Saturday, October 1, 2011
It seems the kids didn't like it.
Queerfest 15, the Lisbon Queer Film Festival 2011. Reaction to two seminal homo films, Boys in the Sand (USA - 1971) and Taxi Zum Klo ('Taxi to the Toilet' - Germany - 1981) ranged from indifference to "I'm outta here." I shed a few queer tears. Didn't they know their history? Didn't they care? Apparently nah mate. As I watched them wiggle it to Born This Way - AGAIN- I'd say they stayed to the end of Taxi just to enjoy the complimentary vodka afterparty.
I'm beautiful in my way 'Cause God makes no mistakes I'm on the right track, baby I was born this way
So, what gives with the gays? Are us oldies an embarrassment (of riches)? Are we crashing bores with our activism and Aids? Was our identity angst so 1981? Probably. I'll admit, your average gay film viewer doesn't give a damn about queer theory and why should he? He's looking for an experience that validates his way of life, and I doubt he's going to find it in the willowy paganism of 1971 or the grungy semi-despair of a decade teetering on the edge of an epidemic.
Don't be a drag, just be a queen
OK, Boys in the Sand's rose-crushed-to-the-bosom pornography was a little ripe. This is a world of sunlit opulence that many in the audience would be unfamiliar with. You should see Fire Island nowadays, really you should! But this secret world, and this movie, were born this way out of the fact homos felt they were under attack. It needed to show the world we were creatures of beauty. Not for nothing was it released (controversially) in mainstream theatres - and with great success. Two beautiful men fucking on a beach was to be envied, dammit! And in the end blondie got his guy, the big-dicked black panther fix it man, interestingly.
I miss that balls-to-the-wall quality of filmmaking of modern gay movies. I love that there was a time when gay movies were interested in documenting/fictionalising our experience with real dick-in-hole sex. It's as if busting their load on film made them work harder on their ideas. (see Shortbus). I haven't caught João Pedro Vale's Moby Dick, but most people hate it. But then we're jealous bitches, aren't we?
So, Taxi Zum Klo was no Fassbinder, but I loved the grainy, chill window into Berlin, I loved the gonzo documentary quality of the filmmaking, I loved the humour, and most of all I loved the messy, not-quite-linear narrative. I love its despair at gay lives biting their own tails - are we even allowed to show that any more? Films since then have been all about the veracity of the emotion, in a soapy, Hollywood way - it's all about poignancy and integrity - but have become more fake by trying to stay faithful to their emotional arc. We've become contaminated by Steel Magnolias, as if gays became relieved they could base their future discourse on that rather than Warhol or Kenneth Angers or even Gregg Araki. Mysterious Skin was the last great 'white' gay movie I saw that was bold and poetic.
Homework: I understand they're making great queer cinema in Asia and South America.