SXSW Film Day 2: Blindness, Antony and the Johnsons Notwithstanding
After "sleeping" on a deflated mattress using a sweater vest as a blanket last night, I determined I will not be sleeping at Nick Hanover's house anymore during SXSW, no matter how close it is to downtown. I have a bed, and a shower made after the Cold War, and non-vegetarian food and carpet and just everything. Sure, I live eleven miles from SXSW, but those extra 20 minutes on the bus are worth comfort and not feeling like my insides were made of stretched rubber bands.
The extra energy is worth it, especially for SXSW. See, when you go to SXSW, or any convention/festival, you have to work for the good shit. You need to get down to the convention center at 8am to get the magical, mystical, coveted SXXpress pass (a glorious slip of paper that lets you skip line for any movie, but SXSW only allocates a few of them per screening). You have to work to hold yourself back from slapping all of the people trying to squeeze into the tiny-ass Violet Crown theater to see Upstream Color. You have to work to get the last free Monster Zero Cal energy drink out of the press lounge from the grubby hands of another writer.
But all work and no play makes Dylan use clichés, so I started Saturday off with, what else, free gay brunch. After a fabulous brunch of breakfast tacos and Topo Chico (this damn stomach ulcer won't let me have alcohol, which may be the source of my grumpiness), I saw three flicks of various merit. First, the blind Dead Poet's Society knockoff Imagine, followed by the Primer follow-up Upstream Color, then finally a documentary I wasn't planning on seeing, but was one of the only movies I could get a SXXpress pass for, I Am Divine.
Polari LGBTQ Brunch
Polari is the new name of the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival, and they hosted a small brunch on the east side. As much as I love gay things and brunch, what really drew my attention to the shindig was the fact that it was free. Oh so free. There's an old Austin adage "if you spend money at SXSW, you're doing it wrong." While this applies mostly to music, anyway that you can not spend money at SXSW is welcome.
But it just wasn't all free tacos and mimosas. The brunch was meant as a networking tool, and as scared of everything I am, I actually networked! Like exchanged information with people and everything! Like an adult! And it was by accident! My plus-one and I sat at the empty table with some friendly lesbians, only to be joined by a cute, beary guy and a fabulous Susan Sarandon-esque woman, who introduced themselves as the creators behind I Am Divine. After introducing ourselves, we chatted about everything, from Smash to Austin's best bear bars and everything in between. They were the nicest people I've met so far, and it was great to eat tacos with them, even if they were eating them wrong, like Californians.
But the real surprise came from the surprise guest: Buck Angel! For those unfamiliar with Mr. Angel, Buck is a female to male transgender who made his name in BDSM pornography, then moved into the world of motivational speaking. He's a marvel and a damn national treasure, and should be in Expendables 3. He is very bunch, and looks more like a man than I do, however I do have like eight inches on him (taller than him you perverts! Also I have a penis and he doesn't). I didn't get to meet him because I had to leave, but just being in the same room as someone you adore is a fantastic feeling. I am not able to check out his documentary, Mr. Angel, but I will seek it out.
Director: Andrzej Jakimowski
The beauty of a festival is that you can stumble onto something you had no intentions of seeing, only to be pleasantly surprised by it. Imagine was not that film. It's a small picture follows Ian, a new teacher at school small school for blind children in Portugal. His controversial teaching style (letting the kids sit outside and image what sight is) is frowned upon by the headmaster, because they may go wander out the gates and get hit by a car or a train or break a tooth. For some reason, tooth breaking is brought up a lot in this movie. Besides his wacky teaching methods, he tries to charm his next door neighbor, a German woman whose presence at the school is never explained.
There's a moment that really shifted my feelings of this film from "eh this is fine time filler" to "Lifetime for the blind" was a moment about an hour in, where Ian is explaining to a student why bar patrons don't see the giant cruise ship in the middle of the city that the blind students see (it's very complicated), his reasoning is simply "they look, but they don't see", which made me physically groan. After that line, I was 100% out. Strangely enough, what I loved about this movie was how beautiful it was. It was bright, but almost uncomfortably bright, so that you felt like you were sitting outside with those students, trying to hear a cat or whatever they were doing.
D: Shane Carruth
There will be a Paranoid Video about this movie, trust me. Shane Carruth's follow up to Primer deserves more than a two paragraph blurb from me. Especially considering how divided about it Nick Hanover any myself were on it. For the time being though, I loved the film, and thought is was striking, moving, almost transcendental. But my SXSW cohort felt differently. Which will be discussed to a great length. Trust me.
I Am Divine
D: Jeffrey Schwarz
It's my gay brunch buddies' movie! A documentary about the life of larger than life drag performer/superstar Divine, I Am Divine is a relatively straightforward look at a person who was the polar opposite of straightforward. The film covers everything from his childhood in Baltimore, to the John Water's collaboration, to his years in San Francisco and New York City. It revealed some very interesting facts about this man, but still feels so ordinary. There are some great interview subjects, like his darling Golden Girls-esque mother and a man from avant-garde drag troupe The Cockettes, wearing a yarmulke on his eye, smeared lipstick, and a broken umbrella that goes simply by ‘Ian' (so many Ian's today!). John Waters, of course is interviewed, and is always such a charm.
I liked the movie. And liking something isn't bad, I just didn't love it. But they honored Divine, someone who should be honored and is missed, as this film had its world premiere three days after the 25th anniversary of his death.
Dylan Garsee is a freelance writer/bingo enthusiast currently living in Austin, TX. He is studying sociology, and when he's not winning trivia nights at pork-themed restaurants, writing a collection of essays on the gay perspective in geek culture. An avid record collector, Dylan can mostly be seen at Waterloo Records, holding that one God Speed You! Black Emperor record he can't afford and crying. You can follow him on Twitter @garseed.