According to the British writer Christopher Booker, all films adhere to one of seven basic plots. But what would Booker make of Both, the story of a stunt double haunted by memories of her long-lost hermaphrodite brother? Lisset Barcellos’s startling film blurs sexual and cultural identities, as the bisexual protagonist negotiates the distance between her native Peru and America, land of opportunity and clitoridectomy. And what about the sunny French comedy Côte d’Azur, which treats a family’s sex-and-surprise-filled summer vacation as a bedroom farce? It’ll keep you guessing who’s gay and who’s not until the final reel.
To be sure, there’s also room for more conventional fare in the 17th annual New York LGBT Film Festival’s ample catalog (e.g., Wilby Wonderful, a small-town quirk-fest only a Sandra Oh completist will love). But even the documentaries reside squarely outside the mainstream, challenging the most hardcore NewFest audience’s notions of acceptance. Intriguing, earnest, and ultimately heartbreaking, Susan Kaplan’s Three of Hearts tracks the ups and downs—eight years’ worth—of a three-person relationship, the most radical aspect of which is its ordinary resemblance to any other marriage. A drag-to-riches story, The Lady in Question Is Charles Busch traces the eponymous performer’s rise from fringe-theater provocateur to Tony-nominated playwright and Hollywood actor. Finally, he’s ready for his close-up.
Other drag divas don’t fare as well. A travelogue as cheap and tawdry as its subjects, Kiki & Herb on the Rocks follows the boozy chantoozie and her accompanist-enabler on a recent London engagement, not in the West End as they expected, but on a seedy riverboat. Their disappointment mirrors our own as the film sags like Kiki’s falsies, but we still look forward to the next stop on their downward spiral.