Ah, life is a cabaret. It’s also a launderette, wedding, funeral parlor, beach, Moroccan Kasbah, British estate, and a fucking Turkish steam bath. Life really happens when you least expect it, in the most surprising ways that change everything – sometimes for the better, sometimes, not. Part Three focuses on stunning settings and these life-changing events. “Screw Maximilian!” “I do.” “So do I!”.
(Introduction by Steve Schweighofer)
Bob Fosse’s majestic, magnetic, magnificent war-time musical Cabaret is a true feast for the senses. The seedy allure of the Kit Kat Klub provides a lurid location for song and dance (yes, some of those girls are transvestites), as well as poking a not-so-subtle stick at the Nazi occupation. The spectacular Joel Grey as the Emcee is darkly camp in his implicit, dominant persona as he leads the chorus line, frolicking a-plenty. It is, though, the three-way companionship between Bambi-eyed performer Sally Bowles (a flourishing, florescent Liza Minnelli), Englishman Brian (Michael York), and playboy Maxmilian von Heune that gives the sexuality element some real depth. Part comical, flippant, part serious, life-changing, their huddle is brief, but leaves a lasting effect. Moments prior to the Nazi-uniformed boy bellowing out “Tomorrow Belongs To Me”, Brian takes out the cigarettes, he and Maximilian share a comforting look, but it is the hand touch and eye-to-eye moment as a cigarette is lit that provides the movie’s most intimate homosexual moment. Nothing is clearly defined in Cabaret, to its credit, Brian is unsure of his sexuality, the extravagant Grey portrays a character with such androgyny, and the gender of the entertainers is inconsequential. A fabulous masterpiece, darling, all the way.
Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
“I remember the first time I saw Gareth on a dance-floor. I feared lives would be lost.”. In a film all about the overwhelming passions and underlying ludicrousy of love, Gareth and Matthew fit as the exemplar happy couple, two lovebirds in a committed relationship who can pass reasonable judgement on the ill-fated romantic endeavours of their friends because amidst all the humdrum and pleasantry of the titular weddings they attend, their relationship was, above all, the perfect marriage. The romantic comedy genre rarely ventures from its assembly line of heterosexual infatuations. But in one of Richard Curtis’s most successful contributions, Gareth and Matthew steer away from the flamboyant stereotypes of gay characters, and are instead portrayed as all gay characters should be – the same as everybody else.
Rhiannon Topham @rhiannontopham
Prick Up Your Ears (1987)
Stephen Frears directed an outstanding biopic of the life of free spirit 60s playwright Joe Orton, (chameleon Gary Oldman) and his brutal murder at the hands of his disturbed, taken-for-granted lover, Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina). It’s an odd relationship from the start, not to mention illegal at the time. Orton was younger than Halliwell, but knew how to manipulate him throughput their 17-year partnership that was anything but exclusive and focused increasingly on Orton’s success, which was meteoric, lasting only there years before his death. The irony is that Orton was the an unskilled diamond in the rough when he met Halliwell, who performed an almost Pygmalion miracle by teaching him just about everything until Orton’s natural talent kicked-in. Halliwell was left in the dust emotionally, spiritually and, of course, physically, ultimately triggering the psychotic murder/suicide. The story is loaded, however, with Orton’s surgical wit, a gay lothario’s dreamscape that was Morocco in the 60s, and a juicy peach of a performance by Vanessa Redgrave as Orton’s savvy literary agent.
Longtime Companion (1990)
Nearly a decade after the AIDS epidemic that hit the gay community the hardest, the first wide released film to directly feature it as its subject was released. Longtime Companion is a devastating film, explicitly portraying lives and loss of them in deceptively simple manner. The focus in this film is a big group of friends, all homosexuals with the exception of one straight woman. Story is told chronologically beginning in 1981 and then jumping about a year showing how lives, relationships, sense of being is affected by this new disease that is targeting the people these characters know and love. You can’t watch this film without crying, it is heart wrenching. Individuals having to deal with the paranoia surrounding AIDS, the social implications, work and most of all, their love and friendships. In a true human manner, the characters never stop living, they embrace, stick together, they laugh and move about with their lives. The daily routines of different characters, their breaking apart and coming together, natural fears, questions, all form the basic outline of the film. Thus, the impact is very strong. Scenes of deteriorating health, hospitals, people saying goodbye last time, the writer and director brings so much honesty in them. A sequence towards the end, one of the best in the movies, will make you want to firmly embrace all the loved ones in your life.
The Falling (2014)
While not properly an “LGBTQ film,” there is something undeniably queer about Carol Morley’s disquieting drama. Starring Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), the film explores the vicissitudes of teenage girlhood in the cloistered environment of an English girls’ school. Though the premise seems stock–the all-girls’ school being a reliable vehicle for lesbian film content since the early 20th century–its execution is anything but. Following the death of her best friend, protagonist Lydia (Williams) begins to suffer from fainting spells, and soon the affliction begins to spread throughout the student body. The majority of the film’s dramatic appeal is in its endless deferral of an explanation for what seems like mass hysteria, which invites the viewer to fill in the narrative gap with their own answers. However, in the end, the cause of the illness matters less than what it reveals: the sometimes claustrophobic intimacy and eroticism of girlhood friendships.
