A Catch Up With Cornerhouse

Monday 1 August 2011

Written by Bren O’Callaghan

Hola Pride followers, I’ve been asked to write a guest post for you from the cultural castle that is Cornerhouse – Manchester’s international centre for contemporary visual art and independent film.

Many of you will, like me, have spied your first bare breasts, waxed chests, front bottoms and nudie rear posteriors on film as part of our eclectic world-cinema screenings. I blame the French particularly for corrupting this lapsed Catholic altar boy.

Years after sneaking into Cinema 1 to watch foreigners shout, snog and drive around on mopeds (without seatbelts!), I find myself employed here as Visual Arts Programme Manager and inhaling the Bisto kids burger-whiff from the meat ‘n milkshakes emporium next door. I now offer you my guidance on what to look out for during the run-up to Pride weekend to whet your appetite accordingly.

Although the BFI London Gay & Lesbian Film Festival have had to abandon their popular UK tour of selected features due to well publicised budget cuts, Peccadillo Pictures – specialists in LGBT movies from all over the globe – have stepped in to provide a strong alternative selection. We’ve a choice of four titles including one scandalous classic, encompassing historical bodice rippers (well, slowly unpicking, those laces can be devilish to undo once knotted) to edgy British drama. It almost goes without saying that the French have upped the sauce quotient with my personal favourite, Man At Bath: stylised, cinema verite starring gay male porn star Francois Sagat (star of Bruce La Bruce’s LA Zombie).

We also sell volcanic cupcakes rolled in glitter. I ask you, what more do you want?

Sea Purple

Based on a true story, Sea Purple (so named after a resourceful fish that changes sex to mate) treads a similar path to Sarah Water’s Tipping The Velvet, combining period drama with forbidden female desire. Angela, the daughter of a tyrannical quarry boss in 19th Century Sicily, pines for her best friend Anna – forced to leave for the mainland with her family, the women at the mercy of their masters. Years later the two are reunited, only for their naïve attachment to have grown into not simply longing but love. Set against an impassioned and melodramatic backdrop, this is a story of true nature over nurture, aligning itself with the mutilated cliffs that the islanders carve for personal profit and short term gain; a stoic, barren yet beautiful landscape exempt from the petty moral coda of men.

  • Wed 17 Aug 20.30, Cert. 15

Taxi Zum Klo

Decried as an X-rated abomination upon original release in 1980, this fictionalised tale of writer, director and lead actor Frank Ripploh was based almost exclusively upon his own exploits, going so far as to pair him with a former lover, Bernd Broaderup, documenting their break-up borne of Ripploh’s sexual compulsion. The literal translation, ‘Taxi to the Toilet’, relates to a scene in which Frank leaves a meter running and driver waiting while he dashes across pre-AIDS Berlin, scouring hook-up spots for further conquests. Explicit it most certainly is, not simply in terms of actual sex on film (far from idealised as pale, pimpled bottoms rise and fall from focus), but in the depiction of one man’s everyday attempt at wringing comfort from his unambiguously ordinary existence.

  • Wed 17 Aug 13.30, Cert 18 / Contains very strong sex and sex references
  • Sun 14 Aug, 12.00 + post screening discussion with Andrew Moor, Reader in Cinema History in the English Dept at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Man At Bath

Despite the golden carrot of French gay male porn star Francois Saguette dangling from the screen, this is so much more than a film about buns tight enough to crack a walnut with one clench: instead, Saguette’s role as Emmanuel is a striking yet boorish figure, his stunning physique more handicap than bonus as he lurches from one encounter to the next, an empty-headed sex addict lacking basic self-awareness. When his boyfriend Omar demands he leaves their apartment before he returns from a trip to New York, the narrative splits to depict their opposing experience in the days that follow - using an inventive eye-view verite technique for Omar, paired with a languid, bed-bound voyeurism to capture Emmanuel’s ennui. A fresh, experimental swansong to a relationship that has reached its best-by date.

  • Thu 11 Aug 20.40, Cert. 18 / Contains sex

Break My Fall

If music be the food of love, then the downbeat, indie-punk soundtrack populated by new British bands that underscores this slick debut by director Kamchi Wichmann waves a burning red flag from the outset. Coming across as an Anglo-interpretation of Gregg Araki’s nihilistic teen nightmares (part Skins, part Grange Hill), Lesbian couple Liza and Sally drift from bed to band practice, barely managing to scrape a living, dining at greasy spoons and puking into piled-high kitchen sinks as their hedonism spirals out of control. Flashes of violence, a lack of purpose and psychological self-harm point toward a dim resolution, but Wichmann’s adept delivery and lo-fi style ensures that it never quite degenerates into senseless whinging. Kat Redstone as Liza is particularly impressive as the androgynous cornerstone to this upstart ensemble piece.

  • Tue 09 Aug 18.20, Cert. 18 + post screening discussion with Director Kamchi Wichmann

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