The DAMN THESE HEELS! Film Festival kicked off with the screening of Gayby, a hilarious flick by Jonathan Lisecki about two longtime friends who overcome their mutual life doldrums and relationship dumps to have a baby together, which deals with sexual stereotypes and roles. The film set an overwhelmingly positive tone on the opening night party, which followed the screening. D.J. Harry Cross JR played an energetic set as three ladies danced for the crowd on separate platforms throughout the venue. Patrons were united in filling up on food provided by Mazza, Bambara, Toscano and ZY, with a wide range of delicious offerings. Conversation seemed to flow as freely as the booze, as people fondly discussed the large projections of handsome dudes dressed as skaters, lumberjacks and other random studley figures. My wife and I will now always remember the fine occasion with our pics from a free photo booth full of costumes and accessories. Although the prints were labeled "Damn These Hills," I don't think anyone will forget where they actually were. Here are a couple of highlights from the films screened over the weekend:
North Sea Texas
Directed by Bavo Defurne
Filmed in the scenic backdrop of Belgium, North Sea Texas is about a teenage boy, Pim, coming to terms with his sexuality in a small town. The vast landscapes well represent the awkwardness and feelings that Pim is dealing with in needing to express his sexuality and feelings in a desolate farming community. He explores and experiments with a neighbor boy who is more vested in sexual experiences than a homosexual relationship. As the two share several intimate encounters, Pim grows more comfortable in his sexuality while his love interest grows more distant and interested in a girl from another town. The use of dialogue is limited and effective in expressing the need for Pim to communicate his feelings to a distant, floozy mom and a community that may not be open to his sexuality. I loved the strong use contrasting flat and bold colors indoors and out which coincided well with dramatic scenes where the colors emphasized tension, and bold bright colors emphasized moments of passion, or sexual tension. This film is easy to relate to for anyone who has had to endure the sexual awkwardness that accompanies the teenage years.
Joshua Tree 1951: A Portrait of James Dean
Directed by Matthew Mishory
I feel a little shame in the fact that beyond the icon status of James Dean, I actually went into this film knowing nothing about James Dean, which may have fueled my newfound interest in the leather clad heartthrob. The famous black-and-white stills of James Dean found in nostalgic '50s diners do no justice to the depth of James Dean's character, whose sexual escapades are revealed in great detail in this film. That's right, kids, sexual escapades! Joshua Tree focuses on what is considered Dean's "lost year," a time when Dean was making connections and hobnobbing with producers in order to eventually launch his career as an actor, while finding comfort and sexual satisfaction in the arms of other men and some women. A good deal of the sexual exploits in the film showcase what Dean and other young men were doing to break into the industry: performing sexual favors to make connections. The film also shares many intimate moments with Dean in the driver's seat, snaring his prey with wit and clever banter. In addition to Dean's sex life, this film showed me the intellectual side of Dean that I was also unaware of. On the whole, this is a smart film, brilliantly shot in black and white using techniques authentic to the period. Many of the shots seem constructed around recreating some of the iconic images of Dean, and powerful use of noir-like lighting and shadows created a feeling similar to a Calvin Klein ad.
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