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Queer cinema

Related: Pedro Almodóvar - Kenneth Anger - Dirk Bogarde - film - gay cinema - gender - Todd Haynes - François Ozon - queer - queer horror

Ingrid Pitt seduces Madeline Smith in the Vampire Lovers

Vampire Lovers (1970) - Roy Ward Baker [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Queer [...]

"Queer" means unusual, and is controversial when used as an adjective or noun for people whose sexual orientation and/or gender identity are against the supposed normative. Queer is used as a unifying umbrella term for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and also for those who are transgender, transsexual, and/or intersexual (although many transgender, transsexual and intersexual people identify as heterosexual or straight, and/or not queer). Queer in this sense is used as a synonym for such terms as LGBT or lesbigay. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queer [Dec 2004]

Old queer cinema

  • Taking the self-proclaimed gay aesthetic found in European directors such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Werner Schroeter during the 1970s, these young Americans shared a post-Stonewall openness to questions of gay politics and identity. --http://www.glbtq.com/arts/new_queer_cinema.html [Dec 2004]

    New Queer Cinema

  • Coined by B. Ruby Rich, New Queer Cinema refers to seemingly simultaneous appearance on the independent film circuit of films dealing openly and even aggressively with queer culture, politics, and identity in the early nineties. However, the directors and producers associated with the term were mostly not otherwise associated and New Queer Cinema never became a movement.


    • Todd Haynes: Poison
    • Christopher Munch: The Hours and Times
    • Gregg Araki: The Living End
    • Tom Kalin: Swoon


    • Christine Vachon: Poison and Swoon
    • Andrea Sperling: The Hours and Times

    However, the attitude and openess of the New Queer Cinema may be felt today in the ability of more and more films such as Boys Don't Cry and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Queer_Cinema [Dec 2004]

    Historically, most gay and lesbian filmmakers were forced to work in avant-garde or independent circles, but there were also several important gay and lesbian filmmakers who worked within the classical Hollywood cinema: James Whale, George Cukor, and Dorothy Arzner, to name just a few. Today, most queer people in Hollywood (especially actors) remain in the closet although that is slowly changing. The first important book about how homosexuality has been represented in the movies was Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet (which was also turned into a recent movie). In the book, Russo examined the depiction of gay and lesbian characters on screen in Hollywood and independent film, compiling list of stereotypical stock characters, many of whom are still with us today. In the late 1970s and 1980s, gay and lesbian independent feature Filmmaking came into practice. These first feature films focused on positive images, positive role models, coming out stories, and narratives of self and community acceptance. They were often love stories and were produced in the realist or classical style of most Hollywood filmmaking.

    In the early 1990s, a new film movement, quickly dubbed The New Queer Cinema, arose within gay and lesbian independent filmmaking. These films used queer theory as structuring principles, were more overtly political than what had come before. Some of the first important films of this movement were POISON, SWOON, PARIS IS BURNNG, THE LIVING END, THE HOURS AND THE TIMES, GO FISK ZERO PATIENCE, MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO, and THE WATERMELON WOMAN.

    These films were made by filmmakers like Rose Troche, Christine Vachon, Gus Van Sant, Gregg Araki, Tom Kalin, Todd Haynes, Jennie Livingston, Matia Maggenti, Cheryl Dunye, and Marlon Riggs. --Dr. Harry M. Benshoff, http://www.unt.edu/ally/queerfilm.html [Dec 2004]

    Queer cinema

  • Twelve-Tone Cinema: A Scattershot Notebook on Sexual Atonality — Is queerness an angry chord or a beautiful harmony?
    By Andrew Grossman

    Where do we currently stand on the matter of “queer cinema”? If I were to credibly — this is the key term — scribble on the subject now, after essentialist gay identity has been falsely legitimized by the mainstream, and after the vogue for postmodernism has, like a jagged gall stone, painfully yet necessarily passed, I would have to: 1) be contemptuous of the clichés of the retrograde coming-out narrative; 2) be disillusioned by the binary oppositions of indie-film political correctness and underground deviance, and try to create “new spaces of discourse” by “locating divergent viewing practices” of “underrepresented media” (or some such thing); 3) uphold the utopianism of early 1990s postmodern queer theory while remaining skeptical of its real-world impracticalities; and 4) self-referentially, though half-heartedly, use the first-person “I” to deflate the pretended authoritarianism for which the academic voice (even, in its weaker moments, the postmodern voice) once arrogantly strived. I have no objection to these four suppositions; they are burdensome, tiresome, hang around one’s neck nooselike, but are unavoidable and, probably, mostly justified.