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
My Beautiful Laundrette is a well-known British film, penned by Hanif Kureishi, and directed by Stephen Frears. As well as a strong hold on the relationships between the white English and the people of Pakistan in Britain at the time of Thatcher’s rule in the 1980s, the film centers on a homosexual relationship between Omar (Gordon Warnecke) and Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis). They are reunited after years apart, Omar living in London with his family, Johnny a punk gang ring-leader. They attempt to step aside from their restrictive social landscapes to run a launderette as well as maintain their own companionship. Frears and Kureishi add touches of humor to the whole affair, while keeping a strong grip of those crucial times of racism, homophobia, and class divide – the performances too seem to ooze a real compassion for the era and location.
Funeral Parade of Roses (1969)
Written and directed by Matsumoto, this 1969 Japanese film is a loose adaptation of the “Oedipus Rex” and is set in the gay underground counterculture of 60’s Tokyo. Structured and edited in audacious ways, manipulating speed and time, juxtaposing specific imagery and so on. Formally it has a strong rigor, a standout among the Japanese New Wave films and is famous for influencing Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. The protagonist of the film is Eddie, a transvestite working at a club with other transvestites owned by a man named Gonda who is attracted to and sleeps with Eddie. Eddie’s present and past turmoil is at the center of this remarkable film, his tribulations, journey through life always marked by his identity and actions. Baroque and Warholian, trippy and elusive, extravagantly violent, seductive and dangerous. A great experimentation which blends several themes and film styles to portray the gay and trans culture of its time in Japan. Bold not only for its depiction but also for the filmmaking where reality, fantasy, time, desire, jealousy all seep into each other. At the same time it documents, actors and real people of the community. A strange blend that takes over your senses and mind. A story that shocks and propels. Filmmaking that astounds.
Eisenstein in Guanajuato (2015)
Formalism is fun in Peter Greenaway’s Eisenstein in Guanajuato, less a loosening of this filmmaker’s directorial didacticism than a reinvigoration! A limber examination of the process of producing works of art, primarily for the screen, expressed mainly through Greenaway’s own appraisal of his own techniques. You can sense inquisitiveness, even indecision in the brash stylistic choices he puts to memorable use throughout, and how each encourage new interpretation on this material. He places these formal concerns in unusual isolation, stranded amid a narrative directness and thematic simplicity that will be new to those better versed in recent Greenaway than in his older works. There is what happens, and there is the particular presentation of what happens through creative technical manipulation; it’s typically dense yet bracingly frivolous. The camera effects are carefully layered, delightfully disorientating, and Greenaway turns split-screen editing into structural punchlines. But beyond all this innovation is dedication to drama, a warmth to the director’s touch that extends an inviting hand to the viewer, and permits us to appreciate what’s being achieved. The film is sexy, funny, beautifully lit, excellently performed. It’s strictly arthouse fun – it’s too strictly strict to be anything else – but it is fun.
When Francesco (Alessandro Gassman) inherits property in Istanbul from an eccentric aunt, he takes leave from his business and stale marriage in Italy and ventures to Turkey to sell it. Instead, he falls for the charms of the dilapidated Hamam (steam bath), as well as for the son of the family managing the bath, and decides instead to reopen it. Ferzan Ozpetek’s film is about transformation and rebirth in the face of unstoppable progress. Happiness and commerce are not always compatible bedfellows, but seizing the moment, despite the consequences, is what revitalizes us. Beautifully filmed and scored, we are seduced by the beauty of old Istanbul and simpler times even as the developer’s specter looms dangerously. Hamam, an Italian/Turkish/Spanish production, takes us to that unexpected place that allows us to reconnect with something that has been lost in the shuffle, and which ultimately changes everything.
Show Me Love (1998)
Written and directed by Lukas Moodysson, Show Me Love, set in the small town of Åmål, opens with a bout of explosive sibling squabbling – which sets the scene for Agnes (Rebecka Liljeberg) to fascinatingly stare over at Elin (Alexandra Dahlström) amidst a bunch of teenage girls bickering in the school halls. There’s a real free-spirited comedy element here as well as coming-of-age drama, reminiscent in tone to those John Hughes classics. These teenage girls verbalize their angst like it’s going out of fashion, it’s a raw, candid depiction of melodramatic adolescence, also proving young love is like any love, it can hurt you, humiliate you, as well as stir your most euphoric senses. The unison of Elin and Agnes takes time, even though the strong feelings are there, given how teenagers have such illustrious reputations to think about, which lesbianism would only taint. The film was given the title Show Me Love when the Hollywood industry frowned upon the original Swedish title Fucking Åmål (ending its Oscar Foreign Language bid). Fucking Tinseltown.
Robin Write @WriteoutofLA