Time Out Reviews VIII

Dir: Marita Giovanni, USA 1994 (95 mins)

Lesbian dating rituals - the sweet nectar of our culture. Let me see if I've got this right. The scene: a bar in Los Angeles. Enter Loretta, the pinch-waisted scriptwriter for the cartoon "Heavy Murtle" who has "been through more women than a speculum." Loretta spies Rachel, a homey from the Bronx. She wants her, and I mean pronto. But she has to shake off her current shackle, Annie the psycho-athlete. No problem, Annie can flex her pecs with Sandy, Rachel's ex-bed mate. Loretta and Rachel decide to share the flannel in their new home. Back at the bar, the barmaid is "dying to feel the flesh of another chick's breasts" and Veronica yearns for Tracey to whisk her away on her Harley. Assorted barflies buzz around, including none other than Chastity Bono, who gets to utter three whole words. Enter JR, the rookie police officer with a mean jaw and a mane of hair. She wants Rachel but ends up humping someone else...
"Mega-pouting" all the way, "Bar Girls" is a sleekly produced film that grapples with non-monogamy, jealous rage and abandonment blues in an almost laconically droll way, lit periodically by sparks of candour and wit. Don't bother if you want to peek upon their sexual exploits - there's only one scene, liberally doused with tinkling piano and swathed in chiffon.
"Bar Girls" is rather stylish and as soapy as you can get. You can forgive the fact it's a mite twee and a tad slow in places. The offical programme describes it as a "hilarious romp" but it's more an amusing stroll: a few rib-ticklers, some brief moments of angst, a handful of stereotypes and lots of heartfelt hugging. Treat yourself to something sweet.

©Megan Radclyffe Publ. Time Out 1997

Dir: Rafal Zielinski, USA 1994 (105 mins)

Ever seen "Times Square"? Seen "Heavenly Bodies" yet? Mix them up, sprinkle in some psychological trauma, a pinch of murder and what you get is "Fun". Described as "the return of the repressed", it is the story of two fourteen year-olds, Bonnie - a hyperactive, stroppy, sassy lil' thing - and Hilary, her lethargic but bolshy friend.
The film opens two days after the girls have been sentenced for murder. The prison psychiatrist (a chain-smoking, prissy-faced woman) tries to unmask a deeper motive, while battling against a "scum" tabloid reporter despatched to weedle out the real reason for the girls' crime - an obscene style of Knock-down Ginger that ends with a brutal stabbing.
The script is terribly lean, and drips with that style of lesbian subtext that is so loved and so interminably analysed by critics. The cast just as tight with striking performances by Alicia Witt and Renee Humphrey, who make "Fun" a rather intense, if slightly uncomfortable, experience.
Might be worth a gander at the Sweet Romance programme of shorts (Sun 19th 6pm NFT2 and Thu 30th 6.15pm NFT2) which includes Heatwave (Dir: Kathy Stephens, UK 1994), the charming but sultry tale of teen obsession with a fab 70's feel (flares, hot pants and Mk I Escorts) and a touch of romantic symbolism thrown in for good measure. Object/Subject Of Desire (Dirs: Lorri Millan & Shawna Dempsey, Can 1994) on the other hand is a puerile piece with a cynical bride in a puffball dress who swaps tales of failed romances, backed by floating clouds and railway tracks. Nightwork (Dir: Jane Schneider, Aus 1994) is a cautionary fable about the promise of monogamy with an Australian biker and her European partner, while Cross Your Heart (Dir: Suzy Richter, Can 1994) has a new-wave ambience, with a grainy and blurred yarn of urban obsession between a woman with quiff-coiffure wandering around Canada making protracted and inaudible phonecalls. Made no sense to me either.

©Megan Radclyffe Publ. Time Out 1997


Welcome to Bumfuck, Arkansas (popu. 300 rednecks, 5000 cows, 10000 pigs and a horse) and the wedding of April and Dick Dickson, football hero. Bumfuck 'just ain't the place to sit on a pretty face' and with the prospect of a full Tupperware set as a wedding present, the bride resolves to blow her brains out. As the smoke clears, she finds herself on the Isle of Lesbos, ruled by a hefty, belching, growling and swaggering bulldyke called Blatz Balinski. She also meets Lance the Nance, the lone man on Lesbos ('Well, somebody's got to clean the toilets') who can't escape until a hunky hetero weakens for his charms.
Having been anointed with Dyke Draft Beer, April lives up the lezzie life and comes out to her parents ('I'm a la-la-la-lesbian!') which sends them running to see a leading shrink (and lascivious lunatic) who is offering the townsfolk 'homo$exual cures'. They're too busy lynching blacks and Jews to bother and April's too occupied watching Blatz mud-wrestle to care. After much umming and aahing, she declares her 'Same Sex Love' for the Supreme Leader ('It's a love you feel when you're feeling gay') just before Dick bursts in, jockstrap in hand and Rambo bandana on his head. Uh-huh, I'm not divulging the ending.
It might seem a trite piece of surreal fantasy, but if you took 'The Wizard of Oz', added a taste of 'Rocky Horror' and morsels of 'Grease' then combined it with elements of any John Waters movie and a few fairy tales, you'd get it. 'Isle of Lesbos' is by far the best the LLGFF has had to offer in aeons. Whoever says lesbians can't be camp hasn't seen this. Buy your ticket now, and I dare you to leave the theatre without singing at least one of the show-stopping tunes.

