Sunday, June 28, 2009

Drama and Passion in the "Redwoods"

Writer-director David Lewis with actors Brendan Bradley and Matthew Montgomery

Redwoods”, one of the most popular films at Frameline’s 2009 San Francisco Int’l LGBT Film Festival, sold out very early, leaving large numbers of people unable to see the film, which was screened at the Victoria Theatre on June 24. The description in the festival program drove the filmerati and the casual film fans to snatch up the tickets.

“Set amidst the romantic splendor of the Russian River, ‘Redwoods’ portrays the difficult choices one faces when confronted with an unshakable love.”

That is Sean Uyehara’s synopsis. The good news is that the film was picked up for distribution by TLA Releasing, and will be on DVD in the near future.

The San Francisco premiere of “Redwoods” drew an eager audience, and for a change the Q&A afterwards was charged with intelligent questions. Director David Lewis revealed that he drew on an experience of his own to create the script. Some of the viewers were there because they enjoyed Lewis’ popular 2007 romantic film “Rock Haven,” which had religious fundamentalism as an obstacle to gay love. Lewis also penned the script for late director Todd Wilson's charming "Under One Roof," an interracial gay romantic comedy filmed in San Francisco.

Coolness in the partners’ relationship in "Redwoods" was obvious, because when one character got naked in front of the other, he did not react. And when the lovers say goodbye for several days, there was not even a kiss on the cheek. Their bond was their adopted autistic son, and the routines of daily life. The arrival of a tourist and the spark of lust with the possibility of a new relationship is the engine that drives the film forward. Passionate sex and the drama of life decisions pull the audience into the story.

The scenery of the Russian River was beautifully filmed, and there was a lot of that footage. It conjured up the scent of redwood trees
and romantic memories in and out of canoes, cabins, and hot tubs.

At one private press screening there were outbursts usually heard at horror films. In the movie the partner who was left behind encounters an attractive tourist and is invited to step into his room. Shouts of “No!” and “Don’t do it!” rang out from the nervous married gay men as they watched.

Two scenes remarkably resemble artworks by gay genre painter Robert Morgan. There is a scene of the lover and the tourist walking down a grassy hillside with mountains in the background. The hillside kiss scene in “Room With a View” is brought to mind. Then there is the same pair of guys wearing swim trunks and holding hands while walking into the Russian River.

The opening night after-party was at the Castro neighborhood’s Sausage Factory, where Harvey Milk was a frequent diner. The same owners who served Harvey Milk presented just about every style of excellent pizza on the menu to the “Redwoods” guests. The red wine met with approval all around the crowded event. When director David Lewis stepped into the party he was met with sustained applause, similar to scenes from Hollywood films set in Sardi’s theater restaurant in New York City.

Lewis made a point of thanking the actors and the crew. The fine actors who played the lover and the tourist so well, Brendan Bradley and Matthew Montgomery, were on hand to mingle with their fans. And the young man who played their son so believably in the film, Caleb Dorfman, was there with his family.

Director David Lewis is working on a greatly anticipated third film, which is also romantically themed. He was a guest at Frameline’s Closing Night Party, which was enhanced by visits by actresses Rosie O’Donnell and Sharon Gless.

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