6 posts categorized "LGBT"

November 24, 2017

VICTIM — CLASSIC FILM PICK

Colesmithey.comMade in 1961, six years before homosexuality was decriminalized in the UK, director Basil Dearden’s brave filmic treatise on the subject contributed to a sea change of public opinion. Here is a movie that is more riveting than necessarily entertaining, although it is that too.

Dirk Bogard gives a brilliant portrayal of Melville Farr, a London barrister living as a closeted gay man to his loving wife Laura (played by Syliva Syms). Farr becomes connected to a blackmail investigation related to the death of a young man with whom Farr had an ongoing affair.

Victim

Written by the husband-and-wife writing team of Janet Green and John McCormic, “Victim” is a love story, a who-done-it mystery, and a gripping social drama. Rich details in the narrative‘s social settings — a gay character’s chic apartment, a local pub, or that of a used bookstore — accurately place the political climate of the day. Freedom hardly exists for gay people whose sexual identities are under constant attack from all sides. "Victim" is an essential addition to the LGBT cannon that has the ability to put its audience in a cold sweat. The sense of fear on the screen is palpable.     

Not rated. 90 mins. (A) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)


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August 01, 2016

SUMMERTIME

Summertime Poster“Summertime’s” French title “La Belle Saison” (“The Beautiful Season”) is more apropos for this beautiful film. French Cinema continues to reliably deliver dramatic pictures with serious social relevance and emotional resonance.

Emotionally honest, “Summertime” captures a blossoming lesbian romance struggling to survive against familial and societal factors in '60s era rural France after travelling from Paris.

Izïa Higelin gives a riveting performance as Delphine, a tough farm girl visiting Paris. Higelin’s solid build, and low center of gravity give her character an earthy, sensual physicality. Her endearing overbite is reminiscent of Adele Exarchopoulos in “Blue is the Warmest Color.”

The visibly gay Delphine is through with running the family farm with her provincially minded parents. They think their daughter should already be married, to a boy of course. “Loneliness is a terrible thing.” Delphine’s parents don’t know that she recently broke up with her childhood girlfriend. Her lover is switching teams, to get married.

Summertime2

The adventurous twentysomething Delphine finds her romantic soul-mate-apparent in the guise of Women’s Lib activist Carole (Cécile De France). Cecile De France has come a long way from the bat-wielding chic in Alexandre Aja’s “High Tension” (2003). Here, her maturity both as a woman and as an actress, gives the film a lusty feminist vision of liberation.

Summertime

Co-screenwriter/director Catherine Corsini crafts a fine romantic period drama filled with organic feminine passion, and political energy. Jeanne Lapoirie’s unfussy cinematography is never less than intimate. American audiences looking for female-led dramas that are authentic by design need only seek out this impressive film.

Rated R. 105 mins. (B+) (Four stars — out of five / no halves)

December 10, 2015

The Danish Girl

THE DANISH GIRL This year’s big mainstream addition to LGBT cinema finds the ever-reliable Eddie Redmayne turning in a solid portrayal as Einar Wegener, the (historically factual) first man to undergo a sex-change operation. With the aid and approval of his loving wife Gerda (played by a terribly miscast Alicia Vikander), Einar makes the transition into his inner-ego Lili Elbe. It helps that both are independently minded painters.

Although scribe (Lucinda Coxon) and director (Tom Hooper) conspire to downplay the film’s would-be unbearably intense dramatic scope, “The Danish Girl” has the potential to pay off handsomely to audiences who empathize fully with Gerda’s generosity of spirit, as matched by Einar’s daring nature. They are at one the perfect couple, and the wrong couple. This may be LGBT-lite, but the effort is there, however embellished with a distinctly British stiff upper lip.

“The Danish Girl” is a terrific showcase for Eddie Redmayne’s dauntless abilities as an actor of Broadway and film. His pensive sense of confidence and commitment to Einar’s and Lili’s complex inner emotional life is as pure an interpretation as you could ever imagine. The actor’s porcelain features work perfectly in the context of David Ebershoff’s novel, as adapted by the same filmmaker responsible for “The Damned United” and “The King’s Speech”).

