Like every week in honor of a particular release pertaining to a specific type of film I like to bring up (at least) five other that are somehow related. This weekend Pedro Almodóvar’s I’m So Excited is coming out in limited release, so I thought I’d spend a few words on my favorite films portraying homosexual, bisexual or transgender characters.
Happy Together (1997, Wong Kar-wai)
With this film Wong Kar-wai was trying to warn Hong Kong audiences to flee the country while they still could: Once the fifty year period of independence from the mainland run out they might experience less tolerant policies and politics regarding freedom of “sexuality”. Aside from making a political statement Wong was also making a poetic one. Christopher Doyle shoots some of the most gorgeous images of cinema history, especially the ones in black and white. The film is about a destructive relationship between to men moving to Argentina. Highly recommended.
Being John Malkovich (1999, Spike Jonze)
I know I’ve recommended this one already only last week, but I’ll repeat myself because it is also relevant with this weeks topic. Jonze explores human sexuality in this film like no other I’ve seen before. It’s about how sexual identity shouldn’t be viewed as something ‘fixed’ to a body, but rather to the essence of one’s person. The attractions in this film are not exclusively physical, but also “intellectual”. It questions whether traditional labels like “gay”, “hetero” or “bi” even make sense and that’s precisely what I love about it. Sometimes things are more complicated and difficult to explain, but society prefers to trivialize everything to be able to sleep at night.
Mulholland Dr. (2001, David Lynch)
Lynch is one of my favorite directors and this is considered his masterpiece. Although I prefer Inland Empire and Blue Velvet this is a close third and a fantastic film about Hollywood, dreams and lesbians. Who dreams who? That’s the question. I love the bizarre atmosphere and non-linear plot. A great film noir that I can recommend especially for a career best performance by Naomi Watts and of course like I said it’s a David Lynch film so that should be a good enough reason to check it out. Also: Sex!
The Rules of Attraction (2002, Roger Avary)
This film does feature gay characters, but they’re not necessarily the main part of the story, although there is one of the most hilarious scenes I’ve ever seen involving one of them. Still I want to recommend it because of the weird tone and feel of this film and because I don’t hear many people mentioning it or talking about it anymore. The atmosphere I was referring to is once more about feeling lost and alone in this world. It’s kind of depressing now that I think of it, so I’ll recommend it with a grain of salt and if you’re into more melodramatic cinema. The story is about these college kids trying to figure out their lives while partying and having sex and all the usual stuff we do to find themselves.
Kaboom (2010, Gregg Araki)
Gregg Araki’s entire filmography except for maybe his ‘straight movie’ The Doom Generation (1995) could be recommended, but I’d like to go ahead tell you to check out my personal favorite: Kaboom. I’ve already written full-length thoughts on it, but I didn’t focus much on the fact that it’s about a bisexual character. That’s because Araki doesn’t make a big deal out of it, and those are precisely the ‘gay films’ I prefer: The ones that are just about those characters and don’t treat them any different from those that happen to be heterosexual.
If these five are not enough for you I’d like to bring up Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010) which I’m sure everyone has at least heard of. Swans are gay, so it makes sense that Aronofsky explore’s Nina’s (Natalie Portman) sexuality. Another bonus recommendation is the light comedy But I’m a Cheerleader (1999) getting more into a “religious nuts hating gays” kind of discourse.
That’s if from me, if you have a film that you would like to recommend: Go ahead, I like getting recommendations!
This past week I managed to watch mostly films I really enjoyed. Part of it had to do with me re-watching one of my favorites in Gregg Araki’s Kaboom (2010) and Jørgen Leth’s Det perfekte menneske (1967), so those were safe bets. Also, how could I dislike a documentary about one of my all time favorite filmmakers? Impossible. In The Realm of the Senses, was not a surprise either, because everything that is in the Criterion Collection is there for a reason and always worth checking out.
In the Realm of the Senses (1976) – 7.5 (IMDb 6.6) – Drama, Romance, History (Japan)
You know how some movies are described as “wall-to-wall action”? By that same token In the Realm of the Senses would fall in the category of “wall-to-wall sex”. Contrary to exploitation cinema, this film however is artfully shot and composed and never goes into sleazy territory, even if its subject matter would easily allow it to. Then again it is based on true events, so maybe that’s what’s grounds the film into some kind of reality and good taste.
The story about two lovers that are physically consumed by their lust and carnal desires succeeds, because it embraces its subject matter without being judgmental or condescending. If you’re starting to get excited about Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, I can imagine this would make a great double-feature and approach some of the same themes. Much like Nagisa Ôshima’s Empire of Passion (1978) the climax of the film is pure poetry. Definitely recommended if you like movies that are less about plot and more about penetrating into the mind of its characters and exploring the madness that is our human nature.
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Woody Allen: A Documentary (2012) – 8 (IMDb 7.6) – Documentary, Biography (USA)