Kalei­do­scope fills Au­gust view­ing void

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - PHILIP MARTIN French ac­tor

Au­gust is what show peo­ple call a “dump month,” when the­aters are filled with less promis­ing films. Movies that scored poorly dur­ing test screen­ings, movies (like the 3-year-old Halle Berry ve­hi­cle Kid­nap re­leased last week) that have been moul­der­ing on the shelves, cheap horror films and mis­fit toys that the stu­dios don’t know what to do with.

These are films that would have been re­leased at other times of year had they done bet­ter at test screen­ings, films with less prom­i­nent stars, genre films (par­tic­u­larly horror), movies that can­not be eas­ily mar­keted, and films in­tended for a teenage au­di­ence — these come out in Au­gust. We can’t el­e­vate our ex­pec­ta­tions un­til the end of the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in mid-Septem­ber.

There’s some hope for peo­ple like us who live in ter­tiary movie mar­kets — maybe The Lit­tle Hours, the fun­ni­est film I’ve seen this year, will show up. Maybe you haven’t seen Detroit, Dunkirk or A Ghost Story yet.

So it’s a good time for lo­cal en­trepreneurs to step for­ward and of­fer some al­ter­nate pro­gram­ming.

The 3-year-old LGBT-theme Kalei­do­scope Film Fes­ti­val kicks off to­day and will run for nine days. It will screen 39 films (17 fea­tures) and host par­ties and gallery shows as well as lit­er­ary and culi­nary events, in­clud­ing “Din­ner and Con­ver­sa­tion with Ar­mis­tead Maupin,” pre­sented in part­ner­ship with the Ox­ford Amer­i­can and South on Main at 6 p.m. Mon­day.

Maupin is best known for his se­ries of nine San Fran­cisco-set Tales of the City nov­els, which started as a newspaper se­rial in the San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle in 1976. The books, which be­came a cul­tural touch­stone for the LGBT com­mu­nity, were adapted into a six-part PBS se­ries star­ring Laura Lin­ney and Olympia Dukakis in 1994, with Show­time pro­duc­ing the follow-up minis­eries More Tales of the City in 1998 and Fur­ther Tales of the City in 2001. In June, Net­flix an­nounced it was de­vel­op­ing a new in­stall­ment in the se­ries, set in the present day with Dukakis and Lin­ney repris­ing their char­ac­ters.

Maupin wrote the screen­play for the 2006 Robin Wil­liams film The Night Lis­tener, based on Maupin’s semi-au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal novel of the same name.

Among the films to be screened at Kalei­do­scope are Ch­eryl Dunye’s cult fa­vorite The Wa­ter­melon Woman (1996), a quasi-doc­u­men­tary that is of­ten said to be the first fea­ture film made by a black les­bian. It fol­lows Dunye as she in­ves­ti­gates the life of ac­tress Fae Richards, a black les­bian who spe­cial­ized in por­tray­ing “mam­mies” in the 1930s and ’40s, while at the same time fol­low­ing the progress of Dunye’s re­la­tion­ship with her white lover Diana. Re­search and pri­vate life be­gin to in­ter­sect when she dis­cov­ers that Richards had an af­fair with one of her white di­rec­tors, a woman named Martha Page.

While The Wa­ter­melon Woman is meta-fic­tion — there’s a rev­e­la­tion late in the film we won’t spoil — it is also a deep dive into ques­tions of racial and sex­ual iden­tity and pol­i­tics. (And there’s a won­der­ful bit where cul­tural critic Camille Paglia dis­cusses the “Mammy fig­ure” and par­tic­u­larly the per­for­mance of Hat­tie McDaniel in Gone With the Wind.) The film will screen at 6:30 p.m. Tues­day at Ar­genta Com­mu­nity Theater, 405 Main St., North Lit­tle Rock.

The fes­ti­val also fea­tures one of my most-an­tic­i­pated films of the year, iconic Por­tuguese di­rec­tor Joao Pe­dro Ro­drigues’ The Or­nithol­o­gist, which is a beau­ti­fully pho­tographed and be­guil­ing film set in the wilds of the Por­tuguese for­est. It’s an opaque film that could be ei­ther a se­ri­ous re­li­gious al­le­gory or a dy­ing man’s fever dream or an elab­o­rate joke or all of the above. Prob­a­bly the best way to re­ceive it is not to think too hard, to sim­ply note the al­lu­sions to St. Sebastian, the Camino de San­ti­ago and 13th-cen­tury St. Anthony. I took it as a na­ture doc­u­men­tary with ab­surd bits. (But maybe Kalei­do­scope pro­gram­mer Mark Thiede­man, whose short Nar­cis­sus screens im­me­di­ately be­fore The Or­nithol­o­gist, can do a bet­ter job at un­pack­ing the film.) The movies will screen at 4:50 p.m. Satur­day at Ar­genta Com­mu­nity Theater (ACT).

Univer­sity of Cen­tral Arkansas pro­fes­sor Jennifer Ger­ber’s fea­ture di­rec­to­rial de­but The Revival will screen at 5 p.m. Aug. 19 at ACT. I’ll just say this — it’s re­ally good.

And fol­low­ing The Revival at 7:15 p.m., Chicago-based writer-di­rec­tor Stephen Cone’s Princess Cyd closes the fes­ti­val. In­ter­est­ing and well-ob­served, it’s a sub­tle, nu­anced movie that fea­tures well-drawn por­traits of au­ton­o­mous women. And Jessie Pin­nick, who plays the 16-year-old ti­tle char­ac­ter, is a gen­uine rev­e­la­tion.

But I might have had the most fun with Cherry Pop, which I watched sort of by ac­ci­dent. (I thought I was watch­ing Princess Cyd and it took a day or two to re­al­ize my mis­take. This is what hap­pens when you overuse on­line screen­ing links.) Cherry Pop, which will screen at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 19 at South on Main, 1304 Main St., Lit­tle Rock, as part of the fes­ti­val’s Drag Queen Brunch which be­gins at 10 a.m., is a candy-col­ored campfest set in a small-town gay bar. It fea­tures the songs of Wendy Ho, a re­mark­ably funny (and bawdy) record­ing artist whose tunes pro­vide fod­der for var­i­ous drag queens. There’s noth­ing sub­tle or re­fined about this film, but it’s mad fun.

Visit kal2017.com, for more in­for­ma­tion and to buy tick­ets.

And later this month we’ve got the in­au­gu­ral Arkansas Cin­ema So­ci­ety events. We’ll take a look at them next week.

Paul Hamy stars as a nat­u­ral­ist lost in the wilds of north­ern Por­tu­gal in Joao Pe­dro Ro­drigues’ The Or­nithol­o­gist, which screens this weekend as part of the third an­nual Kalei­do­scope Film Fes­ti­val.

Nov­el­ist Mi­randa Ruth (Re­becca Spence) and her way­ward niece Cyd Lough­lin (Jessie Pin­nick) bond in Stephen Cone’s nat­u­ral­is­tic com­ing-of-age drama Princess Cyd, the clos­ing night film at this year’s Kalei­do­scope Film Fes­ti­val.

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