There comes a time in the evolution of a film genre when you
feel like the tides are turning. It was about time that lesbian
films made the shift from the entirely self-aware exploration
of sexuality into real storytelling, concentrating on the experiences
gay women have, rather than just on the experience of being gay.
By Hook or By Crook is one of those films. While it fits
perfectly well on the bill of any gay and lesbian film festival,
it makes only vague references to the two lead characters actually
being women dressed up as men who sleep with women. In fact, while
Im proud to claim this film as a lesbian film,
Im almost ashamed to have to pigeon-hole the film as such,
simply because labels like that seem so limiting for a film with
such enormous scope such as this.
This was a film conceived, written, financed and made by Harry
Dodge and Silas Howard, who also star in the film. Shy, a young
butch woman raised by her father in Hicksville USA, fails to make
the mortgage payments on her house. When the bank forecloses,
she gets the idea that money is the only way to find happiness,
so she travels to San Francisco to rob a bank, the theory being
to turn herself from one of the losers of society into a winner.
The problem is, she doesnt have a clue about robbing a
bank, and doesnt have the money to pay for a gun, so she
drifts about, homeless, hungry, until eventually she saves Valentine
(the amazingly talented Harry Dodge) from a brutal beating. The
two become fast friends, both in spite of and because of Valentines
erratic, manic-depressive behaviour, surviving by small-time grifting
in the stores of San Francisco.
We follow the lives of the two friends as they become more and
more intertwined. We share in their tragedies, and their failings,
their long term-loves and fleeting moments of happiness. Finally
they learn through each other that money is the least of their
concerns - that courage, love, loyalty and true friendship are
the things that will make or break them in life.
The film is gritty, dark, and contains some of the best acting
that independent film has to offer - besides the two leads special
mention has to go to Stanya Kahn for her incredibly moving portrayal
of Billie, Valentines long-time lover. This is real character-driven
drama the likes of which has rarely been seen on the lesbian film
Beautifully shot in digital video, By Hook or By Crook
is a visual feast that draws you in and lets you wallow in the
murky places, as unforgiving to its audiences as it is to its
characters. Its not the prettiest way to spend 90 minutes,
but it may just be one of the most rewarding film experiences
you ever have.
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