all blurbs for Season Three

Cat People

20 Oct 2012

 

 

 

 

Dir. Jacques Tourneur, 1942

Starring: Simone Simon, Tom Conway 

 

A thrilling tale about the power of sexuality to unsettle social norms

 

Not as well known as it should be, this film stands amongst the most beautiful, exciting, original, and provocative films ever made. And it is a lesbian classic. Val Lewton, who wrote the story and produced the movie, knew all about lesbians — he’d been raised by a famous one, his aunt Alla Nazimova, a superstar of the silent screen and the daring mastermind behind the queer film Salome (1923).

 

After 1930 in the USA, with the Hays Film Censorship Code in place, it became almost impossible to discuss sexuality (or politics) on film, so people like Val Lewton had to get really creative. Enter “Irena”, a Serbian woman from a strange race of creatures, half-human and (unknown to the world) half panther.       Does it sound daft?       Well, the film is actually very stylish, performances are flawless, the camera work and editing are magic, and the story is so compelling that you’ll be glued to the screen from start to finish.

 

Irena knows it is not in her nature to marry, because she is likely to kill her husband when her ‘true self’ returns. When she foolishly ties the knot with unsuspecting Oliver, not only she finds it impossible to have sex with him, but she can’t help herself either from ‘hunting’ women – including complete strangers in public swimming pools and desserted night streets.

 

Actress Simone Simon, who went on to make an openly lesbian film, is absolutely magnetic. But momentarily, Elizabeth Russell steals the show… as a fellow panther alerted by her ‘gaydar’, who approaches Irena: “Are you my sister?”  We predict that after this screening you’ll be uttering those very words to unsuspecting punters in the Front Launge and Pantibar… and you’ll do it in Serbian!  An irresistible film.

 

Film Qlub

© Dublin Film Qlub 2012 

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Les Amitiés Particulières

(This Special Friendship)

17 Nov 2012

 

 

 

French with English Subtitles

Dir. Jean Delannoy, 1963

Starring: Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost 

A beautiful and tender tale of adolescent love

 

From Oscar Wilde to Xena the Warrior Princess, the term “special friend” has been used to discretly refer to a loved one in a gay relationship. Les Amitiés Particulières, literally meaning ‘those special friendships’, tells the story of two young boys at a Catholic boarding school, who develop a bond stronger than anything they have ever experienced.

 

They know that their love for each other has nothing to do with the rules about right and wrong in the “normal” world, even if the school master and the education committee see their relationship as ‘wicked’ and ‘dangerous’, and try to separate them. The boys have entered a different world, and there are difficult issues they need to deal with in their own terms: does their age difference matter? (one of them is almost a child, the other barely an adolescent); and, is sex necessary in a union of two souls?

 

Roger Peyrefitte, the author of the autobiographical novel the film is based on, was a fierce campaigner for gay rights, an apasionado of gossip, a fan of controversy and, surprisingly, a far-right conservative. Nicknamed “the homosexual pope” for his atacks on the Vatican, he famously ‘outed’ the homophobic pope Paul VI. Peyrefitte may have been a waspy ‘larger than life’ character, but in Les Amitiés he gave us a disarmingly tender story.

 

By contrast with the Hollywood films of the same period, European films —and particularly those made in France—  show a disarming candour about homosexual love. This film is a great example. Les Amitiés never explains itself, it is never ever contrived, it refuses to even be complex… Its aim is to simply show us the development of the relationship from the point of view of the boys, and then without flinching, with the same matter-of-factness, it shows us the deadly consequences of homophobic oppression, and the devastation it can bring into the lives of the gestlest and most vulnerable among us. 

 

Film Qlub

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Sylvia Scarlett

15 Dec 2012

[Xmas Screening!]

 

 

 

 

Dir. Geoge Cukor, 1935

Starring: Catherine Hepburn, Cary Grant

A classy comedy of trans-gender-bending!

 

Sylvia and her dad are on the run from the French police, because of his shoddy dealings. They decide to change their identities, leave France, and start a new life in England — what better way for Sylvia to avoid suspicion than…  to dress as a man and call herself Silvester?!

 

Katharine Hepburn was born to play this role. As a young girl, she demanded to be called “Jimmy”, and as a young star (after a career-defining role in a film by lesbian director Dorothy Arzner), her impetuous and athletic image, together with the androgynous look she cultivated, turned her into a gay icon. Cagey about her personal life, she encouraged people to think she had had a life-long affair with Spencer Tracy (conveniently, he was dead at this point) which had to be kept secret because he was married. But her true leanings were known by a good few. At least 150 of them… We mean the over 150 young women whose services Hepburn paid for through the infamous Hollywood escort agency run by Scotty Bowers (who finally spilled the beans in a book published this year).

