: "Public restrooms can often be a hangout for the homosexual."
The Gift (CITY'S CHOICE)
Louise Hogarth, USA, 62 minutes
2:30 p.m. Sunday, October 5, Little Theatre
An eye-opening documentary about Bug Chasers (HIV-free guys trying to catch it) and Gift Givers (men with HIV trying to infect those who don't have it) with an interesting theory about the recent increase in AIDS cases. Turns out the non-stop support of HIV-positive men makes HIV-negative men jealous. Packed full of interesting and candid interviews with gay men from every demographic who are either appalled at what's happening or are too busy answering anonymous online sex ads for "don't ask/don't tell" parties. Call me a prude (it's OK, my mom does it all the time), but I always thought bug chasing had something to do with Starship Troopers. The screening will be followed by a discussion led by AIDS Rochester's Erik Libey.
Sachi Hamano, Japan, 100 minutes
2:30 p.m. Sunday, October 5, Dryden Theatre
It's rare to find a film that's narrated by a dead character and postulates a connection between marital infidelity and hemorrhoids. It's even more uncommon to discover such a movie that fits those parameters and was directed by a soft-core porn filmmaker, and rarer yet to cast the sexually charged picture with actors on the other side of 70.
But that's just what you'll get with the charming Festival, a tale of a senior citizen apartment building in Japan where six female tenants each fall head-over-heels for recent arrival Mr. Miyoshi (Mickey Curtis). He's an ex-actor who puts the moves on all of the women, which only awakens their long-defunct sexual drive. Just don't think about Grandma while you're watching it.
The Politics of Fur
Luara Nix, USA, 77 minutes
5 p.m. Sunday, October 5, Dryden Theatre
Fairport native Laura Nix returns to Rochester with this modern take on Rainer Werner Fassbinder's The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (which is also screening at ImageOut on Wednesday, August 8). Here, Katy Selverstone is Una, a super-controlling music publicist who doesn't seem to ever leave her stark, minimalist home. The only color in Una's life is her pet tiger and her flamboyant yet browbeaten assistant. But Una's life takes an unexpected turn when a colleague sends her a unique "gift" --- a butch punk star (Brynn Horrocks) who refuses to follow Una's non-stop orders. Expect a lot of screaming, even more crying, and the most angst you'll see at ImageOut this year.
The Embalmer (CITY'S CHOICE)
Matteo Garrone, Italy, 10 minutes
8 p.m. Sunday, October 5, Dryden Theatre
The title had me at hello, on account of Claire Fisher and that cute mortician on Survivor. But L'Imbalsamatore is about an eight-fingered midget taxidermist with frightening teeth, not a doe-eyed cutie with a dark side, like Lauren Ambrose. Ernesto Mahieux plays 50-year-old Peppino, the aforementioned physical oddity who develops a crush on a tall, hunky 21-year-old cook named Valerio (Valerio Foglia Manzillo). Peppino offers Valerio a job assisting him at the taxidermy shop just so he can get close to him. And he even arranges hooker parties to get a peek at what Valerio is packing. When Valerio's girlfriend figures out what Peppino is up to, a monumental power struggle ensues, and it's all hauntingly photographed for your enjoyment.
The Embalmer landed nine nominations for Italy's version of the Oscar, with Mahieux and the screenwriters taking home trophies. Even more frightening than Mahieux's creepy performance, or the scene where he could pass for the twin of a Marabou stork: It's all based on a real story, including the scenes involving Peppino's rather unusual Mafia ties.
Total running time: 69 minutes
10:15 p.m. Sunday, October 5, Little Theatre
Hooked is a 60-minute documentary about the ins and outs of cruising gay chat rooms online. It's preceded by three shorts, including 1000 Cumshots.
Total running time: 95 minutes
7:15 p.m. Monday, October 6, Little Theatre
A collection of a dozen shorts of varying lengths, highlighted by Give or Take an Inch with Amanda Bearse and Michele Greene; and Play Date, which features a pair of hot, tattooed lesbian mothers arranging a time for their kids to play... which is all just an excuse for them to play as well. There's also something called Repodyke, which sounds good, but not quite as good as Blow and Rub.
Shake It All About
Hella Joof, Denmark, 98 minutes
9:30 p.m. Monday, October 6, Little Theatre
It's preceded by local filmmaker Beth Bailey's short Swapped, which is about a straight couple looking to do a little swapping, only to have an equally confused gay couple show up at their door.
School's Out: The Life of a Gay High School in Texas
Jeremy Simmons, USA, 69 minutes
5:15 p.m. Wednesday, October 8, Little Theatre
Having Tom Landry Middle School in Dallas wouldn't surprise many, but seeing the Walt Whitman Community School for LBGT kids in such a... uh... rural setting is a bit of a surprise. It sure seems like it's a shock to the clueless locals, who have no idea them evil gays is a-learnin' up a storm right in their own backyard.
