When LGBT filmmaking hits its stride, it can be a wonder to behold – capturing the public conscience, breaking down barriers, travelling across artistic genres. At its best, the honesty and passion come through whether the setting is the open range, a 50s department store, or a Portland street corner. Characters range from a blue-haired French girl to an aging German composer. They are trans rock stars bent on revenge and starry-eyed kids hopping a rickety boat to freedom. The films can be anything from an elaborate tapestry woven for more than one story to the truthful snapshot of a weekend spent falling in love.
(Introduction by Steve Schweighofer)
Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)
Palme d’Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Color (La Vie d’Adèle) is a three-hour marvel written, produced, and directed by Abdellatif Kechiche. The film is a lesbian love story, so sharp, observant, and real, it’s emotional power lingers with you throughout, and long, long after. Although she sleeps with boys, Adèle (an astonishing Adèle Exarchopoulos) fails to maintain interest. Her almost love at first sight encounter with the blue-haired Emma (Léa Seydoux) catapults a new realm of attraction and longing for the teenager. As their friendship blossoms her friends appear to throw hostility her way taunting her as a lesbian. Fighting her corner, Adèle and Emma soon sleep together (in one of the most enduring, exceptional sex scenes in cinema history) and begin a romance – though Adèle, happy and comfortable as she is, still shows a certain concealment of the loving, sexual encounter. As the relationship, which lasts a few years, wilts and ends, Adèle realizes too late the pain and personal suffering that comes from losing that big love. At the film’s final furlong as Adèle enters early adulthood, she becomes a school teacher, and though the role clearly suits her, we have to still wonder what it is she has learnt over these young, turbulent years.
Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Death In Venice (1971)
Director Luchino Visconti’s visuals are legendary in that he has the ability to dazzle the eye while, at the same time, rattle the psyche. When he adapted Thomas Mann’s novella, he changed the occupation of the main character from that of a writer to a composer, allowing him to fill the aural track with Mahler, creating a lushness that matches his images. Poor old Aschenbach goes to Venice for his health and to escape the stresses in his life, but unfortunately, the city is suffering a cholera epidemic. He spots a youth travelling with his mother and immediately becomes obsessed with him, not so much on a sexual level but more as a memory of the beauty that is the beginning of life when all things are possible. It’s an escape fantasy that contrasts with his own imminent descent into the end of his own life. Dirk Bogarde is one of the most underrated actors of the 60s and 70s and here he gives a pitch perfect performance of an artist railing against physical and creative evaporation. Visconti recreates the period elaborately, as one would expect, yet manages to infuse the work with the weight of melancholy. Death in Venice is likely the most personal film of a director who was also a gay icon.
Steve Schweighofer @banjoonthecrag
Fox and His Friends (1975)
Fassbinder’s powerful film, one of the greatest, is a big punch in the gut. Focusing on the titular character played by Fassbinder himself as well as exploring the idea of love, money and life being a commodity. As long as its beneficial, rewarding and profitable, Fox will have his friends. Bitter, cynical and pessimistic equally of the lecherous characters poor and innocent Fox gets involved with and also of Fox himself, him being responsible for his own downfall in some ways. Yet there is humanity, the criticism and bitterness has a very human concern that is guiding the story. A working class circus man winning lottery and being systematically robbed slowly and painfully by a rich ‘elite’ hypocrite lover (played by Peter Chatel) he meets for himself and his business, sending Fox back to his place so to speak. But its not the same as it was, life and soul has been bled out. Humanity has taken coins and cheques as its one and only. Beautifully made as ever with a Fassbinder film, the clothes, interiors, materials and the varied shades of people and their psych, emotions and their breakdown. Every bit of it wonderfully thought and interpreted on screen. This is the Fassbinder film to turn you into his fan.
Asif Khan @KHAN2705
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s outrageous off-Broadway musical was adapted for the screen a mere three years after its stage premiere, and it’s not hard to see why. A thrillingly subversive, independent film in spirit and content alike, it’s a highly sexual, entertaining, irreverent gender-bending work of wonder. Few members of the worldwide LGBT community – insofar as there even is such a global community – cannot relate to the film’s central themes of overcoming adversity and difficulty, themes which Mitchell presents with an irresistible comedic coarseness. With marvellous musical numbers courtesy of Trask, fabulous ‘80s costumes from Arianne Phillips, a regular collaborator of Madonna and Tom Ford, and the kind of vibrancy we’ve since come to expect from Mitchell as director – then making his debut feature – it’s a vivacious celebration of a myriad of LGBT-related identities. It’s a modern musical classic, brilliantly executed on every level, and every bit as memorable and relevant today as it was upon release in 2001.
Paddy Mulholland @screenonscreen
The Hours (2002)
Stephen Daldry sucks the life out of his audience with The Hours, a once Oscar Best Picture favorite, that not only depicts strands of the life and works (Mrs Dalloway) of Virginia Woolf, also portrays varying aspects of homosexuality. I mean Meryl Streep’s partner is Allison Janney; Julianne Moore kisses Toni Collette; Nicole Kidman kisses Miranda Richardson; Ed Harris is gay; Jeff Daniels is gay; John C. Reilly and Stephen Dillane may as well be gay. In all seriousness though, and this is some heavy story-telling, the narrative beautifully split into three: Virginia Woof, to someone reading her work in the 1950s, to someone kind of living the life of Mrs. Dalloway in the present day. David Hare, adapting Michael Cunningham’s book, deserves a lot of the credit, pinning an affecting layer of natural melancholy throughout the screenplay, whatever the subject matter may be.
Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
The perfect film. As a romance, it stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Brief Encounter, Casablanca, and An Affair to Remember; saying that, one should note that it has been a long time since a serious romantic drama of this caliber has hit the screen that is capable of drawing you in and breaking your heart. There is much to be written about Brokeback Mountain, but for our purposes here, suffice it to say that it’s the first mainstream same sex romance to be universally lauded by critics at year’s end, awarding it nearly every critics’ prize for which it was considered. The film won the Golden Globe, Independent Spirit Award, BFI, Critics’ Choice, numerous guild prizes. When it garnered eight Oscar nominations, the most for its year, and missed the top prize due to a homophobic campaign, the industry, critical and public outcry that followed AMPAS’ failure shined a very bright light on discrimination. One cannot but think that this attention had some impact on the eventual evolution in social attitudes and that is the cherry on top. Brokeback Mountain’s legacy is not only is it a great film, it is a milestone in filmmaking that reached through the screen and changed things forever.
Steve Schweighofer @banjoonthecrag
My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Yes, My Own Private Idaho can be considered an LGBT film in that it has moments of sexual contact between men, and mostly based on turning tricks, but the reality is, this film is so much more as well. It’s hard to sum up what it’s about and what its message is, but from what I gathered, it’s about two guys Mike (River Phoenix) and Scott (Keanu Reeves) trying to find themselves in life, and about the choices they make for themselves and for the sake of others. Mike is trying to find his mother to no avail, and he is in love with Scott, but it’s a love unrequited. Scott on the other hand is trying to find his connection with his father. He doesn’t seek approval, but deep down yearns for it. As they set upon their journey, they learn things about themselves along the way, and discover who they are. It’s part Shakespearean and part metaphorical and it’s the work of an auteur making an art film and succeeding.
Al Robinson @Al_Rob_1982
One of the highlights of 2011, announcement of a great talent and establishing itself as a different kind of film about relationship between two queer individuals. Tender and sweet without being saccharine, sharp and economical without coming across as smug. Romance and intimacy is built naturally, its the focus and is given so much time to develop. Sex as an act of two people coming together and dropping every act to mutually experience togetherness. Sex as a starting point for opening up more not just to the partner but yourself, discovering, learning and confronting. This is without a doubt one of the finest films of its kind with such intimate and sensitive portrayal of two people, different in many ways but bound by one thing. It leaves you heartbroken, the narrative building towards the inevitable ending but the experience, over the weekend is the important attribute as it is to the two characters both of whom leave having lived so much in just a few days. This is the power of dialogue, of communication and human connection. Actors Tom Cullen and Chris New have such good chemistry, their line delivery like eavesdropping on the most personal moments of people. And you connect, feel and look back at your life since these are the things we all go through. Haigh’s stories are personal, profound, shaking and boost with so much wisdom they maybe by someone who have lived the life and are looking back at it. Like the two characters here, each recording their experiences and important moments, life is about living but not blindly. Contemplation is rewarding.
Asif Khan @KHAN2705
Una Noche (2012)
Lucy Mulloy’s extraordinary Una Noche is memorable for so many reasons. The youthful energy of the three teenagers at the heart of the story. The relentless, sweltering heat of the Havana streets. The empathetic struggles of restricted, ambitious youth. Following (and narrated by) Lila (Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre) a teenage girl bewildered by the concept of sex, her twin brother Elio (Javier Núñez Florián) who has a bond so strong with troubled / troublesome best friend Raul (Dariel Arrechaga) that we late on discover very different outlooks they have on each other. Raul thinks he knows about the realm of sexuality, but does not fully see that Elio wants him even after a kiss from the closeted brother, and earlier tries to lure an older prostitute who turns out to be transgender. The movie is about the twins primarily, but Raul’s subplot, fighting the struggles of poverty and disease, doing what he has to do to escape is a true monument to the movie.
Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Todd Haynes sacrifices to document the process of sacrificing – of relinquishing that which we are convinced makes life worth living so as to actually make it so. He abandons his artifice and creates a film that exists purely for the beauty, the wonder and the self-satisfaction of itself. To watch Carol is to participate in that satisfaction, one of emotional yearning and physical sensuality, of tension that tingles in its intensity only to yield to resolution of equal intensity. The characters sacrifice so much to surrender to this satisfaction, to do as never was done in 1950s America, to have the courage to embrace pleasure and to express and assert independence – this film must be an exquisite emotional experience for anyone who watches it, but especially so for someone who knows what these sacrifices take, what the irresistible lure of forbidden, true, honest love feels like. The film itself is an embrace, one of immaculate design communicating a wealth of sensitivity in its framing, its performances, its sound design, Haynes’ breathtaking delicacy as he stages a gesture or a glance with full comprehension of the significance that such intimacy can hold. A film of total, unequivocal beauty.
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And therein closes the 100 LGBT Film Experiences series. Thank you all dearly for following and reading, and special sugar-coated gratitude goes out to all those that contributed in this amazing journey. Now why not go back and refresh yourself with the previous nine parts: