Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution

(USA 2017)

For those who don’t know, queercore (or homocore, as it’s sometimes called — personally, I find that term clunky so I don’t use it) is rooted in the North American punk scene. In an oversimplified nutshell, it’s LGBT punk rock, and its heyday was the mid ’80s to mid ’90s. It developed in response to the homophobic machismo that increasingly characterized the ’80s postpunk scene coast to coast.

Yony Leyser’s Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution is thorough and fun even if it is fairly standard. Using interviews, footage from concerts and other live performances, films, home videos, and a treasure trove of zines and old flyers, he starts in Toronto, where filmmaker Bruce LaBruce and artist G.B. Jones published the queer punk zine J.D.s. They confess that one of their goals was to manufacture a scene, or at least make it sound there was one where it didn’t actually exist. It worked.

LaBruce, Jones, Lynn Breedlove of Tribe 8, Jon Ginoli of Pansy Division, Genesis P-Orridge, and others discuss their role in the queercore movement and what it was (and is) for them. Even John Waters has his take. Leyser focuses on more than just bands, getting into the entire culture: zines (elemental to the movement), art, films (particularly LaBruce’s), politics, and AIDS. He also ties in subsequent scenes like riot grrrls and mainstream successes like Green Day, Hole, Sonic Youth, Bikini Kill, and Nirvana.

Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution is a comprehensive, inclusive, and engaging documentary. Irreverent, fun, and at times ridiculous, it’s a fitting tribute.

Incidentally, you can find some queer zines here — you’re welcome: http://archive.qzap.org/index.php/Splash/Index

With Silas Howard, Kim Gordon, Peaches, Kathleen Hanna, Patty Schemel, Justin Bond, Dennis Cooper, Jayne County, Scott Treleaven, Tom Jennings, Rick Castro, Jody Bleyle

Production: Desire Productions, Totho

Distribution: Edition Salzgeber (Germany)

Screening followed by a live Q and A with director Yony Leyser

83 minutes
Not rated

(Davis Theater) B-

CIMMfest

https://www.facebook.com/Queercoremovie/

Funeral Parade of Roses [Bara no Sōretsu]

(Japan 1969)

Funeral Parade of Roses [薔薇の葬列] is an intriguing film for a few reasons. Clearly influenced by the French New Wave, writer and director Toshio Matsumoto comes up with something simultaneously ordinary yet avant-garde, very much a product of its time yet years ahead. It’s extraordinarily cool.

Structured as a movie within a movie, Funeral Parade of Roses follows Tokyo “gay boy” Eddie (Pîtâ a.k.a. Peter) through his many exploits as a young transvestite immersed in the underground club scene. He might even be a hooker. Meanwhile, he’s carrying on a secret affair with Jimi (Yoshimi Jô), the boyfriend of club elder statesperson and fellow gay boy Leda (Osamu Ogasawara). Leda is onto them. Oh, the drama it creates!

While all this is going on, a camera crew records Eddie as though this were The Real World or Truth or Dare.

As Eddie ponders who he is — and looks to alcohol, group sex, drugs, and lots of attention from others for answers — Matsumoto explores “queer identity” through him. He intersperses interviews, flashbacks, episodes with Eddie’s mother (Emiko Azuma), and even a musical diversion or two to offer clues. A crazy subplot develops, and it references Oedipus in a tacky and sad but clever way.

Clumsy in its exploration of “gay life” and downright disturbing at points, Funeral Parade of Roses is nonetheless fun to watch. Shot in gorgeous black and white, it has an otherworldly feel. When it’s not nihilistic, it’s kitschy and entertaining — almost in a nascent John Waters way, just not quite as rough. The clothes are mod. The music is heavy on classical. The ending, sudden and bloody, is really messed up.

I’m not sure what exactly Matsumoto is saying here — a lot is open to interpretation — or that I agree with him. Either way, I enjoyed the journey.

