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Sex without death in gay director Todd Wilson's Under One Roof

Wednesday, Oct 2 2002
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Indie filmmaker Todd Wilson's gay romantic comedy, Under One Roof, boasts an abundance of male frontal nudity. But unlike studio pictures for "mature audiences," which slice frames out of too-revealing scenes to satisfy MPAA directives, Under One Roof went out of its way to increase the skin count. "We kept dialing it up, in reshoots and pickups," Wilson relates. "A nude barbecue scene was added just for fun. We did it in reverse -- we kept adding until we had enough." The S.F. director isn't embarrassed to say what others are too hoity-toity to admit: Sex sells. "Under One Roof is going to a gay market, which loves [nudity]."

Don't confuse Wilson with some soft-porn mercenary, though. "I wanted to make a Friday night date film," he explains. "I had seen a lot of dark and dreary gay-themed films, what I call 'kiss and die' movies. I wanted to make something that was fun and romantic." When Wilson met David Lewis at a cocktail party, he found him in agreement about the dearth of gay romantic comedies. Wilson encouraged Lewis to write such a screenplay, which became Under One Roof.

Under One Roof is one of four Bay Area features screening in the Mill Valley Film Festival -- Eva Ilona Brzeski's Last Seen, John Sanborn's MMI, and Rob Nilsson's Noise are the others -- ahead of its December DVD release by TLA Entertainment, a home video catalog that carries a wealth of gay titles. (For more on the MVFF, see page 58.) Wilson, who confides with a laugh that he made Under One Roof "for the cost of a 5-series BMW, over three years, like a car payment," isn't surprised that his movie is a crowd-pleaser. "Boy gets boy isn't such an old concept," he says. Under One Roof plays Oct. 5 and 7; details are at www.mvff.com.

Heat and Sunlight Rob Nilsson's everywhere this month: In addition to premiering Noise at Mill Valley, he's screening a series of both his and John Cassavetes' films at the Pacific Film Archive and teaching a class -- no, producing a movie -- with 16 UC Berkeley students. "You think of Cal not having a film program, but maybe they're better off when you think of what happens at UCLA," says Nilsson, with disdain for SoCal's formulaic storytelling. The PFA series, incidentally, includes an ultra-rare Oct. 10 screening of Words for the Dying, Nilsson's 1989 documentary about the making of John Cale's album of that name with nettlesome producer Brian Eno, who wanted no part of the project. The PFA schedule is at www.bampfa.berkeley.edu or (510) 642-1124.

Nilsson was one of the pioneers of both video and digital video, and Noise finds him continuing to push. "I try to use DV to probe in an intimate way and soar in a surreal way," he says. "I used Space Age gear to roughen the footage and strip it of a traditional look. They're not just effects; they carry meaning in a language that I'm attempting to develop, which includes the conventional neo-realist approach as well as the character's subjective mental state." Noise premieres Oct. 9 at the Mill Valley Film Festival.

Children of the Revolution Josh Kornbluth's bid for leading-man status, the office comedy Haiku Tunnel, opened the week of Sept. 11, 2001, to understandably tepid business. A year later, the New York-born writer and actor was back before the cameras, onstage at S.F.'s Magic Theatre filming Red Diaper Baby for the Sundance Channel. The first monologue he ever performed, Diaper encompasses the comic misadventures of a Jewish kid raised in New York in the '60s and '70s by communist parents. Explains Kornbluth: "It's about a boy's loss of political and sexual innocence" -- in that order.

The concert film attracted some key talent, including director Doug Pray (Scratch) and art director Tracey Gallacher (Trainspotting). They augmented Kornbluth's performance with a striking visual element -- computer-tinted slide projections of sites mentioned in the monologue, such as the Cathedral School of St. John the Divine, P.S. 128, and the Bronx High School of Science. There's even a clever PR image for the movie, Kornbluth confides. "Someone took the famous poster of Che Guevara with his beret and put me in it," he says with a mixture of pride and embarrassment. "It's my goofy face replacing Che's heroic face." Pray's currently editing the film with the goal of premiering it out of competition at Sundance in January.

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Michael Fox

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