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A comprehensive documentary of the history of gays and lesbians in cinema, from negative to positive reflections of gay characters and the troubles of actors and actresses.Written by
R. John Berggren <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Actor Michael Ontkean not only declined to be interviewed for the documentary, but also attempted to prevent clips from his film Making Love (1982) from being shown in it. He was unsuccessful. See more »
Most expressions of homosexuality in most of movies are indirect. And what's interesting about that is of course that is what it was like to express homosexuality in life, that we could only express ourselves indirectly, just as people on the screen could only express themselves indirectly. And the sense in which the characters are in the closet, the movie is in the closet and we are in the closet.
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A documentary that follows the appearance of gays in the history of the movies, the film takes a talking heads approach with interviews, splicing in some terrific film pieces. We get to see Marlene Dietrich, in "Morocco," kiss another woman while dressed in tails -- and looking better than any man ever could. There's a brilliant in-joke clip from "Red River" where Montgomery Clift is told about the beauty of a Swiss watch and a woman -- and then asked if he's ever had a Swiss watch. The film looks at gay stereotypes such as the pansy or the sissy, the characters that Franklin Pangborn used to play. Some of the interviewees are exceptional, namely Harvey Fierstein, Gore Vidal, and the incredible Quentin Crisp. Vidal gives a hilarious recount of including a gay backstory in "Ben Hur" which Charlton Heston of course denies.
The film is also touching and kind of heartbreaking. You realize that in the century we've had movies how enormously they've shaped our culture and our perception of people, and how if the filmmakers and studio heads hadn't been pressured by the horrible Hayes code, society's collective view of gays might not be so troublesome. There's a great moment where Quentin Crisp talks about census takers in England, asking about homosexuality. They were asked whether they knew any homosexuals. If the answer was yes, they were asked what they were like, to which they replied, "just like everybody else." If they answered no, they were asked what they would expect to meet, to which they replied, someone with grand gestures and flamboyance and bright colors. So that there are two images we have in our minds -- one of what homosexuals are like, and one of what homosexuals should be like. And movies played a huge role in that. 8/10
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