Alicia Vikander is five years too young for her role, but this flaw could easily slip past audiences won over by the film’s lush production design and tasteful use of music.

To Vikader’s credit, it is not her fault that she was miscast. She gave an excellent performance in “Ex Machina,” and will go on to do many more roles more suited for her. The problem here is that Gerda is an accomplished artist in her own right before she shows her maturity by helping her troubled husband follow his dream to transform into the woman trapped in his body.

The_danish_girl
The film drags in places. It also resides inside a melodramatic bubble of theatricality that dares not show too much emotion. The movie has a soap opera vibe. 

The Danish Girl” pales against Todd Haynes’s “Carol.” Still, there is much to admire in Eddie Redmayne’s daring performance. It’s the main reason to see this film.

Rated R. 120 mins. (B) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)

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November 27, 2012

Any Day Now

Any Day NowIt’s rare to come across such a unique cinematic gem as director/co-screenwriter Travis Fine’s riveting drama about a ‘70s era gay couple’s attempt to adopt a boy with Down syndrome. Alan Cumming gives a superb performance as Rudy Donatello, a Los Angeles lip-synch drag singer who discovers romantic and paternal love. 

Queens-transplant Rudy lives in a single room occupancy where his drug-abusing neighbor Marianna (Jamie Anne Allman) abandons her mentally challenged son Marco (Isaac Leyva) after her incarceration. Rudy sees through Marco’s disability to the sweet soul that resides within. Indeed, Isaac Leyva's performance substantiates Rudy's insights. A concurrent meet-up between Rudy and Paul (Garrett Dillahunt – “Winter’s Bone”), a gay L.A. district attorney, quickly blossoms into a stable relationship from which the couple attempt to provide a permanent home for Marco.

Garrett Dillahunt’s performance is a revelation. Not only does the objectively brawny actor evince compassion, but he shares a tangible chemistry with Cumming. The on-screen relationship represents a thoroughly believable vision of gay romantic love. Germane musical set pieces intersperse the story, allowing Alan Cumming to tear up the proscenium stage with haunting songs performed in character. Dramatic narrative depth arises from the layers of necessary emotion Cumming puts into the songs that he lip-syncs and the ones he actually sings. You’ve never witnessed a more searing rendition of “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.” As for Cumming’s knockout performance of the film’s closing song, I’ll leave you to discover that reward without spoiling the surprise.

“Any Day Now” is a powerful independent film that could slip through the cracks. It is also a significant addition to the cannon of LGBT cinema. If you have a chance to see it on the big screen, don’t pass it up. I guarantee you will be moved.

Rated R. 97 mins. (A) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)

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March 21, 2012

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH — CLASSIC FILM PICK

Hedwig and the Angry Inch"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" (2001) epitomizes an LGBT uprising on multiple fronts. Based on the musical by composer Stephen Trask and actor/director John Cameron Mitchell, the film adaptation is disarmingly touching and funny at every turn.

The narrative significance of the title’s “angry inch” is the lump of itching burning flesh left behind after Hedwig’s botched sex change operation. Hedwig—formerly Hansel Schmidt—underwent the procedure, at his mother’s advice, in order to enable his escape from communist East Berlin to the U.S. by marrying Luther, a gay African-American soldier.

A distorted guitar version of the American national anthem segues into LGBT rock goddess Hedwig (Cameron Mitchell) leading her tough-looking Eastern bloc rock band through “Tear me Down,” a ferocious song that discusses, “the divide between east and west, between slavery and freedom, between man and woman, top and bottom.”

Hedwig.colesmithey.com

Hedwig sings, “Ain’t much difference between a bridge and a wall. Without me right in the middle, babe you would be nothing at all.”