©Megan Radclyffe Publ. Time Out 1997


Work is set in the town of Liberty, this is the tale of Jenny, a thoroughly frustrated and exceedingly bored housewife who is passionate about her next-door neighbour, June. The pair mooch down main street, having tedious conversations about dreary subjects. Jenny spends endless days fixing her husband's ailing truck and lying about her CV to potential employers. She alleviates this (and our) languor by playing chase me with her beloved in the woods by torchlight. She goes absolutely nowhere, and as a consequence, neither does the film. It only picks up twice: once when she meets some real dykes (they have a computer, some dope, house music and monochrome furnishings) and again when June buggers off to New Mexico (can't blame her) and Jenny ends up as a bobble-hatted bullshit shifter in a garden centre. It's no wonder 'Time Out' are giving tickets away. It's doubtful the NFT have sold any.
Loose Ends (Unbeständig Und Kühl) has a fair smattering of heterosexual angst involving a bride-to-be and her intended, their celibate best friend, her bastard ex-boyfriend and his brother. There's also a dyke called Nina who shags 'em, bags 'em and throws 'em away on a nightly basis. She can't pay rent and she drinks like the proverbial fish Nina does meet a cab driver called Ella, who rings her bell but it's too late. All of her buttons are locked on Self Destruct and she literally turbines herself to oblivion. It's all a bit cliched really but trust me, it's not as bad as it sounds. Well worth a gander.


Set Stateside, and trying to be stylish on a shoestring, 'Female Perversions' is the sorry tale of Evelyn (Tilda Swinton) a painfully pale and skinny, thin-lipped attorney who is praying for promotion as a high court judge. Shove coal up her arse and a week later, you'd have a 24ct diamond. Like every woman who ever wants to smash the glass ceiling, she's got a closet, and this one's fucking huge. Not only is her sister a kleptomaniac, her father abused her mother and she is having an affair with a female doctor of psychiatry. She even gets her boyfriend to shave her and we're not talking about a fuzzy upper lip here.
Evelyn lives on a stratosphere of utter paranoia that even a ton of cocaine couldn't sustain. She hears voices. She is plagued by strange dreams of ropes (don't get your hopes up, it's just symbolic crap) and even imagines she is attacked by harbingers of doom. I can't give away the plot. There isn't one, as such. This film is as anally retentive as a brawl of straight rugby players who mistakenly ventured into Gummi. The boom operator's arms were not powerful enough as I noticed the microphone in shot more than seven times. Come to think of it, that means the editor's shit as well. If this is the flagship of the 1997 festival, then the RNLI should be on hand. Sorry Tilda, I think you're fab but you should have a stern word to your agent.


A gigantic retrospective of queer history is soon to be screened on TV entitled 'It's Not Unusual'. The same title should have been selected by the producers of 'Mum's The Word' because it's perfectly precise. This bog-standard forage through dyke life centred on the lives of four French-Canadian women (ooh, subtitles!) who 'discovered' their latent lesbianism in their late 40's (well actually, three bisexuals and one dyke). With prosaic use of home cine film and photograph albums, these women ran the entire gamut of experience from 'I was married' to 'Now I'm not' ridden ever since with angst, guilt and regret while daughters swung from 'I used to identify with her' to 'Now I don't' and espoused despair, rancour and prejudice.
After the exuberant mood of 'Forbidden Love' this film could well be described as a counter-balance: jolly women who cherish their lesbo life versus with women seething anger and repressed vexation. Call me sniffy and cynical if you wish, but I'm thankful I didn't have to pay money to support a lesbian and gay festival and suffer confused women fawning and bawling over their ex-husbands. And can anyone, anyone, think of a different way to present lesbian history on celluloid? Please!

©Megan Radclyffe Publ. Time Out 1997

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