Sinema review

BIRDS OF A FEATHER…

BIRDCAGE, THE

It may have took 20 years for the American version of “La Cage Aux Folles” to get made, but the final result is well worth the wait. “La Cage Aux Folles” started life as a French stage farce, and then jumped to the big screen to become one of France’s biggest-grossing films. Two French sequels and an American stage musical followed, but it took director Mike Nichols 20 years to secure the rights to remake the comedy.


Robin Williams and Nathan Lane star as Armand and Albert, two middle-aged queens who run the popular drag club “The Birdcage” on Miami Beach. While Armand runs the business end, Albert is the star attraction, the real grand dame of musical theater. All is not well for Armand. He feels his looks are fading, and suspects that Albert is having an affair. In reality, Armand is bracing for a visit from his son Val (Dan Butterman, as cute as they come). Val is getting married, and his fiancée’s father is a conservative senator seeking re-election. What should amount to good news turns the household upside down as the gay couple attempt to “straighten” out their lives for a visit from the Senator and his family. Elaine May’s screenplay is a wonderful blend of familiar and innovation. She maintains the spirit of the original while giving the material a very 90’s spin. The current political climate is perfectly reflected in this wildly amusing comedy that manages to skewer both liberals and conservatives. Williams and Lane are priceless as Armand and Albert. The chemistry between the two seems real, honest. Lane gets the funniest bits, but Williams is the perfect anchor for the madcap madness. Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest shine as the Senator and his doting wife, both excellent as two fish out of water. Hank Azaria almost steals the film as the gay couple’s house boy, a cross between Lucy and Desi. The best thing about “The Birdcage” is that it manages to be funny while maintaining dignity and heart. (Rated R/MGM-UA Home Video)

GAY SOAP…

YOUNG HEARTS, BROKEN DREAMS

While covering the recent Video Software Dealer’s Association Show in Los Angeles in July, I managed to bump into some new contacts that deal in gay and lesbian videos. One of those new contacts is Gerald Gordon Enterprises, an exciting filmmaker who has produced, written and directed a three-part gay soap opera called “Young Hearts, Broken Dreams.” In Part One, “The Delivery Boy,” studio delivery boy Adam Harrington (Mark Cannon) is thrilled that he’s been picked to drop off a package at his favorite star’s house. Scottie Edwards (Eddie Starr) is a hunky heart throb, and it’s not long before Adam and Scottie are playing casting couch. Unfortunately, Scottie has an expensive drug habit that’s put him at odds with a ruthless drug lord. When things get too hot, Scottie and Adam high-tail it to Spain. When they return, Scottie is murdered, and Adam commits suicide. Part Two, “The Search,” introduces Scottie’s brother Matthew (Michael Habusch) who has teamed up with friend Noah (Robert Spiewak) and Detective Zech James (Kurt Schwoebel) to find out who killed his brother. Director Gerald Gordon has rounded up an attractive and talented cast, who not only act, but look great out of their clothes. Writer Gordon has managed to slip enough plot in-between the skinny dipping and nude wrestling scenes to make you care where the story and characters are headed. The production values for this direct-to-video series are better than average, and include an original song sung by Roslyn Kind. There’s a lot to recommend this series, but the best recommendation is that I’m waiting patiently for the final installment. (Not Rated/Gerald Gordon Enterprises)

GIRL’S SHORTS…

DYKE DRAMAS

Sooner or later, feature films that play at the gay and lesbian film festivals find their way to video. That’s the good news. The bad news is that a lot of the entries at the festivals are shorter films that seem to get lost in the cracks. Unless you live near a major metropolitan area, you’ve had to miss out on these little gems from respected and renegade filmmakers. Wolfe Video has compiled four short films from recent film festivals that spotlight lesbians. “Dyke Dramas” is an interesting effort that, like all anthologies, is better in parts than as a whole. Shot in black and white, the four films explore different aspects of being lesbian in today’s world. Director H. Len Keller’s “Life” is a five-minute tour of San Francisco by a lesbian who vows she will never fall in love again. “Life” won first prize at the 9th International Women’s Film Festival in Madrid. In “Maya,” director Catherine Benedek shows what happens when a woman defies her mother’s wishes by not getting married and taking dancing lessons with her therapy money. There’s plenty of dirty dancing in this whimsical tale of rhythm and love. New York’s seamy underside is exposed in director John Miller- Monzon’s tale of a woman who has to get her life together. Clementine seems to have plenty of time on her hands, but doesn’t have a life. When Clementine meets Jo, she manages to get a life, but doesn’t have any time on her hands. Sandra Nettlebeck’s sumptuous “A Certain Grace” finds a female photographer torn between her boyfriend and the woman she has been taking pictures of. This 40 minute short film won the Audience Award, Best Lesbian Short, at the 16th San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Festival. (Not Rated/Wolfe Video)

THE GREAT COVER-UP…

MAN OF THE YEAR

Writer/director Dirk Shafer’s hilarious “mock-umentary” is the “Spinal Tap” of gay flicks. Hunky, handsome, and furry all over, Dirk was Playgirl Magazine’s Centerfold of the Year in 1992. As an ambassador of Playgirl Magazine, Dirk had to spend a year promoting the magazine and the idea of the perfect male. Well, Dirk may be the perfect male, for not for the ladies. Sorry gals, because Dirk is gay. In order to fulfill his duties, Dirk had to pretend to be straight. That’s where all the fun, games and a little heartache come in to play. Shafer has created a mock-documentary that plays like the real thing. You’ll be fascinated and enchanted by the antics Dirk and his friends and lover had to go through in order to maintain the illusion of “straight.” From some awkward dates, to some even more awkward talk show appearances, Dirk finds plenty of humor and pathos in his reign at the top. “Man of the Year” takes on a real cinema verite style, catching us off guard when we least expect it. Even more interesting is having some people play themselves, while having professional actors playing other characters. The only disappointing thing is that Dirk plays coy by not including some of the more daring shots from the magazine in the film. While he’s spoofing America’s reaction to his layout, we are left in the dark. (Not Rated/Fox-Lorber Home Video)

REAR-END COLLISION…

CHAIN REACTION, THE

Here’s a hot video for guys who like to watch good-looking young guys get naked. The story begins inside a gay bar, where young, innocent and naive Johan is lusting after the bartender. When the bartender’s boyfriend enters the scene, Johan turns his sights on a handsome stranger, unaware that he’s a street hustler. Johan hangs around to see what might come up, and before you know it, there’s one less virgin left in the world. But the action doesn’t stop there. Johan’s encounter ignites a “Chain Reaction” of lust and passion. Before long, hot looking guys are crawling over each other in exotic places like a back alley, the gym, and the back-room at the bar. Lots of nudity, some simulated sex, and crystal clear production values make this one tape that might wear out the freeze frame on your VCR. (Not Rated/Wolfe Video/Pride)



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