Feature-length videos of the late Robert Chesley's "Jerker" and James C. Pickett's "Dream Man" will be shown at EZTV in West Hollywood as a double feature, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 and 9 p.m. The two plays, which together illuminate the contemporary gay sensibility with wit, compassion and stunning emotional impact, have been taped in such an unobtrusive, fluid way that we soon forget we are watching theater pieces.
"Jerker," which provoked much controversy when it was aired on KPFK-FM as a radio play, tells of two young San Franciscans, Bert (Tom Wagner) and J. R. (Joseph Stachura), who engage in anonymous phone sex, but over a period of time their mutual lust embraces friendship, affection and finally love. Directed by Hugh Harrison, "Jerker" starts out seemingly like coy soft-porn but gradually the young men move from fantasy sex objects (to gay audiences as well as to each other) to individuals well worth caring about.
The ending of "Jerker" is as shattering as that of the one-man play "Dream Man," in which Michael Kearns, in a true tour de force portrayal, is a gay phone sex "host," fulfilling other men's sexual fantasies while becoming increasingly overcome with his own loneliness and despair. Both plays--the second was adapted to the screen by Harrison and directed by David Edwards--convey a gay sense of alienation, heightened by the AIDS crisis. The videos, which include interviews with the playwrights, are part of Out and About Pictures' new Pride Playhouse Collection, dedicated to preserving landmark gay and lesbian plays on videotape.
Information: (213) 657-5772.
Urban Dreams: With Allan Dwan's rambunctious and poignant 1924 "Manhandled" (at the Silent Movie Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.), Gloria Swanson chucked her DeMillean clotheshorse image to play a gum-chewing, subway-riding salesgirl in a Manhattan department store basement.
This is a typical tale of a youthful, innocent urban dreamer, but Dwan makes it a showcase for the diminutive Swanson's extraordinary beauty and brilliance as a comedienne. Swanson is teamed perfectly with Owen Moore, as her Irish-handsome, hard-working boyfriend whose time-consuming ambition makes her vulnerable to a series of cynical men about town.
Also screening is D. W. Griffith's 1925 "Sally of the Sawdust," a circus melodrama embracing much warmth and humanity as well as lots of comedy, in which W. C. Fields plays Professor McGargle, a rascally juggler-comedian who's nevertheless a kindly man raising a beautiful orphan (the radiant, underestimated Carol Dempster). What is most striking about the film is its exultant sense of freedom and closeness to nature as expressed in the nomadic, carefree existence of the Professor and Sally--a freedom threatened through contact with a cruel, hypocritical society and through Sally's inevitable coming of age.
Information: (213) 653-2389.
Asian Dreams: Elaine Velazquez's "Moving Mountains," a comprehensive and affecting account of Laotian refugees making new lives in Portland, and Brian Beker's "Lines of Fire," an investigation of the ongoing revolution against the Burmese military regime, launches a new edition of the "Academy/UCLA Contemporary Documentary Series" tonight at 8 p.m. in UCLA's Melnitz Theater.
Huang Jianxin's dynamic, controversial "Black Cannon Incident" (1985), a no-holds-barred attack on communist bureaucratic mentality, takes its title from a missing chess piece referred to by a Chinese translator in a cable to an East German engineer, a reference misunderstood by snooping Communist Party committee members as a strong indication of the translator's possible involvement in foreign espionage.
"The Black Cannon Incident" launches the UCLA Film Archive's "Chinese Cinema: Years of Change" Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Melnitz Theater. It will be shown with Chen Kaige's milestone "Yellow Earth" (1985). Zhang Yimou's "Ju Dou" (1990) and "Red Sorghum" (1988) screen Saturday, at 7:30 p.m. Information: (213) 206-FILM, 206-8013.