Out on the Screen's 12th annual "Outfest: The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival" grows stronger with each passing year. This time around there's a marked concern for values and stability in relationships, along with a dramatic history lesson. The opening weekend is dominated by key male films, but next week will bring some significant lesbian features.
The festival commences Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Directors Guild with a gala premiere of the late Nigel Finch's ambitious, emotion-charged "Stonewall," which tells two love stories leading up to the 1969 riot at a Greenwich Village drag bar that proved to be a flash point in the gay liberation movement. The film admirably touches upon virtually every gay issue of the era while involving us in its personal stories. Stonewall is so pivotal an event in the gay and lesbian civil rights movement that it would be impossible for any one film to please everyone, but most are likely to agree that the riot itself, spread over several days, gets short shrift at the film's finish. Guillermo Diaz and Frederick Weller star.
Scott Silver's appealing "johns" (Friday at 9:15 p.m.) is a low-budget, West Hollywood "Midnight Cowboy" for the '90s. Lukas Haas and David Arquette both impress as likable young men struggling to survive as male hustlers on Santa Monica Boulevard. There's a jaunty, wistful and humorous quality to "johns," but when the two friends start planning their escape from a life on the streets, you begin to worry that they're not going to make it. It's also notable for Charles Brown's bluesy score.
Neil Hunter and Tom Hunsinger's "Boyfriends" (Saturday at 11:30 a.m.) is a witty, wise romantic comedy in which a gay couple (James Dreyfus, Mark Sands) on the verge of breaking up nevertheless go through with a planned weekend gathering of friends at their English country cottage. It's a sure-fire, tried-and-true theatrical premise, but these men and their emotions seem real and engaging.
Jay Corcoran's 50-minute wrenching "Life and Death on the A List" (at 7:15 p.m. Saturday and July 20) charts the final two years in the life of Tom McBride, a New York actor who never reached the big time but, in the words of one of his many admirers, became a "demigod of the gay world" because of his striking looks and gym-honed physique. The epitome of rugged male beauty, McBride pursued a hedonistic life that made him highly vulnerable to AIDS. Wryly humorous and unflinching in the face of deterioration and death, McBride is able to look at his life with honesty and detachment--and also with the clear realization that this film is his best and last chance to make a lasting impression.
Written by Ben Taylor and directed by Rainer Kaufmann, "Talk of the Town" (Sunday at 4:30 p.m.) is yet another giddy, ultra-complicated romantic farce from Germany starring the sparkling Katja Riemann. She plays a Hamburg radio psychologist whose own life lacks romance but whose gay brother (Kai Wiesinger) decides to do something about it on the eve of her 30th birthday.
Artful Drama: The American Cinematheque's gratifying Hideo Gosha retrospective will continue Friday at Raleigh Studios at 9:30 p.m. The awkwardly titled "Bandit vs. Samurai Squad" (1978) is yet another Gosha period picture in the grand manner and once again stars Tatsuya Nakadai as an elusive and singularly active gang leader in 1722 Edo. Exploring the futility of revenge, the nobility of self-sacrifice and the paradoxical relationship of good and evil, the film proceeds from one stunning image to another, its violence so stylized that it takes on a terrible beauty. It begins in action, moves to the philosophical and in the end achieves the spiritual. It is a work of art that, in honoring its traditions, revitalizes them. (213) 466-FILM.
Pickford Favorite: In the tempestuous 1922 melodrama "Tess of the Storm Country" (Silent Movie, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.), a rich man, whose estate is high on a hill, is determined to drive out the squatters living below him and spoiling his view. However, he doesn't reckon with Mary Pickford at her spunkiest--playing the character that was her favorite. (213) 653-2389.