Frameline 39, Week Two

As we barrel into Pride Weekend, things will not be as they once were. They never are, what with entropy and the arrow of time and all, but the celebrations on the streets surrounding will have a different tone than in past years. Thanks to violence primarily caused by drunk straight people, the former Pink Saturday — now the “Pink Party” — ends two hours early, while the Dyke March begins in mid-afternoon. We may love the nightlife, but official festivities are expected to wind down by sunset, though the Trans March is keeping its usual hours. (Fun fact: The American Library Association's Annual Conference & Exhibition is also happening, meaning the sexiest people in town all weekend will be congregated at the Moscone Center.)

Against the backdrop of this great experiment in management expectations is the final weekend of the 39th annual San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival. Very much worth catching if you missed it last week is the second screening of Stu Maddox's Reel in the Closet. We San Franciscans love watching old footage of how we once lived (whether or not we learn from that history), and Maddox brings together not only home movies and amateur films of gay life from 1930s through the 1980s, but also television footage of high-profile 1970s events such as Anita Bryant's antigay crusades and the White Night riots.

Jack Walsh's more conventional documentary, Feelings Are Facts: The Life of Yvonne Rainer, is a loving portrait of choreographer, Judson Dance Theater founder, and San Francisco native Yvonne Rainer. She moved to New York in the 1950s to get her career started, then caused a seismic shift in the dance world in 1966 with her game-changing solo work Trio A, shown at the beginning of Feelings Are Facts in its glorious black-and-white silent form. Ms. Rainer herself is still alive and kicking, performing the mid-2010s version of Trio A at the end, and we also delve into her boho San Francisco childhood.

John Mitchell and Christina Zeidler's comedy Portrait of a Serial Monogamist follows the seldom-single, forty-odd Elise (Diane Flacks) as she navigates her way through the lesbian scene in Toronto, which she describes as “a small town where everyone has slept with everyone else.” (Again, it's set in Toronto; it only just sounds like she's talking about San Francisco.) When Elise gets restless and breaks up with her latest girlfriend Robyn (Carolyn Taylor) to pursue a younger model (Vanessa Dunn), she soon begins to realize she may have actually gotten it right the last time around.

Based on its tangible details alone, the crown jewel of Frameline 39 is Jamie Babbit's dark indie comedy Fresno. For starters, it's set in the city of the same name, which is recommendation enough, but it's also by the director of But I'm a Cheerleader and written by Portlandia scriptwriter  Karey Dornetto, and it has the best female cast you're going to find in a single film all year: Natasha Lyonne, Judy Greer, Aubrey Plaza, Molly Shannon, Clea DuVall, the perpetually underrated Jessica St. Clair, and Alison Tolman (Molly from the first season of Fargo).

Shannon (Greer) is a recovering sex addict and generally irresponsible person whose queer sister Martha (Lyonne) gets her a job at the hotel where Martha happily works as a maid. When Shannon falls off the wagon and quite accidentally kills her latest mulleted sex partner, wackiness ensues as Martha helps Shannon dispose of the body. Except for a few establishing shots, Fresno was primarily shot in the Los Angeles area, but it still looks more like the biggest city in the Central Valley than last year's Vancouver-lensed Godzilla looked anything like San Francisco.

Though the degree to which the personal trainer (played by Aubrey Plaza) throws herself at Natasha Lyonne will no doubt fuel more than a few fantasies, the real heart of Fresno is its examination of the relationship between Martha and Shannon, and the lengths to which sisters will go to watch out for each other, even when it would be in their best interest to walk away.

There's also an extended joke about the definition of rape that wouldn't fly if not for the largely female cast and crew, but that's part of the beauty of Fresno: With its inversion of the dead-hooker trope, it's a buddy comedy in which women get to behave as badly as men usually get to. And that is indeed progress.

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