8 items from 2017
Last year was a windfall year for Lgbtq cinema, thanks to a historic Best Picture win for “Moonlight” and Park Chan-wook’s exquisite “The Handmaiden” both receiving critical and commercial acclaim. While these highly deserving queer stories rose to the top, many smaller Lgbt films were either forgotten or simply nowhere to be found.
Read More: Lgbt Superheroes: Why ‘Wonder Woman’ Couldn’t Be The Lesbian Avenger We Need
Hollywood studios have begun to shoehorn blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gay stories into an endless stream of remakes and TV adaptations, and there is a wide range of indies exploring the breadth of queer stories with ever-expanding joy and nuance. While it’s still difficult to get a gay film made (or any film, for that matter), it’s wonderful that, only halfway through 2017, there are already so many queer films on the horizon. Which is why we think it’s important to celebrate them now, »
- Jude Dry
It takes an incredible amount of restraint not to tie your film up with a neat little bow, but nothing could be more fitting for a filmmaker as committed to truth-telling as Stephen Cone is. In his latest film, “Princess Cyd,” the Chicago-based writer-director renders his deeply human characters so precisely, it’s as if they stepped right off the screen and into your living room. The two central women are equal parts charming, awkward, yearning and lost. In short, they’re real. Their complexity is all the more impressive coming from a male filmmaker — Cone proves it’s possible for men to write sexually liberated, empowered, autonomous women.
Though billed as a coming-of-age story, “Princess Cyd” is much more about relationships between women, across generations and through layers of grief. Specifically, it’s the story of sixteen-year-old Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) and her Aunt, a well-known novelist named Miranda Ruth (Rebecca Spence). Cyd’s mother died when she was young, and she’s been living with her father in South Carolina. When Miranda agrees to host the rambunctious teen for the summer, the two relatives find themselves thrust into familial intimacy despite not knowing much about each other.
Cyd, for instance, is about the only person in Chicago (certain circles, anyhow) who doesn’t know her Aunt’s work. When Miranda offers her a book, she casually replies: “I don’t really read.” Cyd would rather sunbathe on Miranda’s manicured lawn than talk about “books ‘n stuff,” and Miranda bravely digs up her old swimsuit to join. She’s a cool Aunt, offering Cyd beer and encouraging her various summer flings, but she’s less prepared for Cyd’s prying about her own romantic life. “Do you ever have sex?” Cyd asks bluntly, and Miranda sheepishly admits it’s been a while.
Exchanges like that give the film its restrained friction, while avoiding the predictable traps. Miranda doesn’t balk, but she’s clearly taken aback. Cyd might be an obnoxious snoop, but she’s also genuinely curious. It’s a keen illustration of Miranda’s discomfort with her newfound maternal role. Earlier, she hesitates awkwardly before spreading sunscreen on Cyd’s back. It’s one of those masterfully subtle moments that calls up every other time Cyd has not had a mother to rub her back or brush her hair. Miranda has invested in her work over her family, and we see what that sacrifice entails through her interactions with Cyd.
Cyd’s casual sexual exploration is a breath of fresh air. She is as interested in the cute gardener neighbor as she is in the cute barista, Katie (Malic White). Katie sports a throwback mullet/mohawk combination, and when Cyd tells Miranda that she kind of looks like a boy, she replies, “Maybe she is a boy.” “Yeah, maybe so,” Cyd says, shrugging. It’s a casual handling of gender and sexuality that more movies should emulate. The same goes for the understated sex scenes; the most explicit shot is of Cyd masturbating. (Masturbation scenes should be required in any coming-of-age about female sexuality).
Miranda’s sexuality, or lack thereof, is also something of a revelation. With a premise that begs for lessons learned, and a film landscape that loves to make everything about sex, Miranda’s self-satisfied celibacy is nothing short of radical. “It is not a handicap to be one way and not the other,” Miranda tells Cyd in an inspired monologue. Standing over a kitchen full of dirty dishes, finally dishing it back to the saucy teenager she is trying desperately to love, Miranda is the very picture of modern motherhood.
Spence is entirely captivating as Miranda — resolute and warm at the same time. A seasoned Chicago actress, she commands the screen with a graceful strength like a cross between Diane Lane and Amy Brenneman. If show business made any sense, her star would be on the rise.
Cone packs a lot into 90 minutes, and as such there are a few loose ends. Cyd and Miranda rarely discuss the deep void between them, their shared loss. Cyd’s questions about heaven seem a little childish compared to her refreshing sexual maturity, and Miranda’s religious beliefs seem unnecessarily shoehorned into a story with plenty to explore. Miranda’s artist salon is a spirited group scene in the film’s second half, but reads like a play for literary references and a missed opportunity for Cone to poke fun at Miranda (and maybe himself). Cyd’s gossip session with two older lesbians is a highlight, however.
