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Film Picks

[whitespace] Picks by Richard von Busack

Edge of Seventeen
Plays at the Lumiere

A fine, understated serio-comedy about a gay boy's coming (out) of age in Ohio in 1984. The lead role of Eric is played by Chris Stafford. Other plusses: the ambiance of a hot summer in a Midwestern vacation town; the vintage disco soundtrack assembled by Tom Bailey, one half of the Thompson Twins; and the offhand, grotty/funny sex (incidents: Eric tongued in a parking lot by an assistant manager of a Long John Silver's; later, he loses his virginity to a male friend in the friend's half of an Ohio State dorm room). The warm but never soppy handling of the family life is another plus, and Stephanie McVay is touching as Eric's square mother. As Eric's surrogate mom, Lea DeLaria is the friendliest diesel-dyke in cinema history. Best of all is Tina Holmes, who will probably be a star soon. See her delicate handling of the difficult part of Maggie, a girl who keeps hoping, hopelessly, that she can turn Eric straight.

Ninth San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
July 15-22 at the Castro Theater

Highlights: After the End of the World, a story of the modern-day nationalistic Balkans, and their lost polyglot, polycultured past (screens July 15). Delta Jews/Pushcarts and Plantations, about Jewish roots in the American South (July 18). Florentene II, more episodes from Israeli TV's hip, racy answer to Friends (July 18). Isaak Babel, a documentary the short-story writer later murdered by Stalin (July 19). The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, a documentary about the Jewish slugger for the Detroit Tigers during the late 1930s (July 18).

Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl
Opening July 9 at selected theaters.

There's nothing depressing about pure tragedy; it's only failed tragedies that send you out searching for dumb comedy. This story, about the snuffing out of a sweet but conceited Chinese girl, is the purest kind of tragedy. Xiu Xiu, the heroine, volunteers for the Educated Youth program in the early 1970s. The scheme sent hundreds of city adolescents into the countryside as volunteers and forgot them; stuck in the middle of nowhere, the youths turned to desperate remedies to get back home. Xiu Xiu is luckier. She has to share a tent with a man she's never met, but her housemate, a herdsman, proves to be a gentle guardian. The film marks an impressive directoral debut by Joan Chen, now a San Francisco resident, who is--because of her popularity in China--reckoned as the most popular actress in the world.

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From the July 5, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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