I hurt my back last week while shoveling snow, so I have been taking advantage of some forced downtime, and having a week-long lesbian film fest, as one does.
Better than Chocolate: Very sweet Canadian comedy which could have been rather twee, but its earnestness won out. Story of a young woman who works at a lesbian book store, and has her life complicated by two simultaneous events. She meets and falls for a free-spirited traveling painter - and her divorcing mother and younger brother come to town to stay with her. Naturally, hijinx ensue. She and her friend rent the apartment of a sex educator/activist who has sex toys everywhere. And she struggles to come out to her inhibited and controlling mother. It sounded cliched to me but IMO works because of the balance of interesting characters and plot threads. Some great acting especially from Karyn Dwyer as the lead, Maggie; and Peter Outerbridge as her friend the struggling trans-woman Judy. Casting a non-lesbian and cis-male might be controversial from an opportunity/representation perspective, but they seem 100% committed and do a great job here.
Bound: The classic Wachowski neo-noir which everybody else has probably seen years (decades?) ago. The main characters are two women who decide to trust in each other, but this frames a taught locked-room crime story of obsession and greed. One woman helps to emancipate another as the violent men around her become unhinged over money. Mostly a cat-and-mouse game between Jennifer Tilly's and Joe Pantoliano's characters. I like how it depicted that people's instincts for greed and control can be subverted because of their predictability. Cameo by Susie Bright, who was also sex-scene consultant.
Kissing Jessica Stein: Probably the closest thing to a traditional romantic comedy I have watched. Neurotic New Yorker struggles to accept herself or the love of others and starts to grow out of it as she unexpectedly finds herself in a relationship with another woman. And then tries to figure out how to reconcile a same-sex relationship with her identity, and integrate this with her personal, work, and family life with varying degrees of success. Some people probably dislike that (spoilers!) the two women do not end up happily ever after, and others that both women are bisexual so it is not really committed to a lesbian identity. But it benefits from witty dialogue which was written by the two lead actresses, solid acting, and was nostalgic for me to see people dating in the same neighborhood where I was at the time.
Female Perversions: Whaaaat? It sounds so damn tawdry! But then I saw that it stars Tilda Swinton, so I knew that I had to see it. It tells the story of an attorney who is quite domineering and goal-oriented, and being interviewed for possible appointment as a judge. But her personal life is a mess of needy superficial sexual relationships, alienation from her family and her kleptomaniac sister. It is a psychodrama of obsession, compulsion, repression, the effects of both internalizing and denying societal expectations of women. The story is shown with a detached, barely-coherent style where it is uncertain at first to know what insecurities are playing out in people's interactions, versus in their imaginations. Makes little pretense towards realism and uses symbols, dreams, and stylistic devices which I think make it amateurish in the best possible way. Even though the presentation was a bit flat at times, I found it artistically engaging as a story somebody had to get out of their head and realize with little concern for conventions or how it might be received. Although it was probably the farthest from the lesbian theme I had in mind (although Swinton does have some great same-sex sex scenes), it is so far my favorite for being unique and thwarting my expectations.