    After the tonal (Western) musical scale became established as a fallacious aesthetics of morality, anything that rebelled against it was considered an alternative, oppositional morality — thus, Schoenberg spent most of his career arguing he was not a reactionary but a progressive striving to unite all sounds with an amoral, as opposed to immoral, aesthetic system. Likewise, queer theory casts itself not as immorally negative rebellion but as amorally positive, all-embracing, post-humanitarian valuelessness. There is, however, a difference between the method of queer theory and that of Schoenberg. Though Schoenberg vehemently denied his “egalitarian” tone rows — wherein notes relate only to one another, not a tonic or dominant, centralized authority — amounted to any kind of philosophical Bolshevism,2 his modern revolution did seek to set all musical values equal through a new yet severely strict set of rules. But queer theory’s postmodern revolution, though often dogmatic, necessarily tries (and often fails) to reject not only centralized authority but all rule-driven governance, including, paradoxically, that of the queer author whose fallible subjectivity lays out the very groundwork — or rules — of queer theory itself.

    This distinction between rule-driven egalitarianism (Schoenberg) and anarchic egalitarianism (queer theory) is my starting point, and I will return to it later. But first, I need to remind myself of the best ways to approach that artificial, bogus monolith we call queer cinema before I can imagine how to transcend it. So I’m dashing off a little notebook to keep track of where I’m going — you can read it too. --http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/43/atonal.htm

    Queer Horror [...]

    After decades of being devalued by lousy prints on video and television, Universal's classic '30s horror films have been resurrected, refurbished, and unleashed on the big screen as part of a traveling repertory show opening at San Francisco's Castro Theater. The first thing sensitive audiences will notice about the series, after the obligatory bow to the superb quality of the new 35mm prints, is the all-pervasive, barely disguised, downright queerness of classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Old Dark House, The Black Cat, and Dracula's Daughter. It's no news that lesbians have long claimed Lambert Hillyer's Dracula's Daughter for their own. After all, Gloria Holden in the title role almost singlehandedly redefined the '20s movie vamp as an impressive Euro-butch dyke bloodsucker. But other key works, particularly those directed by certified homo James Whale, have robust, inescapable gay content. Think of The Bride of Frankenstein's literally screaming queens Colin Clive and Ernest Thesiger, with fag hag Elsa Lanchester thrown in for good measure. The Old Dark House's key relationship is between its two male outsiders; when one is killed, the other goes berserk, in a queer motif that presages a similar event in a much different film, The Road Warrior, decades later. The title character in The Invisible Man makes campy assaults on all the boring normals around him, punctuated by Claude Rains's uncharacteristic high-pitched cackle that's filled with wit and menace. --Gary Morris http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/23/universalhorror.html

    Shiner (2004)

  • Shiner (2004). A disturbing low-budget, gay/lesbian variation on Fight Club, Shiner is an edgy, daring debut for Christian Calson. The San Francisco International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival noted in its program: "Not only packs a ferocious wallop, it reinterprets gay experience with an iconoclastic flair that recalls and re-ups the danger of the New Queer Cinema of the early 1990s." --http://www.greencine.com/static/nr-10-19-04-a.jsp [Dec 2004]


    1. The Celluloid Closet : Homosexuality in the Movies - Vito Russo [Amazon.com]
      When Vito Russo published the first edition of The Celluloid Closet in 1981, there was little question that it was a groundbreaking book. Today it is still one of the most informative and provocative books written about gay people and popular culture. By examining the images of homosexuality and gender variance in Hollywood films from the 1920s to the present, Russo traced a history not only of how gay men and lesbians had been erased or demonized in movies but in all of American culture as well. Chronicling the depictions of gay people such as the "sissy" roles of Edward Everett Horton and Franklin Pangborn in 1930s comedies or predatory lesbians in 1950s dramas (see Lauren Bacall in Young Man with a Horn and Barbara Stanwyck in Walk on the Wild Side), Russo details how homophobic stereotypes have both reflected and perpetrated the oppression of gay people. In the revised edition, published a year before his death in 1990, Russo added information on the new wave of independent and gay-produced films--The Times of Harvey Milk, Desert Hearts, Buddies--that emerged during the 1980s. --Michael Bronski, Amazon.com

