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2013 FilmOrama 

Will Coviello previews films from the mini festival of classic, cult and foreign flicks

click to enlarge I Am Divine chronicles the life of Harris Glenn Milstead, better known as the drag queen star of many John Waters films. - PHOTO BY CLAY GEERDES
  • Photo by Clay Geerdes
  • I Am Divine chronicles the life of Harris Glenn Milstead, better known as the drag queen star of many John Waters films.

The New Orleans Film Society (NOFS) created FilmOrama when several of the theaters that screened independent and art house films were dark.

  "The first year, there was no Canal Place or Chalmette Movies," says NOFS artistic director John Desplas.

  The film society partnered with The Prytania Theatre to run a varied slate of films for a week.

  "It's turned into a mini spring film festival," Desplas says.

  This year's FilmOrama (April 5-11) includes classic and cult films as well as recent documentaries and foreign films. The classics include the 1967 French film exploring masochism Belle de Jour and Federico Fellini's 8 1/2. For cult classics, there's Eraserhead and John Waters' Pink Flamingos. Getting Back to Abnormal is a new documentary about race and politics in New Orleans. Other highlights include On the Road, starring Kristen Stewart, Sam Riley and Kirsten Dunst. Several filmmakers will attend screenings. Visit www.neworleansfilmsociety.org for schedule and details.

I Am Divine

Harris Glenn Milstead was best known as Divine, the obese drag queen created by and star of John Waters' early trash camp films, particularly Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble. Divine helped make Waters' career as well.

  In I Am Divine, director Jeffrey Schwarz chronicles Milstead's life, both as and beyond the persona of Divine. He interviews Milstead extensively, as well as his mother and high school girlfriend. Milstead became a hairdresser before he embraced Waters' vision of Divine, a figure who embodied glamour and vulgarity simultaneously. And he later tried to escape the character and pursue other roles.

  Waters and Milstead lived in the same Baltimore neighborhood, and they became friends. For his films, Waters' vision of Divine was a departure from the drag scene that already existed in Baltimore. Waters pushed Milstead to create an angry and forceful persona and to revel in his obesity, performing in costumes particularly unflattering to a large man. The trashy side reached its pinnacle at the end of Pink Flamingos in a scene in which Divine ate dog poop. It immortalized Divine and the film's cult status and overshadowed Milstead's career for most of his life.

  But Divine became famous and very popular in gay culture. Milstead moved to San Francisco and then to New York. He had a brief musical career, but as long as there were screen roles for Divine, he took them.

  What Divine wanted, however, was to be a character actor and take on all sorts of roles. In Waters' Hairspray, he starred as Tracy Turnblad's (Ricki Lake) mother — neither a glamorous nor starring role; a sort of demotion. But he received great reviews, and it opened doors for him. I Am Divine offers a full perspective on his strangely charmed life. It screens at 9:45 p.m. Friday and is followed by Pink Flamingos at midnight.

I Am Divine - SXSW 2013 Accepted Film from SXSW on Vimeo.

Room 237

One of the signs of the success of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is the way it has attracted a certain type of devoted fan: conspiracy theorists. Room 237, named for a cursed room in the resort hotel in the story, is about those conspiracies and it's a very entertaining dive into the theories and obsessions of film geeks and critics.

  What most of them have in common is a very strong reaction to some peripheral aspect or meta-interpretation of the film and a dedication to viewing it over and over to identify hidden signs. They unearth some amusing insights. Some of them seem like harmless continuity flaws — when filmmakers mistakenly move furniture or actors' hair or clothing change as scenes are shot over and reshot or bits of several takes are edited together. Others are less obviously explicable. Some people are convinced Kubrick helped create fake scenes of Apollo moon landings, and that he confessed to this via all sorts of signs placed in The Shining. In one scene, Danny wears a sweater that shows a rocket and the word "Apollo" on it.

  Many of the theories gravitate to subjects popular with conspiracy theorists, including fraudulent space travel and Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust. The theorists are a determined and mentally agile bunch, which makes the film entertaining. But regardless of how convincing the theories are, Room 237 would be better without all the gratuitous clips from Eyes Wide Shut, a forgettable Kubrick film that hasn't spawned much interest in scouring through multiple viewings. Room 237 screens at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, followed at 9:30 p.m. by The Shining.

Room 237 Trailer from Greg Gunn on Vimeo.

Like Someone in Love

Like Someone in Love is an intriguing film about misunderstandings surrounding an older man's connection to a young woman, who pays for college through prostitution. It was created in eight weeks on a $5 million budget by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who won a Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival for Taste of Cherry and first filmed outside of Iran in 2010 when he madde Certified Copy in Italy.

  Most of Like Someone in Love's first hour unfolds, almost in real time, in two exquisitely shot, narrowly focused sequences. It's not clear why the semi-retired professor (Tadashi Okuno) hires Akiko (Rin Takanashi), but then the film lurches into the entanglements presented by her boyfriend (Ryo Kase), a brutish man who has ambiguous feelings about her ways but wishes to marry her. It's an odd outsider's look at Japanese notions of formality, social discretion and intimacy. It screens 7:15 p.m. Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Monday and 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 10.

LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE (Trailer) from filmswelike on Vimeo.

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