Queering the Deck

          Late Bloomers The fest's sole bomb, this would-be comedy-drama fits the fraudulent sub-genre that Rose Troche once defined as the "desperate-lesbian-pursues-unhappily-married-straight-woman" soaper. Less a film than a series of sitcom axioms, it pairs a skinny and queer high-school geometry teacher (Connie Nelson) with the school's pudgy and heretofore straight secretary (Dee Hennigan), causing one phobic co-worker to suspect that "something fishy is going on." Director Julia Dyer presents the lovers' first physical contact as a basketball game, the big sex scene as a literal shadow play, and algebra as a metaphor for the married woman's "Sapphic" desire--i.e. the investigation of the unknown. For a much smarter take on the opposites-attract formula, see Rachel Reichman's Work (reviewed below). Tuesday at 7:15 p.m.

          Butterfly Kiss A lovers-on-the-run road movie, this British thriller literally opens with a bang: The strung-out Eunice (Amanda Plummer) marches down an English seaside highway, mumbles "Look at me, here I am" over and over again, walks into a convenience store, and shoots the clerk in the head. So much for "positive" queer characterization. A self-described "human bomb covered in petrol," Eunice is also a fount of Biblical philosophy who sports chains, nipple clamps, and some 17 tattoos--rather like a lesbian dominatrix version of De Niro's Max Cady in Cape Fear. Seeking attention from God and her sacrificial lambs alike, she pairs up with Miriam (Saskia Reeves), a shy woman who believes she can save Eunice even while helping her haul an increasing number of bodies into shallow graves. The lovers' murderous yin-yang dynamic recalls Heavenly Creatures, although Kiss isn't as deep. Nevertheless, Plummer's brilliantly scabrous performance is something to see. Thursday, October 10 at 7:15 p.m.

          Jodie So--is she or isn't she? Alas, Jodie Foster doesn't get outed in this half-hour doc so much as explicated, with various female fans, academics, reviewers, and celebrities (Lea De Laria, Guin Turner) stopping by to put their two cents in. Most agree that Foster's dyke appeal stems from her '70s tomboy roles in Freaky Friday, etc., continuing through an adult persona that combines independence and androgyny in a manner unusual for actresses of her stature. Added to this are the many subtle "iconic moments" in her oeuvre, and a measure of off-screen sexual ambiguity that's unmistakable even to mainstream critics. (Quotes from a Silence of the Lambs-era article by the Strib's Jeff Strickler--commenting on Foster's "husky trademark voice"--get a brief amount of screen time here.) Ultimately, if Jodie reveals less than we're dying to know, that itself is a tribute to her defiance of the star system, and her willingness to allow the audience to project as much as the films. (Shinjuku Boys, an hour-long doc about female cross-dressing in Tokyo, follows at 7:45 p.m.) Friday, October 11 at 7:15 p.m.

          

          Work Loosely following the affair between a white, married young woman and her college-bound African-American neighbor, this stark indie drama takes The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love to more uncommercial (read: truer) ends. It's set in a depressed factory town where 22-year-old Jenny (Cynthia Kaplan) grows tired of cooking for her clueless husband (Peter Sprague); gets treated with condescension during interviews for dead-end jobs; and wiles away the summer with June (Sonja Sohn), who's heading off to school and thus feels less pressure to sell her time for an hourly wage. Commendably, writer-director Rachel Reichman refuses to draw simple connections between Jenny's marital discord and her affair, or between her unemployment anxiety and her faint resentment of June's scholarship; she's more interested in capturing the tumult of her heroine's life than explaining it. Reichman's elliptical editing and verité cinematography are riveting, her title provocative when applied to the film's vast scope: Marriage, love, looking for a job, merely living--it's all work. Saturday, October 12 at 9:15 p.m. CP

          U Film's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Film Festival starts Friday and continues through Saturday, October 12. All screenings are at Bell Auditorium; for more info, call 627-4430.

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