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Chris Russo's Films

review by Ronit Bezalel and Riva Lehrer

Director Chris Russo

Filmmaker Chris Russo has a gift for creating playfully funny films that gently poke fun at both herself and the lesbian community. She recently screened her body of work at the Season 7 Premiere of Dyke Delicious Films in Chicago.

The evening acted as a sort of mini-retrospective of Russo’s films, allowing us to witness her development as a filmmaker. The program opened with an early film from Russo’s time in graduate school that revolved around her crush on a pizza waitress. Russo spices up this simple story with animation, quirky music, and a slice of self-depreciating humor. The result is fresh and quite charming.

Russo’s droll wit was apparent in her next film, Straight Down the Aisle: Confessions of Lesbian Bridesmaids (2000). Poignant and funny, it showed what happens when lesbian identity encounters the heart of straight culture.  This hilarious parade of bridesmaid horror stories was a real crowd pleaser. The next film shown, Size ‘em Up (2002), is not as successful as her previous work, being both slick and awkward. It chronicles a young tomboy’s adventures while being fitted for a bra at a store entirely staffed by female lechers. The production values were impeccable, but the tone was ultra-campy and the humor fell flat. 

Russo shifted gears with the highly intense A Woman Reported (2004). This “fractured narrative lyrically illustrates a woman’s imaginary journey from the violent hands of hate crime attackers into the safety of her girlfriend’s arms.” It was a disturbing film centered on an imminent rape, which silenced the audience.

After intermission, the tone became lighthearted again as we were treated to a short trailer about a couple that drives each other crazy, I Just Want to Be Alone: The Trailer (2006).  Russo’s years of experience in LA surfaced next as she explored a more traditional Hollywood approach to film, as we saw five scenes from Russo’s feature script Directed By Dorothy Arzner. This was created in the Sundance Director’s Lab, and is Russo's passion; she has been searching for funding for 10 years. However, the scenes felt somewhat stilted - the production values were wonderful, but it echoed Size 'em Up with a similar artificiality.

However, the evening concluded quite successfully with Russo’s extremely funny 25 Random Things I Did During My Big Fat Lesbian Depression (2009).  Russo returned to her strength - a humorous narrative told with a lot of mischief. We look forward to seeing more of these films in the future.

- Riva Lehrer is a Chicago based artist and freelance writer. Her work can be found at http://www.RivaLehrer.com.

- Ronit Bezalel is a documentary filmmaker, writer, and avowed sports junkie. See her films at http://www.ronitfilms.com.

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