100 LGBT Film Experiences – Part Eight

Relationships, or the lack of, can drive characters to success or oblivion. It can be a hidden surprise that reveals itself too late to make any rational judgment, an obsession that darkens the soul, or a flamboyant road trip where the only things in the closet are the wigs. Part Eight looks at a range of situations where being “in” or “out” has consequences – from Brazil to Russia – whether one is young or elderly, famous, infamous or just plain ordinary.

(Introduction by Steve Schweighofer)

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Heavenly Creatures (1994)

Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey) and Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet) are teenage girls that form a deep, obsessive companionship, floating off into the creation of a fantasy world. Somewhere through the intensity of their relationship though is a genuine loving bond, the innocence of heart and soul propels theirs passions beyond reality. The external factors that threaten to prise them apart, a life-threatening illness, homophobia, eventually forces the girls to commit an unthinkable act that they cannot return from. Peter Jackson’s 1950s New Zealand is beautiful, as is his story-telling, and exceptional debuters Lynskey and Winslet shine so brightly you long for their escape from whatever universe shackles them.

Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

The Way He Looks (2014)

A warm, compassionate depiction of teenage sexual awakening, self-discovery and friendships. Free of cynicism, exuberant in its innocence and doesn’t fall into any soapy territory. Director Daniel Ribeiro’s feature debut is an adaptation of his own short which had the same cast. This beautiful Brazilian film won awards at Berlin International Film Festival and was a modest success with film buffs. Remarkable is the fact that the protagonist here is a blind gay boy. But his disability isn’t treated as a special case or something to trivialise for importance. The camera gives so much space as it lingers on his face and body as he experiences life in all its changing colors. The first kiss, feeling of love, being noticed, seeking insependence. The dynamic of friendship between our protagonist, his long-time friend, a girl and the new boy who becomes closer to him is sincere with all the adolescent conflicts and shifting nature of its intensity. A fresh and welcome change in many ways.

Asif Khan @KHAN2705

Les Invisibles (2012)

A Cannes 2012 screener from celebrated French LGBT filmmaker Sébastien Lifshitz, and precursor to this year’s fellow Cannes title The Lives of Thérèse, Les Invisibles is the stirring, sensitive depiction of one thing in another time. An old way of life from a new perspective, Lifshitz’s documentary follows several elderly lesbians, including The Lives’ Thérèse Clerc, and gay men in France, looking back over their experiences in an era where society rejected them, and thus astutely contrasting an ethos of secrecy and shame with the modern ethos of openness that has engendered this whole project. Lifshitz’s sympathetic touch as filmmaker permits his subjects the space to tell their stories as they intend them to be told, thereby creating less a narrative-driven film than a character-driven one, the details and the manner of their recollections both shaping our impressions of each individual person. It’s a work of real, natural beauty, and an essential entry into the LGBT film archives.

Paddy Mulholland @screenonscreen

Burnt Money (2000)

Argentine director Marcelo Pineyro based his Goya Award winning film on a novelized account of a 1965 Buenos Aires bank robbery involving an unusual gang that included two gay men, and it’s the relationship between the two guys that set the entire gang on a one-way route to their demise. When the police injures one of them during the robbery, the other kills the guards and two police in a whiteout rage. What would be a run-of-the-mill Butch Cassidy-style bank-robber-meets-the reaper-in-fiery-shootout retread is made more interesting by the gay couple (Leonardo Sbaraglia and Eduardo Noriega) and the supporting cast, especially the star turn by Pablo Echarri as the high libido homophobe, El Cuervo, who becomes the film’s most endearing character. The contrast between the robbery itself and the subsequent solitude of the hideout, which takes up most of the film, nudges us to the conclusion that this situation can only have one ending, and the title provides us with a clue as to their last defiant act.

Steve Schweighofer @banjoonthecrag

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Tomboy (2011)

This 2011 gem was a surprising revelation at the time personally. For the empathetic, tender and keen eye of writer and director Céline Sciamma. Her way of looking and delving into gender and sexuality was unique. With keen interest in examination, naturally exploring every aspect but not taking away the organics of life. The other being Zoé Héran, the young actress who plays the lead role of a 10-year-old tomboy, Laure, introducing herself as a boy, Mikäel to the kids in the neighborhood where she has just moved with her family. The story in the hands and graceful gestures of both Sciamma and Héran is tender and affectionate. Brimming with childhood and youthful details and a rare exploration of ambiguous gender expression. The dynamics between the lead and her environment are deft in nature but delicately examined. Confusion of other kids, oppression of the mother who wants her by birth daughter to remain as such and the freedom that the embrace of this new identity has offered. Minimum dialogues, more glances adds to the experience, making us feel over informing. Not shying away from complications, Tomboy is one of the very few of films to have taken on the gender expression among kids. A warm summer film, economical examination of identity and a potent sociological drama.

