Once more with Reeling (Part two)

Fri. September 5, 2014 12:00 AM
by Gregg Shapiro

Congratulations to Reeling: The Chicago International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival on reaching the milestone of its 32nd year. You don't look a day over 31 and it's never too soon to start lying about your age.

The festival, which opens on Sept. 18 at the Music Box Theater on Southport, runs for a week through Sept. 25. The majority of the Reeling screenings take place at the Landmark Century Cinema in the Century Mall on Clark Street, with others being held at Chicago Filmmakers on Clark St. in Andersonville. Once again, the organizers deserve kudos for selecting a stellar array of shorts and full-length features, comedies, dramas and documentaries. This week's Reel Advice column is the second in a series of reviews of selected titles being screened at Reeling. (Advance tickets for Reeling are available at

Sept. 19, 2014, 9:30 p.m., Landmark Century Cinema: At 25, with films such as Laurence Anyways, Heartbeats and I Killed My Mother, to his credit, gay Canadian filmmaker/actor Xavier Dolan, doesn't seem to be able to do anything wrong. His newest movie, Tom at the Farm, an old-fashioned, erotically charged psychological thriller, shows that Dolan is as adept at creating spine-tingling chills as he is at sensitively portraying the story of a transgender person's journey.

Taking the lead again (as he did in Heartbeats and I Killed My Mother), Dolan plays the titular character, an urban young man who works as an editor at an ad agency in Montreal, heading to the country for his closeted boyfriend Guillaume's funeral. He is welcomed to Guillaume's childhood home by Agathe (Lise Roy), Guillaume's mother. However, that night, while he is asleep, he gets a different kind of welcome from Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), his boyfriend's hot, redneck, cokehead, homophobic, sociopath older brother. Francis basically threatens Tom's life if he tells Agathe that they were a couple.

Pretty soon, Francis is harassing Tom on a regular basis, beginning with in the men's room at the church where Guillaume's funeral is being held. When Tom threatens to tell Agathe the truth, Francis brutally assaults him. Before he realizes it, Tom is being drawn into the warped web of the Longchamp farm. The homoerotic tension between Tom and Francis increases exponentially. In fact, Tom and Francis' tango scene is not to be missed. The fact remains, however, that Tom is trapped and his descent into madness looks like it will be swift.

In what appears to be a moment of clarity, Tom calls Sarah (Evelyne Brochu), a co-worker of his and Guillaume's, who is the subject of a fabricated romance to keep Agathe in the dark about her son's homosexuality. But her arrival at the farm sours quickly and when Tom finally gets a glimpse into the Longchamp family legend courtesy of a bartender, he realizes there is only one thing left to do. Suspenseful and sexually simmering, unnerving and unforgettable, Tom at the Farm is another well-deserved feather in Dolan's cap. In French with subtitles.

Sept. 20, 2014, 7:30 p.m., Chicago Filmmakers: Eric Cassacio nails the various and vain moods of the egotistical gay man in his short film Narcissist. Rob (Brionne Davis), who dyes his chest hair and goes by "Hot Doc" on Grindr, ought to consider getting some help. He calls it quits with nice guy Evan (Hunter Lee Hughes), who lives in a house he inherited from his grandmother. The break-up takes Evan, whose house is filled with framed photos of the seemingly happy couple, completely by surprise.

Meanwhile, Rob, who has a stack of photos of him posing with various guys in the same location, has moved on to young Jon (Jonathan Looper). However, by the time their one year anniversary rolls around, Rob is already bored. When Jon leaves him, giving the "Hot Doc" a taste of his own medicine, Rob tries to get back with Evan. But the bitterest pill is yet to be swallowed.

Sept. 20, 2014, 9:30 p.m., Landmark Century Cinema: Writer/director J.C. Calciano's movies, including Is It Just Me? and eCupid, usually look great and have a cast of attractive male actors. His latest, 10 Year Plan (Cinema 175), is no exception. Calciano's previous films also tended to sacrifice substance for surface, and that's where 10 Year Plan differs from the rest.

Faithful (almost to a fault) to the rom-com formula (see My Best Friend's Wedding), 10 Year Plan operates on the premise of the pact made by gay best friends Myles (Jack Turner) and Brody (Michael Adam Hamilton) while in their mid-20s. Essentially, a contract is written up on a bar napkin that states if neither is in a committed relationship by their mid-30s, they will become a couple.

Of course, they couldn't be more unalike if they tried. Big shot attorney Myles is an old-fashioned, gun-jumping romantic who has a habit of regularly scaring off potential suitors. All he wants is someone to settle down with – forever. Commitment-phobic police officer Brody lives in borderline squalor and is a popular confirmed bachelor on social media hook-up sites.

Realizing that nine years, 10 months and 29 days have passed since they struck their deal, Brody has to act fast to find a suitable mate for his BF. When Myles ends up meeting a guy named Hunter (Adam Bucci) online, Brody is unexpectedly jealous. Things get even more complicated when Brody discovers that Hunter isn't being especially faithful to the smitten Myles. Then it's only a matter of time until we reach the sweet, but predictable, finale.

If all of this sounds too familiar, it's because we've heard and seen it before, including the sex-crazed co-workers, in this case portrayed by Teri Reeves (Diane) and Moronai Kanekoa (Richard). What makes 10 Year Plan different, as it follows the fellows from flip-phones to iPhones, is that the writing and acting are a considerable improvement over previous Calciano efforts.

