DRAGNUNS IN TINSEL TOWN

This documentary by Ren Blood reveals the secular sexual ministering and personal backgrounds of the Los Angeles Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. It's a moderately interesting and entertaining trip through the fundraisers and outings of an eclectic group of men and women whose makeup is a cross between Marcel Marceau and KISS. But if you're not a drag queen or a big fan of drag queens, the endless scenes and commentary on Drag Nun fashion makes this 92-minute film, well, drag. The sisters, with names such as Sister Sedusa Mann, Sister Unity Divine Techno-Nun, and biological female Sister Vibrata Electra of the Flaming Labia are sincere in their efforts to raise money for gay charities and distribute condoms, and adamantly proclaim they are not making fun of the Catholic church (although one sister finally admits: "fuck the Catholic church, I'm going to hell anyway according to those people.") Justifiable bitterness aside, the sisters love of their collective shines through in the film, and there's no question they take their organization seriously—even adopting a firm set of postulate rules such as no glitter-wearing for six months for wannabe drag nuns. Although they're all frightfully freakish looking, they believe strongly in their mantra of "expiating stigmatic guilt and spread universal joy," but the documentary runs out of enticing nun gas quickly and would have been much more effective paired down to 30-40 minutes of pure nun fun. (Stacy Davies) (Regency Lido, Wed., 5:30 p.m.)

THE EMPTY BUILDING

A real head scratcher, this one. There's this rundown building, see, and people who enter it are compelled by some mysterious, Twilight Zone-ish force to confront the great traumas of their pasts. It seems like the set-up for an anthology picture, but instead we only get a quick glimpse of one poor lady's private grief and then we spend the rest of the picture with one guy's abstract tale of childhood abuse. Giovanni Sanseviero directs as well as stars and his talent in both arenas is undeniable; his performance is memorably intense and the film looks absolutely fantastic, with sweeping camerawork, artful compositions and the kind of production values most directors couldn't manage on nine times the budget. But for all Sanseviero's obvious talents, there is still something rather "student film" about the whole affair. Sanseviero has a ways to go as a storyteller and some aspects of the story are needlessly confusing. The film is also too arty by half, and there are a few modern dance interludes that rather unfortunately resemble bits from Mike Meyer's old Sprockets sketches on SNL. I don't mean to slight Sanseviero; it's obvious a lot of work went into this picture and he has every right to be proud of what he's accomplished. But it feels like he's trying for his masterpiece his first time out, and the strain shows. Ten years from now Sanseviero will almost certainly have a few interesting studio pictures behind him, and a handful of his most devoted fans will dig up this curio and see the first inklings of what he would later become. (GS) (Edwards Island, Sat., 11 a.m.)

HAM & CHEESE

Christopher Guest's mockumentary Waiting for Guffmanfollowed the petty squabbles within a small, woefully untalented, amateur theatrical troupe, and while there were those who said Guest was cruel for setting up these hapless, bumpkin characters and mocking their dreams, Warren P. Sonada's Ham & Cheese shows what happens when a satire really goes after wannabe actors and doesn't stop until there's nothing left of them but a bloody puddle and a few clumps of hair. Mike Beaver and Jason Jones bring ghastly conviction to the lead roles in this tale of two dopey, aspiring thespians who are each strikingly untalented in their own way. Richard (Beaver) is a large, shambling manchild who may not be retarded but who is clearly close enough to it that we have no business laughing at his misfortunes. Barry (Jones) is a superbly irritating comic creation, an insufferably smug, thirtysomething telemarketer who is willing to sacrifice whatever it takes (including his long-suffering spouse) in pursuit of fame. While Ham & Cheese is admittedly side-splitting, it heaps such an endless deluge of shit upon these poor guys that eventually every laugh becomes a very guilty pleasure indeed. Kids in the Hallvets Scott Thompson and Dave Foley both turn up for memorable turns as sleazy showbiz types who treat Richard and Barry with sneering contempt, and Foley has one scene so hideously, hilariously cruel that you may well end up straining to watch it from a fetal position beneath your seat. Compared to the twisted minds behind this film, Christopher Guest is a softie. (GS) (Edwards Island, Wed., 6:15 p.m.)

MY WIFE MAURICE

Directed and co-adapted by Jean-Marie Poiré, My Wife Maurice is not literally a gay film, although it's billed as one. A cross-dressing situational comedy more akin to the sitcom Bosom Buddies than the film The Birdcage—although it has elements of both--Maurice is one wild, hilarious and original piece of buffoonery. A smarmy middle-aged businessman (Philippe Chevallier) coerces a simple-minded charity worker Maurice (Régis Laspalès) to pose as his evil wife so the businessman can dump his gorgeous but psycho mistress who is on a rampage--wielding a chainsaw--just minutes away from his elegant penthouse, intent on exposing the affair to the man's real wife. Laspales as the forthright and mentally inept Maurice Lappin is exceptional, sincerely unaware of his own freakishness, and he carries the picture. The fast paced directing and original writing are top notch, creating a wealth of absurdity in which all of the actors flourish. (SD) (Regency Lido, Fri., 11 a.m.)

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