HPPUB MOVIE REVIEWs of But I Was a Girl; Into the Arms of Strangers; Broken Hearts Club, Dr. T and the Women; The Well


Title:  But I Was a Girl: The Story of Frieda Belinfante

Release Date:  1999

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: 69 min

MPAA Rating: Not available (suggest PG-13)

Distributor and Production Company:  First Run/Icarus 

Director; Writer: Toni Boumans

Producer: Maarten Kramer


Technical: video

Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site:



Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender films in 2000: Various reviews


But I Was a Girl        Broken Hearts Club        The Well              (Dr. T)

The University of Minnesota Film Society and Oak Street Cinema presented a variety of gay-oriented independent films, some with distributors and some without, in the 11th Annual fall film festival.  Here are some remarks about a few of them.


The most remarkable film is (Tony Boumans, director) But I Was a Girl, (69 minutes) Dutch,.  Actually, it is a video, shown with a video player projected in a manner that resembles electronic film.  This documentary traces the life of cellist and conductor Freida Belinfante, from her life in Amsterdam before World War II as the Nazi storm clouds gathered, her resistance and her narrow escapes from the Gestapo, to her migration to the United States and southern California, to become the conductor of the Orange Couny Symphony Orchestra in the 1950’s, only to lose her contract ostensibly because her “lifestyle,” during a period of McCarthyism.  This film does come across with the style of a Biography or History channel program, but the film presents plenty of shots of pre-war Amsterdam, and Europe during the occupation, as well as Hollywood and other wetern USA sites in the 50’s.  Is Hollywood ready to go back to this kind of history film-making--say, combine Spielberg with Ken Burns—a style not regarded today as a cash cow?   


I’ll note another important documentary here, Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000, Warner Independent Pictures/Holocaust Memorial Museum, dir. Mark Jonathan Harris, 122 min, PG), produced by the Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington, D.C.  I have visited that twice, as well as Auschwitz and Berkenau  in Poland (in 1999).  This film, shot in 4:3 to show the original black-and-white footage of pre-war Germany and wartime Britain, depicts the effort to ship 1500 Jewish children out of Germany to Britain just before the outbreak of World War II.  Somewhat amazingly, the Nazis allowed minors under 17 to leave. The documentary style consists mostly of narratives by the survivors, and one would like to move beyond that into drama. This was distributed by Warner Brothers itself, rather than a “art” distributor.   


The big-looking, self-proclaimed “romantic comedy” The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy, from Sony Pictures Classics (2000, 110 minutes, sponsored by DeskTech),  directed by Greg Berlanti (Everwood, Jack & Bobby), starring Tomothy Olyphamt, Andrew Keegan, John Mahoney, Dean Cain, Zach Braff (Garden State), was a read crowd pleaser.  People will compare this film to other “straight” films in this genre, such as Oliver Stone’s Joy Luck Club, the Ice Storm, The Big Chill, Four Friends, Three Coins in the Fountain, and maybe even The Buena Vista Social Club—as well as the original 1970 classic about a homosexual birthday party, The Boys in the Band.   And when I say big, this film looked bloated, complete with wide-screen and Digital, and yet it seemed rather claustrophobic, with none of the location scenes (whether softball games or dance floors like Studio 1) effectively shown.  And the protagonists—all of them except the “hairless” newbie, Kevin (Andrew Keegan)—seem rather conventional and bland (even the birthday boy photographer and homeowner Dennis (Tony Olymphant).  Kevin seems to have real character, though.  Now, I could think of 15 or 20 men whose real lives could fit into a movie like this and seem fascinating; and maybe that is a point: comedy writing is really very difficult—issues of personality and character and individuality don’t always lend themselves to this Adam Sandler/Jim Carrey shows his butt—style of screenwriting.  The epigraphs (in the style of Tammy Faye) don’t work either.     


I could compare this film to a Robert Altman-style film, too, and here I’ll mention Artisan Entertainment’s Dr. T and the Women (2000, not in the festival), with Richard Gere.  Here a straight gynocologist’s personal life (one of his golf caddies calls him “the lucky kind” of doctor, oh, so heterosexual) unravels slowly until his lesbian daughter’s very surprising wedding, to be broken up by a Texas-style tornado (filmed as effectively as Twister) and a practical but metaphysical and ufological confusion that would suit afficandos of Owens Valley scenery and Disney’s The Vanishing Prairie.  Dr. T shows a lot of dazzling footage of Big D (that means, Dallas), so this must have been made at the studios of Los Colinas.   And Dr. T. really doesn’t chase women, much. .


The other big film at the Festival was The Well, (2000, Cowboy films, dir. Samantha Lang, based on the novel by Elizabeth Jolley) an Australian mystery that tries to combine the styles of Peter Weir on the one hand and Hitchcock on the other. (The director is Samantha Lang, and it stars Pamle Rabe, Miranda Otto, Paul Chubb, Frank Wilson, and Steve Jacobs, sponsored by A Brother’s Touch bookstore.)   Two lesbians living near the Great Dividing Range find their relationship unravel after they dump a car-accident hit-run victim (they have more connection with him than we first suspect) into a well on their property.  There are a lot of hidden cinematic references: The Last Wave, Diabolique, Blood Simple, to name a few. The Aussie scenery is typically eerie and foreboding.  If you really get into the relationship between these women, the film can work, but otherwise it comes across as slow and tedious, and not quite delivering.




Related reviews: Garden State; Everwood;  Latter Days, etc.


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