Back over the last forty years or so a number of directors, some straight and tuned in like Stephen Frears, and others mostly gay, have turned the commercial end of queer cinema into a great place to look for new talent, formal invention, completely re-thought twists on primal narrative tropes, and levels of engagement that can cross generations, sexes and audiences.
Some fine examples are Andrew Haigh's Weekend (2011), which beats Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945) at its own game and the continuing career of Andre Téchiné whose last films have turned a queer eye to non-gay character pieces to estimable effect, perhaps my fave, because he's a commercial underdog. Then there is Sebastien Lifschitz whose Presque Rien (Come Undone, 2000) does the classic coming of age love story in a totally honest and anti-bucolic way, and his masterpiece family nightmare film with a trans heroine, the incomparable Wild Side (2004). Jacques Nolot, Téchiné 's old screenwriter with two features La Chatte à Deux Têtes (Porn Theatre/The Two Headed Pussy, 2002) and Avant que j'oublie (Before I Forget, 2007.) not to mention gay directors with broad and now historical arthouse careers like Almodovar, Derek Jarman and the now two transgender sisters the Wachowskis.
Last night on FTA Teev in New Zealand the Beeb began a series of programs to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first laws to partially decriminalize homosexuality in the UK in 1967.
Their opening salvo sadly, is the 120minute feature length Man in an Orange Shirt. Director Michael Samuels and writer Patrick Gale appear to have decided the millennial take on even such historical and costume material is to grab Mills and Boon by the throat and spew it all back in gay wrapping paper, throwing all intelligence, taste, sensibility or artistry to the wind. They slap together two hours of pretty boy languishing, swooning and short breathed angst, as the actors keep bursting into tears at the slightest opportunity, perhaps simply to cue the audience to grab yet another box of Kleenex for its own sob-fest, while topping and tailing the whole wretched production with an embarrassingly glib token referential guester from the great Vanessa Redgrave, as the contemporary grannie, and post WW2 bride of the first inter-generational gay character in the story. This insult to a fine actress is even more galling after the part Frears puts her to as the smartarse agent for Joe Orton in Prick up your Ears (1987), a story about a gay "'marriage" that might scare the pants off the kids these days.
The same story has been told in film after film after film including Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophuls, 1948) and Brief Encounter itself, no less. Some of the greatest films in cinema are love stories rent asunder. But not this turgid keylit piece of SandM (Standing and Modelling) in which fashion triumphs over even the shallow emotions on display.
|Julian Morris, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Man in an Orange Shirt
This is what we've come to folks, slop Mills & Boon undies busters with the emotional density of a wafer and weddings and tat and fabulousness in designer Dockside loft apartments.
Let Bette have the last word: 'I detest cheap sentiment".