Monday, March 26, 2018

QWFF 2018 part 2


Part 1

MARCH 21

What would QWFF be without snow? There was a hint of the white stuff as I came home last night, but this morning it started in earnest, and it went on all damn day, to the point where tonight's screening of Vincent Gagliostro's After Louie was cancelled. I was interested in that one too...

Here's an interview with Gagliostro from last fall about After Louie.


MARCH 23
MOMI

Virginia's with me today! In all the years I've come to QWFF, this is the first time I've attended a screening with someone. It's a little unusual, but in a good way. We ate before the show and then headed over to MOMI. Thankfully, much of the snow had melted, though she says she likes snow.

Impervia director Patrick Devaney (l),
Scenes director Gregg Bierman (r)
The lobby was packed and it was close to showtime. Katha was in a hurry and I asked her if seating had begun. She said yes, but in hindsight, I think she might have meant the main auditorium instead of the smaller Bartos Theater, where we were headed. Didn't get a chance to introduce her to Virginia.

The movies in our block were grim but entertaining:

- Scenes From the Anthropocene. Part art film, part doc, it's a treatise on global warming set to footage of man and nature, manipulated in geometric patterns. Words and images seemed to compete for attention — in one section, there was a sustained strobe effect that was difficult to watch — but as an artistic endeavor it was kinda interesting. Director Gregg Biermann said in the post-show Q-and-A he used the same computer animation program that DreamWorks used for Shrek. The footage was shot at both the Museum of Natural History and the Bronx Zoo.

- Come and Play. A boy playing make-believe war games is in for a shock when they suddenly come to life. This one moved Virginia the most — and indeed, it's quite unsettling. The ending made me think this story was metaphorical in some fashion (can't say more without spoilers) but Virginia was less certain of that. Either way, it's a stark and brutal anti-war film not easily forgotten.

- Real Artists. A young woman gets a job interview at her favorite animation studio only to find the way they make films is less of a creative endeavor than she thought. We both thought this was the best one in the block. It's easy to imagine this as a statement on how Hollywood movies are made, but it's the twist ending that'll really do a number on your head. Kudos for using a black actress and an Asian actress in the lead roles of a story like this.

- Impervia. In a near-future, on the distant outskirts of a big city, a family is threatened with eviction from their modest home, but not everything is as it seems. If I describe the look of this as Ex Machina directed by Frank Miller (of Sin City and 300 fame), I hope that's not too much of a spoiler. Director Patrick Devaney, who was also at the Q-and-A along with some of the cast members, said the 34-minute film was filmed on location in Pennsylvania in a mere 36 hours, with 72 separate FX shots (I had thought green screens were involved). Shooting near a NASCAR racetrack also required what he called "audio surgery" in post-production. The acting was a little on the melodramatic side, I thought, but overall, the film was good.

Virginia dug the QWFF experience, like I figured she would. It felt nice to have someone along for a change.

MARCH 25
MOMI

Almost missed the show. I came from the city; I saw a movie with Vija and Franz and we ate afterwards. I kinda lost track of time, but I still thought I could make it — then I remembered it was Sunday, and as much as the subway normally sucks, they suck twice as much on the weekends. Still, it was my fault for dawdling. I ran the final block or two to MOMI and made it with minutes to spare.

The filmmakers in
the Queens Corner block
The audio didn't work in the first film and it dropped out in another one. While the booth worked at fixing the problems, Katha entertained the crowd. To her credit, she took total responsibility for the glitch. I suspect she knew there were lots of QWFF first-timers in the audience, but I'd bet she'd do that regardless of who was in the audience. Either way, everyone took it in stride and we got to see all the films properly.

- Oatmeal. Career woman takes a day off for a change, spending it with her favorite stuffed doll. Liked the relationship between her and her boyfriend. Not exactly Ferris Bueller's Day Off but it was okay.

- Violetta. Teen girl is made to serve her father's every whim until he crosses a line. Good as a story outline but I wanted to know more at the end.

- Blind Faith. Man picks up dude with car trouble only to discover he claims to be someone special. Another one in which I was left wanting more! The director had a large and vocal group in the audience for this one.

- Rudy's Hobby Shop. A profile of a proprietor of a local shop for models, games and kits. I pass by this place all the time when I'm in Astoria but I never had any interest in what they sell. It's one of those dusty retail places barely clinging to life in the Amazon age. Now I have a reason to stop inside.

- Arm Bar. A young woman takes up mixed martial arts, but what's her motivation? I'm unfamiliar with the sport, but the actress looked fit and acquitted herself well in a ring, from what I could see. Yet another one in which I wanted to know more.

- Tom and the Domme. A relationship heads for the rocks because the guy has certain... proclivities the girl doesn't know how to satisfy. My favorite of the lot, if for no other reason than the degree of difficulty on the actor's part (full frontal nudity, getting whipped and cuffed, wearing a ball gag — and he doesn't exactly have the body of Channing Tatum). Sad and funny at the same time.

- Miracle Maker. A vacuum cleaner salesman and his son encounter some unusual clients while on the road. Nice cinematography, nice set design, good acting.

MARCH 26
MOMI

Good news: After Louie got a re-screening after all, and am I glad it did.

Aging filmmaker/artist who fought the good fight for gay rights for years, and lost many loved ones along the way, gets involved with a younger man and sees the generation gap between gay men of the past and the present for the first time — and what he needs to do to cross it.

Gagliostro, being interviewed by Katha
This was really good. Star and co-producer Alan Cumming kills it, playing a disguised version of director/co-writer Gagliostro with passion, anger and sadness. He's a soldier in the gay rights battle who only sees the losses and not the victories. He's surrounded by an equally talented, multi-generational supporting cast, including Zachary Booth as the young "love" interest who provides Cumming with the perspective he needs.

Katha conducted the Q-and-A with Gagliostro. Cumming's character works on a documentary about a real departed friend, William Wilson, who wrote the short story that inspired Louie. Gagliostro, a founding member of the radical activist group ACT UP, turned to visual art when "the street was no longer a viable place to perform" their demonstrations. Even back then, his aesthetic was always about "making the work beautiful" to the end of "seducing people into the message."

Louie was co-written with Anthony Johnson. Cumming was brought on board through Johnson, a friend, and was a part of the creative process. Amazingly, Gagliostro said Louie was filmed without any rehearsals, so the cast had leeway in interpreting the characters. It started on the festival circuit last year. If you're in the NYC area, it'll play Cinema Village this Friday.

And that's it. Perhaps I didn't see as many films this year as in the past, but the ones I saw were as solid and original and expressive as always. Don & Katha have made QWFF what it is and all of Queens should be proud.

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