 

But leaving aside the megastar Miss Hepburn, the film Sylvia Scarlett is a queer constellation, with George Cukor behind the camera and co-starring Cary Grant. Look out for the gay ‘men’ cruising in the first minutes of the film (appropriately enough, in a cruise ship). Watch out for Hepburn’s gender switches every time she changes her clothes: gender is something we put on, like a hat, she seems to say. Keep an eye on Sylvia’s prowess as an athlete on the rings, a formula-one racer, and an Olympic swimmer. Check out the erotic currents criss-crossing all characters and all sexes. And marvel at how they got away with it all in 1935!

 

Film Qlub 

© Dublin Film Qlub 2012 

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Anders als du und ich (Bewildered Youth)

19 Jan 2012

Presented in co-operation with the Goethe-Institut Irland

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German with English subtitles

Dir. Veit Harlan, 1957

Starring: Paul Dahlke, Hans Nielsen

Homophobic drivel, or gay propaganda? Take your pick! 

 

Veit Harlan had been a prominent director of nazi propaganda films for the Third Reich — so what on earth is he doing in 1953 making an educational film to (supposedly) instruct parents on how to recognise and erradicate homosexuality in their kids?

 

Here’s a little known and rather surprising fact: while the nazi regime was crushed and then collapsed in every front, the nazi film industry remained almost intact. A brilliant German director like William Dieterle (you may remember him from our Season One), who had gone to the USA to escape the nazis and had devoted his energy to antifascist activism, discovered upon returning home that he couldn’t find work as a filmmaker because the old guard was still in charge of the film studios. People like Leni Riefenstahl and Veit Harlan managed to ellude the War Crimes courts despite their dubious CVs.       So, why should we still watch their films?

 

Many would point to the need to separate art and politics, but images are never neutral, they are always the product of the ideas and beliefs of those who make them. Yet we shouldn’t ignore these films, nor should we burn them, like the nazis did themselves with many ‘degenerate’ artworks (including a few gay movies) which are now forever lost. We need to face this legacy, and do it with our eyes wide open.

 

All of these issues may be important, but they wont quite prepare you for this rather ambiguous and often very enjoyable film. Is Veit Harlan for real when he suggests that cubist painting and electronic music (the then new ‘musique concrète’ style) are sure signs of homosexual tendencies? Is he for real when he claims that naked Graeco-Roman wrestling is all the rage at underground gay parties? How come his film-queers are more intelligent, sensitive, and articulate than his heteros? Is his sympathetic portrait of a concerned homophobic father not in fact a pisstake on a ridiculous and hysterical patriarch who is ruining everybody’s fun and wrecking his own family’s sanity with his outdated prejudices?           Well, you will have to watch the film to decide for yourself.

 

 Film Qlub

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Caged!

16 Feb 2013

 

 

 

Dir. John Cromwell, 1950

Starring: Eleanor Parker, Agnes Moorhead

 

Hard-hitting prison drama with stunning performances

 

The ‘women’s prison’ drama has been so popular that it has become a subgenre. Dozens of films since the 1930s have thrown a bunch of unruly women into a cell to watch them howl and scratch each other’s eyes. Most of these films have been exploitative, voyeurististic, and totally unconcerned with the realities of life in prison. And most of them have been made to amuse and titilate straight men. There have been a handful of exceptions to this: the ITV series Bad Girls, the Ida Lupino-starring Women’s Prison, or —in the ‘incarceration of lunatic ladies’ sub-group—, the Oscar winning Girl, Interrupted, and Sarah Watters’ Affinity. All of these treated with respect the perennial lesbian fantasy of a world made exclusively of strong women living in close quarters. All of them, while thriving on melodramatic registers, were interested in showing some psychological depth. None of them, however, raised above the bar of the ‘interesting but not outstanding’ film. And so, we come to John Cromwell’s Caged, of 1950, which distinguishes itself from all its cell-mates by being utterly and absolutely brilliant.

 

Eleanor Parker plays a young innocent who has drifted to the wrong side of the law. In prison, she will learn that the penal system is not interested in reforming anyone, but only in erasing every single trace of humanity from the inmates. Inside these walls, cruelty and coldness are the only choices on the menu. And lesbianism is the only currency, making all the difference between helplessness and safety, if you are lucky enough to become the ‘favourite’ of one of the lady-gangster-pimps who runs this joint.

