QFlix, Philly’s LGBT film festival, kicks off Tuesday

QFlix, Philadelphia’s reincarnated LGBT Film Festival, runs July 7-12 at various theaters along and just off Broad Street. Here is a rundown of five highlights (and lowlights) from this year’s program.

‘Lyle’ ****
July 11, 9:30 p.m.
Prince Theater
1412 Chestnut St.

Taking a cue from “Rosemary’s Baby,” this hour-long thriller has pregnant Leah (Gaby Hoffman) and her partner, June (Ingrid Jungermann), moving into a Brooklyn brownstone with their infant daughter, Lyle. After a tragedy occurs, Leah’s fears about the building and her pending baby escalate. Writer/director Stewart Thorndike ratchets up the tension as Leah acts on her instincts and discovers a shocking truth. Hoffman gives a nervy performance as the harried mother-to-be, and audiences who buy into the slight story will appreciate this compelling film.

‘Wasp’ ***
July 8, 9:30 p.m.
Prince Theater

Set in a fabulous country home in Southern France, this coolly hypnotic three-hander has gay couple Olivier (Simon Haycock) and James (Hugo Bolton) entertaining Caroline (Elly Condron), who is depressed after a recent breakup. When a flirtation that develops between Olivier and Caroline threatens to become something more, James becomes suspicious and jealous. Director/co-writer Philippe Audi-Dor has fun with his game-playing characters and their bizarre love triangle. “Wasp” is a modest film, but it remains consistently engaging thanks to the sharp dialogue — what is left unsaid is as important as the characters’ clever exchanges — and strong performances.

‘S&M Sally’ ***
July 9, 7:15 p.m.
Caplan Center at UArts
211 S. Broad St.

In this genial comedy about BDSM and polyamory, two straight-laced gay characters, Jamie (writer, director Michelle Ehlen) a butch lesbian, and her gay BFF, David (Scott Keiji Takeda),unexpectedly explore their sexual boundaries with their partners. Jamie’s girlfriend Jill (Jen McPherson) has her lover getting into wax, whips and tight corsets, while David’s new partner Sebastian (Adrian Gonzalez) wants him to have a threesome with Lola (Shaela Cook). The film’s wry, deadpan humor is used to address issues of power, communication and trust, as the characters put their egos in check, or throw their inhibitions away. The low-budget, low-key “S&M Sally” is not nearly as naughty as it sounds, and that mild-not-wild quality works in its considerable favor.

‘Dreams from Strangers’ **
July 12, 3:30 p.m.
Prince Theater

“Dreams from Strangers” depicts the poignant romance that develops between an Italian swimmer Massimo (the swoon-worthy Giuseppe Claudio Insalaco) and a handsome Russian translator Vladimir (Daniel De Rossi) in St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, writer/director Roberto Cuzzillo obfuscates things by interspersing many and lengthy silent film clips of Maciste (a Herculean figure) and footage of St. Petersburg without much purpose. The budding relationship between the attractive guys — who talk about the freedom of being openly gay and the fear and homophobia in Russia — starts to get interesting, but when the disorganized story takes a sudden dramatic turn, the tragic dimension just ripples, not resonates.

‘Proxy’ *
July 11, 7:15 p.m.
Caplan Center

In this exceedingly bad and painfully amateurish film written, directed and starring Brandon Deyette, eight characters’ lives are thinly connected. From ex-lovers to a trio of gay men, and two female friends, the characters are all equally uninteresting. The lame script, which chronicles various stories over a series of “real time” chapters, overflows with clichéd dialogue that never seems credible coming out of any of the untalented actors’ mouths. Deyette doesn’t know where to place his camera, so he repeatedly fails to capture the emotion in every scene. The “big reveal” in the film’s end is so obvious that most viewers probably won’t stick around to see it.

For details on all of the films in the festival, plus tickets and showtimes, go to www.qflixphilly.com.

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