The Frameline Film Festival ends this weekend, but there is still time to catch a few more features and documentaries that celebrate LGBT life.
Limited Partnership (June 26, 1:45pm, Castro) is a touching documentary addressing the immigration and marriage laws that could potentially divide same-sex couples. Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan met in 1971, and they married in Boulder, Colorado, when a clerk granted same-sex marriages in 1975. However, when the Australian citizen Sullivan wanted equal rights protection because he had married an American, he received an offensive letter in response from the U.S. government. Their court case took years, and it decided that the men must leave the country if they wanted to stay together. Director Thomas G. Miller nimbly traces their relationship through activism, art, and archival footage to show their “strange patience,” with their legal status. Tony’s willingness to be undocumented and live underground in the U.S. to fight for his rights is inspiring, as is the stirring testimonies by Richard and Tony. Their story resonates in light of the wave of recent legal decisions that have benefitted LGBT couples.
Eat with Me (June 26, 4:00pm, Castro) is a benign, low-budget charmer about Emma (Sharon Omi), who leaves her husband one day and moves in with her gay son Elliot (Teddy Chen Culver). Emma is reluctant to talk about her marital crisis, which is fine, because Elliot has trouble talking to his intense mother. Over the course of this predictable comedy-drama, both Emma and Elliot learn to drop their rigid defenses and each step out of their comfort zones. She drinks, takes some ecstasy (albeit accidentally) and eats tacos off a truck (albeit with copious hot sauce). Elliot, meanwhile, finds himself attracted to Ian (Aiden Bristow), a handsome musician. Writer/director David Au includes a subplot about Elliot’s failing restaurant that does little more than provide an excuse to unite all of the characters—including George Takei (as himself) and Nicole Sullivan as Elliot’s wacky neighbor and Emma’s coconspirator—but Eat with Me is pleasant enough, and perfectly suitable for sons and their mothers.
Regarding Susan Sontag (June 26, 7:00pm, Elmwood) is an appropriately respectful and reflective documentary about the intellectual writer, essayist, and filmmaker. Thankfully, this elegant tribute never became a hagiography. Featuring seamlessly woven together interview clips, photographs, and animation, as well as snippets of Sontag’s writing (as read by actress Patricia Clarkson), this lovingly made film captures the truth, if not the essence, of its prickly subject. Director/co-writer Nancy Kates presents Sontag’s early years of marriage and motherhood to her gaining a sense of independence and freedom in France. She emphasizes her influential writings—from her pointed observations on camp, photography, and feminism to illness, AIDS, and 9/11. Regarding Susan Sontag also describes the writer’s relationships with various famous women, including Nicole Stéphane, Lucinda Childs, and Annie Leibovitz. This is not a sentimental portrait, but a vibrant examination of a woman whose life defined American intellectual culture. There are interesting remarks from friends and former lovers—especially Harriet Sohmers Zwerling—but the most poignant comments come from her younger sister, who had a heart to heart with Sontag as the latter was near the end of her life. Regarding Susan Sontag certainly captures its subject in all her glory.
Compared to What: Barney Frank (June 28, 11:00am, Castro) is a celebratory documentary that chronicles congressman Barney Frank’s coming out, his political achievements, his scandals (briefly), and culminates with his marriage and retirement. One certainly gets a sense of Frank, who is witty (and aptly named) here, and the filmmakers incorporate photographs, testimonies and footage of Frank well. Frank comes across as an ingratiating politician, and the focus on his relationship with his partner is quite touching.
Wetlands (June 28, 9:00pm, Roxie), is an unforgettable journey into the world of Helen (Carla Juri), a teenager obsessed with bodily fluids and functions. This vivid film is darkly funny; viewers will be laughing and gasping in the same scene—as when Helen trades a homemade tampon with her best friend Corinna (Marlen Kruse) and the tampon gets stuck, prompting Helen to remove it with a pair of kitchen tongs later used at a family barbeque.
This scene, as outlandish as it is, perhaps pales in compared to a semen-covered pizza or Helen’s dirty toilet hygiene. But these outrageous scenes are tempered by the sweet relationship that develops between Helen and Robin (Christoph Letkowski), a male nurse at the hospital where Helen is being treated for an anal fissure. Wetlands, which is based on a popular novel, includes a lame-ish subplot about Helen hoping to reunite her divorced parents, and the queer content is little more than Helen and Corinna’s same-sex experimentation, but these minor drawbacks fail to detract from one of the more bold and exciting films at the festival. And Juri is endearing, even when she skateboards bare-assed through the hospital corridors.
© 2014 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.” You can follow him on Twitter @garymkramer