Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Le Grand Bal : A Sex-bomb and a hint of Perfume !

No film festival (queer or otherwise) is really a festival without a party — preferably good, big, noisy and naughty. Our opening night master of ceremonies, Margaret, did not disappoint, throwing the annual ‘Le Grand Bal’ bash at Bar Hijouguchi. A few of us stopped by earlier in the day as Margaret, looking just fine — indeed, downright butch! — out of make-up and in a pair of sweaty overalls, worked on the inflatable splash pool that would not come into ‘play’ until the wee hours.

The evening kicked off around 11 :00, with Margaret arriving on stage in a wig and heels so high she was in danger of breaking through the typically low Japanese ceiling. The audience was treated to two main performances, the first around 11 :00, the second at about 3 :00 am, as well as the special finale in the splash pool, out front of the bar, so that even casual passers-by could get in on the fun.

Performers, DJs, and other contributors to the happy mayhem included : Emi Eleonola (エミ・エレオノーラ), Jon the Dog [ジョン(犬)], kokushosumire (黒色すみれ), Rachel D’Amour (レイチェル・ダムール), Aira, Alpina, Cutie Pai, Nakamura Sunao (中村直), Tsugawa Eiji (津川エイジ), Diamond Cutter, Joe & DC Beauties, lala-miria, Lil'Grand-Bitch, Vivienne Sato (ヴィヴィアン佐藤), and last but certainly not least, wrestler "Seibakudan" [Sex-bomb] Shinobu ("性爆弾" 忍). (For a complete list of credits, links to the performers personal websites and blogs, as well as images, please visit : http://www.hijouguchi.com/lgff2008/)

As the curtains were drawn aside for the first set, they revealed an elaborate cabaret space of three brightly-coloured rooms. It looked like nothing so much as a life-size version of a doll’s house, or the set of one of Michel Gondry’s more surreal Björk videos. These were brought to life in successive performances in each room, with torchy piano and accordian numbers, and even a sentimental ballad perfromed by – yes – a giant costumed dog! The bulk of the audience settled in on the floor, like eager children attending the studio taping of a favourite TV show. It was half-Hedwig, half-Romper Room!

The second set was distinctly more risque, with more than one pole dance, and a fabulous strip performance that went improbably on and on, as the lithe dancer seemed to have concealed an infinite series of thongs in descending sizes, one underneath the other. At the end of the song, he stood with his back to an audience dying for a look at the last little bit of anatomy he’d managed to conceal. He stripped off the last thong, turned around, and – with his top hat placed gingerly over the desired spot – took a bow and departed, as tantalizingly mysterious as he’d been when he first arrived (despite having lost all his clothes in the meantime).

The other highlight was a 20-minute performance by Cutie Pai, known as the ‘Perfume of Nichome’, for their pitch-perfect imitation of the Japanese techno-pop act Perfume. Despite being, oh, perhaps 10 to 15 years older than than their idols, Cutie Pai put on a fantastic show. There was no sitting on the floor for this one. The audience were on their feet, thrusting their arms forward in sync with the song, and each other – a gesture from one of Perfume’s most popular videos. Afterward, the crowd descended into another frenzy of dancing and cheerful chaos.

To cap the night off, however, the action shifted from the dancefloor out to the street, where Margaret was playing host in front of the bar. You remember, of course, that little splash pool we’d caught her preparing so carefully earlier? It was now occupied by none other than Seibakudan ‘Sex-bomb’ Shinobu, a local wrestler and performer possessed of admirable talents, and of course, an absolutely killer body! His hair dyed a to-die-for blond (perhaps in homage to Kitano Takeshi?), and wearing nothing more than wrestling boots and the tiniest pair of skin-tight lace-up wrestling trunks (both in the vibrant Grape Ape colour of 1970s motorcycle leather), he squatted, writhed, and generally thrust his pelvis at those only too eager to play "Super-ball sukui" (‘Catch the Superball !’). The pool having been filled with both water and hundreds of multi-coloured rubber super-balls, as well as rubber duckies and other pool and bath-time favourites, contestants were given tiny paddles with which they had to try to roll the ball or duck or whatever else they fancied up out of the water and over Shinobu’s crotch to claim it as their own! Not only did Shinobu not mind all this attention to his purple-clad nether regions, he even had the impish sense of humour to egg us on in English : "Come on! Catch the balls! Come on! Come on!"

When the bar closed around 5 :00, and the weary but satiated revellers wandered out into the streets under a sky already brightening with morning sun, it was a little like stepping off of a movie set, or out of a music video, back into the real world. For the most part, those of us working for the festival were not sober, but were quickly sobered up by the thought of having to return to Wald 9 in a few hours for another day of packed screenings and fabulous guests. And, of course, we were already looking forward to next year’s Grand Bal. 楽しみに!

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