Now that the Oscars are over, this spring offers LGBT film fans the chance to catch some independent films in theatrical release, some queer films sprinkled throughout the schedules of local film festivals and some gay favorites in mainstream fare.
“Yossi” (2012), a popular offering at last year’s Reel Affirmations, is a sequel to the surprise gay indie hit Yossi and Jagger (2002). In the first movie, Yossi Guttman is a commander in the Israeli army stationed on the Lebanon border. When Lior joins the unit as Yossi’s second-in-command, the two begin a passionate but secret affair which ends when Lior (who is called Jagger because he has “the moves like Jagger”) is killed in an ill-considered skirmish.
“Yossi” picks up the action 10 years later. Yossi is now Dr. Guttman, a successful cardiologist. But, despite his professional achievements, he remains in an emotional and social fog. His depression begins to lift, however, when he encounters a group of rowdy young soldiers.
“Yossi” is helmed by gay director Eytan Fox, who has been a key player in both the fight for gay and lesbian rights in Israel and the renaissance of Israeli film. The strong cast is led award-winning Israeli actor Ohad Knoller, who amazingly brings Yossi’s stupor to vivid life, offering a rich and nuanced portrayal of a man frozen in place, but bravely trying to move forward. In Hebrew, with English subtitles. Opens March 8 at the Landmark E Street Cinema.
“Let My People Go!” (2011), which played to a sell-out crowd at the Jewish Film Festival, is a semi-autobiographical romantic farce by queer French filmmaker Mikael Buch. The movie stars the talented Nicolas Maury as the director’s alter ego, Rueben, a French man working as a mailman in Finland and living with his sexy Nordic boyfriend Teemu.
Rueben is unexpectedly forced to flee his idyllic Scandinavian life and return to his zany Jewish family in France: his philandering father, his long-suffering mother (played by Almodovar goddess Carmen Maura from “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”), his uptight and upright brother, and his sister who is married to a fading TV star. After a series of zany misadventures including seductions, fist-fights and fainting spells, the family finally settles down for a delayed Passover Seder. In French and Finnish, with English subtitles. Opens March 15 at the West End Cinema.
A very different road trip is the subject of Walter Salles’ adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s classic Beat novel, “On the Road” (2012). Like the novel, the movie is a thinly veiled recreation of the famous cross-country road trip taken by Kerouac with his friend Neal Cassady and Cassady’s girlfriend LuAnne Henderson. Sam Riley plays Kerouac’s alter ego Sal Paradise and Garrett Hedlund plays the charismatic Dean Moriarty (based on Cassady). Kristen Stewart appears as Moriarty’s girlfriend Marylou and Viggo Mortenson and Tom Sturridge are featured as characters based on William S. Burroughs (author of “Naked Lunch”) and Allen Ginsburg (the openly gay poet who wrote “Howl”).
Reunited with screenwriter Jose Rivera (the two worked together on “The Motorcycle Diaries,” a road movie inspired by the life of Che Guevara), Salles unflinchingly recreates the artistic, philosophical and sexual awakening of Paradise. The film combines a celebration of the Beat writers and the women and gay men who were part of their world along with an understanding of the misogyny and homophobia that ultimately underscored much of their work. The movie includes explicit shots of nonconforming sex (a graphic anal scene between Hedlund and Steve Buscemi and a scene where Stewart simultaneously pleasures both Hedlund and Riley), but the focus remains on the sexual liberties taken by the straight white writers.
“On the Road” finally opens in D.C. on March 22 at Landmark E Street Cinema.
The 2013 D.C. Independent Film Festival runs March 6-10 and includes films, seminars and master classes that celebrate international independent movies. This year’s offerings include “A Cure” by Matthew Herbertz, a short film about Sarah, a young girl who is pulled out of school and is forced to undergo reparative therapy when her mother finds out her sexual interest in other girls. It screens March 9 at the U.S. Navy Heritage Center at the Archives Metro Station. For more information, go to dciff-indie.org/.
Two mainstream films that are sure to gather sizeable gay and lesbian audiences are “Oz the Great and Powerful” (March 8) and “The Great Gatsby” (May 10). “Oz” is a prequel to popular books by L. Frank Baum and stars the category-defying James Franco as a carnival magician who arrives in a fantasy land and must use his wits to stay ahead of three witches (Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis) who have their sights on him.
Gay favorite Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge,” “Shakespeare’s R&J”) returns to the big screen with his 3-D adaptation of the classic American novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan as the doomed lovers and Tobey Maguire as the enigmatic narrator Nick Carraway. The troubled movie was pulled from a December 2012 release, but audiences may be won over by Catherine Martin’s opulent design palette.