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Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation

For more than forty years, these two giants of American literature goaded and supported one another in the agonizing quest to turn life into art.”

A new documentary profiles two literary giants and their lifelong friendship. Directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation is comprised of archival footage and photographs and personal letters and writings by the two authors about themselves and each other. Jim Parsons narrates as Truman Capote and Zachary Quinto as Tennessee Williams. The biggest takeaways were how these two gay icons saw themselves in relation to their sexuality, how they handled their celebrity and the adaptations of their stories to film. It’s a straight-forward documentary, simply told, and an interesting watch for anyone who enjoys learning about literary world.

Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation is distributed by Kino Lorber. It’s available on DVD and to rent on demand, including Kino Now.

TIFF: Titane

Something always been a little off about Alexia (Agathe Rousselle). As a child, she did not get along with her emotionally distant father. Their involvement in a terrible car accident sends Alexia to the hospital where doctors treat her skull fracture by adding a titanium plate. Fast forward to more than a decade later and Alexia has developed a lust for metal. She gyrates on top of cars for a living. She’s also the mysterious serial killer who the police are desperate to identify. When one of her victims escapes, Alexia transforms to Adrien, pretending to be firefighter Vincent Legrand’s (Vincent Lindon) long lost son. What Alexia doesn’t realize is that she’s met her match with Vincent. And what Vincent doesn’t realize is that “Adrien” is hiding some terrible secrets.

Directed by Julia Ducournau, Titane is a wild ride. It’s relentlessly brutal, completely bonkers and yet it somehow makes sense even when it doesn’t. Rousselle and Lindon have a raw intensity that is perfect for their messed-up characters. Ducournau explores the father-daughter dynamic in a way I’ve never seen before. There are a few plot holes but you get so sucked into the craziness of the story that they really don’t matter. Titane is not for the faint of heart but if you’re into body horror, this film is for you.

Update: Titane is distributed by Neon and is available to rent on demand.

Ema

Reggaeton dancer Ema (Mariana Di Girolamo) is in a tumultuous relationship with her choreographer/husband Gaston (Gael García Bernal). The two seem hellbent at destroying their relationship, throwing verbal jabs at each other and pouring salt on emotional wounds. Their adopted son Polo (Cristián Suárez) has been taken away for his destructive behavior and rehomed with a new family. Ema is desperate to get Polo back and will go to great lengths, including targeting the two new parents, to get him back. She embarks on a journey of self-discovery and destruction in order to fulfill her deepest desires.

Ema, you’re going to battle.”

Director Pablo Larraín’s erotically charged Ema sets the screen ablaze with its magnetic star Mariana Di Girolamo. Her unique look, donning bleach blonde shellacked hair and a piercing gaze, is mesmerizing and you can’t help but fall for her like the other characters do in her story. There are some heavy themes including toxic relationships, parenthood, polyamory, self-destruction, sadism and pyromania. Scenes are intercut with dance sequences that feel seamless.

It’s difficult to understand why some of the characters, particularly Gaston, are so hard on Ema. And at one point I was getting We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011) vibes but Polo’s mental health struggles are not at all explored. I wish Ema’s story came with more background  and context but that might have taken away from her mystery and charm.

TW: Depictions of fire and the aftermath of a serious burn. This film premiered at TIFF a couple years ago and while I wanted to watch it then I recently had burned my leg and couldn’t deal with any imagery of a burn victim (Ema’s sister after an accident) and fire (Ema sets objects on fire with a flamethrower). I’m glad I waited as I was much more prepared to watch the film this time around.

Ema is a paradigm: she’s a character of characters. Daughter, mother, sister, wife, lover and leader. She’s very powerful and presents a striking, beautiful sort of femininity. She’s motivated by relentless individualism, as she clearly knows what she wants and is capable of seducing those around her in order to line up her destiny. She wants to be a mother and have a family; perhaps what moves and motivates her the most is love.

Pablo Larraín

Music Box Films will be releasing Ema on digital and VOD on September 14th. Visit the official website for more information.

I Carry You With Me/Te llevo conmigo

“That place destroys people with loneliness.”

Iván (Armando Espitia) is a divorced single father who dreams of becoming a chef. But in his small town in Mexico, the best job he can get, despite his culinary training, is relegated to a menial role at his local restaurant. One day, Iván attends an underground party with his best friend Sandra (Michelle Rodriguez). There he meets Gerardo (Christian Vázquez), a handsome young man who catches his attention with a laser pointer. The two hit it off instantly. Iván is still in the closet, knowing that coming out will hurt his chances of seeing his son. This complicates his relationship with Gerardo who is out, despite his father’s disapproval. When Iván is outed, he decides to make the treacherous journey across the border to become a chef in the United States. He risks it all for a chance at a new life. But will he ever see Gerardo or his son again?

Directed by Heidi Ewing, I Carry You With Me/Te llevo conmigo is a beautiful queer love story about two Mexican men who risk it all for a better life together.  Based on a true story, the film is both documentary and feature film with footage of present day Iván and Gerardo interspersed with narrative scenes played out by actors Armond Espitia and Christian Vázquez. This film is absolutely brilliant. It tackles immigration, homophobia, queer relationships, Mexican culture, and the isolating experience of the Mexican diaspora.

This film is both heart wrenching as it is uplifting. It sends its viewers through the emotional ringer and I found myself deeply invested in Iván and Gerardo’s story. Espitia and Vázquez really deliver with their performances. And to top it all off, the food Iván creates looks absolutely delicious. Don’t watch this film on an empty stomach. 

“For this film, I came to the conclusion that it needed to be told in a different format than what I’d done before. This story took place over generations and so the movie would need a sweeping, romantic quality to it. I wanted to see and feel their youth and experience their love. It felt deeply cinematic by nature and just needed a different treatment entirely.”

Director Heidi Ewing

I Carry You With Me/Te llevo conmigo is distributed by Sony Pictures Classics and is currently out in theaters and available on demand.

SXSW: The Fallout

For Vada (Jenna Ortega), it was just an ordinary day at her high school. After a false alarm from her younger sister Amelia (Lumi Pollack), Vada hangs out in the bathroom with fellow student Mia (Maddie Ziegler), a beautiful Instagram dancer. They catch each other’s eye but that moment of flirtation is ripped away from them when they hear gunshots. A shooter causes chaos in the school, killing some and injuring others. Vada and Mia’s lives will never be the same again. After the shooting, Vada spends her days avoiding school, drinking with Mia, getting high and going to therapy. Her parents Patricia (Julie Bowen) and Carlos (John Ortiz) try their best to give Vada space to recover. But how do you life your life after such a traumatic event?

Directed by Megan Park, The Fallout is a coming-of-age story that will ring true for many young people who unfortunately have suffered through this kind of trauma. Mass shootings are a reality of American life and despite what your thoughts are on gun control, it’s important for us to see how these events affect its victims. The Fallout is a poignant story about one young person’s response to trauma and in the same way it’s a universal tale about growing up, finding yourself and surviving something horrific. Audiences will appreciate the LGBTQ and BIPOC inclusivity.

The Fallout had its world premiere at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival.

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