No longer the awkward pubescent festival, Inside Out has come of age and responded accordingly by putting together a lineup of 250 films with the all-enticing theme of “strip.tease,” as visualized by the bare-naked lady (with colourful bits of film decorating the lower naughty bit) luring filmgoers into this season’s catalogue.
But be ye not deceived (or for perhaps just a few) or disappointed: while flesh of all shapes, sizes and predilections will be on offer, many of the productions will strip away ignorance, myth and perpetuated lies. Happily, quite a few of those reveal their societal subtext even as the panties, jocks and boxers (flesh-and-blood and fabric) hit the deck.
Look no further than the opening gala: Lee Hae-yeong’s, Lee Hae-jun’s Like a Virgin (Cheonhajangsa Madonna) presents the personal struggle of a young Korean who wants to earn enough cash to become the woman he knows lurks within by entering a Ssireum competition, taking on fleshy, experienced wrestlers twice his size then using balance and brains to flatten the opponents. With obvious ties to the similarly structured Beautiful Boxer, there’s much to admire if no cinematic knockout punch.
The mid-point gala, Dan Castle’s Newcastle (receiving its international première) is awash in skin and surf but can’t find any narrative magic to lift it into greatness: just lower the sound and enjoy the view. In the time-honoured tradition of saving the best for last, no one should miss Lucía Puenzo’s XXY, the fest’s finale. Here is a compelling and thoughtfully told story of a picked-upon teenage hermaphrodite’s life-altering decision: Which sex should I be? Those concerned about or willfully unaware of the torment caused by gender predicaments will learn much.
Anyone familiar with Ana Kokkinos’ bold, challenging The Book of Revelation (where the copious amounts of nudity move the story along—nary a cheap shot there), will be inclined to take in Only the Brave, made a dozen years earlier. This time, it’s an awkward triangle of two best friends and their English teacher that leads into the darkest corridors of human relationships.
From the anything-goes imagination of Cyrus Amini comes (in more ways than one) 25 Cent Preview—an uncompromising look at couple of San Francisco street hustlers. As they ply their fetish-fulfilling craft, the black-and-white sex-trade workers eventually realize they’ve both been molested by a “father” (one parental, the other a priest); together they plan a revenge fuck of equally monstrous proportions.
Another trip to the oceanfront comes from Jonah Markowitz’s Shelter. This time the surfers help each other out of their wetsuits to discover if one of them might respond favourably to riding the tide of man-to-man lust, then, hopefully, love between beautifully captured wave-catchings. The hitch comes from society’s ongoing dilemma: can same-sex couples be trusted with children? (Nancy Nicols’ Politics of the Heart seen at the 2007 Festival provides a Canadian perspective.) While the characterization occasionally sputters, no one will walk away feeling they’ve missed a curl.
Those who love mystery and macabre should line up for Sam Zalutsky’s You Belong to Me; zombie lovers can take a quick peek at Michael Simon’s Gay Zombie (if you crave the whole meal, keep your eyes peeled in the video store for Bruce La Bruce’s delightfully gory Otto: Or Up With Dead People where it’s love at first bite).
Maya Gallus and Justine Pimlott return to the line-up with Punch Like a Girl (Fag Hags: Women Who Love Gay Men was a hit in 2005). As was demonstrated in Jay Cox’s Latter Days four years ago, bible thumpers frequently feel it their duty to convert perfectly queer men, even if they may find themselves slipping into the "unpromised" land of lavender. Robert Cary’s Save Me provides another chapter in the ongoing saga of pray for me/let us prey fundamentalists.
Absolutely a must-see is Derek, Isaac Julien’s magnificent study of Derek Jarman (Sebastiane, Edward II) one of the world’s most inventive filmmakers and artists. Weaving together a day-long interview prior to his death in 1994, a deeply personal “Letter to an Angel” from Tilda Swinton, and numerous clips from his work, the film serves to inspire risk takers in any artistic endeavour.
Features and documentaries often grab the headlines, but every year there are themed compilations that provide first-timers a chance to be seen and veterans a chance to experiment without breaking the bank. “Some of My Best Friends Are” includes Magnus Mork’s Flatmates (are they just friends?) and Tony Wei’s The Best Men (is marriage the cure?); “It Was Good While it Lasted” features ever-insightful Bill Taylor’s Silver Road (a potentially disastrous first kiss in a cornfield) as well as Rebecca Summerton’s My Last Ten Hours With You (one last fuck for old times’ sake …). The delightfully titled “Hogtown Homos” has a baker’s dozen of Toronto-based filmmakers: Kent Monkman and Gisèle Gordon build on the success of last year’s literally cheeky Group of Seven Inches with Robin’s Hood (the tale of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle venturing into Sherwood Forest); former Inside Out programmer Kathleen Mullen offers Sleep Lines (a couple’s awakening); from Gloria Kim (A Solitary Silence, Partial Selves) comes Rock Garden: a love story (a revelation for two neighbours).
Finally, after all of the lessons have been learned, the honed physiques admired and the vows to improve relationships have been made, it’s high time for some audience participation. Move over Messiah, Stephan Elliott’s now classic The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is being presented in a special encore (hard to believe it was released in 1994), “Sing & Drag-Along” performance. Halleluiah to that! JWR