This assortment of films is a very mixed bag. We kick off with a prelude by Shana Moulton that features as its main aural hook an uncomfortably catchy gospel version of ‘Incy Wincy Spider’. As with most of the films on display here, there’s no plot to speak of: two cleanly acephalous men in pink robes use their fingers to mime a spider climbing up a spout. While this could conceivably symbolise the slow but steady ascent of gay rights and liberties, the grand meaning behind a large slab of marble and a disintegrating quilt are harder to discern. And why is everything superimposed over a stock photo of a nebula?
Surprisingly, after a few unrelated films, the headless doctors return, using various oddly shaped and apparently useless implements to run tracks down a woman’s back. Since her back is ostensibly plasticine, it ends up looking like an extra-terrestrial landscape well traversed by robots, and the image is interesting enough until she transforms into a large, wobbling, oleaginous ear. Why? Edginess, one might guess; but this ‘headless men’ strand of the series fails to make any sort of meaningful emotional or intellectual engagement with anything.
The best of the short films is the second: Brazilian director João Vieira Torres’s Ici, Là-bas et Lisboa, in which slowly shifting monochrome outlines make themselves visible in their own time and in their own ways. These outlines are various parts of the human body, which, seen up close, form mysterious and inscrutable landscapes. The narrator, presumably the director, speaks of isolation – existential, sexual and ethnic – and frames the human body as a different world both spiritually and existentially while rooting us in reality with the sounds of seagulls and cars. This short film is akin to Malick’s work in its intent, Lynch’s in its cinematography, and Weerasethakul’s in its atmosphere; it is a stirring and imaginative piece of work.
Another film takes excerpts from an old-fashioned cartoon, reminiscent of the kind of cinema DEFA was pumping out in 1950s and ’60s East Germany, and subjects them to visual distortion. It seems to be one of the few films that actually has a point to make: about many mainstream animations’ pernicious distortion of norms of beauty and feminism, and about how real feminist movie-making would not submit to such vacuous, nefarious norms. It’s an angry film, and worth seeing, but unless I’m mistaken, the title and credits of the film were not displayed.
Jennifer Chan’s P.A.U.L. is by far the most bizarre film being screened at this, or possibly any, festival. (Its content defies description, and so a link to the video is necessary.) Deliberately perverse and disjointed, it’s a celebration of non-conformity in all (or an odd array of) its forms; it’s anarchic, and it’s hilarious.
The other films are Filipe Afonso’s 2P2R, which is interracial gay porn masquerading as serious art by way of a blue filter; and Holy Trannity, a curio of tripartite trippiness in which a transvestite/transgender/cross-dresser delivers witty screeds in front of a palpitating, hyper-colourful angular background. All in all, Queer Sci-Fi II is a mixed bag: a couple of interesting and probing works and an energetic video collage sit uncomfortably alongside some screamingly bad filmmaking.