I went to the Castro Theater a few weeks ago for the press conference announcing this year's queer film festival in San Francisco. The conference consisted, as it always does, of the organizers standing at a podium rattling off numbers of films in categories and non-stop use of the qualifier "fantastic" to describe every title. The food, however, was surprisingly good, not limited to bagels and coffee, arranged on tables on the mezzanine level of the venerable Art Deco movie palace.
Festival director Jennifer Morris, exuding macha charisma in a tie, was in a huddle near the entrance with Jenni Olson, who once co-curated the festival. Olson, an archival-print maven, gushed about her own contribution to this year's line-up, the 1958 remake of "Mädchen in Uniform," so that was first on my wish list when I filled out my dvd screener request form.
I'd come to the Castro not for the food or the blah blah, but the 10:30 am screening of a BBC docudrama, "The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister." A friend had alerted me to the existence of this formidable, long-hidden-from-view, British land-owning butch daddy diarist from the Jane Austen period and I returned the favor by inviting her to this feature-length evocation of her life and loves. We were not entirely disappointed.
British thespians Anna Madeley and Maxine Peake as Regency dykes on a hike.
"Anne Lister" is a solid Masterpiece Theatery, meaning sets and costumes and small period details are spot on, the acting is uniformly excellent, and the dramatic structure savvy. This is a fun movie wrapped around a long overdue herstory lesson. Must see to believe. A slightly annoying but lively documentary, "The Real Anne Lister," fills in the blanks of how a 200-year-old personal diary twice as long as Samuel Pepys' was kept under wraps until about 20 years ago. Should see.
A few days later an envelope arrived in the mail containing the dvd of "Mädchen." I'd seen the original 1931 film, also German, and trembled at its depiction of illicit lesbian crushes in a boarding school, and wept at its tragic conclusion. The Cold War version is, well, cold, and except for an inspired performance by a young Romi Schneider, devoid of romance, maybe because it's trying to show how West Germans had moved on from their Prussian-slash-Nazi past. But it does show a lot of young