 

Real-life-lesbian Agnes Moorhead (the camp Endora in Bewitched) plays the somewhat human prison director, and the remarkable Hope Emerson plays the sadistic warden, and they are both wonderful in this film. But at the end of the day, Caged is Eleanor Parker, because the core of the movie is the transformation of the gentle and shy Mary Ellen into an amoral version of the flesh-and-bone machine that was Sarah Connor in Terminator-2. Parker’s portrayal of the character is stunning, a masterpiece of dramatic acting.             Director John Cromwell got in trouble with Hollywood censorship again and again, but here, he managed to give us a moving, earnest, and hard-hitting mainstream film about the ongoing disgrace of our ‘democratic’ penal system, which does nothing but put people away and destroy them.


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The Leather Boys

9 March 2013 [note 2nd sat]

 

 

 

Dir. Sidney J. Furie, 1964

Starring: Rita Tushingham, Colin Campbell, Dudley Sutton

 

A queer celebration of working-class biker culture

 

Bikers, who doesn’t find them sexy? They are free, unconventional, they make their own roads. And there’s the leather gear, or at any rate the body-hugging pants and blazers that keep the chill at bay. Most importantly perhaps, their know-how of all those mysterious mechanical bits seems to promise competence in every other department…  

 

The early 1960s marked the reign of the Harley-Davidson and —on this side of the pond— the Triumph Bonneville. We’ve all seen the classic American biker buddy movie Easy Rider, an epic which defined a generation and a favourite film with the boys. Then there is the cheeky and often disturbing film Scorpio Rising, an obscure and experimental gay ode to bikers, directed by Californian queer underground hero Kenneth Anger. And now, we would like to introduce you to the third film in the gang, a quiet, modest, semi-mainstream British movie of the same period, which tends to be overlooked in gay film histories: The Leather Boys.

 

In the film, young biker Reggie is disappointed with married life, but fellow biker Pete is happy to provide the support and love that Reggie needs… In some ways, The Leather Boys is a film about marriage, and how it can artificially change people’s behaviour. In other ways, the film is concerned with gender, and the absurd expectations on women and men of a certain generation, who thought themselves free but were only repeating old patterns. The Leather Boys is also about friendship, and the support and loyalty which only comrades (whether they are our buddies or our spouses) can offer us. Of course, what we love most about the film is that this biker gang is a transparent metaphor for the gay community and for gay culture, thriving on the margins, beautiful, and proud.        Also, we love the film’s suggestion that there is a ‘queer biker gene’ dormant in everyone, which may just awaken if you throw that damned GPS away.

 

 Film Qlub

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Young Man With a Horn

20 April 2013

 

 

 

Dir. Michael Curtiz, 1950

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall

 

A musical Noir on compromise versus tough choices 

 

Lauren Bacall was famous for her smokey voice, intense gaze, glamurous appearance, and for her portraits of sexually assertive and sharply intelligent women. In Young Man with a Horn, she plays a sexually ambiguous woman who tries to live the lie of a proper heterosexual marriage, but has to struggle with her ‘wicked’ side.

 

Her story appears to be a subplot in a film about the life of… a trumpet player. A dazzling Kirk Douglas plays the title role, based on the life of Bix Beiderbecke, the white boy who fell in love with the emerging black-American jazz scene in the 1920s, and who eventually became a virtuoso of ‘the horn’. But the film is not just a biopic, or an opportunity to listen to some absolutely gorgeous music. Young Man with a Horn is actually a meditation on the pull to conform and fit in in society, in terms of creativity, and in terms of sexuality. Rick (Douglas) has to struggle between, on the one hand, his passion for an underground music style and a downtrodden culture, and on the other hand, the mainstream music circuit with its formulaic commercial showbands. This last is represented with suitable ‘straightness’ by the perfectly cast wholesome-looking Doris Day (herself an underrated but wonderful singer).

 

The original novel did not have openly queer characters, and its author, the great Dorothy Baker, was not impressed by the liberties taken by the film. However, she had published a groundbreaking lesbian novel in 1943, and she was reportedly lesbian, so the film seems a rare case of retrospective lesbianization of a book! Baker shouldn’t have complained; they did a wonderful job, expanding and deepening the theme of the original book. Young Man with a Horn is definitely a gay film, not because of a thrilling lesbian subplot, but because the subplot ultimately becomes the main story:    look inside yourself — most of us live a life of compromise, but isn’t the prize just too high?


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Reflections on a Golden Eye

18 May 2013

 

 

Dir. John Huston, 1967

Starring: Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor

A magnificent film on the evils of internalised homophobia

 

Carson McCullers may or may not have been lesbian, but she certainly wrote a truckload of brilliant queer literature, including the novel adapted for the screen as Reflections on a Golden Eye. This extraordinary film also features two of the greatest actors in history, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando, and the direction of a master filmmaker, John Huston. And yet, perhaps the most memorable of all the magic ingredients which make this film so magnificent is the cinematography of Aldo Tonti, who had begun his career twenty five years earlier working on a queer film by Luchino Visconti.

