Guide to Queer Films to Watch in August

"Holy Beasts" is now available on Film Movement Plus.
Film Movement

August streaming and video options provide a double dose of Udo Kier and some fascinating documentaries along with a feature throwback to the swinging sex films of yesteryear. Here’s a rundown six queer films to stream this month.

Pier Kids

Writer/director Elegance Bratton’s intimate, affecting, and eye-opening documentary (on PBS August 2, and available to stream at pov.org until September 1) chronicles life as it is lived on New York City streets by a secret society of homeless queer and trans youth. Krystal, who is transgender, periodically engages in sex work to earn money she needs. A scene of her visiting her mother and aunt, who fail to acknowledge her gender identity, is heartbreaking. When DeSean is interviewed, he talks about how he was kicked out of his house when he came out, and later reveals a troubled childhood. Other subjects, like Casper, tell their personal stories to Bratton’s unflinching camera. “Pier Kids” shows the close-knit community these homeless youths create, and the support they have for each other. The film also captures how the pier provides these youths with a safe space, despite repeated encounters with cops. Bratton features ballroom scenes, protests, and even a “twerk fest,” to include some happier moments, but what resonates is the grim statistic that opens the film: half of the 2 million homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, and 40% of them are people of color.

Pray Away

Streaming August 3 on Netflix, this film shows the hypocrisy of the ex-gay movement and conversion therapy as a handful of former proponents of this practice talk candidly about their experiences and their regrets as they harmed LGBTQ folks who were either willingly or forced to “pray the gay away.” This sobering documentary not only features stories by folks who were subjected to the treatment, but also profiles one man who continues this hurtful practice.

Swan Song

In this film, which arrives on VOD August 13, Udo Kier plays Mr. Pat, an aging, once-famous hairdresser in Sandusky, Ohio, who has lost everything and is now living in a nursing home. When a will specifies that his services have been commissioned by the late, local socialite (Linda Evans) to style her for her funeral, Mr. Pat travels across town to fulfill his former client’s last wish. In the process, he reflects on his life, visiting his former home, salons, and the cemetery where his partner lies buried. While there are many poignant moments in “Swan Song,” Kier is also very amusing, sassing a convenience store clerk, jumping rope with some children, or performing a routine in a gay bar. The actor gets a plum leading role here and gives a phenomenal performance in this wonderful comedy-drama.

Holy Beasts

For those wanting to see more of Kier — and who doesn’t? — check out “Holy Beasts,” which is now available on Film Movement Plus. The film takes its cue from the work of the late Jean-Louis Jorge, a murdered Dominican writer/director who made kitsch films such as “Mélodrame” and “Serpents of the Pirate Moon,” that featured drag queens, transgender, and bisexual characters. Clips from Jorge’s features are screened in this fictional drama, written and directed by Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán. The plot has Vera (Geraldine Chaplin), an actress/filmmaker hoping to complete an unfinished film written by Jorge. She invites her old friend Henry (Udo Kier) to choreograph a musical number, and he reluctantly agrees. Once he arrives, however, dancers start dying. “Holy Beasts” allows Kier — whom Vera wants for his “Teutonic elegance” — to lurk his way through the film, sporting vampire fangs in one sequence, and Vera references the actor’s work in Andy Warhol’s “Blood for Dracula.” The film is gorgeously made with many vivid images and a few queer moments. And while Chaplin and Kier are magnetic, the film itself can be a bit muddled. Nevertheless, it whets an appetite to see more of Jorge’s work.

Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation

“Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation,” which starts streaming on Kino Now on August 17, recounts the friendly and sometimes fiendly relationship between two great gay Southern writers, Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams. The documentary, directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, uses clips and letters from the authors to illustrate their personal and professional lives. Out gay actors Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto give voice to Truman and Tennessee, respectively, and imbue their lives with a wit and a tenderness that is affecting.

Viva

Writer, director, producer, editor, costume designer, and star Anna Biller’s 2007 film, “Viva,” starts streaming August 24 on Kino Now. Set in 1972 Los Angeles, Bambi (Biller) is a housewife who, after a fight with her husband, assumes the identity of Viva, a call girl, and gets sexually involved with various men and women on her journey to find herself. This stylish film, replete with garish sets and costumes, is as camp as Christmas, with a plethora of dumb sex jokes, cheesy musical numbers, and obligatory nudist camp and orgy sequences. Nothing in “Viva” is taken very seriously, and this will amuse audiences who appreciate such kitschy sensibilities. The film is mostly of interest as a homage films of Radley Metzgar and Russ Meyer, but for some viewers, a little goes a long way.

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