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Managing the Lineup of Films at Outfest 2002

July 11, 2002|Kevin Thomas

With more than 70 feature films over 12 days, not to mention nearly 100 shorts, Outfest can be a tough festival to navigate. Do you sacrifice the "Xanadu" sing-along to catch the documentary on AIDS activism in South Africa?

We asked film reviewer Kevin Thomas to survey the offerings and tell us which films are not to be missed. His recommendations:

AKA--Inspired by Mike Figgis' split-screen technique in "Timecode," writer-director Duncan Roy employs simultaneous triptych images, to stunning effect, to trace a young opportunist's rise and fall amid the British upper classes in the late '70s. The images express the complexity and treachery of the world that working-class Dean (Matthew Leitch) has infiltrated out of sheer frustration and desperation. In no time, he's off to Paris, passing himself off as the son of a titled London gallery owner (Diana Quick) and catching the eye of a rich American (George Asprey), only to discover ultimately that he has deceived only himself. July 20, 7 p.m., at the Directors Guild Theater 1, 7920 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles.

Guardian of the Frontier--The first Slovenian film directed by a woman, Maja Weiss--and a remarkable feature debut--is a suspense drama in which three students, blond Simona (Iva Krajnc), brunet Zana (Pia Zemljic) and auburn Alja (Tanja Potocnik) take a summertime canoe journey down the Kolpa River, which divides Slovenia and Croatia. They find themselves up against borders political and sexual as they go deeper into a conservative countryside where a politician (Jonas Nidarski) preaches Slovenia for the Slovenians and traditional family values. This doesn't stop Zana's open pursuit of Alja, who's gone sour on her boyfriend, while the homophobic Simona finds herself attracted to the macho politico. Weiss boldly evokes fantasy and symbolism in a bravura climactic sequence that is provocatively ambiguous. July 19, 7 p.m., at the Directors Guild Theater 1.

Lan Yu--The festival's closing-night film, one of Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan's finest, is a poignant love story set in Beijing in the late '80s, a time of political repression and equally ruthless economic expansion. Hu Jun stars as Handong, a forceful, hard-driving owner of a fast-growing trading company who crosses paths with a young architectural student, Lan Yu (Liu Ye), fresh from the countryside. They commence an affair in which Handong is generous to the impoverished youth with everything except his heart. As the men move in and out of each other's lives and time and events go by, Handong at last seems ready to act on the love he has felt for Lan Yu all along. July 22, 8 p.m., at Showcase Theatre, 614 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.

Bob & Rose--Written by Russell T. Davies (creator of "Queer as Folk") and directed by Julian Farino and Joe Wright, "Bob & Rose" is highly entertaining throughout its six hours. Like the original "Queer as Folk," it is set in Manchester, but only partly in the city's gay area, Canal Street, because it deals with an out and self-accepting gay schoolteacher in his early 30s (Alan Davies) and a straight woman, a forthright office manager (Lesley Sharp), who are stunned to discover they are falling in love with each other. The subplots aren't free of soap opera contrivance, but the running time gives Davies and Sharp a terrific opportunity to explore the challenges facing Bob and Rose. Saturday, 1:30 p.m., at the DGA Theater 1. Special price: $15.

Ruth & Connie: Every Room in the House--No wonder Deborah Dickson's documentary is the festival's centerpiece film, screening at its halfway mark. In a mere 56 minutes, Ruth Berman and Connie Kurtz, a pair of plump, hearty Brooklyn Jewish grandmothers who appear to be in their late 60s, tell us how they met and became best friends in 1959 and lovers in 1974. Theirs is a love story that overcame obstacles from within themselves and from without--and at a price: the breakup of their marriages and the enduring estrangement of Berman's son. Of him, she says that if he's happy that's all that matters. If being excluded from his life is key to his happiness, she'll accept that, no matter how painful. As they celebrate a quarter-century together, the irresistible Ruth and Connie remain lively activists and seasoned counselors, and Dickson's film reflects their warmth and wisdom. Tuesday, 7:15 p.m., at the DGA Theater 1. Also July 18 at the Renberg Theatre, the Village at Ed Gould Plaza, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood.

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