Pride month offers new films and classic re-releases for LGBTQ viewers to stream. Here is a rundown of what to watch.
Out gay filmmaker Alex Liu’s illuminating gem of a documentary, “A Sexplanation” (June 7 on TVOD), provides a series of empowering discussions about sex education. Liu wonders why can’t we teach, learn, and talk frankly about something that makes us feel good. To find out, he talks to friends, family members, and sexperts to get their thoughts about sex and sexuality. Liu’s sex positive approach — along with his curiosity — involve him interviewing everyone from Kinsey Institute professor to a PornHub representative about sex. Moreover, Liu participates himself, offering his own thoughts and experiences about consent, shame, bodies, and the awkwardness around sex. He even jerks off for science in one episode. “A Sexplanation” is both amusing and insightful as it ultimately explains why and how we need to talk more openly about sex to increase everyone’s comfort and pleasure.
“Passion in the Desert”
Out gay actor Ben Daniels delivers a sensational performance in “Passion in the Desert” (VOD and DVD June 7), Lavinia Currier’s striking 1997 adaptation of a Balzac novella. The film is set in 1798 Egypt, where Augustin (Daniels) is a cocky French soldier who has a series of setbacks in the desert — his troop is attacked, he and artist Jean-Michel Venture de Paradis (Michel Piccoli) get separated and lost, and Augustin runs into trouble in a Bedouin camp. Holing up in a canyon, he is protected by Simoom, a leopard. Man and animal soon bond, eating, playing, dancing(!) and even cuddling. Daniels, with his mascaraed blue eyes, is incredibly expressive; there is little dialogue. As Augustin gets jealous — shedding a tear of loneliness after Simoom meets another leopard — or sheds his clothes and “becomes” a leopard in a moment of madness, Daniels is hypnotic. “Passion in the Desert” is certainly an unusual film, and the violence towards animals depicted will be difficult for some viewers, but this largely underseen drama is worth a look.
This affectionate documentary (on Cable VOD and Digital HD June 7) is about the gay, all-male review (that includes one woman and a straight guy or two). Michael Phillis, who directs, and his partner, Rory Davis, who choreographs the routines, talk about how they celebrate gay and queer life experience and promote sex positivity though dance and burlesque. Phillis has particularly heartfelt discussions about how getting naked on stage and doing drag helped him to be more authentic. The documentary also features fabulous rehearsal and performance clips along with engaging profiles of the troupe’s members. This fun film will satisfy fans of the troupe and surely win over new admirers.
The newly restored print of the 1986 film, “Kamikaze Hearts,” (Kino Now June 14, VOD June 28) plays with truth and fiction as it chronicles the on- and off-screen relationship between two lesbian porn actresses, Mitch (Sharon Mitchell) and Tigr (Tigr). Mitch cannot stop performing, but that may be part of her allure. Tigr, who is bewitched by Mitch’s “desperate eroticism,” says she is in love with this “goddamn irresponsible gorgeous sleazy porno slut.” But there is trouble brewing between them. In one of the film’s most powerful scenes, Mitch and Tigr inject drugs. “Kamikaze Hearts” blurs the lines between art and life, fantasy and truth, as well as what is real and staged. The film is arguably most interesting during the porn shoot scenes because the performers claim to “act what they feel.” However, issues of control are raised as more than two actresses refuse to what an insidious producer, Gerald Greystone (Jerry Abrams), wants them to. Another scene features a discussion about how poorly women are treated in the industry they are “stuck in.” The candor, along with the considerable nudity, is what makes the gritty “Kamikaze Hearts” so revealing. Although this film is a bit shaggy in places, it remains potent 35 years later.
“Wildgood” (June 24, HULU) is Two-Spirit, non-binary Mi’kmaq writer/director Bretten Hannam’s fabulous take of brotherhood and belonging as Link (Phillip Lewitski), a gay teen, and his younger half-sibling, Travis (Avery Winters-Anthony), hit the road hoping to reunite with Link’s long-lost mother. Along the way, they meet Pasmay (Joshua Odjick), a Two-Spirit who guides them — and who develops romantic feelings for Link. “Wildhood” is a pretty standard issue road movie, where Link’s quest is as much as finding himself as it is for his mom, but the film is distinguished by its window on indigenous culture. There is a nice scene where Pasmay, who attends powwows, teaches Link how to dance. Another episode involves Smokey (Michael Greyeyes) taking Link to meet Mother Mary (John R. Sylliboy) to gather info on Link’s mother. There is a tender romance that develops between the young men — even Travis, who has one eye notices the sexual tension — but the young men also bond over their unhappy family situations; Pasmay is estranged for being queer. Hannam keeps the handsome, dyed-blonde Lewitski shirtless and angry for much of the film, and the actor exudes angst and energy, but Odjick is the standout, giving a poignant and largely internal performance that expresses Pasmay’s loneliness and longing. “Wildhood” is an uplifting drama about finding love and family.
The Criterion Channel is offering a cornucopia of queer films this month. There are tributes to both Judy Garland and out gay British director Terence Davies, as well as opportunities to see many queer classics. Out gay filmmaker John Greyson’s terrific AIDS musical, “Zero Patience,” will be available in addition to superb debuts including Hong Khaou’s tender film, “Lilting,” starring out gay actor Ben Whishaw; Ira Sachs’ sensational drama “The Delta;” Maryam Keshavarz’s outstanding Iranian romance, “Circumstance;” and Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher’s wonderful documentary, “The Gospel of Eureka,” among many other titles.