Queer Film Festival kicks in

With the Cloudburst of Opening Night done and dusted, it was time, last Friday, to dive into 2012’s Melbourne Queer Film Festival feet first with the new film from Casper Andreas, Going Down in LA-LA Land.

Andreas is one of the more prolific indy gay filmmakers in the US, and over the last few years, has directed Violet Tendencies (2010), The Big Gay Musical (2009) and A Four Letter Word (2007). His films usually sit at the light and fluffy end of the spectrum, with lots of eye candy, and that’s not a bad thing. With LA-LA Land, there’s all of that, but there’s a bit more substance as well. Based on a novel by Andy Zeffer, it’s a familiar story about a young gay gay arriving in Los Angeles to pursue an acting career – as you do – and soon finds himself in the porn industry – as you also do.

Matthew Ludwinski as Adam sends a smouldering look across to John (Michael Medico) in 'Going Down in LA-LA Land.

As I said, it’s nothing new, but it’s the cast here that makes the difference. Matthew Ludwinski as Adam, the Bright Young Thing, is not only beautiful to behold, but he has a natural and confident screen presence that makes him more than just a pretty face. Playing against type, and with lovely restraint, is Jesse Archer as Matthew, an uptight office manager. Also playing against type is Andreas himself as Nick, the photographer-director with a drug habit who introduces Adam to the wonderful world of porn. He is also interesting to watch, even though his big confrontation scene goes a little over-the-top. But it’s Allison Lane as Candy, Adam’s fame-hungry flatmate who almost steals the show at the film’s climax.

Plenty of laughs, plenty of eye candy, and a cynical, darker tone makes Going Down in LA-LA Land¬†Andreas’ best film yet.

A film closer to home is Kawa, a New Zealand feature about Kawa (Calvin Tuteao),¬†a Maori man struggling with coming to terms with his sexuality and his familial responsibilities. Directed by Katie Wolf, it’s a handsome looking film that makes the most of the stunning North Island locations, but it’s also a tad too earnest, and there are a number of dramatic scenes that would have benefited from a lighter, more sensitive touch.

Kawa (Calvin Tuteao) takes a walk along the beach with his son in 'Kawa'.

Unfortunately, these overwrought scenes detract from the power that the film’s climax could have had. It’s an accomplished film, but it feels like this story has been done many times before, and often a lot more successfully. That doesn’t mean there’s not a place for these stories to still be told, it just feels like a missed opportunity.

The final film for my weekend was the Finnish-French co-production, Let My People Go!, a crazy and whimsical comedy that only the French can get away with. Ruben (Nicolas Maury) is a French Jewish gay man living in Finland with his gorgeous boyfriend Teemu (Jarkko Niemi). He works as a postman, but when he tries to deliver a package to man who doesn’t want it – a package of cold, hard cash – the man collapses on his front lawn, and Ruben flees with the cash, and ends up back in Paris with his family for Passover.

Ruben (Nicolas Maury) finds himself in another fine mess in 'Let My People Go!'

As you’d expect, this comedy of errors gets more and more absurd and complicated, and zips along at a cracking pace. And it’s all done with a joyously bent twist to it. The quality of the screening copy wasn’t the best (the real one arrived unreadable), but the comedy was.

So that’s it thus far – there’ll be more from me in a couple of days. But if you’re really lucky, I might post about Kylie Minogue’s Anti-Tour in the next day too. And that’s worth a post all of its own…

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