In September, there are classic queer films, a second season of a series, as well as a horror film homage, in addition to a futuristic fantasy, and a documentary available to stream. Here is a rundown of what to watch.
Out gay filmmaker Derek Jarman’s 1986 feature, “Caravaggio,” (August 30 on MUBI) is arguably the director’s best film. Less a biopic of the painter than a tableau of episodes in the painter’s life, the story flashes back and forth in time as Caravaggio (Nigel Terry) lies on his deathbed. Early on, he screams out the name “Ranuccio” (Sean Bean), who is revealed to be a model who inspired the artist, and whom the artist loved, perhaps unrequitedly. At one point, after Ranuccio knifes Caravaggio, the men become bloodbrothers, and their fragile relationship — along with that of Ranuccio’s lover Lena (Tilda Swinton, Jarman’s muse, in her film debut) — forms much of the film’s drama.
Other narratives emerge, such as Caravaggio’s early work as a painter, and his relationship with the Cardinal del Monte (Michael Gough), who sponsored his work. These scenes provide Jarman with opportunities to present his impressions of Caravaggio’s homosexuality, and the corruption of the church. Like most of Jarman’s work, “Caravaggio” is more concerned with mood and atmosphere than details like narrative and realism. Jarman’s painterly use of light and mirrors creates fabulous imagery, and the representations of the artist’s paintings — a self-portrait as Bacchus — are beautifully rendered. There are also fabulous period costumes by Sandy Powell. The film also includes various anachronistic moments, such as one of a critic typing his review of the artist’s work in his bathtub. These scenes amuse rather than perplex, but “Caravaggio” astonishes.
After Blue (Dirty Paradise)
“After Blue (Dirty Paradise),” out August 30 on VOD, is the brainchild of writer/director Bertrand Mandico (“The Wild Boys”). It is stylish and inventive, but also full of pretension. Set on another planet populated only by women, and featuring tentacled aliens, guns named Gucci and Chanel, and numerous nude women and some same-sex kissing, the film is a queer and heady mix of genres. It is also filmed in a dazzling color palette, with supernatural and superimposed images that create a palpable fantasy atmosphere.
The plot, however, is quite thin for a two-hour-plus feature. Teenager Roxy (Paula-Luna Breitenfelder) and three of her friends discover Katarzyna Buszowska aka Kate Bush (Agata Buzek) buried up to her head in the sand. When Roxy unearths the otherworldly Kate Bush—she has a third eye positioned above her vagina—she is granted three wishes. One of them is that her friends all die (they do; but they come back from time to time). However, Kate Bush is evil and Roxy’s mother, Zora (Elina Löwensohn), a hairdresser — she cuts and shaves all the women’s hairy necks — has been tasked with killing her. And so, mother and daughter set off into the mountains, where they meet Sternberg (Vimala Pons) who assists them, and flirts with Zora, most notably and sexily in a hot tub. As the film progresses, Kate Bush is dead, or she isn’t; much of the last act revolves around that plot point. But given that Kate Bush has been all the rage this summer, “After Blue” should generate some interest for the curious, despite having nothing to do with the singer, save her name.
Available via OVID on September 16 is a documentary that seems fascinated with its subject, Eva, a bisexual sex worker in Berlin. Director Pia Hellenthal poses Eva artfully in various tableaus — taking naked selfies, taking a shower or bath, preparing a needle for drug use, or in bed with various guys (and the occasional girl), and these scenes are filmed in a voyeuristic style. Dramatically, “Searching Eva” is most interesting when the 25-year-old talks about the trap of trying to be or do something, providing some insight into her existential quarter-life crisis. But why she behaves the way she does remains largely unclear. She is inspiring to some of her followers — one talks about how Eva prompted her to act on a same-sex attraction — but she is also trolled in one frame, where copious messages of concern fill the screen. Is Hellenthal making a cautionary tale? Is she celebrating the freedom of a sex worker who can talk candidly about her life? How viewers respond to Eva will dictate their appreciation of this intriguing documentary.
“Here Comes Your Man 2”
Out September 13 on VOD is the second season of this modest series about a group of struggling friends in Los Angeles. The film opens with Aaron (Jason Alan Clark) in bed with Julio (Alessandro De Gennaro). Their relationship consists mostly of hooking up, but both start to wonder if it can be more. One of the best scenes has them going on an actual date and getting to know one another; Julio has a nice speech about a past relationship. (De Gennaro is the standout in the ensemble cast). Meanwhile, Aaron’s ex, Jordan (Calvin Picou) is in Omaha, Nebraska, laboring to record songs he has written. Also frustrated is Aaron’s friend, Dustin (Matthew Namik), who is featured in a painful subplot involving him going to Las Vegas to finally meet a guy he has been connecting with online. As this storyline unfolds, it holds no surprises, and Dustin’s emotional vulnerability is expressed in a series of rambling and tiresome voice mails. Lastly, Cassie (Noelle Miller), is an actress whose is flailing in her career, but gets some unexpected support from Malcolm (Clay von Carlowitz), her boyfriend. “Here Comes Your Man 2” is pretty low-stakes — Aaron and Julio are the most engaging couple — but it remains amiable.
The Spanish import, “Cut!” (September 27 on VOD), has writer/director Marc Ferrer staring as Marcos, a queer filmmaker who makes giallo movies. He offers a drag queen at a nightclub a part as the first victim in his newest production, but she is quickly murdered. When someone else involved with Marcos’ film is killed, it may not be a coincidence. The police have no leads, but there are suspects aplenty, including two actors hoping to land a part in Marcos’ film. “Cut!” is a meta-movie, with several discussions of the bad acting and references to giallo master Dario Argento as well as Rainer Werner Fassbinder. For viewers who can appreciate the crude, low-budget nature of Ferrer’s film — with violence that is more stylized than scary, and sex that is more suggested than shown — this affectionate homage has its charms.