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last update 4.Apr.11
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Break My Fall
dir-scr Kanchi Wichmann
prd Matteo Rolleri, Kanchi Wichmann, Billy Wiz
with Kat Redstone, Sophie Anderson, Collin Clay Chace, Kai Brandon Ly, David Brice, Cheo Rhodes, Morgan Rhys, Jonathan Keane, Yariv Perelmuter, Donna Turner, Timberlina, Rich Cline*
anderson and redstone
release UK Apr.11 llgff
11/UK 1h47

london l&g film fest
break my fall Scruffy and offhanded, this low-budget British feature takes a fractured, fragmented look at a relationship. Without a clear narrative, it's not an easy film, but it's honest and often painfully raw.

The boyish Liza (Redstone) and the girly Sally (Anderson) live in a messy London flat, where they consume rather a lot of alcohol and drugs. Sally is working in a cafe, while Liza works on songs for their post-punk band. But Liza is also consumed with jealousy over Sally's ex, who lives in Germany. Convinced that Sally is being unfaithful, she starts sabotaging their relationship. Meanwhile, Liza confides in her gay friend Jamie (Chace), while Sally gets an extremely awkward proposal from her friend Vin (Ly).

With her first feature, filmmaker Winchmann intriguingly avoids filling in the gaps. We are never sure what sparks this crisis in the relationship, and much of the angst goes unspoken. But the fallout is obvious from the start: these women will need to work if they want to stay together. What follows is a full-on picture of human miscommunication, which isn't helped at all by the fact that they're rarely sober, don't get enough sleep and have friends who are deeply self-involved. But then, really, isn't everyone?

The film has a dark, edgy attitude from the start, accompanied by an achingly trendy song score. Dialog is delivered in mumbly, whispery bursts, which adds to the slacker vibe, as do the cluttered sets, which are lit with askance angles that create deep colours. And Dawid Pietkiewicz's 16mm cinematography has a lovely exploratory quality to it. All of this cleverly overcomes the low budget, although the skittish approach makes it feel a bit like an over-extended short.

As it continues, we are forced to put ourselves into the story and characters, simply in order to try and understand what's happening. We aren't quite sure what's wrong between them, but neither are they. So we get involved in their struggle, and feel the emotional kicks as they bounce from love to hate and back again. That said, there are moments when we just wish they would talk to each other. And that people would stop vomiting on screen.

*Yes, this is the first film in which I received an on-screen credit (as an extra). I'm in the Royal Vauxhall Tavern scene, if you know where to look.

15 themes, language, sexuality, violence
23.Mar.11 llgff
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The Four-faced Liar
dir Jacob Chase
scr Marja-Lewis Ryan
prd Daniel Carlisle, Samantha Housman, Todd Kubrak, Emily Peck, Marja Lewis Ryan
with Todd Kubrak, Marja-Lewis Ryan, Emily Peck, Daniel Carlisle, Liz Osborn, Lisa Bierman, Natasha David, Jessie Paddock, Tadia K Taylor, Joe Chiotalo, Chelsea Thornton, Stephanie Gentry
kubrak and ryan release US 9.Nov.10 dvd,
UK 11.Apr.11 dvd
10/US 1h27

Closing film:
london l&g film fest
the four-faced liar Light and undemanding, this New York romantic-comedy is engaging enough to hold our interest, even though we know from the start that it's probably not going to say anything very important. But it touches on some big issues.

Two guys move in with their girlfriends in Greenwich Village. Greg (Carlisle) has travelled cross-country to be with Molly (Peck), while Trip (Kubrak) moves in with both his girlfriend Chloe (Osborn) and his lesbian best buddy Bridget (Ryan). Trip finds a buddy in Greg, while Bridget locks eyes on Molly. And trouble arrives as Trip cheats on his girlfriend, and Bridget helps Molly see that her relationship with Greg lacks spark. Of course, Bridget is hoping to provide the fireworks herself.

The title comes from a local bar, which is named after a four-sided clocktower that tells the wrong time. But the plot has a lot more to do with Wuthering Heights, the book Molly's studying in university. She starts to see herself as Catherine, in a solid relationship with a great man who might not be her passionate soulmate. Which of course makes Bridget the fiery Heathcliff.

Fortunately, Ryan's script doesn't lay this on too heavily. And Chase's direction keeps things breezy and realistic. The dialog has a dry, snappy tone, which is played honestly by the cast. Do even though the characters are one-note, we can identify with them. Although without some complexity, we never believe that the flirty Trip and Bridget are capable of having a serious relationship, so how can we root for them to sort out their love lives? Frankly, Molly seems more like forbidden fruit to Bridget than Ms Right.

As a result, the film feels thin and corny, with a predictable plot structure straight out of film school. And while the low-energy tone is charmingly realistic, it's also somewhat hesitant, mainly because it relies so much on dialog to propel the story. Still, Chase nicely depicts the vibe of 20-something New York life, with busy streets and colourful people captured with warm, intimate camerawork. And we certainly don't mind spending a bit of time with these people.