Hedwig’s guitarist boyfriend Yitzhak (convincingly played by Miriam Shor) slips into spoken verse: “August 13, 1961 a wall was erected down the middle of the city of Berlin. The world was divided by a cold war and the Berlin Wall was the most hated symbol of that divide. Reviled, graffitied, spit upon; we thought the wall would stand forever and now that it’s gone we don’t know who we are.”

Hedwig-come-home-with-me

A punk rock musical ethos carries the quasi-political tone of Hedwig’s exposition of a personal history referenced in artfully composed flashback sequences and animated reveries. The band’s confrontationally punk performance is anachronistically set in a Junction City, Kansas, diner where Hedwig slips into comic monologues between songs. Hedwig’s sharp wit drips with irreverent sarcasm. Hedwig is a memorable and charismatic psycho-sexual archetype firmly on par with Iggy or Bowie.

Brilliantly photographed performances of well-crafted songs such as the mystically minded “Origin of Love,” or the all-out rocker “Angry Inch,” carry much of the story.

A romantically hot rivalry endures between Hedwig and her former lover/apprentice Tommy Gnosis (Michael Pitt), who has gone on to great musical success. Hedwig is sick with heartbreak, anger, and jealousy over Tommy’s betrayal. Through the story of Hedwig’s doomed romantic encounters the audience is exposed to a character that has never existed before; on-screen or off. John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig is a vivid contrivance of inspired human conviction.

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“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is an important cultural touchstone for the LGBT community and a thrilling discovery for everyone. The film’s articulate and passionate depiction of a complex person using performance art as the ultimate self-help therapy is utterly cathartic.

Rated R. 95 mins. (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)


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November 05, 2011

LIANNA — CLASSIC FILM PICK

LiannaWriter/director John Sayles's 1983 follow-up to his impressive debut with "Return of the Secaucus Seven" is an important touchstone of lesbian cinema. Written with his trademark keen ear for dialogue, Sayles seamlessly blends character study with social exposé. Linda Griffiths plays Lianna, a naïve New Jersey housewife to the aptly named Dick (Jon DeVries), a snobby film studies/English professor she met while enrolled in one of his classes.

The unhappy pair share an upper middle class existence with two children whose affections Dick turns against their caring mother after the couple split due to Dick’s infidelity. After witnessing Dick engaged in sex with one of his students at a college faculty party, Lianna goes on a date with her gay child psychology professor Ruth (Jane Hallaren). The rendezvous at Ruth’s home affords the pent-up Canadian transplant Lianna an opportunity to freely admit her latent homosexual desires. What follows is one of the most sincere and sensual lesbian sex scenes ever filmed. Whispered inner-dialogue from Lianna supplies an added layer of subtext to the sequence.

Lianna-colesmithey.com

Giddy from the experience, Lianna unwisely informs the egotistical Dick of her sexual experimentation upon his return from the Toronto Film Festival. Outraged beyond reason, Dick unceremoniously kicks Lianna out of the family home to fend for herself. Lianna’s liberating but humbling search for self in the New Jersey community beyond the walls of academia reveals manifold striations of hypocrisy that surround her.

Ruth proves emotionally unavailable to Lianna. She nonetheless introduces her eager apprentice to the town’s active lesbian nightlife scene at a bar called the My Way Tavern. In the midst of fending off advances from horny males—for which Sayles himself performs a role — Lianna takes a small apartment and searches for a job in a depressed market. Sayles has no time for clichés. Supporting characters, such as Lianna’s new apartment neighbors, function in the service of the story rather than being allowed to hijack the narrative as would occur in a typical Hollywood film.

Lianna-1983

There’s an amateurish stiffness to Linda Griffiths’s portrayal that suits her character. Lianna is a vulnerable young woman who daringly exposes herself to a world of prejudice and ridicule. The film embraces the fear and joy Lianna experiences with a refreshing openness. It serves as an accurate time capsule of 20th century American lesbian reality that doesn’t attempt to provide any easy answers to the problems it recognizes.

Rated R. 110 mins. (A-) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)


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