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    Four Queer Films to Stream in February

    By Gary Kramer–

    Four films with queer content will become available for streaming over the next few weeks. Here is a rundown of what to watch and when.

    Of local interest—a handful of scenes were shot in San Francisco—is X, available digitally and on VD February 9. Directed by the gay Scott J. Ramsey, and written by Ramsey and Hannah Katherine Jost, a lesbian, this drama revolves around a series of monthly masquerade parties thrown by Christian (Hope Raymond) and her coconspirator Danny (Brian Smick).

    Christian secretly records her guests’ activities in the bathroom to “enjoy” the footage later. When Stella Marie (Bay Area actress Eliza Boivin) attends a “ball” on Danny’s invitation, Christian is upset; they were rivals back in high school. When Christian learns that Stella Marie is dating Jackson (Zachary Cowan), whom she admired, she encourages his attendance. However, after Christian spies a crime involving Jackson on the bathroom cam, she panics. What transpires involves secrets and lies being exposed along with some queer recoupling.

    Ramsey’s film, though, is—like the characters—never quite as risqué as it wants to be. The sexuality on display is more discrete than explicit, despite the promise that “no fantasy is too obscene.” Moreover, a relationship that develops between Jackson and Danny is left hanging at the film’s end.

    X is crudely made, which may account for its sloppiness. This may be endearing for some viewers; fans of Doris Wishman films should appreciate Ramsey’s style. But the actors often sound dubbed or are shot in ways that two characters in the same scene are rarely seen in the same frame. The performances are also very uneven, with the primary cast members working overtime trying to be seductive, angry, or mysterious, and end up being risible.

    Ultimately, X is more ambitious than good.

    Two of Us, available February 5, is director Filippo Meneghetti’s poignant drama about a pair of neighbors, Nina (Barbara Sukowa) and Madeleine (Martine Chevallier), who are secretly a couple. Seeing these women exchange looks over breakfast, or dance together, shows how deeply, thoroughly in love they are. They have plans to move to Rome—where they first met—and “be who we want to be,” but Madeleine is reluctant to tell her adult children about the extent of their relationship. When an unforeseen snag occurs, separating the women, Nina lies in wait, contriving ways of (re)connecting with Madeline. Meneghetti, making his feature debut, shoots many scenes in close-up, and this intimacy showcases Sukowa’s deeply moving performance as a determined woman in love. Chevallier is heartbreaking, expressing her emotions, sometimes just with her eyes.

    Another film about an older couple in love is out gay writer/director Ray Yeung’sgentle, bittersweet romance, Twilight’s Kiss (Suk Suk),available February 10 via FilmForum.org. This poignant drama has Pak (Tai-Bo), a taxicab driver meeting Hoi (Ben Yuen) in a park where Pak was cruising one afternoon. The men slowly embark on a friendship that soon turns into a sexual relationship. However, both men are closeted to their families. Pak is preparing for his daughter Fong’s (Hiu Ye Wong) impending nuptials, while Hoi seems to constantly disappoint his religious son Wan (Lo Chun Yip). A subplot has Hoi secretly participating in a seniors’ group to develop a nursing home for gay seniors. Yeung’s sensitive film captures the quotidian aspects of these ordinary lives that undergo deep and profoundly subtle changes. A shot of Pak and Hoi’s hands clasping or feet touching brims with genuine affection, and an episode where Hoi visits the home of his friend Chiu (Kong To) speaks volumes about loneliness and aging. Yeung’s exquisite and wonderfully acted film is full of such quietly powerful moments.

    Lastly, Falling, out February 5, is Viggo Mortensen’s directorial debut—he also penned the screenplay. This drama is a discomfiting story about John (Mortensen), a gay man caring for his addled, strong-willed dad, Willis (Lance Henriksen in a showboating performance). The early scenes show young Willis (Sverrir Gudnason) to be a rather selfish and jealous father, mistreating his wife Gwen (Hannah Gross) and their kids. The film cuts back and forth between these flashbacks and the present day where John, who is married to Eric (Terry Chen), takes Willis in and try to get him settled in a new home. Of course, Willis resists, testing John’s patience as well as that of viewers.

    Willis is a loud, angry, hateful man in the Archie Bunker mode, criticizing John, and mocking him for being a “fag.” He is racist and homophobic towards Eric, and his verbal abuse is constant, making every scene, past and present, awkward. Mortensen does a fine job creating a stifling tone of the film, and a lengthy sequence featuring John’s sister Sarah (Laura Linney) visiting with her teenage kids is relentlessly uncomfortable. But too much of Falling is step and repeat, with Willis being ornery, even during a visit to a proctologist (David Cronenberg).

    By the time father and son confront one another, in one of the film’s better scenes, it is almost too late. Mortensen shows an eye for detail and composition, but one wishes his grating filmwere better.

    © 2021 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer

    Published on January 28, 2021