I can’t say I’m into drag queens, but I’d like to think I’m sharp enough to recognize a guy who’s really good at it. And who knows how to be funny. And can act with a certain whatever…snap, juice, pizazz. Anyway, I have this conviction that Humberto Busco, the star of a Puerto Rican- produced, La Cage aux Folles-y farce called Manuela y Manuel, which is playing at the AFI Film Fest tomorrow (11.5) and Wednesday (11.7), definitely qualifies.
I wound up seeing Manuela y Manuel out of a sense of kinship. Partly because an agent friend had slipped me a DVD screener, but primarily because I was talking to the film’s producer, Frances Lausell Diaz, when I was popped three nights ago for jaywalking in front of the Cinerama Dome. We’d only been talking two or three minutes when two of L.A.’s finest, glaring at me like I might be the new Hannibal Lecter, stood on a sidewalk and began writing me a ticket.
Frances held my camera and provided a semblance of emotional support. She then invited me to join her and the Manuela gang for dinner. I was too pissed off at the cops to think about food, but Diaz is my idea of a good and gracious person. She didn’t know me, but she stood by me like a friend.
The next night I watched the screener and decided that Busto, whom I’d seen six or seven years ago in a small role in Amores perros (a friend of Gael Garcia Bernal‘s character), is the new Michel Serrault — i.e., recently-deceased French actor who played “Zaza” in La Cage aux Folles in ’78. It’s too bad Busto wasn’t around when Pedro Amodovar was making his sexual farces from the ’80s and mid ’90s. He’d have fit right in.
Busto plays a cross-dressing performer who agrees to pretend to be the straight fiance of a woman friend, Coca (Elena Iguina) who doesn’t want her conservative family that she’s been knocked up by some guy she had a one-night-stand with. I know — sounds a little too Cages au Folles, but there’s something about the intense Latin temperament, not just in the actors but in the direction by Raul Marchand Sanchez and the screenplay by Jose Ignacio Valenzuela.