Tag Archives: LGBT

LFF 2017: All Summer Long

Beach Rats literally flashes to life. The flash of a camera phone taking selfies at various angles that are trying to be provocative. Trying to look a certain way, project a certain image. They’re trying. Frankie, the film’s adolescent protagonist, on the cusp of a summer of love and hate, is trying, too. He’s trying to work himself out.

Frankie is torn between two things. What he wants, and what he thinks he should want. What he wants, is to go online and cruise older men. To begin with, this seems to be for nothing more than validation, to look and be looked at, to want and be wanted. He insists he doesn’t meet up with the men from the site he frequents. What he thinks he wants is just what his friends (who he insists are “not his friends”) want: to hang out, do drugs, and sleep with pretty girls. Frankie does all of these things, but they don’t seem to bring him any kind of happiness or fulfilment. If anything, they just serve to highlight the lack that he’s dealing with, the lack that comes from not going after what it is he really wants.

When Frankie meets up with people, it begins the same way as his online interactions do. He looks and is looked at. He wants and his wanted. These meetings all lead to sexual acts of one kind or another; some by the beach, some in hotel rooms, but wherever he goes, he doesn’t go there alone. They’re not shown as being terrifying or titillating, they’re simply shown. They just are what they are. Beach Rats exists at a kind of distance from its subject. Not an unfeeling distance, but a Larry Clark kind of distance; like a voyeur, always worried that if they’re caught too loudly, they’ll be caught in the act. In sex, as with the light of Frankie’s phone camera, bodies are shown in fragments; hands grab and touch, but any kind of wholeness is avoided.

Throughout all of his interactions, with friends, family, or lovers, Frankie is afraid. Afraid of being too much, of not being enough, of being outed, of being inadequate. Beach Rats has fear beating through its heart. Every breath that Frankie takes in the company of the men he sleeps with is imbued with fear. The interaction he has with his girlfriend when she says “when two guys make out, it’s just gay,” is fearful. The simple fact that Frankie doesn’t know what he is, and doesn’t understand what he wants, is full of fear. On a primal level, the unknown is sheer terror, and that’s what Frankie contends with throughout Beach Rats. He flinches away from intimacy after sex; not wanting to be too much, or maybe not wanting to be too “gay.” Sexuality isn’t really brought up much in dialogue, other than Frankie saying he “doesn’t think of himself as gay.” But Beach Rats is about fear, not sexuality or coming. The closet exists, of course, and Frankie is obviously in it, but coming out of it isn’t treated as being all that important. Instead, coming to terms is. Coming to terms with what you want, who you are, with the small degree of safety that can come from knowing, a moment of intimacy on a hotel room bed. Frankie doesn’t live in the closet, he lives in fear. He waits for the truth to set him free, and it doesn’t as his summer ends the way it began, with fireworks on the boardwalk. The truth will set him free, later, just not before its finished with him.

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My Top 5 LGBT Themed Films

This post is part of the 2012 Queer Film Blogathon hosted by Caroline at Garbo Laughs and the folk over at Pussy Goes Grrr. In honour of it, I’ll be writing about my five favourite films that are classed as having LGBT themes.

5 – Black Swan

Aronofsky’s unsettling psychological thriller, a tale of drive, obsession and psychosis, with the classic ballet Swan Lake masterfully used in the background, was one of my favourite films of 2010. From the incredible performance from Portman to the expertly crafted suspense and the bizarre sex scene (that didn’t seem at all erotic to me), where Nina, perhaps in a dream, is sleeping with Lily, and in a moment that shows the decline of her sanity, and perhaps the rampant nature of her ego, pictures herself where Lily is. Used to wonderful effect as a character device and a shocking moment. If you haven’t seen this film already, do seek it out, so much about it, from Portman’s performance, to the stellar opening scene, this is something that simply should be seen.

4 – Midnight Cowboy

One of my favourite Best Picture winning films, Midnight Cowboy is nothing short of excellent, from the gritty script to it’s iconic moments, like the much parodied, oft-imitated line, “Hey! I’m walkin’ here!”. It tells the story of a young male prostitute, played very well by Jon Voight, although he occasionally emphasizes the wrong elements of his character too often, and his sickly friend Ratso, played wonderfully by Dustin Hoffman, giving one of his best performances ever, as they try to survive in New York together. The chemistry the two of them share is wonderful, and truly elevates the film, and adds, what feels like a very subtle homosexual relationship, although it is never shown explicitly, these elements seem present throughout the film. From its opening scene to its devastating final moments, Midnight Cowboy is a true classic.

3 – All That Jazz

My favourite movie musical of all time, All That Jazz, the film everybody class Fosse’s 8 1/2 is a visually arresting, masterfully choreographed tale of drive, drugs, women and work, with Roy Scheider giving a stunning performance as Fosse’s self confessed author avatar – Joe Gideon. Perhaps not explicitly LGBT, a case can be made for it, considering things like Gideon’s rampant affairs (which can of course be read as overcompensation). All That Jazz also boasts one of my favourite finales in any film, as Gideon gets a final sendoff, singing an excellent last duet (but to say anything else would spoil it). From its choreography to its performances and excellently used soundtrack, All That Jazz is a wonderful tale of an artist caught in a free fall.

2 – Brokeback Mountain

The greatest romance film I’ve ever seen, and the only film that I almost cried at, Brokeback Mountain is one of my favourite films of the 21st century. Ledger is at the top of his game and Gyllenhaal delivers his best performance yet. The story is simple – it is a story about a love between two men. And it is a wonderfully crafted, understated film, for which Ang Lee rightly won an Oscar. I struggle to write about this film, I can’t really articulate my feelings towards it as I’d like to, but it is wonderful in every respect. If you haven’t seen it, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

1 – Mulholland Drive

Lynch’s labyrinthine masterpiece, and one of my favourite films ever made, is rather difficult to explain, with a complex non-linear structure, and the thematic depth and deeper levels one expects from the master auteur. Watts gives an Oscar worthy performance as Betty/Diane, who changes, throughout the course of the film from a perky Hollywood hopeful to a bitter, devastated woman, jilted by her lover Rita (played excellently by Laura Harring), who has all of the fame she so desires. The mind and subconscious of Watt’s characters are explored in abstract and literal manners, from her love scenes with Rita to the excellent scene in Club Silencio. This is not a film for everyone, but if you like it, you will love it.

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