This Oscar nominated film is the story of two men who are opposites, one gay, the other straight, one a fierce communist, the other a fierce individualist, one suspicious, the other accepting, and how they come to love each other.
Tomás Gutiérrez Alea,
Juan Carlos Tabío
Documentary about transgender women and drag queens who fought police harassment at Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco's Tenderloin in 1966, three years before the famous riot at Stonewall Inn bar in NYC.
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Who could have guessed that a bunch of men in dresses would breath life into the movement to win equal rights for gay men and lesbians? Certainly not the police who raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular "drag" bar in Greenwich Village. After a long history of police raids, extortion, and brutality, a gaggle of drag queens at the Stonewall decide they have had enough and begin to riot when the police try to load them into a paddy wagon. Told by "La Miranda" (Hector), a regular customer at the Stonewall Inn, the film is a recounting of events that led up to that fateful day in 1969. "Matty Dean" is the handsome angry young man that La Miranda meets at the Stonewall one day and with whom she/he quickly falls in love. "Bostonia" is the self-styled Queen Mother of the drag queens and guides each initiate gently "into the life." Her lover, Vinnie, is the closeted proprietor of the Stonewall. His tragic response to the suffocation he feels bearing down on him from a homophobic world -- perhaps... Written by
Mark Fleetwood <email@example.com>
I have a great deal of admiration for this engaging effort to explain the roots of the modern gay rights movement, produced on a shoe-string by a director with an admirable sense of style, pacing, and resourcefulness. Though filtered through a distinctly British class-consciousness, it does a highly respectable job of catching the main trends in gay America from my not-quite-misspent youth.
Furthermore, it is candidly presented as a subjective, fictional account, mooting complaints like "the bus is too old," "no New York apartment is that big" and "the Stonewall bar never looked that clean."
Nonetheless, one small detail and one large item are egregiously wrong. The detail is the rather elementary fact that the Stonewall was never licensed; it was a "private" mob-run club. It was raided not because all cops are homophobes but because, in the absence of official licensing, gay bars were, in every sense, illegal. The scenes where Stonewall employees display great care about the liquor laws are ridiculous, since the bar operated outside the law.
The larger item is the failure to capture the sense of exhilaration that swept throught the country in 1969. This was the year men walked on the moon, the year of Woodstock, the year an X-rated gay-themed film ("Midnight Cowboy") won the "Best Picture" Oscar, and (biggest miracle of all to us New Yorkers) the year the Mets, long "lovable losers," won the World Series. Anything was possible, and gay people joined the party with enthusiasm.
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