Screen Queen

The movies “Keep The Lights On” (2012), “Love Is Strange” (2014), and “Little Men” (2016), comprise what queer filmmaker Ira Sachs has called his New York real estate trilogy. Beginning in 2019, with the Portugal-set “Frankie” (starring Isabelle Huppert), Sachs has shifted his settings overseas. His new film, “Passages” (Mubi), is set in Paris.

Writer/director Jennifer Reeder’s 2017 “Signature Move” is one of the funniest and sweetest lesbian romcoms you’ll ever see. Her new queer body-horror movie “Perpetrator” (IFC/Shudder), as inventive as it is derivative, is sure to be despised by “Barbie” movie-hating Christian nationalists who will go nuts over the female empowerment message. Too bad for them.

In Jeff L. Lieberman’s informative and reverent doc “Bella!” (Re-Emerging Films), there are many fascinating and enlightening things to learn about the late, progressive politician Bella Abzug. But perhaps the most shocking is that she was never before the subject of a documentary, that is, until now.

Like its lead character, novelist Leon (Thomas Schubert), writer/director Christian Petzold’s “Afire” (Sideshow/Janus Films) is a lot to handle. Thoroughly unlikeable and completely self-absorbed, Leon is the kind of character that might make some viewers give up on him less than halfway through the movie. But, don’t do that. Even though he doesn’t necessarily become easier to take, there is something of a payoff if you stick with him.

“Birth/Rebirth” (IFC/Shudder), the feature-length debut from Laura Moss (who also co-wrote the screenplay), puts a distinctively female spin on the reanimator concept. We watch as an unlikely bond develops between a socially awkward pathologist name Rose (Marin Ireland) and OB nurse Celie (Judy Reyes), all in the name of love and science.

“The Pod Generation” (Roadside Attractions) is a good example of a high-concept movie that runs out of juice just as it’s about to say something profound. It wants to be edgy but it’s dull. It also can’t decide if it’s meant to be funny or serious and ends up being neither.

Trans filmmaker D. Smith has done something incredible with her first film, the documentary “Kokomo City” (Magnolia). She has given voice to black, trans sex workers, a segment of the population that has something to say after remaining silent for too long. Focusing on four individuals – Liyah Mitchell, Dominique Silver, Daniella Carter, and the late Koko Da Doll (who was murdered in April 2023) – Smith offers us insight into both the trans and sex worker communities in equal measure.

Based on the autobiographical novel by Makoto Takayama, director and co-screenwriter Daishi Matsunaga’s “Egoist” (Strand) is one of the most original and moving gay movies of the year. Slightly reminiscent of Hong Khaou’s 2014 “Lilting” (starring out actor Ben Whishaw), in which a mother and her son’s lover bond following a calamity, “Egoist” finds the perfect balance between eroticism and emotion.

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