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Queer as Flick

The Kansas City Gay and Lesbian Film Festival enters adolescence.

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It's fitting that the new Margaret Cho concert film, The Notorious C.H.O., opens the 2002 Kansas City Gay and Lesbian Film Festival: Cho embodies all the traits of this year's films. She's gay at least in spirit (having admitted to dabblings in her last concert film, I'm the One That I Want) but has many other facets. She's raunchy but can switch effortlessly to poignant. She's self-deprecating and hip but works in a traditional form. And she should have a much bigger pop-culture presence.

The state of gay cinema is ready for its next makeover, says director Susan Turley, whose own film, The M.O. of M.I. (The Modus Operandi of Male Intimacy) gets an introduction by its screenwriter, Aaron Brown, on June 30. "There's a lot of fluff," Brown adds to Turley's observation. "We've gone through that period in gay culture. This movie is not about coming out, and no one's dying of AIDS. It's a little bit more involved."

The M.O. of M.I. involves a happy couple of "eight months and three days" whose ten-year age gap presents a couple of problems (for the older guy, anyway) and the surly, sexy performance artist who intrudes upon their life. It references Double Indemnity in its shifting allegiances and the way money corrupts the union, but this is hardly material Fred MacMurray would have embraced.

The festival's most anticipated film may be Wash West's and Richard Glatzer's The Fluffer, named for the guy or gal on a porn set whose job is to orally prepare the male performers for their close-ups. In this case, the eponymous fellator is an aspiring filmmaker named Sean (Michael Cunio), whose accidental rental of Citizen Cum (he thought he had rented Citizen Kane) introduces him to the unsubtle, testosterone-fueled charms of gay-for-pay porn star Johnny Rebel (Scott Gurney). What is most surprising is the film's complex dissection of sexual infatuation and fluidity. Thanks to the brave and nuanced performances of Cunio, Gurney and Roxanne Day as Johnny's stripper girlfriend, it can proudly sit on a shelf next to Paul Thomas Anderson's masterpiece, Boogie Nights.

Notable entries depicting the lives of gay writers include Pinero, in which Benjamin Bratt stars as playwright Miguel Pinero, and Borstal Boy, Peter Sheridan's adaptation of Irish playwright Brendan Behan's autobiography. The latter stars American actor Shawn Hatosy as a youthful Behan, whose work for the Irish Republican Army gets him incarcerated in Borstal (where the photogenic inmates depicted in the movie seem to be dressed in Prada). During this brief stint in the slammer, Behan is introduced to the love of both sexes -- the warden's daughter and a fellow inmate named Charlie -- as well as to Oscar Wilde. The boy-on-boy attraction is played sweet, delicate and unflinchingly honest in its consequences. And it's no coincidence that the artistically inclined inmates stage a production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

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