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Queer critics on their fav queer films

by Nathaniel R

Pedro Almodóvar and Antonio Banderas on the set of "Law of Desire"

I didn't intend to point you to yet another "best LGBTQ films" list since we've been to that well twice with an overview of online lists and then my own personal list for Pride month. Nevertheless you'll surely want to check out this article at Paste Magazine called "50+ Queer Writers, 50+ Queer Films". Our friend Kyle Turner polled dozens of critics who identify as LGBTQ asking them to share a short thought about a cinematic favourite. We were only allowed one film, so I went with Law of Desire. We were also encouraged to think broadly about what "queer" meant so a lot of the choices you'll read are atypical rather than full on G-A-Y. Head to the Paste link above to read the whole exciting thing but after the jump I'm sharing three excerpts I particularly loved, two of them from trans critics since they don't get mentioned often...

We know Lena irl and she's guested on the Smackdown. LOVE this articulation of the complexities of Bound (1996)

Lena Houst 
@Lena_Houst; Film Misery 
Film: Bound (1996, Lana & Lilly Wachowski)

Watching the Wachowskis’ pre-transition films feels like the trans equivalent of early queer-coded Hollywood cinema. It’s hard not to notice the identity exploration and societal anxiety bubbling beneath their grand, sophisticated allegories. In their debut, Bound, though, queer desire is not only foregrounded, but luxuriated in. A pulpy lesbian noir whose sexual expression borders on pornographic, I can imagine queer viewers in 1996 reading this as a scopophilic masculine fantasy by two fetishistic film bros. Seeing it now, though, I can only see it for what it always was: an expression of repressed queer desire from two women tired of being told who they are by others.

There’s an element of performance to most closeted queer life, but flirtatious mafia-girlfriend Violet (Jennifer Tilly) has built her life on performed masculine fantasy. “Let me guess, deep inside you, is a dyke just like me,” lesbian ex-con Corky (Gina Gershon), constantly covered in juicy grime and oil, sarcastically darts at Violet after acting on their sensual, frank foreplay. Corky struggles accepting Violet’s genuine desire because of her hetero-appeasing presentation and transactional connection to men—but love isn’t business. It’s not a coordinated exchange of goods. It’s trust: Trusting someone to be who they say they are in close, open quarters. The queer dissonance of Bound is personified by the two apartments the action plays across. One a chic, stainless lie. The other’s a bare-bones, sensually plastered mess. It’s the truth, though, and there’s plenty room to paint on a clean canvas.

We don't know this critic but we love his bit...

Sam Moore 
Film: Edward II (1991, Derek Jarman)

I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to queer culture that really resonated with me. I don’t remember what it was that got me watching Jarman’s Edward II, just that I was watching it on my own, on a laptop, like it was a dirty little secret. It cast a spell on me: its anachronistic anarchism, a queerness that I hadn’t seen articulated so explicitly before, the beginnings of a fascination with Tilda Swinton that’s never gone away. Edward II showed me what queerness in art could mean, how many different forms it could take. It was tragic, but not in the same deliberate, Hollywood-tearjerker way that films like Milk are. Jarman’s films have always been political more than anything else, so it’s no surprise he brings elements of queerness and punk to Marlowe’s tragedy, with protestors squaring off against riot police, brandishing signs reading “gay desire is not a crime” and “get your filthy laws off our bodies.” Like all of Jarman’s work, Edward II retains a sense of urgency, still necessary viewing for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. Jarman reclaims history, challenging the vilification of queerness and pulling a centuries old text by the scruff of the neck into a modern context. Not “gay” as in “happy,” but “queer” as in “fuck you. “Ever since I first saw Edward II, it feels as if I’ve been lost in its sprawling castle, and I’ve never had any desire to come out.

And I didn't realize that Under the Skin (#1 of 2014 right here) had been adopted by the trans community but here is Willow with a compelling argument as to why...

Willow Catelyn Maclay
@willow_catelyn; MUBI Film
Under the Skin (2013, Jonathan Glazer)

An explicit transgender cinema does not exist. Historically we have had little to no control over the images of us that were presented in movies. To this day, there is still very little in the way of literal representation of transgender people on screen. It is essential to take transgender cinema and make it our own, as specific as a personal gender identity itself. For me, Jonathan Glazer’s, Under the Skin is the closest I have come to seeing a cinematic interpretation of how I process gender and sexuality. On the surface this movie isn’t about transness at all, but predator-prey dynamics and black widow spider mentality as science fiction, until those roles reverse in an empathetic twist that ends in violence. But it isn’t that simple. How the creature, played by Scarlet Johannson, who has taken on the form of an attractive woman, attempts to understand her new gender and her new body is directly synonymous with trans femininity. It doesn’t matter whether or not this was intentional, because transgender women have reclaimed the movie as theirs. The cinema of transgender people must operate in this fashion, because if it didn’t, we would have no stories, because Hollywood has only ever been interested in corpses, fools and monsters.

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Reader Comments (7)

Given my past, I don't know if I count as a "film critic" (even if for L.A. Times, I did, in the past, lol) but I will give my input anyways, but I am not ranking them in any way... 50? That's tough...

The Wedding Banquet
Law of Desire
Pain & Glory
Chasing Amy
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert
Les Nuits Fauves
Stranger by the Lake
The Color Purple
Bear Cub (Cachorro)
In & Out
Le Cage aux Follies
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Interview with the Vampire
Jeepers Creepers
The 4th Man
Strawberry and Chocolate
Kiss of the Spider Woman
Brokeback Mountain
Basic Instinct
Bearcity 2
Midnight Cowboy
Midnight Express
Les Roseaux Sauvages
And the Band Played On
Longtime Companion

... off the top of my head. I am missing sooo many, I'm sure

June 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

I saw "Edward II" for the first time a few months ago. It's so great. And it's got Annie Lennox!

June 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

I love that someone mentioned the reading of Under the Skin as a trans narrative. That was something that struck me after watching the film as well.

June 27, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterthefilmjunkie

I'll also post this here. My Top 5 for each of the letters:

I'll do a Top 5 for each of the letters.

"Mulholland Dr." (Lynch)
"Carol" (Haynes)
"The Favourite" (Lanthimos)
"The Children's Hour" (Wyler)
"The Handmaiden" (Park)
"Bad Education" (Almodovar)
"Moonlight" (Jenkins)
"Milk" (van Sant)
"The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros" (Solito)
"Beau Travail" (Denis)
"Cabaret" (Fosse)
"Call Me By Your Name" (Guadagnino)
"Kinsey" (Condon)
"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (Sharman)
"y tu mama tambien" (Cuaron)
"Funeral Parade of Roses" (Matsumoto)
"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" (Mitchell)
"A Fantastic Woman" (Lelio)
"Boys Don't Cry" (Pearce)
"Dog Day Afternoon" (Lumet)

June 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterIrvin

No one mentions...
Word Is Out...It had quite an impact on me in my youth...

June 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDO

Tom at the farm
Brokeback Mountain
Strangers by the lake
Under the Skin
The Talented Mr Ripley
Oscar Wilde
A Single Man
Mysterious Skin
The Hours
Far From Heaven
God’s Own Country
Summer Storm
My Own Private Idaho
Fucking Åmål
Gods and Monsters

June 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

It would take a lot of effort to compile a list, but Cabaret would probably be #1 if I'm being honest.

June 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

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