What is surprising, though, is seeing the same hierarchy that exists in regular high school life, as director Jeremy Simmons takes us on a month-by-month look at Walt Whitman's 10 students and the big changes some of them incur throughout the school year.
Yossi & Jagger (CITY'S CHOICE)
Eytan Fox, Israel, 65 minutes
7:15 p.m. Wednesday, October 8, Little Theatre
Even though it clocks in at just over an hour, Yossi & Jagger offers way more character development than you're likely to see in most films twice as long. The documentary-like feature takes place in 2002 in and around a military outpost in Israeli-occupied Lebanon on the eve of a planned ambush. The IDF company is led by the no-nonsense Yossi (Ohad Knoller), who has been having a secret affair with a soldier so likeable and charismatic, he's been nicknamed after the singer of the Rolling Stones (Yehuda Levi).
Jagger is tired of hiding his relationship with Yossi, who pretty much takes the "like it or lump it" attitude for most of the film. In addition to not exactly warming the cockles of his lover's heart, Yossi's inability to publicly commit does little to ward off the advances of Yaeli (Late Marriage's Aya Steinovitz), a pretty girl who has been futilely pursuing Jagger for some time.
Gay for All Ages
Total running time: 93 minutes
9:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 8, Little Theatre
Another big collection of shorts (there are nine of them here), including the hysterical Masturbation: Putting the Fun Back in Self-Loving, a spoof of those educational films from the '50s.
No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon
JEB, USA, 57 minutes
6 p.m. Thursday, October 9, Little Theatre
Like last year's festival entry Ruthie & Connie: Every Room In the House, this hour-long documentary begins with an older lesbian couple talking about how horrible it was to be gay in the 1950s, when shock therapy was a common "cure." Back then, lesbian life consisted of going to bars, getting loaded, and drunkenly finding someone to bed. In other words, it's a lot like going to Woody's, except the women probably didn't wear backwards baseball caps back then.
Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon decided to change things by creating the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955 (the same year Rosa Parks planted her sweet thang in the front of the bus), and lesbians were never the same. Kate Clinton narrates, and director JEB will be on hand at the screening.
Thom Fitzgerald, Canada, 105 minutes
8 p.m. Thursday, October 9, Little Theatre (Second show added! 1 p.m. Saturday, October 11, Cinema Theatre)
The Event is about a guy slowly dying from AIDS, even though he's already dead when the film begins, with the slowly dying part shown in flashbacks. That opening scene shows Matt (Don McKellar) lying lifeless in his Chelsea bedroom and the flashbacks begin when Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Nicole Devivo (Parker Posey) is assigned Matt's case, as it seems quite similar to a handful of other questionable deaths revolving around one particular AIDS counselor.
Though Canadian (co)writer-director Thom Fitzgerald (The Hanging Garden) shoots The Event nicely, the overall effect of his non-linear storytelling is anti-climactic enough to simply be bothersome --- even with the slightly ironic ending. The Event plays like a plodding two-episode arc --- complete with very special guests --- of a fifth Law & Order spin-off that doesn't exist... yet.
Sex, Politics & Cocktails
Julien Hernandez, USA, 55 minutes
10:15 p.m. Thursday, October 9, Little Theatre
Struggling Cuban-American filmmaker Sebastian (played by writer-director-producer-editor Julien Hernandez) can't catch a break until he lands a deal to direct three documentaries. Trouble is, the subject is gay men and their relationships, and that's something this Jersey boy knows nothing about. So his soap opera actress buddy (Marisa Petroro) arranges for Sebastian to meet three of her gay friends. Many margaritas are consumed, and Sebastian's education begins. A jumpy and occasionally unfocused feature made likable by a charismatic lead. Stick around for the outtakes of everyone calling Hernandez by his real name instead of Sebastian.
You'll Get Over It (BEST HETERO SCENE)
Fabrice Cazenueve, France, 86 minutes
5:15 p.m. Friday, October 10, Cinema Theatre
Vincent (Julien Baumgartner) has the perfect life. He's the star of his school's champion swimming team. He's the apple of his parents' cumulative eye. His female classmates think he's the cat's ass, and he's about to deflower the ridiculously cute Emily VanCamp-ish Noémie (Julia Maraval). He's buried pretty deep in the closet, too, but that all changes when he tries to kiss the new boy (Jérémie Elkaïm). Solid acting and production values from this French television flick.
My Life on Ice
Oliver Ducastel and Jacques Martineau, France, 102 minutes
7:15 p.m. Friday, October 10, Cinema Theatre
If you gave a young Jerry Seinfeld a video camera, you might get something like My Life on Ice, a very interesting film from the French filmmakers who brought The Adventures of Felix to ImageOut in 2001. Sixteen-year-old Etienne gets himself just such a camera, and My Life on Ice is the footage he collects while annoying the hell out of his subjects. Hey, Michael Moore made a career of it.
