JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Palm Springs International ShortFest 2017 - GAY!LA Hers (Directors: Sarah Santamaria-Mertens, Ben Lewis, Diane Obomsawin, Laurel Parmet, Alexa-Jeanne Dubé) - June 25, 2017

Palm Springs International ShortFest 2017 - GAY!LA Hers

4.5 4.5

Reviewed at the 2017 edition of the Palm Springs International ShortFest.
Much to admire here

From the “Hers” division, here are a half-dozen lesbian shorts that cover a lot of ground—and very well too!

Blind Sex
Sarah Santamaria-Mertens
Four and one half stars 32 min.

Blind woman’s buff

Santamaria-Mertens has achieved the rare feat of bringing honest, open love to the screen and centring the action around a somewhat vulnerable young woman who cannot see a whit but chooses to be as independent as possible.

One of the most compelling techniques—right from the git-go where just who is having sex with whom remains a, literally, dark mystery—are the frequent blackouts which become far more than scene or mood changers: they remind one and all of just what is in the eye of a blind beholder to the world around them.

The slight narrative leads Lousie (Camille Goudeau bringing courage, compassion and understanding to the challenging role)—while innocently walking the family dog, Isidore—into a nudist camp. The irony of not being aware that she is the only one dressed while beginning to meet some of the campers is a wonderful metaphor about what we really see (or choose not to).

Louise is especially welcomed into the bare mix by Lea (Julie Sokolowski expertly reveals her lust for life and soon for her newest friend). And before you can say “Why don’t you strip down too?”, Lea is carefully shaving the pubes of the sightless woman so that both will look more like the other!

Also worked skillfully into the mix are other nudists—notably Quentin (unabashedly portrayed by Romain Torres)—who also take a shine to their unexpected visitor only to realize that Lea is as smitten with Louise as her younger sister is with her horny boyfriend (who do it on the bunk above fully aware that their lovemaking can only be heard and never seen from below).

A viewing of this production will remind one and all that once we drop our outer shields (be they garments, airs, or prejudices), we have all come into the world without a stitch, only to begin the painful process (as we are told to do by our betters!) of covering up far more than is healthy. JWR

Apart From Everything
Ben Lewis
Three and one half stars 19 min.

The last two people on earth

Writer-director Lewis has a go at the timeless dilemma: “Can you ever go back again?” and comes up with a film that asks more questions than it answers (and nothing wrong with that).

After two years, “vanished” Fran (Tatiana Maslany) invites her ex-fiancée, Lana (Tatiana Jones) for a catch-up coffee that is short on “Welcome back” and long on anger. Parts of the conversation—and ensuing flashback as Lana is still drawn to her drop-down drunk partner—have a very Somerset Maugham feeling (Of Human Bondage). As future back-story comes to light (and a skillful edit linking now to then), it becomes difficult to truly care about either woman: one bringing disaster on herself; the other enduring “bad behaviour” for far too long. JWR

I Like Girls
Diane Obomsawin
Four stars 8 min.

Coming to terms with early love

Here’s a beautifully animated mini buffet of girl meets girl. Largely using animal faces to universalize all manner of young women discovering themselves and that first flutter of same-sex attraction is a convincing methodology. Anyone on the fence or needing a push into reality will find this wee/whee film an uplifting way to take the plunge. Judith Gruber-Stitzen’s original score goes hand in hand with Obomsawin’s imaginative vision. JWR

Laurel Parmet
Four and one half stars 8 min.

Photog with far more than a passing interest in her subject

Trying to escape the drudgery of home, glamourous teen Crystal (Ellie York posing with élan), asks her best friend Amanda (Arin MacLaine) to pop over for a bedroom photo shoot. Things heat up when the decision is made to try some under-the-sheets, loose-the-bra shots.

MacLaine proves to be a major acting force by wordlessly betraying her festering lust with every iota of her body and visage. More, please. JWR

Yes but No Thanks (Oui mais non)
Alexa-Jeanne Dubé
Three and one half stars 12 min.

Neighbourly love most bizarre

This oddball short seems to have rewritten the famous Elizabeth Barrett Browning line to: How do I love thee? / Let me find a way (Sonnet 43).

Young, precocious Émilie (played with irrepressible vigour by Karelle Tremblay) loves to smoke, drink, act out and find a way—any way—to get very up close and personal with her next-door neighbour, Joëlle (also Dubé), who doesn’t really mind the flirtation and attention but also isn’t dead set against a roll in the hallway hay with a rough-and-ready man (Emmanuel Schwartz).

Excerpts from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater (Virgin Mary at the crucifixion)—heard in all its baroque stateliness—is the only sane component of the production but who knows what the original soprano and alto soloists (no coincidence in the selection of repertoire) did in their off-hours spare time? JWR

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