15 themes, language, sexuality
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A Marine Story
dir-scr Ned Farr
prd JD Disalvatore, Ned Farr, Dreya Weber
with Dreya Weber, Paris Pickard, Anthony Michael Jones, Christine Mourad, Deacon Conroy, Gregg Daniel, John Lee Ames, Jeff Sugarman, Lisa Wolpe, Alice Rietveld, Jason Williams, Brad Light
pickard and weber release US 5.Nov.10,
UK 11.Apr.11 dvd
10/US 1h38

london l&g film fest
a marine story While the filmmaking itself is a bit simplistic, this movie tackles a big subject with sincerity, never taking the easy route through the material and developing strongly involving characters along the way.

Career Marine Alex (Weber) returns from her last tour of duty in Iraq with a chip on her shoulder. Her ex-crush Leo (Jones) welcomes her home, and she confides in her old pal Holly (Mourad) that she was discharged due to "don't ask, don't tell", just before her pension. Then the local sheriff (Daniel) asks Alex to help prepare troubled young Saffron (Pickard) for court-ordered military service. And as they get to know each other, Alex and Saffron discover important things about being honest with themselves.

Despite its rather unambitious style, which resembles an overlit TV production, writer-director Farr develops the characters in unexpected ways. And even if the gears of the plot clank loudly, especially in the climactic sequence, there's enough going between these people to keep us interested. We can certainly identify with Alex's frustration at not being able to do the job she feels prepared for, simply because of a technicality.

But then, this particular technicality is something she's never dealt with; from a die-hard military family, she has never accepted herself. While the film allows Weber to flex her muscular physicality in impressive ways, it's Alex's internal journey that's much more involving. And she plays it extremely well, most notably in the sparky friendship between Alex and Saffron, who is sharply played by newcomer Pickard. Other characters don't get a chance to develop very much, most notably two requisite villains (Conroy and Ames).

Along the way, the film touches on some serious themes. It kind of skirts around any real discussion of gays serving in the military, and it uses drug abuse and sexism as mere plot points, but the problem of gung-ho militarism is quietly woven throughout the story, especially in the context of families and small communities. The filmmakers perhaps didn't intend this as a comment on the dangers of blind, rah-rah patriotism (they deflect the only question about politics) but, in the end, that's the strongest point they make.

15 themes, language, violence
28.Mar.11 llgff
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Violet Tendencies
dir Casper Andreas
scr Jesse Archer
prd Casper Andreas, Jesse Archer
with Mindy Cohn, Jesse Archer, Samuel Whitten, Casper Andreas, Marcus Patrick, Kim Allen, Adrian Armas, Armand Anthony, Dennis Hearn, Andrea Cirie, Sophia Lamar, Michael Musto
patrick, cohn, whitten and andreas release UK Oct.10 iris,
US 5.Nov.10
10/US Embrem 1h39

iris prize fest
Violet Tendencies A sparky sense of humour makes the most of this rather thinly plotted comedy. It also helps that the characters aren't nearly as shallow as they seem at the start, so we don't mind watching them go through their farcical situations.

Violet (Cohn) is the lynchpin for a group of gay New York men. Her best pal is Luke (Archer), whose hot hairdresser boyfriend Darian (Armas) is finally fed up with his penchant for anonymous sex. Meanwhile, her colleague Riley (Whitten) has different ideas about having children than his long-term partner Markus (Andreas). In an attempt to live her own life, Violet goes in search of a man who can actually love her. But does the mythical fag stag, a straight man who loves the gay scene as much as she does, exist?

Even though it's set up as a smart, urban romp, the film isn't actually very sophisticated. The three plot strands go down very predictable routes, each examining a specific aspect of relationships within the context of the gay scene and essentially ending up on the side of tradition. Fortunately, there's a zingy stream of hilarious one-liners to keep us on our toes.

Cohn is especially good, fearlessly diving into scenes in which Violet is ridiculed for her appearance, loud personality and jarring social skills, while rising above them with humour and dignity. The other standout is Whitten, whose child/marriage-phobic ex-model is believable and never cartoonish. The other cast members are pretty silly, really, which makes them a lot of fun. Especially Allen, as Violet's snarky non-eater colleague and mentor. And Patrick, as a go-go dancing exhibitionist, has some surprisingly strong moments too.

It's entertaining to watch these lively, likeable people dash through this vaguely twisted comedy. These men are stunned that their fag hag, whom they rely on deeply, has left them for a resolutely straight man (Anthony) she met through a chat-line. So they stage an intervention, encouraging her to be herself again. Which asks a vaguely honest question: is it possible to be yourself and find real love? And ultimately, the characters' charm and personality overcomes plotting that frequently ascends to Sex and the City levels of corny fantasy.

15 themes, language, sexuality
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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall