MADAME X Feeling trumps camp in this feature from Indonesian director Lucky Kuswandi.
For many filmgoers, their exposure to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender cinema might be limited to a midnight screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. This kind of high camp, deliberately outrageous, genre-spoofing extravaganza has been in decline in recent years, but this year's LGBT Film Festival of Boston may be resuscitating it a bit, programming gaudy, funny romps that also take on serious issues.
Issues that include gay-bashing and human trafficking, as is the case in Indonesian director Lucky Kuswandi's MADAME X (2011; Coolidge Corner Theatre; May 11 @ 11:59 pm). Adam (a irrepressible, endearing Aming Sugandhi), a hair dresser with a sunny disposition and sassy style, has found a niche working in a salon with an ad hoc family of other transgender stylists. That ends when the morality police, a vigilante band led by creepy, hunky Dr. Storm (Marcell Siahaan), raid their favorite club, round them up, and send them all into slavery. Adam escapes, and ends up with a couple who have been waiting for someone just like her whom they can makeover into a costumed superhero to fight intolerance. The gleefully tawdry style ranges from Bollywood to the '60s TV series Batman, but feelings run deep beneath the farce, especially in the unexpectedly redemptive ending.
Despite the ponderous title, Madeleine Olnek's CO-DEPENDENT LESBIAN SPACE ALIEN SEEKS SAME (2011; Brattle Theatre; May 5 @ 8 pm) manages a subtle spoofing of '50s era sci-fi and touchy-feely romantic comedy with a bracing measure of mumblecore. Three lesbian, Conehead-like beings from Zots journey to Manhattan to have their hearts broken and thus rid themselves of the "big" feelings that somehow are destroying their planet's ozone layer. Of the three, Zylar (Jackie Monahan) adjusts most quickly to the dating scene and becomes a slick, if robotic player, while fellow traveler Barr (Cynthia Kaplan), to her dismay, falls in love with Zylar.
But Zoinx (Susan Ziegler), meanwhile, has met up with Jane (an endearing, subtle Lisa Haas), an earthling lesbian, who feels as much an alien as Zoinx. She's awkward, ungainly, sweet-natured, and works in a stationary store. When Jane and Zoinx hit it off, a couple of mysterious agents investigate. Played by Dennis Davis and (speaking of mumblecore) Alex Karpovsky, their interplay is almost a hilarious mini-movie of its own, a kind of Men in Black with Tarantino-like dialogue. Droll, deadpan, and laugh-out-loud funny, Aliens is also surprisingly resonant and affecting, such as when Jane tells Zoinx, ruefully, "Nobody I had feelings for ever returned them. I should have known you were an alien."
In the closing night film, Richard LeMay's NAKED AS WE CAME (2011; Museum of Fine Arts; May 13 @ 7:30; director and actors will be in attendance), a brother (Ryan Vigilant) and sister (Karmine Alers) return to the family home to attend to their dying mother (Lué McWilliams). Complicating matters is a hunky, live-in "groundskeeper" (Benjamin Weaver). The latter detail seems a nod to All that Heaven Allows, and the film possesses other elements of a Douglas Sirk movie: a grandiose title (taken, presumably, from the Iron and Wine song); a melodramatic family conflict; a secret family scandal; beautiful people in a beautiful setting (it was shot in Lincoln, MA). What it doesn't have is Sirk's sublimely baroque, ironic style; it would have benefitted by being a bit more out there.
THE 28TH ANNUAL BOSTON LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER FILM FESTIVAL | AT THE BRATTLE THEATRE, THE INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART, THE COOLIDGE CORNER THEATRE, AND THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS.