Foreign Cinema: Divided Attention-Span Theater for Multitasking Eaters and Watchers (and Frameline Absentees)


The San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival bursts proudly forth next Thursday with the Opening night film An Englishman In New York, (the sequel to the 1975’s The Naked Civil Servant.) The film is followed by a Gala opening party at the newly renovated Terra Gallery, with drinks and drag and oodles of hoopla.

But if you don’t have tickets to the Gayest show in town, a not too shabby runner up can be found at Foreign Cinema next week. There, they’ve likewise managed to amalgamate movies and drag queens, cocktails and nibbles, plumage, audacity and dance fever.

On the screen at the Mission Street open-air and yet happily heat-lamped cinema courtyard is La Cage aux Folles.  Running from June 15 – July 12, this original French version (not the Key West Robin Williams Birdcage, but the Saint-Tropez Ugo Tognazzi 1979 one) is the ideal foreign film to screen at “Foreign Cinema.”

Why? For many, the movies at Foreign Cinema are merely backdrop, voicey and visually arty ambiance. But for media gluttons (media gluttony, you know, c’est moi) moving pictures require at least 50% of our attention. Which presents a problem when one has dinner companions to converse with and silverware to maneuver, food that needs cutting  -- and chewing. And mojitos that require attention too.

Adding to that the additional hindrance of having to READ THE SUBTITLES on A WALL at Foreign Cinema means that food or dinner companions might be neglected – or worse, the plot might be misconstrued.

Which is why Foreign Cinema, delightful themed dinner concept that is it (and decidedly improved since the Dot Com exodus) is a somewhat off-the-mark reality. Does the whole dinner/drinks/movie thing really require foreign foreign film?

In my opinion, the genre of the Big Splashy Musical is best suited for divided attention span theater. Feel like talking to your friends? Background music! Feel like sorta talking to your friends but sorta looking above their heads for something else lively? Costumes! Dance! Friends not so interesting but you still want to eat? At least you don’t have to strain your eyes on the irksome wall subtitles.

While other film fare can provide proper wallpaper or kinetic art for the barely attentive, screenings of musicals (Cabaret was a sublime selection) are the best of the bunch for multi-taskers.

And La Cage aux Faux, which brings in the festivity, the outrageousness, the spectacle, the song and dance and the domestic discord -- not to mention the “Je ne Sais Queer” -- is just the ticket for the Frameline ticketless.

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