There have been a lot of great gays films - some were part of the New Queer Cinema movement, independent and profound like Go Fish or The Living End.
Some were mainstream Hollywood hits like The Birdcage or great foreign classics like Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.
While those films will always hold a special significance to me, they were unfortunately “gay issue” films. They were films that made homosexuality a very special episode style issue like Jessie’s caffein addiction on Saved by the Bell or being nice to Geri even though she had Cerebral Palsy on Facts of Life.
The films I always longed for - and dreamed of making - were films that told real honest personal stories about homosexuals - not with broad brush strokes, but with the fine detailing and nuance expected in good heterosexual storytelling. A story, not about homosexuality, but about a specific homosexual or homosexual experience. We can have straight movies as varied as “this guys is a dancer but can’t beat alcoholism” and “this guy has OCD” and “this girl wants to lose weight but cookies are so good,” but gay films are reduced to lessons about discrimination and a generic togetherness.
But recently, I saw Call Me By Your Name (twice)
and I’ve been haunted by it. Deep in my gut, I had this strange but somewhat familiar emotion - a love or jealousy, I’m not sure which. The familiarity comes from my youth - when I was not so sure about my sexuality or why I felt the way I did for other boys. What was probably the same emotion that straight people would classify as “crush” manifested in me as arousal, longing, fascination, and jealousy. So strange to have a sexuality that isn’t the default, that doesn’t have everything so neatly organized and contextualized and described for you in movies and TV and books. And after seeing Call Me By Your Name, there was that feeling again.
I wanted to be Elio with his Jewish intellectual polyglot family spending carefree summers in Northern Italy. No doubt, when I was young, I would have fallen in love with him and sabotaged that love out of jealousy for his perfect life. I know this, because it happened. His name was Andy - but that’s another story (one that I’ll one day turn into a film). There’s also Oliver - the older emotionally distant straight-acting hunk.
I wanted him, because he’s gorgeous and strong and controlled, but I also wanted to BE him so I could have Elio. It can be strange watching a film as a homosexual, because it’s never quite so clear with whom I’m supposed to relate.
But Call Me By Your Name was not the only LGBTQ film this season that gave me the feels. There was the sumptuous and emotionally cathartic God’s Own Country.
Unfairly called the British Brokeback Mountain, it’s about an emotionally broken young farmer who has given up on the idea of loving or ever being loved in return. The comparisons with Brokeback end with the farmer bit, because - spoiler alert - no one dies.
On the contrary, it gives gay audiences what they’ve wanted for decades - unabashed gay love scenes, unblinking romance, and a happy ending.
Just like Call Me By Your Name, the homosexuality is barely an issue in the film. Neither of these films are about coming out or discrimination or disease or being different. They’re about love - simple as that. They’re about emotions and feelings and all that silly human stuff. They’re more universal than gay films of the past.
I think what these two films signify is a new era in Queer Cinema. Gays are no longer having to face great hurdles of discrimination or disease. Instead, they’re able to just live - to love and dance and cry and fight. You know, the stuff straight people have been doing since The Great Train Robbery.
Other notable LGBTQ films or LGBTQ film moments this year - Beach Rats and that moment when Lady Bird's ex-boyfriend cries in her arms.
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