    2. Queer (1953, 1985) - William S. Burroughs [Amazon.com]
      I found queer to be a dissapointment. I loved Junky, and it is one of my favorite books, but queer was a let down. It takes place after junky ends and we follow William Lee around with his fascination with Eugene Allerton and his trip to South America. But the story isn't that interesting. There is more of a plot here than there was in junky, but I found Lee's struggles with heroin much more fascinating than his obssession over the boring Allerton. queer is told from an outside narrator rather than from Lee's perspective, and as a result, the voice that helped make junky so great is missing. It just doesn't match with the standards Burroughs set when he wrote Junky. If you are a Beat scholar, then this is a book you should read (it is one of Burroughs important works) or if you study gay literature, then you should read this. If you're just looking for a good book, reread Junky... --adead_poet@hotmail.com for amazon.com

    3. Queer Asian Cinema: Shadows in the Shade - Andrew Grossman [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
      The editor correctly bemoans the lack of materials that discuss both queer theory and Asian filmography. This anthology discusses the topic as it affects numerous Asian countries. However, the articles are throat-deep in academic babble. This book is strictly for semiotics majors and academics. It's a shame too because many gay and/or Asian film buffs would have enjoyed a more understandable book on the topic. Additionally, this book is a special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality series. Usually, those writings are accessible to experts and laypeople. This was not the case here. Besides, the films discussed probably had extremely limited releases, thus Asians, gays, and especially Asian gays (or Asian-American gays) will have no idea about what the authors are analyzing so difficulty. Readers are better off watching "Farewell My Concubine" and "Fire" and coming to their own conclusions on the matter. --amazon.com

    4. Flaming Classics: Queering the Film Canon (2000) - Alexander Doty [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
      In this penetrating and irreverent study, queer theorist Alexander Doty directs a gay gaze at six famous and well-loved films (The Wizard of Oz, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Women, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Psycho, and The Red Shoes), averring that "the coding of classic or otherwise 'mainstream' texts and personalities can often yield a wider range of non-straight readings because certain sexual things could not be stated baldly." Doty goes on to explain that he puts quotation marks around the term mainstream because he wants to position queerness inside texts and productions: "For me, any text is always already potentially queer." Once readers have gotten past Doty's argumentative and somewhat tortuous preemptive answers to queer critics of his work--some of which originally appeared as responses to criticism in an academic journal--they can luxuriate in his engaging, funny, and acute analyses of these films and his descriptions of the historical contexts in which they were made and first shown. His personal revelations are a joy to read, and his exasperation with uncomprehending others is no less potent a pleasure, as in his repeated complaint that he has been chastised for conducting readings that are "too queer," as if he were "recruiting" straight texts "as part of some nefarious or misguided plan for a queer takeover." In frustration, Doty blurts out that he can't possibly be "the only person who understands the Oz sequences of The Wizard of Oz as the fantasy of a teenaged girl on the road to dykedom." Anything is possible, of course, although Doty delivers a stylish and convincing argument. --Regina Marler for Amazon.com


    1. The Celluloid Closet (1995) - Jeffrey Friedman, Rob Epstein [Amazon US]
      Author Armistead Maupin (Tales of the City) wrote Lily Tomlin's narration for this superb documentary, based on a book by the late Vito Russo, about Hollywood's treatment of homosexual characters in the 20th century. Never pointing a finger at anyone in the film community, The Celluloid Closet presents clips from more than 100 mainstream features (including The Children's Hour, Advise and Consent, The Boys in the Band, and The Hunger) that speak loudly in their respective images of gays and lesbians. The film makes a persuasive case for patterns of sexual mythology in Hollywood, such as presenting homosexuals repeatedly as tragic, helpless figures redeemed only through death or as back-street monsters cavorting in the shadows. Things change, of course, and clips from more recent films by gay and lesbian filmmakers suggest a more vital, diverse, autobiographical approach. There are lots of great interviews with screenwriters (Gore Vidal), filmmakers (John Schlesinger), actors (Tom Hanks, Whoopi Goldberg), and others to enunciate the major themes. --Tom Keogh

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