By Toby Ashraf, Austin Dale, Peter Knegt, Matthew Hammett Knott, Sophie Smith, Oliver Skinner and Erin Whitney | Indiewire December 6, 2013 at 12:43PM
Like pretty much every major festival this year, Sundance had an incredible amount of quality LGBT film, including the aforementioned likes of "Kill Your Darlings," "Interior. Leather Bar," "Valentine Road" and "God Loves Uganda." But for me, Yen Tan’s quiet, moving "Pit Stop" was the ultimate highlight. The film -- which hasn't quite gotten the attention it deserved since debuting in Park City (though it did just get a best first screenplay nomination at the Indie Spirits) -- 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," "Pit Stop" has a sincerity that creeps up on you and will linger in your mind long after the credits roll. [Peter Knegt]
"Stranger By The Lake"
Some films are simply revelations, and Alain Guiraudie's "Stranger By the Lake" definitely belongs in that category for me. Not only did the film -- which premiered at Cannes in May before hitting essentially every major festival (it begins its theatrical run in the US this January) -- make a lot straight people very familiar with the phenomenon of outdoor cruising, but it also got a lot of general praise and attention for a film that is so uncompromisingly and explicitly gay. It’s in fact one the purest filmic translations of a gay experience (not every gay’s experience, mind you) that I have seen in a long time and it’s by far the most artistic approach to something so subcultural. The complete absence of women, the stress on non-verbal language, the unwritten rules of a sexualized and somewhat colonized space and the idea of danger in all that -- it all seemed very familiar. Gay sex as an everyday routine with the everyday world left behind at the car park. A beautiful boy disappears, a new one will come soon. Such a perfect day, and when it gets dark, we go home... or die. [Toby Ashraf]
Xavier Dolan's Big Year.
It nearly takes a suspension of disbelief to comprehend that Xavier Dolan's acclaimed 2009 debut "I Killed My Mother" and 2012's tale of star-crossed lovers "Laurence Anyways" both finally hit the United States just months before his latest "Tom at the Farm" made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival. The latter marked Dolan's first foray into genre filmmaking takes a trip down the road into the secluded Quebec countryside where the grieving titular character (played by Dolan himself) must confront his recently deceased boyfriend's mother Agathe (Lise Roy) and brother Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), the latter whom will go to sadomasochistic lengths to keep Tom's mouth shut and maintain the facade that his sibling was solely heterosexual. Tom's visit develops into a case of Stockholm syndrome rampant with homoeroticism wherein he finds himself unable to leave the farm whose strands of wheat have seemed to become one with his golden locks. Classically Québécois combined with the refinement of the American masters, "Tom" has been lauded by some critics as being a step forward in Dolan's career. I personally fail to see where maturity might've lacked in his previous efforts, although sure, "Tom" doesn't contain any slowmo or Swedish pop. Yet the playfulness is as present here as in the phantasms of his other three films, perhaps best exemplified in a moment that shows Tom and Francis snort coke together before doing the tango in a barn, a scene which brilliantly recalls Richard Gere and J.Lo doing much the same in 2004's "Shall We Dance?" The picture's success is much due to this repressed chemistry between the male leads: Cardinal plays the token hot schoolyard bully while Dolan is the pensive victim mad at and for him. As their violent relationship spirals out of control and the farmland descends into a nightmarescape, the thriller foregrounds the true underlying darkness, which as it reads in the backside synopsis of Bouchard's play, that "gay men must often learn to lie before they learn how to love." [Oliver Skinner]