Total running time: 126 minutes
3:30 p.m. Saturday, October 11, Dryden Theatre
This program contains two documentaries, each running about an hour and focusing on what it's like to be gay and from a country even less accepting of alternative lifestyles than the United States. In I Exist: Voice from the Lesbian & Gay Middle Eastern Community in the U.S., you get exactly what the title says. Arabs have just about the same troubles you see in the States, only slightly worse, since most American families won't burn you alive for coming out.
In the Janeane Garofalo-narrated Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World, we learn the story of the Cairo 52, as well as hear stories of public flogging and castration from citizens of hellholes like Zimbabwe, El Salvador, and India.
Prey for Rock & Roll (CRITIC'S PICK)
Alex Steyermark, USA, 104 minutes
7 p.m. Saturday, October 11, Dryden Theater
Forty-year-old Jacki (Gina Gershon) is no closer to "making it" than she was 20 years ago when she got off the bus in LA with a dream of becoming a rock star. That's what she explains in the narration of Prey for Rock & Roll, adding that the dough she makes from live shows isn't even enough to offset her eyeliner habit. Gershon, who sports the appropriate punk-rock snarl and recorded her vocals live to film, is the driving force behind the movie. which should appeal to fans of the riot grrrl scene and female-driven independent cinema.
Prey was directed by Alex Steyermark, who served as a music supervisor-editor for dozens of pictures, including Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He keeps the film lively enough, especially the scenes involving Clamdandy's stage performances (and even their rehearsals). Some of the dialogue is laughably bad and a major component of the story evaporates, but the four female leads all legitimately looked like they knew how to play their instruments, which is a big selling point for a film of this genre.
Rodolphe Marconi, France, 96 minutes
9:30 p.m. Saturday, October 11, Dryden Theatre
Parisian Bruce (played by writer-director-producer Marconi) takes off for Rome where an arts fellowship for his filmmaking will, hopefully, erase the painful memories of his recently deceased gay brother. But then he meets Mateo (Andrea Necci), a smoldering Sicilian with caterpillar eyebrows who reminds Bruce a lot of his dead brother. And who doesn't enjoy sleeping with guys who remind them of their dead brother?
But after they hook up, Bruce gets a little psychotic and begins to stalk Mateo. Throw in a serial killer-obsessed American girl, a jealous bartender, and the strangest France-Italy vibe since the Euro 2000 finals and you've got a decent little thriller. The religious iconography and local architecture make up for the video quality and the flat, zombie-like acting of the supporting cast.
Die Mommie Die! (CITY'S CHOICE)
Mark Rucker, USA, 90 minutes
7 p.m. Sunday, October 12, Dryden Theatre
If you're a fan of camp that goes way over the top in the same manner as, say, 2000 ImageOut entry Psycho Beach Party, don't miss Die Mommie Die!, which also happens to be adapted from a Charles Busch play (see our interview with him in this issue).
The story centers on a rather dysfunctional Hollywood family in 1967. Patriarch Sol Sussman (Philip Baker Hall) is a movie producer who has been off in Spain trying to secure financing for his latest venture, while wife Angela Arden (drag legend Busch), a washed-up singer-actress, has been busy shagging the python-sized Tony Parker (Jason Priestley). When Sol catches wind of the affair, and cancels Angela's upcoming singing engagement in the Poconos, she flips out and kills him with an arsenic-laced suppository.
This does not bode well for Angela's relationship with her daddy's-girl daughter (Natasha Lyonne) or the family's maid (Frances Conroy), though it does bring her a bit closer to pot-smoking son Lance (Stark Sands), who has just been kicked out of school for inciting a gay orgy. In one priceless heart-to-heart conversation between mother and son, Angela not-so-delicately asks Lance, "Son, are you a cocksucker?"
So, yeah --- the humor isn't exactly subtle, but it's not supposed to be. There are plenty of other scenes that are just as much of a hoot, but I don't want to give them all away. I'll just say Die is tart enough to curl the ends of John Waters' moustache. Everything is appropriately sensational, twisted, and overly dramatic. And like most strong parodies, Die doesn't overstay its welcome.
Busch's performance, which won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance earlier this year, is insanely fun, featuring the same soft "Doris Day" focus and the same hysterically flattering lighting we're supposed to swallow as legitimate when it's done to Madonna (The Next Big Thing) and Kate Hudson (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days).
For detailed reviews of ImageOut films, visit Jon's site, Planet Sick-Boy (www.sick-boy.com).Read more of City Newspaper's coverage on ImageOut by clicking here!