Herein lies the problem with mainstream films about lesbians, according to the singly monikered filmmaker Alpha, creator of the Austin-based production company Passion Fruit Video. Her efforts to offer an alternative view land her in Houston this weekend for the local premiere of her full-length feature How to Pick Up Girls: A Guide for the Dating Impaired at Chances Bar.
It's no mystery that dating sucks. What is a mystery, however, is how to pick up women if you're a newly out lesbian. Such is the conundrum of How to Pick Up Girls' Kate (Mysteria Black) and Angie (Rowena Pite), two dyke neophytes who can't even muster the courage to ask a girl to dance. They enlist the help of more experienced friends, who teach them, among other things, how to avoid common dating snafus, how to use their "gaydar" and how to spot a "butch snackcake" (a term best left for the movie to explain).
Passion Fruit Video is a lesbian-owned film company that, understandably, makes films for lesbians. But after How to Pick Up Girls premiered in 2004 at the Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Alpha found that its dating-sucks story line echoed across the sexuality spectrum. "I hadn't really set out to make a movie that was that universal," Alpha says. "We got e-mails afterwards from straight men. They'd say things like, 'I had no idea I had so much in common with lesbians!'"
The former writer/psychologist moved to Austin from Los Angeles in 2000. She quickly established Passion Fruit Video and has since directed and produced seven films spanning several genres, though she calls comedy her "forte." How to Pick Up Girls is a Christopher Guest-style mockumentary, complete with faux interviews and a cast full of experienced comedians.
One thing not drawn from Guest movies is lesbian sex scenes, which figure prominently in How to Pick Up Girls. "Part of being a lesbian is that you love women," Alpha says. "I think it's dishonest to act like everyone just shakes hands." But voyeurs looking for something out of a Playboy special can settle down: In postproduction interviews, almost every actress in the film said she was frustrated with the way lesbian sex is portrayed in porn films for heterosexual men. Alpha says she tried to make it less porno and more like "a Rubens painting." Très romantique, not sorority girls experimenting -- you dig?
So love ultimately trumps comedy in this film, but Alpha's next project is decidedly campy. The upcoming Chronicles of Halcyon: Pleasure Dome is a spoof that posits the burning questions "What if Xena really was a lesbian?" and "What if the warriors in Monty Python and the Holy Grail were cute Amazon butchies?" Uh, so that one might be slightly less universal.
Alpha is happy to share the laughs with Houston. She declares that she's now officially "Texan" and adds a definitive reason why: "Let's face it. Texas has some of the most beautiful lesbians in the world."
All you have to do is know how to ask them out.