With Yoshio Tsuchiya, Toyosaburo Uchiyama, Don Madrid, Koichi Nakamura, Chieko Kobayashi, Shōtarō Akiyama, Kiyoshi Awazu, Flamenco Umeji, Saako Oota, Tarô Manji, Mikio Shibayama, Wataru Hikonagi, Fuchisumi Gomi, Yô Satô, Keiichi Takenaga, Hôsei Komatsu

Production: Art Theatre Guild, Matsumoto Production Company

Distribution: Art Theatre Guild, Image Forum (Japan), Cinelicious Pics (USA)

105 minutes
Not rated

(Gene Siskel Film Center) B+

Inland Empire [A Woman in Trouble]

(USA/France/Poland 2006)

“What the bloody hell is going on?” asks Kingsley Stewart (Jeremy Irons) at one point during Inland Empire, David Lynch’s last (so far) full length feature film. It’s an excellent question, one that anyone watching this three-hour nightmare no doubt has already wondered by this point.

Laura Dern is Nikki Grace, an elegant actress up for the lead in a new film, On High in Blue Tomorrows, due to start shooting very soon. A strange Polish neighbor (Grace Zabriskie) who lives “just up the way” drops by her California mansion one afternoon and casually but ominously brings up a murder in the film. “That’s not part of the story,” Nikki tells her visitor, who insists she’s wrong and throws a tantrum right there in the sitting room, screaming about “brutal fucking murder” and an unpaid bill. Annoyed and visibly freaked out, Nikki has her butler (Ian Abercrombie) remove her.

Nikki gets the part. Some weirdness happens, and the film’s director (Irons) tells Nikki and her rugged costar Devon Berk (Justin Theroux) that the film is supposedly cursed: it’s a sort of remake of an old Polish movie called 47 that was never completed because of a double murder on the set. The actors are upset but they agree to proceed with production despite the producers’ lack of transparency.

Meanwhile, Nikki is falling for Devon. The narrative gets weird here, ping-ponging back and forth between Nikki and Devon and their characters, Susan and Billy, as well as Susan’s husband, Smithy (Peter J. Lucas), who knows something is going on. Billy’s wife (Julia Ormond) proves to be a character of interest of ever increasing importance, bleeding into another seemingly unrelated subplot about Sue Blue (Dern), a rough and caustic Hollywood chick who finds herself pregnant. The problem is, her husband (Lucas) is sterile. And just who are all these hookers hanging out with Sue, smoking and dancing to “The Loco-Motion” in her living room?

Interspersed between all this is yet another triangular subplot set in 1800s Poland: a cheating wife (Karolina Gruszka) learns that her husband (Krzysztof Majchrzak) plans to kill her lover (Lucas). And just to keep thing interesting, Lynch throws in “The Rabbits,” a spooky sitcom about a family of…rabbits. Actually, actors in rabbit suits (one of them has the voice of Naomi Watts). Later, Sue somehow ends up in their living room.

Probably his most indulgent film, Inland Empire is the kind of thing I imagine most people associate with David Lynch: a surreal trip through the subconscious, the imagination, alternate universes, and time that starts out with a discernible plot but disintegrates into seemingly disjointed events, actors playing multiple characters, bizarre and vivid imagery, random upbeat pop songs, and a creepy score by Marek Zebrowski. Flashes of Lynch’s usual sense of humor pop up here and there, but for the most part this is a dark and somber film about betrayal, loss, and karma. Perhaps its strongest aspect is its overriding sense of dread, and the worst thing about is that it’s impossible to tell whether the scary part is coming or has already arrived.

Inland Empire is surely a horror film. I imagine not many people getting into it, and most even being turned off. Length and structure—or lack thereof—aside, it’s not an easy film to watch or understand, and frankly I’m not entirely sure I grasp what the whole thing is about. Indeed, different characters say “I don’t understand” over and over, and Devon/Billy tells Grace/Susan a few times that she isn’t making sense. A common thread that ties the multiple plots together eventually emerges, but I get the impression that this is merely a heap of undeveloped ideas Lynch assembled into one big project.

Still, I found myself mesmerized all the way through it. The ending, where Sue’s fate plays out over the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, is dowright distressing. In a way, it’s also beautiful. Lynch offers a lot to chew on here; I’ve gone over it multiple times since I saw it. I have my theory of what really transpires in Inland Empire, and someday I’ll watch again with an eye toward backing it up. It won’t be anytime soon, though.

