Monday, October 28, 2019

NewFest 2019: Quick on Two Docs

Queer Japan (dir. Graham Kolbeins) -- I'm glad that one of the subjects documented in the new doc Queer Japan brings up the fact that the filmmakers have adopted a bit of an outsider-looking-in approach to documenting the LGBT scene in that country -- I don't mind outsiders looking in, I am after all one of them. And I appreciated the helpful translation of Japanese slang and phrases regarding the endless categories of international queer life, from plain ol' cocksuckers down to the rubber-suited doggy set. It's just the doc does at times skirt dangerously close at times, even if lovingly and appreciatively, towards the othering of Japanese Culture -- the Westernized notion of Japan as a weird wacky place full of crazy fetishes, tentacles and teen girl panties in vending machines and the like. 

Queer Japan doesn't really have that conversation in depth but it does bring it up at least. Mostly it wants to act as a 101 on what it's like to be LGBT in that country, and as such it's entertaining and enlightening -- the friction between keeping one's private life behind closed doors and openly expressing one's sexuality or gender if it at all varies from their rigid living structures is thoroughly mapped out, and with all the vibrancy of the rainbow. From the famed erotic manga artist Gengoroh Tagame (MNPP loves some Tagame, whose work is pictured to the right) to the country's first openly trans politician, to the pain enthusiast who only shows up for free nights and everything in between, Queer Japan paints a vivid and captivating portrait of a country that can seem alien from an ignorant distance but is really, on the ground, just folks being just folks like you and me. One interviewee points out we've all got one fetish, even if its the straightest sex imaginable, and that's about the gist of it. (Queer Japan screens this afternoon at NewFest and it looks like there are still tickets; it also just got picked up by Altered Innocence for release.)

Leonard Soloway's Broadway (dir. Jeff Wolk) -- Speaking of outsiders looking in, as the exact opposite of a musical theater enthusiast I found myself oft adrift in a foreign country watching this lively doc of the famed Broadway producer Leonard Soloway, who's had his hands in 70 straight years of Great White Way business -- I know shows come and go so fast you miss a dozen if you don't pay attention but there were times where I thought I was watching an episode of the mockumentary series Documentary Now here, so plainly made up did some of the shows Soloway worked on seem to my unlearned eye. Still that's part of its fun -- it lets you peek into a world where the language is all its own and get a feel for its rhythms. Leonard Soloway's Broadway got rhythm. (LSB screens tonight at NewFest and there are tickets for it, as well. It's getting released in November.) 

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