The Mostly British Film Festival –
with works from the UK, Australia and New Zealand is headquartered for the next
week at San Francisco’s Vogue Theatre.
The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls: Leanne Pooley
examines the only in New Zealand phenomenon of twin yodeling, country singing
lesbian sisters Jools and Lynda Topp. Raised along with their gay brother in
their island nation’s rugged cattle country, the Topp gals started busking for
giggles in the early 80’s leading to career that has no clear American
counterpart. The film switches from chronicling their near icon status with
gently funny spoofs of New Zealand male and female archetypes to serious
episodes of anti-Nuclear and pro queer demo. (Vogue/2-5/4:30pm & San
Dorian Gray: Oscar Wilde’s impossibly handsome blonde
bachelor – with a cosmetic adjustment for the darkly handsome Ben Barnes (Easy
Virtue) – returns to the screen under the aegis of Wilde movie vet Oliver
Parker -- An Ideal Husband/The Importance of Being Earnest --
with a screenplay by Toby Finlay.
First introduced to the British
public in a magazine version in 1890, then expanded (while becoming somewhat
less gay) in book form (The Picture of Dorian Gray) in 1891, Dorian
Gray has presented its various movie suitors with questions of style and
substance. The beautiful young man, who makes a pact with an unseen devil to
keep his smashing good looks while a portrait of him ages rather badly in the
attic of his London townhouse, begs to be more or less blatantly homosexual,
more or less decadent, and most importantly more or less Wilde. “Those who find
ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a
fault. Those who find beautiful meanings are the cultivated. For these there is
Hope fades gradually but most
certainly by the special effects loaded third act. Ben Barnes is a visual treat
without being subtle enough a performer for us to fully savor his Dorian before
the fall. Colin Firth is a good Wilde interpreter as the leading our boy to his
doom Lord Henry Wotton.
Critics have suspected that Wilde
drew considerable inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and
Mr. Hyde – this film’s over-the-top finale is quite a bit more Stevenson
than Wilde. (Vogue/2-8/9:30pm)
Gallipoli: As long as boys are encouraged to become
men while pursuing the art of war this delicately paced story of young men
becoming mates while marching off to their doom will remain the apex of Peter
Weir’s Australian work.
Weir takes his time showing why a potential Aussie track
star (Mark Lee/The Everlasting Secret Family) would lie about his age
and risk his life trekking across an unforgiving outback desert to join his
Majesty’s forces’ hopeless assault against the Turk on the Gallipoli peninsula.
Lee is paired with a young, still believably idealistic Mel Gibson as a cheeky
drifter who holds out against the patriotic poppycock until seduced by the
manly adventure promised in Mr. Churchill’s greatest recorded military folly. It
has been said that all anti-war propaganda turns into its opposite in the eyes
and loins of its target audience, still this movie’s haunting freeze frame shot
of a soldier at the moment of his death should still give the wiser among the
The Time That Remains: Time seems to quite literally
freeze before us on the screen as Elia Suleiman strings together a series of
absurdist vignettes depicting her Palestinian family’s desert island of the
soul under six decades of Israeli occupation.
Beginning with a late night taxi
ride where Israeli driver and Arab passenger are suspended in a kind of Middle
Eastern Back to the Future moment, Suleiman flashes back to 1948 when
the birth of the Jewish state brought Palestinians an unending series of
With bows to Samuel Becket and at
times Jacques Tati, the filmmaker comically balances the futility of accepting
the new arrangements against the soul killing consequences of playing along
with your enemy.
Some of the skits are understated
gems of absurdist humor: young Palestinians ignore calls for a curfew while at
a West Bank disco – the soldier’s bullhorn entreaties getting madly in sync
with the dance beats; a young Palestinian boy is lectured by an Israeli school
principal about not believing anti-American propaganda, while Arab
collaborators periodically harass his family. Sometimes Suleiman is a little
too eager to linger over her set pieces, but for the most part we are haunted
by images of ordinary people driven slowly insane under most extraordinary
The Time That Remains opens Friday at the San
Francisco Film Society’s Screen at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.
Maryam Keshavarz’s Circumstances,
a portrait of a young lesbian growing up in a modern day Iranian family,
won the Audience award for American films at the Sundance Film Festival.