Lawrence Chua

  • Suzhou River

    I have it on good authority that mermaids don’t exist in China, yet Lou Ye captured one from the depths of Shanghai’s unclean waterways In his second film, Suzhou River, which made its US debut at New Directors/New Films in March and opens this month at New York’s Film Forum. The mermaid in Lou's film is a slippery apparition, the coy ghost of a suicide who swims half-naked in a seedy nightclub floor-show, and her presence intimates that this gritty film, like the man-made river it's named after, is rife with impurities. Suzhou River is a story of love and betrayal, a posthuman noir told by a

  • Lawrence Chua


    One of the strongest pictures I saw this year was EL CALLEJÓN DE LOS MILAGROS (Midaq Alley), by Mexican director Jorge Fons, at the Toronto Film Festival. This nearly two-and-a-half-hour-long opus situates Naguib Mahfouz’s ’40s Cairo street life in a seething alley in contemporary downtown Mexico City. While it has all the trappings of a meaty soap opera, El callejón is more than a dewy-eyed telenovella. Fons deftly interweaves his characters’ lives, using conflicting perspectives to underscore the dialectical tensions between individual and collective memory. El callejón has everything

  • Atom Egoyan

    IT IS A YOUNG stripper in schoolgirl drag who ushers us into Atom Egoyan’s heart of darkness, Exotica. In the verdant sleaziness of an upscale titty bar, rituals bleed their meanings as lives intersect and then collide. At the vortex of this emotional cyclone is Francis (Bruce Greenwood), a tax auditor, still reeling from the deaths of his wife and daughter, who transforms his mourning into the disturbing psychological games that he plays with an exotic table-dancer named Christina (Mia Kirshner). Recovering from her own history of abuse, Christina is struggling to leave behind her ex-boyfriend,


    “REVOLUTION ISN’T RAMMED UP THE ASS.” This insight comes to a smoldering Cuban ideologue somewhere near the middle of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s Strawberry and Chocolate. In Alea’s new film (codirected with Juan Carlos Tabío), such innuendoes belie deep tensions between desire and belief. Based on a story by Senel Paz, Strawberry and Chocolate explores the layered, and often comic, terrain between a dedicated young Marxist and a dedicated bourgeois fag. Like the ice-cream flavors of the film’s title (strawberry equals gay, in Alea’s joking sensual litmus test), these two characters are imagined by

  • Lawrence Chua

    IN A BIENNIAL FINALLY (though sometimes clumsily) attending to cross-cultural inclusiveness, poetry looms truer than history in the handful of films projected on the museum’s postage-stamp screen. If the documentary form claims to show what has happened at a specific moment and site, the best works in this program of films from the last two years entwine home-movie approaches with historical narratives to demonstrate that the most effective stories not only imagine what might have been, but also articulate experience in unspecified times and geographies.

    In Nitrate Kisses, Biennial veteran Barbara

  • Queer 'Zines

    I have seen the future and it is a six-and-a-half-foot African-American drag queen named Vaginal Creme Davis. Named after her idol, Angela, Ms. Davis (or just plain “Vag”) is a revolutionary hero in her own right—a veteran of the do-it-yourself publishing maelstrom that author Dennis Cooper has celebrated as “Queercore,” a new hybrid of queer identities and hard-core punk attitudes.1 Davis’ résumé includes stints as editor of the late Fertile La Toyah Jackson Magazine and lead singer of the Latina pop group Cholita. Currently editing SHRIMp, “the magazine of licking and sucking big feet,” she

  • Out's Issue No. 1

    WE JUST WANT TO BE LOVED—and maybe to spend some of our legendary disposable incomes. This is the premise that brims from the gleaming pages of Out, an ambitious attempt to take queer magazine-publishing into the mainstream. Out, as the first issue’s cover proclaims, is in. A pair of chalky faces beckon with pursed lips. The pose is not so much defiant as it is privileged—manicured, in spite of the man’s four o’clock shadow.

    Once mailed in plain brown-paper wrappers, queer magazines are now quite visible, at least in some parts of the world. But for publications like Out, shedding the veil