After a few days of watching so many films at Outfest LA, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and overloaded. But the pair of films I’m reviewing today felt so fresh, that I feel almost as rejuvenated as when soaking in a tub with one of those fantastic, fizzy, creamy Lush Bath Bombs!
Make Me Famous ★★★★
Great cinema, to me, gives voice to the voiceless, to those who might not ever have had any other way to be heard. In Brian Vincent’s remarkable documentary, he sweepingly takes us through the New York art world of the 1980s, which brought us such stars as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and David Wojnarowicz. For every supernova, however, there were also a multitude of flameouts. Edward Brzezinski, a handsome, talented gay portrait artist who seemed to annoy the glitterati with his desperate attempts to achieve fame and fortune, never achieved the success of his peers, descending into alcoholism and dying far too young.
Vincent, who appears on camera Nick Broomfield style, brings along a couple of art denizens to sleuth out what happened to Brzezinski, lending the final act a bumbling Only Murders In The Building mystery sheen. What elevates what could have been a fairly standard look at an unsung artist are the sea of preening, pretentious, outrageous, colorful yet casually cruel people from the art scene, who gossip relentlessly about our subject. David McDermott and Patti Astor, in particular, speak about Edward as if he were a cartoon character, filled with condescending remarks and truly vicious observations. I always thought film, fashion, books and music were rough businesses, but they’ve got nothing compared to the bitchy people who populate the art scene. Trampling on a person when they’re down seems to be the status quo. This film says more about them than it does about the artist, which, while depressing, makes for a truly compelling ride. They may be a blast to watch, but I never ever ever EVER want to know any of them personally! Ultimately oddly touching, Make Me Famous feels like a tribute to the underdogs as told by the bullies.
Make Me Famous screened in person at the 40th Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival on
Sunday, July 17th and is streaming in Australia at Revelation Perth International Film Festival until July 27th. Find out more at the film’s official website.
Three Headed Beast ★★★★
I’ve been jumping up and down on my couch for the past 10 minutes, and not in a creepy Tom Cruise On Oprah way. No, my creepy behavior results from having seen something totally original at Outfest LA today. Fernando Andrés and Tyler Rugh’s Three Headed Beast tells the story of three people, a man, a woman, and the younger man who develops a relationship with the two of them. We’ve seen stories of polyamory and bisexuality before, but not like this. The filmmakers have chosen to present their film with no on-camera dialogue, except for one crucial sequence about halfway through. Text messages and the occasional podcast fill in some of the communication gaps, but for the most part, this is a wonderfully visual, and ultimately emotionally satisfying experience. Sure, silent films have existed for over a century, but these characters don’t do a lot of indicating the way silent stars did long ago.
Cody Shook stars as Alex, a 23-year-old Texan who has been having sex with Peter (Jacob Schatz), a landscaper who has been with his partner Nina (Dani Hurtado) for eight years, four of which have been open. The film follows all three, sometimes in split screen, other times in well-wrought juxtapositions of boredom versus hot sex. That midway point, however, truly exposes the fraught dynamics, forcing all three characters to figure out the best path forward.
Fernando Andrés also serves as cinematographer and editor, supporting his and Rugh’s direction with some stunning shots and concise storytelling. One could see how easily this type of experimental film could tip over into sheer boredom, but I was seduced by the earthy performances and visual command. Hurtado in particular delivers a character whose jealousy and hurt come through beautifully. I’d shout about this from the rooftops, but in keeping with this film’s unique approach, I’ll gesture instead.
By Glenn Gaylord, Senior Film Critic
Three Headed Beast screened in person at the 40th Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival on Tuesday, July 19th and is available to stream online until 8am PT on Thursday July 21st 2022
The 40th anniversary Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival runs in person and online until Sunday, July 24th 2022. For the full lineup and to purchase tickets head to OutfestLA.org