Asif Khan @KHAN2705

Claire of the Moon (1992)

Director Nicole Conn has had some hits and misses throughout her career, but as an out lesbian who has been making lesbian films consistently for over two decades, she is an important figure in queer cinema. Claire of the Moon, Conn’s first film, uses the relationship between two women–one straight and one gay–to examine themes of desire and sexual identity. Its soft-focus, low-budget production style can make the content come off as alternately corny and pretentious, but it also lends a palpable visual sensuality to what is a largely dialogue driven film. Overall, Claire of the Moon seems quite dated, especially given the standout performance and production that characterizes the more recent lesbian drama Carol. However, it is still a classic, one that’s representative of a period of lesbian culture that, for a younger generation of queer women, exists only through the films it left behind.

Desirae Embree @ZeeSayre

Beau Travail (1999)

Soldiers, bodies, in the warm sun, a desert, dancing rhythmically… no performing military exercises. Denis has such a knack for capturing male bodies on the screen, her frequent collaborator Agnès Godard is psychically attuned to her. Beau Travail is riped with those images of the French Foreign Legion soldiers enduring tough balletic exercises in Djibouti under master sergeant Galoup (played by the chameleon that is Denis Lavant). He is recalling his experience, the images he fondly remembers and like most of the filmmaker’s work, the eliptic nature of the narrative makes sense. Their use that is. Galoup, as a viewer can see and feel, possess repressed sexual feelings for his superior and with the arrival of Gilles Sentain (Grégoire Colin), who is both physically attractive and socially skilled, he is overwhelmed by envy. Almost surreal in the aforementioned sequences, the fever pitch is reached towards the end. A film both baffling, visually rapturous and immensely tragic. One of the early highlights of the 21st century in cinema. Experience it once, it’ll stay with you forever.

Asif Khan @KHAN2705

The Crying Game (1992)

Following catastrophic events that spawned an unlikely friendship, Fergus seeks out Dil, and she cuts his hair in a scene later mirrored when he cuts hers. The latter though signifies an act of protection, he loves Dil now, his good Irish heart has carved his own personal loyalty. Director Neil Jordan won an Oscar for his multi-layered screenplay, transcending a dark, dangerous world with chapters of compassion and companionship. The Crying Game not only delves into the Irish troubles and the obligations of nationality, it also tells a love story you’d hardly see anywhere else. Perhaps against his own judgement and prejudices, Fergus sees beyond the fact Dil is transgender, changing his own idea of the nature of things.

Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

The Music Lovers (1970)

Don’t let anyone tell you differently – enfant terrible Ken Russell invented the music video with his TV/cinematic biopics of composers such as Mahler (Mahler), Liszt (Lisztomania), and Tchaikovsky (The Music Lovers). Russell’s indulgent and flamboyant style rankled many, but there is no denying the visceral impact of his musical sequences. In The Music Lovers, closeted-at-the-time actor plays closeted composer Tchaikovsky in a salute that focuses on fame, love and probably one of the most disastrous marriages ever filmed. The film begins with a rollicking Russian Fair sequence set to “Scherzo Burlesque” and “Dance of the Clowns” that ends with the composer tumbling into bed with a male lover and it never lets up, taking up on a musical voyage through Pyotr Ilyich’s rise to acclaim and ultimate disdain for fame, as well as his dysfunctional marriage to Antonina and death from cholera, all set to the composer’s music. Glenda Jackson (god, how cinema misses her!), who was on a career roll after her Oscar-winning performance in Women In Love (also dir. By Ken Russell) plays Pyotr Ilyich’s troubled nymphomaniac wife. Critics who were scandalized by Russell’s over-the-top imagery universally panned the film and the Soviet government issued a statement denying Tchaikovsky’s sexuality. We now know that he had an active, yet well-hidden, extra-curricular life and that his music passionately reflects his states of mind from joy and lust to frustration and emotional collapse, so the criticisms of the 70s don’t exactly hold water. Russell’s style is like a very rich dessert – a little goes a long way – but The Music Lovers is an entertaining ride that still surprises.

Steve Schweighofer @banjoonthecrag

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The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (1994)

The unashamedly flamboyant, socially adventurous The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was a bright, young thing back in 1994. The Australian comedy-slash-drama was a rare occurrence in the world film industry, touching down nicely on the very real subject of drag queens, transgender folk, and the ludicrous AIDS associated slander. Stephan Elliott, who wrote and directed, along with a stellar cast (Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Terence Stamp), drop-kicked Aussie cinema and the LGBT representation into the film-viewing masses. The film also crashed the heavily mainstream Academy Awards by winning Best Costume Design. Priscilla, the bus and the movie, is a genuine thrill seeker, delivering some crucially relevant themes of sexuality and identity on a vibrant, smart and humorous journey.

Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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