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.
Dublin Film Qlub 2012