Post script: I had the pleasure of seeing John Waters speak in the afternoon before I caught Inland Empire. Needless to say, it required a major shift in gears.

With Harry Dean Stanton, Diane Ladd , Mary Steenburgen, Terry Crews, William H. Macy, Leon Niemczyk, Nastassja Kinski, Monique Cash, Latrina Bolger, Fulani Bahati, Ashley Calloway, Erynn Dickerson, Jovonie Leonard, Jennifer Locke, Helena Chase, Nae

Production: Absurda, Studio Canal, Fundacja Kultury, Camerimage Festival

Distribution: Ryko (USA), 518 Media (USA), Absurda (USA), Studio Canal (International), Mars Distribution (International)

180 minutes
Rated R

(Music Box) A

David Lynch: A Complete Retrospective

http://www.inlandempirecinema.com

http://www.davidlynch.de

Hairspray

(USA 1988)

“Mama, welcome to the Sixties.”

—Tracy Turnblad

Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake) is fucking fabulous, and all of Baltimore knows it! The humble hair-hopping heroine of the kitschy-sixties John Waters classic Hairspray is lower middle class and fat—or as she puts it, “pleasantly plump.” Her parents are clueless and preoccupied with their own drab lot in life: mother Edna (Divine) irons constantly and father Wilbur (Jerry Stiller) owns a joke shop below their dingy little apartment. Tracy’s best friend, Penny Pingleton (Leslie Ann Powers), is positively nerdy—not to mention permanently punished.

None of it stands in Tracy’s way of getting what she wants, whether it’s a slot as a regular on a teen dance program on local television, the hottest guy on the show (Michael St. Gerard), or racial integration. She’s a modern kind of girl—she’ll swim in an integrated pool and support the right of “colored” kids to have more screen time than just on designated “Negro Day” on the last Thursday of every month. Tracy is the height of teen fashion: all ratted up like a teenage Jezebel, no one rocks a sleeveless frock, a plaid skirt, or a pastel pink cockroach gown quite like she does. It should be no surprise that she’s got a modeling gig. And on top of it, the girl can move! Who wouldn’t want to be her?

Tracy’s self-assurance provokes the ire of teachers and mean girls alike, especially rival regular and stuck up little spastic Amber Von Tussle (Colleen Fitzpatrick) and her pageant winning mother, “Miss Soft Crab 1945” Velma (Debbie Harry). Tracy commands attention; when Amber gossips about her and sneers, “Tracy Turnblad is a whore,” she reveals the extent of her own intimidation. You know her, come on, rip her to shreds.

Hairspray has John Waters’s trademark demented sense of humor all over it, and stars regulars like Divine and Mink Stole. However, it marked a shift for Waters into mainstream territory (he started with Polyester, but that one is still a bit weird and definitely not as accessible). It’s no shock that it’s his biggest hit. Like his other leading ladies, Tracy is strong; what’s different, though, is that nothing about her despicable—a first for him. In fact, she’s probably the only lead in a Waters film who’s downright admirable. Her confidence is solid, and her heart is always in the right place. Hairspray makes being an outcast look glamorous and accomplished in a way none of his other films do.

I saw Hairspray the first time in a dorm room during my freshman year of college: we rented a copy on VHS tape, which honestly sounds more quaint now than The Corny Collins Show looked to me back then. I’ve seen Hairspray more times than I can count, and I never get tired of it. I’m apparently not the only one, as the multiple remakes and reboots demonstrate. None of them can touch the original. How could anything top Sonny Bono as a dad, or Pia Zadora as a beatnik chick going on about Odetta while Ric Ocasek paints behind her and utters his one-word line: “reefer!”

92 minutes
Rated PG

(Home via iTunes) B+

http://www.dreamlandnews.com/films/hairspray.shtml

Multiple Maniacs

(USA 1970)

“I can only take so much of this kind of talk, especially from common lesbians.”

—Bonnie

‘Cheap,’ ‘campy,’ and ‘scandalous’ are all words that accurately describe the work of John Waters—his early stuff, anyway. No one makes depravity as fun or funny as he does. Multiple Maniacs, his second feature-length film, is unmistakable Waters: it’s a twisted and revolting mess of antipathy, vitriol, sacrilege, and sleaze. Holy shit, Sugar Scrub—and I mean that literally!