Sept. 21, 2014, 1:15 p.m., Landmark Century Cinema: Ethan Reid's reverent doc Peter de Rome – Grandfather of Gay Porn (Marvy Movies), about late gay porn pioneer Peter de Rome (who died in June 2014), is as erotic as it is enlightening. Combining groovy vintage footage, both personal and professional, the doc pays homage to one of the most significant figures in the history of late 20th century pornography.

At the time the doc was made, de Rome lived so quietly in Sandwich, county of Kent, in England, that his neighbors don't know anything about his private, or public, life. This in spite of de Rome displaying his gold, winged penis-shaped 2012 Erotic Film Awards trophy in his window. In other words, he looks like a perfect English gentleman on the outside, who is perfectly at home discussing cock.

More ambitious than the average porn filmmaker, he had a way of bringing the viewer in to his fantasy world. According to de Rome, anything that caught his eye went into his movies. During his happy childhood in Ramsgate, including summers at a beach chalet, he enjoyed his first sexual adventure at age 11 with Barry, a friend of his older brother. Soon de Rome began pursuing male classmates, including Porky who would go on to become a good friend until his death in 1945.

His love affair with the movies began sooner, at age five. After he finished school he got his first job as publicist for the British film industry, but left "dull" England for NYC in 1956. While working at Tiffany, de Rome explored his attraction to men of color by getting into "mischief" in the men's room of the Apollo Theater.

Essentially a "one-man band," he began making short movies – "Double Exposure," the atmospheric "Butch Easter," "The Fire Island Kids," "Encounter," "Underground," and the Wet Dream Film Festival award-winning "Hot Pants." As the doc points out, de Rome was filming and having gay sex at a time when it was illegal to do both. With an award to his name, suddenly he was a filmmaker and famous people, including David Hockney, Derek Jarman and William S. Burroughs, among others, wanted to see Peter's films.

The film also highlights de Rome meeting Jack Deveau impresario (Hand In Hand Films), Jack becoming Peter's producer and the showing of The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome playing in a mainstream movie theater in NYC, as well as leading to the production of full-length feature films such as Adam & Yves and the gay horror pic The Destroying Angel. The fact that de Rome was not only rediscovered at nearly 90 years of age, but was also honored by the British Film Institute makes this doc even more special.

Doc interview subjects include writer Rupert Smith, BFI's Brian Robinson, filmmaker Topher Campbell, filmmaker Wakefield Poole, film critic John Russell Taylor, Hand In Hand Films' editor Bob Alvarez and retired porn actor Jake Genesis. Also fascinating are Peter's connections to Greta Garbo, John Gielgud, Andy Warhol, Madeline Sherwood (The Flying Nun) and present-day pornographer Kristen Bjorn.

Sept. 21, 2014, 7:15 p.m., Landmark Century Cinema: Non-traditional doc Age of Consent (Bangor Films), co-directed by Charles Lum and Todd Verow, combines the history of notorious London men-only gay fetish bar The Hoist with the fight for and evolution of gay rights in the U.K. What makes the doc so unconventional is the level of graphic sexual activity depicted throughout, even used as background footage for discussions of politics and other serious subjects.

In the opening Hoist half, we meet "Uncut" Kurt Striegler, one of the owners of The Hoist, which opened in 1996, who gives us a detailed guided tour of the club, complete with quotable lines about amusing toilet graffiti and his intolerance for anything "domestic" in his club. Along the way we encounter various patrons, some of whom know it's not polite to talk with your mouth full; get a feel for the club's "rough, industrial, dank smell," and meet the staff; learn about the cleaning and maintenance of slings; and watch as Kurt obsessively straightens the lights in the club before it opens. Co-founder John Grimshaw and co-owner Guy Irwin also put in their two cents (or should that be pence?).

Then, following an interview with human rights campaigner and LGBT activist Peter Tatchell, Age of Consent, shifts its focus, becoming a political doc about the modern struggle for gay rights and the impact of AIDS on the gay community in London. The interview with Dr. Joseph Sonnabend is particularly fascinating. But don't get too comfortable, because the doc shifts gears again, returning to the Hoist and covering issues such as the impacts of the Internet, gentrification and the trans community on the bar. Whew!

Sept. 21, 2014, 9:15 p.m., Landmark Century Cinema: Crazy Bitches (Film McQueen) is a twisted slasher comedy with an unexpected ending twist from director/actress Jane Clark (Meth Head). Sorority sisters prissy and pearled Taylor (Samantha Colburn), predatory lesbian Cassie (Cathy DeBuono), smug and smart Princess (Mary Jane Wells), terminally ill Dorri (Nayo Wallace), cheated on Alice (Victoria Profeta), woo-woo woozy Minnie (Liz McGeever), gay guy pal BJ (Andy Gala) and Alice's nasty sister Belinda, gather for a weekend at the Benton Estate, site of a grisly murder a few years earlier and said to be haunted by the souls of the seven girls killed there.

Combining elements of revenge killing for past hurts, ghost stories, as well as references to classic horror, and a healthy dose of pansexual humping, Crazy Bitches gets most of it right. It keeps us guessing as each of the characters begins dropping in ways specific to their personality. Fashion obsessed Belinda gets a stiletto heel to the eye, Taylor chokes on her pearls, hair hung-up Princess is scalped, skin color conscious BJ discovers too late that there is acid in one of his cream tubes, and so on. Be sure to pay close attention to the sub-story involving Alice's philandering husband Eddie (David Fumero). Crazy Bitches refreshes a genre that was getting tired and tiresome.