The festival, which runs through Oct. 24, offers a sneak peek at some notable films by and/or about queer people. One hot ticket is the long-awaited comedy, “I Love You Phillip Morris” (9:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at I-House), starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as two men who become lovers in prison.
Gay Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul is represented by his Cannes award-winner, “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” (7:05 p.m. Oct. 21 and 2:15 p.m. Oct. 23, Ritz Five). Although the film — about a dying man and various animals and spirits, including a talking catfish — does not contain any queer content, it is essential viewing for serious cinephiles. “Uncle Boonmee” is as infectious and hypnotic as the filmmaker’s previous work and, despite the fantastic elements, quite accessible for viewers unfamiliar with his transfixing cinema.
Another highlight is the chance to see one of the best films of the year, “Marwencol” (2:30 p.m. Oct. 17, Rave). This documentary profiles Mark Hogancamp, an unusual artist who creates and photographs a 1/6-scale World War 2-era town in his backyard as a way of coping with a traumatic event in which he was beaten outside a bar and suffered severe brain damage.
“Marwencol” explores issues of identity — Hogancamp goes from “who am I?” to “who I am” — as well as the difficult process of going public with something that is intensely personal. Consider it akin to coming out. (The film will open in Philly Nov. 19.)
The Philadelphia Film Festival also offers viewers a first chance to see the final installment in the popular Stieg Larsson “Millennium” trilogy, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” Starring Noomi Rapace as the bisexual punk hacker Lisbeth Salander, this film should provide a satisfying conclusion to the series. For viewers who haven’t seen the first two films — or would like a refresher — all three “Girl” titles will screen back-to-back-to-back starting at noon Oct. 17 at the Prince. (“Hornet’s Nest” will open on Oct. 29.)
The festival also showcases several films with Philadelphia connections. Two films made in Philadelphia (unseen before press deadline) feature queer talent behind the camera. “OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie” (5 p.m. Oct. 21, Rave; noon Oct. 23, Annenberg Montgomery) was co-directed by out filmmaker Glenn Holsten (“Saint of 9/11”). This documentary, receiving its world premiere at the festival, chronicles a filmmaker’s battle with mental illness.
“Night Catches Us” (7:30 p.m. Oct. 22, Prince; 12:30 p.m. Oct. 23, Ritz Five), set in 1976 Philadelphia, concerns two former Black Panther activists (Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington). The film was produced by openly gay Sean Costello and Ron Simons, the latter of whom also has a supporting role. (“Night Catches Us” will open in Philadelphia on Dec. 3.)
Out actor Neil Patrick Harris will be onscreen — and in Rittenhouse Square — in “The Best and the Brightest” (7:15 p.m. Oct. 16, Ritz Five; 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18, Prince; and 9:45 p.m. Oct. 24, Rave). Harris co-stars with Bonnie Somerville as parents hoping to get their 5-year-old into an exclusive Upper East Side kindergarten. The sophomoric film, however, is mostly unsophisticated, enlivened by the affable Harris’ witty comic timing and deadpan reaction shots.
In the film, Harris poses as an erotic poet to sway the board of the school in which his wife Samantha (Somerville) wants to enroll their daughter. Harris goes through the motions in this strained, foul-mouthed farce, which has Philadelphia sites, including the Union League, doubling for Manhattan locations.
Perhaps the best and brightest thing in this comedy is Amy Sedaris. As a consultant who befriends Samantha, her manic energy injects some much-needed verve into this lackluster film.
A lesbian romance premiering at the Philadelphia Film Festival, “Room in Rome” (5 p.m. Oct. 18, 10 p.m. Oct. 20 and 10:10 p.m. Oct. 24, Ritz Five) has a Spanish beauty named Alba (Elena Anaya) meeting a leggy Russian looker named Natasha (Natasha Yarovenko) in Rome on the shortest night of the year. The women, who speak English to each other (but their native tongues to others), return to Alba’s hotel room, and within moments get undressed. They remain naked — or nearly naked — for practically the rest of the film, which unfolds almost entirely within the luxury hotel room.
Natasha says she has never been with a woman, and Alba is determined to make sure she never returns to a man. Over the course of their intense evening of passion, they make love, tell truths and lies, cry and laugh and decide if they will stay together. Viewers will be alternately entertained and frustrated by writer/director Julio Medem’s effort to wring drama and emotion out of what is essentially a classy-looking, skin-deep, soft-core lesbian romance featuring two very attractive and very naked leads. The film has its pleasures, but it’s a little too self-conscious.
Lastly, “Heartbeats” (5:25 p.m. Oct. 17, Ritz Five) is the sophomore effort of out writer/director/actor Xavier Dolan, whose exciting debut was this year’s QFest selection, “I Killed My Mother.” Alas, this film, about a love triangle among two men and a woman, was not available for preview.
For more information about the Philadelphia Film Festival, including screening times and locations, visit www.filmadelphia.org.