 

Tonti’s golden lighting lingers in the mind long after the film is over… long after the pulse has quietened down, the fever has receded, and we have stopped trembling. To watch this film is to share in the scorching passions and the childhood terrors the characters experience. We walk with them on a tight rope — we feel their frustration, their hopelessness, and their determination.      Sex is in the air, sex is the air, and we can’t breath.     We know were to find what we need, but we may as well be up to our necks in quicksand, because we cant reach it. We are buried in our own internalised homophobia. No one will come to rescue us. We will have to perform this impossible feat by ourselves, we will have to pull ourselves up and out.      But how?     How?

 

Brando  —bisexual in real life—  is absolutely compelling as the repressed Major Weldon Penderton, and Taylor shines as Leonora Penderton, in a reprise of her Cat on a Hot Tin Roof role as the neglected but resourceful wife to a closet case.          But why is it that the film is wrapped in a golden hue, says you?   Ah, because for better or worse being queer is another way of seeing.

 

Film Qlub

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The Haunting

15 June 2013

 

 

Dir. Robert Wise, 1963

Starring: Julie Harries, Claire Bloom

 

~ ‘Creepy Mansion’ B&B ~

Rooms Available.

Discounts for Queer Groups.

 

This isn’t the first or last film to tell the story of a bunch of strangers thrown into a creepy mansion for a few nights, but it may well be the cleverest and gayest of them all!

 

By the late 1950s, Freudian psychology had well reached the masses. Ordinary people were familiar with the theories that there are different parts to our psyche (roughly, a moral side and a wild side), that humans can only function in society because they repress their instincts, and that a lot of what we repress is floating in the ‘unconscious’ —haunting us—  and is likely to come out somehow…       One way of enjoying The Haunting is by seeing this mad house as a metaphor for an individual psyche: each character in this motley crew represents one aspect of human nature. Needless to say, since we are talking about repression and the unconscious here, sex plays a big part. The film is peppered with queer clues (watch out for the lesbian statues!), and one of its main storylines concerns the seduction of a woman by another woman. Didn’t Freud himself say that fundamentally we are all bisexual? Well, there you are. If this mansion is a person’s head, the person is lesbian. And the thing she is most afraid of, and the cause of all the 'supernatural' disturbances in the film, is actually her own lesbianism.

 

Considered to be one of the best horror films ever made, The Haunting is actually full of wickedly funny moments, much like a bar of dark chocolate stuffed with unexpected crunchy nuts. And lets not forget the camera work! This is a masterclass on how to create unbearable tension without CGI monsters or buckets of blood. Today’s filmmakers are still trying to catch up with this great film from 1963.

 

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The Detective

20 July 2013

 

 

 

Dir. Gordon Douglas, 1968

Starring: Frank Sinatra, Lee Remick 

Detecting the gays: Sinatra is on the case!

 

The Detective was first released on 28 May 1968, exactly a month before the riots in the Stonewall Inn marked the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. You can see in this film that something was on the brink of changing, or, to  put it another way, that change had already creeped in and it was ready to topple things over.

 

The most surprising thing about this film is the absolute gusto with which Frank Sinatra plays detective Joe Leland, the unlikely champion of the persecuted gay criminals, psychos, and lost souls he encounters in his watch. We think of Sinatra as a right-wing Reaganite with little time for progressive causes and strong mafia connections, but up to the late 1960s he had been an active campaigner for the American Democrat Party, was a tireless supporter of the civil rights movement, seems to have assisted some communist organisations, and was vocal on issues such as women’s rights. Here’s a gay-friendly Sinatra to add to the picture.

 

The Detective is, unexpectedly, a political film disguised as a who-dun-it. It is a plea for tolerance and understanding for those poor homosexuals, who have enough to contend with without having to deal too with the savagery of prejudice. Yes, a few of them are crazy, but isn’t it because society has pushed them to the limit? In the detective novel that is our life, aren’t we all clueless? How much of what we do and what we are is really our choice? Each time a crime is committed, or a person is hurt, aren't we all responsible?

 

Detective Leland may be experienced, sharp, and eagle-eyed, but he does not even know what he is detecting. He thinks he is filing a murder case, but there is a whole lot more going on. There are the criss-crossing lines of the gay underground network in New York City. There’s the back-stabbing in the Police Department. There are the trickster pychoanalists who claim there is only one truth to each of us. And there is the love of Joe Leland’s life, Karen, a messed up woman with a ‘sexually perverse’ side (played by the great Lee Remick). She is the one to teach the detective that, straight or gay, we are all in the gutter, and the only faint light anyone can hope to see, can only ever come from a place deep within ourselves.

 
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