If these two quality celluloid offerings from the upcoming Tribeca Festival are harbingers of what's to be offered, get your tickets now for as many films as you can. Here are engaging, vital, and timely features that beg your attendance.
For example, Tomasz Wasilewski's beautifully crafted Floating Skyscrapers is a heartfelt chronicle of a love affair between two young men in still highly homophobic Poland. Amidst the grey, barren urban landscapes of Warsaw, the closeted bisexual swimmer Kuba (Mateusz Banasiuk) is in a quandary. In between his daily massaging of his mother's back while the two are nude in the bathtub -- and in the midst of the frequent sex bouts with his long-time girlfriend Sylwia (Marta Nieradkiewicz), who resides with him and his jealous ma -- he receives anonymous guilty blowjobs from young male admirers he refuses to kiss or reciprocate on in kind.
But then one night at a party after a few drinks and some marijuana, Kuba falls for Michal (Bartosz Gelner), an attractive university student who has already come out to most of his family.
True love and male passion slowly detonate across the screen thanks to a directorial aplomb that's unanticipated from such a young helmer. Every shot is masterfully set up and worthy of framing, yet the film flows as does Kuba while the camera pursues him underwater as he practices to become a first-class swimmer. But will the chlorinated waves just immerse him, or drown him as he decides whether or not to become a full-fledged homosexual and return Michal's unrestricted affections?
A plaintive cry for gay rights and familial acceptance, the film is yet erotic and often rises to the giddy heights of an ecstatic, intimate pure cinema.
Meanwhile in Lily, the lead character, a cancer survivor, periodically "drowns" herself in her bathtub to block out the sounds of everyday life
On her real-life tumblr blog, "Booo Cancer. You Suck!" Amy Grantham, on whom Lily is loosely based, wrote the other day, "Once you've had cancer you're not the same anymore. I mean, you're you, yes, but a different you. There's no way you couldn't be. I'd imagine it's the same when you've gone through any kind of traumatic event in your life. You're still you but now it's a different you. A wiser you. A cautious you.
"It's the you who realized that that blue sky, that beautiful breeze, and the warm sunshine are all fleeting. They, meaning you, could be gone at any time. This is not meant to sound morbid, it's just life. Cancer will never go away for me. Heck, it's genetically embedded in my DNA as we found out. Cancer will never not be in the back of my mind."
Utilizing her hard-won Big C battle wounds, she and director Matt Creed fashioned a screenplay that's both a celebration of being around another day and a paean to New York City's quirkier inhabitants.
We first meet Lily, an artist, in the streets of Manhattan tape-recording enigmatic oddballs spewing forth their philosophies. She then, in a rather misshapen wig, picks up her older male lover's two feisty children at school, brings them home to do their homework, starts making supper, and eventually retreats to the bathroom to cope.
Lily knows she should be elated. Her cancer has been eradicated, she's gotten through chemo and only has a few more radiations left, so why isn't she beatific?
For some reason, the jigsaw pieces of her life aren't connecting, although teaching herself to tap dance adds a bit of merriment. The idea that several of her eggs have been safely frozen before her therapies began so she that might be able to have children in the future isn't making Lily clap. Her lover adores her as older men often do, but his best friends she finds abominable. As for her mom, she's spineless with a new spouse who's a boor. Lily's dad is an emotionless thug, plus she is jobless to boot and her art isn't making her rich.
Yet Lily isn't a dispirited, wimpy tale. With Grantham as the star, supplying an award-worthy, brave performance, the film is about a happy person regaining her happiness. Lily is discovering that the segments of her life will never fit together again, but what the hell? She might again be diagnosed with cancer or she might not. She might stay with her lover or move on. You can only control what you can. Or as Grantham has written, "You['re] still you, but now it's a different you." - Brandon Judell
Mr. Judell is currently teaching "Queer Theatre" and "Gay and Lesbian Identity in Literature" at The City College of New York and is Coordinator of The Simon H. Rifkind Center. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire.com, the New York Daily News, Soho Style, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi) and John Preston's A Member of the Family (Dutton). He is also a member of the performance/writing group FlashPoint.