The Miami International Film Festival (MIFF), unspooling March 7 to 16 at various theaters, offers moviegoers the opportunity to screen several LGBT shorts, features, and documentaries. The festival also includes a tribute to actor-director John Turturro, who will receive the festival’s Career Achievement Award after a screening of his latest film, “Fading Gigolo.” (March 9, 7 p.m., at the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center).
MIFF’s opening night selection stars the legendary Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer as the title characters in “Elsa & Fred.” (March 7, 7 p.m. at the Olympia Theater).This comedy-drama is the American remake of a popular 2005 Argentina/Spain co-production about two octogenarian neighbors who develop a relationship that just might be love.
However, more adventurous cinephiles may want to check out the queer Brazilian film, “Tattoo”at the Coral Gables Cinema that same night at 7 p.m. (“Tattoo” has encore presentations March 9 at 2 p.m. at the O Cinema, and March 16 at 1:15 p.m. at the Paragon Grove). Written and directed by Hilton Lacerda, this period film, set in 1976, features a theater troupe headed by Clécio (Irandhir Santos), a charismatic gay man who uses mockery as a weapon. Clécio and his cast—which include the flamboyant Paulete (Rodrigo García)—perform catchy songs, like one on butts (complete with a chorus line of naked examples), which catches the attention of the censors. A subplot involves Arlindo (Jesuita Barbosa), a young soldier, being taunted in the barracks and accused of being “a fag.” Arlindo is Paulete’s brother-in-law, and when he attends a show at the nightclub, he hears Clécio sing and falls under his spell. A sequence in which the two men dance, kiss, and make passionate love is undeniably erotic, and the highlight of “Tattoo.”
Lacerda focuses more on atmosphere and attitude than he does on plot. The film offers some minor interpersonal drama when Clécio gets jealous of Arlindo coupling up with another guy, or when Clécio gives Paulete a reality check. But mostly “Tattoo”celebrates the freedom of performance and self-expression, especially in the face of adversity.
Another film depicting artists seeking freedom is the Italian dramady, “Those Happy Years”(March 9, 1 p.m., Regal South Beach; March 16, 2:15 p.m., Paragon Grove). Set in 1974, Guido (Kim Rossi Stuart) is a Roman artist whose nude painting performance piece gets lousy reviews, sending him into a funk. His wife Serena (Micaela Ramazzotti) is frustrated by his selfish behavior, and suspects he is having an affair with his models (which he is). When Guido’s friend Helke (Martina Gedeck) invites Serena to a French feminist commune, Serena reluctantly agrees. But once there, she enjoys a sense of freedom for the first time in her life. Serena skips having a breakdown, and instead has a breakthrough, beginning a passionate affair with Helke. “Those Happy Years”is an engaging, beautifully filmed and acted drama about finding one’s self, and discovering what is important in one’s life. That the story is told from the couple’s oldest son’s perspective (looking back on “those happy years”) adds a layer of poignancy to the film.
A short queer film of note is out writer/director Rodrigo Bellott’sshort film, “Unicorn.”(Part of the Papi Shorts Program II, March 9, 7:15 pm, Regal South Beach) This 30-minute drama, inspired by a true story, opens with a Bolivian Bold News report about Isaac (Douglas Porter), a distractingly handsome twenty-something Mennonite who was held captive in a box by his parents for various transgressions. Isaac works on a farm, but he is not connected to his community. He plans to escape, and not just because he longs for an attractive guy (Eric Robles) he spies in town. Tender, poetic and mostly wordless—Isaac does not speak Spanish—Bellott sensitively tells this short story though Isaac’s expressions and experiences. There is some palpable sexual tension between him and Robles, too. Most significant, though is how Bellott contrasts the expectations each young man’s family makes on them—which is what drives them to keep their sexuality a secret.
Secretive sex is also part of “Young & Beautiful,”(March 9, 6:30 p.m., Regal South Beach; March 16, 6:45 p.m., Regal South Beach), the latest film from prolific out filmmaker François Ozon. This exquisitely filmed drama chronicles a year in the life of 17-year-old Isabelle (Marine Vacth) after she loses her virginity at the beach one summer. Returning to high school in Paris, Isabelle works as a prostitute on the sly. “Young & Beautiful” is hypnotic because Ozon maintains a cool, detached perspective towards Isabelle’s activities, which become increasingly more complicated and dangerous. Why Isabelle behaves so provocatively is at the heart—and the mystery—of the film. Vacth gives an incredibly assured performance, and her body language is particularly terrific. Ozon films both her and her story beautifully.
The Miami International Film Festival. For tickets and more information, visit MiamiFilmFestival.com.