Yes, We Cannes
BY Michael Giltz
May 27 2009 12:00 AM ET
China's Lou Ye scored an upset by winning the best screenplay award for Spring Fever, his convoluted tale of gay and bisexual love in contemporary China. Most critics found it yet another letdown from the once promising Lou. But queers will appreciate the glimpse into life in China for gays, complete with drag bars, punk clubs, and girlfriends and wives who do not take kindly to their men being on the down low. It includes copious amounts of male sex and plot twists that would make a soap opera hesitate. Still, the fact that Lou got the film made at all -- behind the backs of authorities, by the way -- is the most remarkable thing about it. He had been barred from making films for five years after delivering 2006's Summer Palace, another romance, which had the Tiananmen Square tragedy as a backdrop. As of the end of the festival, the authorities in China hadn't taken any steps to censor Lou again.
Other queer films at the fest included the solid "Orthodox Jews in love" story of Eyes Wide Open;Agora, a historical drama with feminist icon Hypatia persecuted by the early Christians; Precious, based on the novel by lesbian author Sapphire and fresh from its triumph at Sundance; Humpday. another Sundance success, in this case about two straight guys making gay porn; I Love You Phillip Morris, the Jim Carrey-Ewan McGregor romance that also made waves at Sundance; the Un Certain Regard winner Dogtooth, which has a bizarre concept and includes some modest queer content; the poorly received drama To Die Like a Man, another film with a tragic drag queen at its center (the cast did look fabulous at the film's premiere, though); a restored version of Visconti's Senso, which stars out actor Farley Granger in one of his best roles; the sexually fluid antics of The King of Escape, in which a middle-aged gay man falls for a 16-year-old girl; the brief threesome in the midst of Navidad; the market screening of Sister Smile, a French biopic about the Singing Nun, who apparently rejected the church and finally found brief happiness when she accepted her lesbian orientation (that freaked out priests in power almost as much as her song "The Golden Pill," an ode to contraception); and the delightfully goofy Belgian stop-motion animated feature A Town Called Panic, which shows the toy characters Cowboy, Indian, and Horse all living together in boisterous harmony.