One of the most fabulous, transgressive people to ever almost cross into mainstream American culture is at the heart of Jeffrey Schwarz's new documentary, "I Am Divine." Framed around the 1988 death of then 42-year-old Harris Glenn Milstead -- the man behind Divine -- it is mostly a loving, hilarious (nobody provides better on-camera energy than John Waters) and complex tribute to a man and his female alter-ego, both of whom lived their lives to the fullest. It takes us from Milstead's challenged Baltimore upbringing as an overweight kid (where he grew up just blocks from Waters, though the two didn't cross paths until they were both 17) to the night he died in his sleep ("of happiness," friend and manager Bernard Jay says in the film). The film must be watched by anyone who thinks, say, Lady Gaga is transgressive. Because Mother Monster has nothing on who the film rightfully proclaims "the Queen Mother of us all."
”In The Name Of” (directed by Malgorzata Szumowksa)
Winner of the Teddy Award for best LGBT narrative film at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, Malgorzata Szumowksa’s Polish drama "In the Name Of" sensitively approaches the central character of a gay priest. Father Adam (Andrzej Chyra, in a rather mesmerizing performance) is the pastor of a tiny parish in the middle of the Polish countryside. As drama begins to surround Father Adam, "In The Name Of…" -- which is the opening night film of Inside Out – develops into a thoughtful, distinctive portrait of a truly devout man struggling to come to terms with himself (notably after developing a relationship with a Jesus lookalike youth at the center for difficult boys he devotes time to). And though the film is largely a serious affair, look out for the film’s doozy of a sole comic scene, in which Adam gets ridiculously drunk and dances with a portrait of Pope Benedict XVI.
"Interior. Leather Bar." (directed by Travis Mathews and James Franco)
Actor-director-playwright-academic-etc. James Franco has collaborated with up-and-coming queer filmmaker Travis Mathews for this film that explores the idea of the two of them remaking the 40 minutes of explicit S&M material allegedly cut from William Friedkin's controversial 1980 film "Cruising" to avoid an X-rating. While that in itself is a worthwhile concept for a film (and a part of "Interior. Leather Bar." is indeed a hardcore recreation of just that), the film extends well beyond it to offer footage -- perhaps real, perhaps not -- of Franco, Mathews and their cast and crew as they attempt to pull off the feat. The result is a discussion of representations of queer sex in both Hollywood and society in general that won raves when it debuted at Sundance in January. Say what you want about Mr. Franco, but try not to admire his attempt at utilize his celebrity to push certain boundaries in this film.
Yen Tan’s quiet, moving "Pit Stop" made its world premiere at Sundance back in January, where it was largely overshadowed by more name-heavy (though also very good) queer flicks like the aforementioned James Franco co-directed "Interior. Leather Bar." and David Sedaris adaptation "C.O.G." The film depicts a series of characters living in small-town Texas, among them two lost gay men in their mid-30s (Bill Heck and Marcus DeAnda). Similar in tone to 2011's queer cinema breakout "Weekend" (a staple on this circuit two years ago), "Pit Stop" has a sincerity that creeps up on you and will linger in your mind long after the credits roll.