“London is the place for me” goes the song, and should you attend Frameline 42, this year’s San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival, you might also spend some time there. Running from Thursday, June 14 through Sunday, June 24, the festival plants its East Bay flag at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood over the coming weekend with a generous selection of ten films — including two set in the aforementioned Big Smoke.
Screening at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 17, Postcards from London stars newcomer Harris Dickinson as Jim, an Essex lad lured, like many before him, from the flocked wallpaper suburbs to the gold-paved streets of London. Discovering the streets of the city aren’t quite as he’d imagined they’d be — for one thing, there are far too many people living in cardboard boxes — Jim finds himself adopted by the Raconteurs, a quartet of Soho rent boys as knowledgeable of the fine arts as they are of the finer points of prostitution.
Director Steve McLean imagines Soho as a maze of phantasmagoric, neon-lit alleyways modeled after the old Berwick Street passage and its iconic (and now sadly gone) landmark, the Raymond Revue Bar. It’s a hyper-stylized version of the mythic Soho of yesteryear, a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood once populated primarily by lounge lizards, artists and models, and ladies and gentlemen of the night. Heavily informed by the films of Derek Jarman — most notably, Caravaggio, and to a lesser extent Jubilee — Postcards from London is hugely engaging and a film that deserves to be more than a film festival footnote.
‘Anchor and Hope’
Carlos Marquet-Marcet’s Anchor and Hope (screening at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 21) takes place in a different — but equally interesting — part of the city: north London’s bucolic Regent’s Canal, a waterway lined with colorful barges occupied by city dwellers looking for a home slightly off the beaten path. Beginning with a long tracking shot of Islington Tunnel, the film focuses on Kat (Natalia Tena) and Eva (Oona Chaplin, granddaughter of Charlie), a couple looking for something or someone to fill the void left by the recent death of their beloved cat Chorizo.
A surprise visit from Kat’s Spanish chum Roger (David Verdaguer) initially provides distraction, but Chorizo’s absence causes Eva’s long suppressed desire for a child to resurface. The waters of her otherwise contented relationship with Kat thus roiled, Eva finds herself reconsidering her long-term commitment.
Chaplin and Tena previously worked together on the television series Game of Thrones, and their comfort with each other is evident throughout. A well-written if ever-so-slightly overlong character study, Anchor and Hope also introduces audiences to the lively Verdaguer, whose puckish vitality engages the viewer whenever he’s on screen — which is often.
My interest in Snapshots (screening at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 20) was primarily piqued by the presence of cinema veteran Piper Laurie, and indeed she is the best thing about the film. Laurie’s career began way back in 1950 playing opposite Ronald Reagan in a slight romantic comedy entitled Louisa, but she’s probably best remembered today for her performance as Sissy Spacek’s monstrous mother in Brian de Palma’s Carrie (1977).
Laurie plays Rose, a feisty grandmother whose lifelong secret about a long-ago lesbian love affair is revealed during a fraught gathering with daughter Patty (Brooke Adams) and granddaughter Allison (Emily Baldoni). To be blunt, Jan Miller Corran and Katherine Cortez’s screenplay leaves something to be desired, with its early ‘60s flashback scenes burdened by a reliance on anachronistic language — a particular bugaboo of yours truly. Laurie, however, is Snapshot‘s saving grace, elevating it above the common indie herd.