Multiple Maniacs depicts the mental breakdown of Lady Divine (Divine), the proprietor and star of a traveling freak show called “The Cavalcade of Perversion.” The show’s “performers” literally drag people off the streets and under a tent, where they eat puke, take drugs, lick armpits, and perform other acts of deviance in front of them. For the grand finale, Lady Divine robs everyone in the audience at gunpoint. One day, she decides out of sheer boredom to murder them instead—much to the dismay of her lover, Mr. David (David Lochary). Lady Divine flees the scene of the crimes to hide out at the home of her hooker daughter, Cookie (Cookie Mueller), whose horny new boyfriend, Steve (Paul Swift), is crashing there. Mr. David takes off with his lover, Bonnie (Mary Vivian Pearce), who wants nothing more than to “perform acts” with him. A phone call from a bar owner (Edith Massey) takes Lady Divine down a debaucherous path of rape, lesbianism, blasphemy, betrayal, and more murder.

Like many members of my generation, demographic, and cultural persuasion, I discovered John Waters when I was a teenager. Everything wrong with his films—silly plots, over-the-top trashy cartoonish characters, amateur “acting,” low-rent production, and his general misanthropic outlook and total irreverence—is precisely what drew me to him. He was punk before punk rock. It’s all so wonderfully awful, like Ed Wood with an intentionally nasty, edgy bite—not an unsophisticated innocence that happened by accident.

Multiple Maniacs is typical John Waters, but it’s noteworthy for two reasons. One, it’s loaded with ideas that show up in later films—as far down the line as Serial Mom and Peckerhead. This definitely will appeal to fans, especially when it becomes apparent that Multiple Maniacs is a rough (if you can imagine) blueprint for Pink Flamingos. If nothing else, this film is interesting from a developmental perspective. Two, the shock value is extreme even considering the source. Eating dog shit is tame compared to shooting up in church, cannibalism, a rosary up Divine’s ass (as she recites the Stations of the Cross), and a rape scene involving a giant lobster straight from a Godzilla flick. Jammed with references to Catholicism—including Jesus (George Figgs), Mary (Massey), and the Infant of Prague (Michael Renner, Jr.)—and Charles Manson, Waters creates a number of shall we say “colorful” moments you won’t see anywhere else, ever again.

Oh, Sugar Scrub, can we watch a Disney movie now?

Side note: I started to write this entry as a letter to my friend John (a.k.a. Sugar Scrub), who saw Multiple Maniacs with us. The idea didn’t work. Sorry, John!

91 fucked up minutes
Rated X (NC-17 today)

(Music Box) B

http://www.janusfilms.com/films/1817

Aaaaaaaah!

(UK 2015)

What would life be like in the 21st Century if humans never evolved beyond apes? How would our human qualities, good and bad, play out? Are humans any different from other animals? Director/screenwriter/actor Steve Oram illustrates his answer to these deep questions with Aaaaaaaah!, a project that sounds fascinating on paper but turns out to be anything but.

Following a group of modern primates (Julian Barratt, Noel Fielding, Lucy Honigman, Tom Meeten, Oram, Julian Rhind-Tutt, and Toyah Willcox), Aaaaaaaah! is an hour and a half of grunting, fighting over food and mates, flashing body parts, openly masturbating and having sex, peeing and pooping on stuff, and generally establishing dominance with gratuitous gore peppered throughout. The plot, flimsy and hard to follow, isn’t funny, witty, engaging, interesting, or thought provoking. It’s terrible, like a bad inside joke I’m not a part of or an even worse art film. I couldn’t wait for this to end.

Aaaaaaaah! very well may be the worst movie I’ve ever seen. EVER. It fails on every single level. Waiting to enter the theater, I overheard someone in line behind me compare Oram to early John Waters and Andy Warhol. Um, no—those guys both had a wit that Oram lacks, at least from what I can tell here. A better title would have been Uuuuuuuugh! 

(Tower City Cinemas) F

Cleveland International Film Festival

http://lincolnfilmstudios.co.uk/LINCOLN_STUDIOS/Welcome.html