Loose ends are to be expected in a film more interested in life as it is than some over-stimulating fantasy. “Princess Cyd” is a triumphant little film — little in the detailed moments it creates, not the content of its character. Anchored by complicated, smart, funny women, “Princess Cyd” is a rare delight of a film and a model for others to follow.
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- Jude Dry
Slow-motion is employed incessantly throughout “Princess Cyd,” which is apt given the inertia of Stephen Cone’s artificial indie. For his follow-up to 2015’s “Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party,” the writer-director paints a sketchy portrait of a teenage girl’s coming-of-age while spending a few weeks with her famous aunt, an acclaimed author. Caring more about what its characters represent — and its empathetic representation of them — than about crafting a fully formed drama concerning flesh-and-blood people, Cone’s film has little more than its heart in the right place. Expect scant theatrical traction after the film’s debut at this year’s BAMcinemaFest.
Nine years after an obliquely referenced family tragedy, and following more recent, unspecified turmoil with her father, 16-year-old Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) is sent to Chicago to stay with her aunt Miranda (Rebecca Spence), a well-known novelist. It’s a conceit that’s hastily established by Cone, who »
- Nick Schager
Is there a director more generous to his characters than Stephen Cone? Watching his films, one gets a sense that he doesn’t use the medium simply to tell stories but to exercise his curiosity and discover the things that make us human. In the hands of another filmmaker, Princess Cyd‘s two leads would’ve been pitted against each other and engaged in battle until a facile discovery in the denouement made them realize how much they had in common and led to a warm reconciliation. But not in Cone’s film, perhaps for the very notion that no one else is interested in telling the stories of characters such as these — perhaps because no one else can.
We first hear of Cyd through an emergency call, where we learn two people have died in a shooting that leaves only a little girl behind as the survivor. When we »
- Jose Solís
Princess CydNow in its ninth season, BAMcinemaFest has become New York’s premiere festival for gems of American indie cinema, expertly culled from the best of the fests thus far this year. While hosting works from numerous local Brooklynites like Alex Ross Perry, whose Golden Exits will close the event, the intimate festival also boasts an exceptional assortment of films from across the country, this year no short on mysteries, overt and clandestine. The selection’s varying styles are all a testament to the diversity of independent filmmaking that is alive and well in America today.Director Aaron Katz returns with Gemini, a lo-fi L.A.-set noir circling around a movie starlet Heather (Zoe Kravitz) and her devoted assistant Jill (Lola Kirke). Always the expert examiner of relationships in miniature, Katz plumbs beyond the quandary of the employer-employee transactional one here to capture the fragile peculiarities and tender idiosyncrasies of a female friendship. »
Keep up with the wild and wooly world of indie film acquisitions with our weekly Rundown of everything that’s been picked up around the globe. Check out last week’s Rundown here.
– Focus Features has acquired the North American and select international rights to Jason Reitman’s “Tully.” Written by Diablo Cody, the comedy stars Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass and Ron Livingston.
“Tully” tells the story of Marlo (Theron), a mother of three who is gifted a night nanny by her brother (Duplass). Hesitant to the extravagance at first, Marlo comes to form a unique bond with the thoughtful, surprising, and sometimes challenging young nanny named Tully (Davis). The film will premiere in U.S. theaters on April 20, 2018.
Read More: Film Acquisition Rundown: Oscilloscope Picks Up ‘November,’ The Orchard Buys ‘Flower’ and More
- Graham Winfrey
Coming-of-age drama to screen at BAMcinemaFest in New York in June.
The specialist Lgbtq distributor will screen the coming-of-age drama at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinemaFest in June, followed by a theatrical and digital release later this year.
Eager to escape life with her depressive single father, Cyd falls for a girl in the neighbourhood while she and her aunt gently challenge each other in the realms of sex and spirit. Grace Hahn, Madison Ginsberg and Cone produced.
“It is impossible to overstate how important the faith »
Wolfe Releasing has acquired Princess Cyd, the coming-of-age drama from director Stephen Cone starring Rebecca Spence and Jessie Pinnick. The distributor made the deal ahead of the pic’s world premiere tomorrow at the Maryland Film Festival. A theatrical and digital release later this year is planned. The pic follows 16-year-old athlete Cyd Loughlin (Pinnick) while visiting her novelist aunt (Spence) in Chicago over the summer. Eager to escape life with her depressive… »
8 items from 2017
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