Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
Released in 2001, Hedwig and the Angry Inch brought post-punk/glam rock back from the grave in a way not seen since Rocky Horror. In a film adaptation of a short-lived but truly unique 1990s Broadway Musical. Hedwig has no intention of toning down or distilling its kaleidoscope of colour, humour, and raucous energy from the outset. The result helped by the writer, director and lead performer (John Cameron Mitchell). Here, Mitchell brings his creativity and vision to the film, never dropping a beat o his Broadway showmanship. This creativity and bravery are enhanced by a live soundtrack, creating a real sense of the Broadway spectacular of 1998 on-screen.
Offering everything you would expect from a British period drama. James Ivory’s adaptation of E.M Forster’s 1914 novel shines with charm. However, what makes Maurice a truly essential film in the history of gay cinema, sits within the novel at its heart. A book that only found daylight 15 years before the film adaptation was released. The journey to the screen a symbol of the fear surrounding gay love right up to the 1960s.
As a film, Maurice is assured in its approach, exploring the barriers of discrimination and oppression rife in Edwardian British society. But it is at its most fascinating when coupling these barriers with the British class system. Ultimately reflecting a social landscape where wealth could not open the doors to sexual freedom despite prosperity. While equally dissecting the true pain of unrequited love in friendship. Since its release, Maurice has become a classic of British gay cinema. A deserved accolade for a film that talked about gay love and belonging in an 80s society of Section 28 and AIDS based discrimination.
Gods Own Country (2017)
Often finding itself the subject of compassion to Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, Francis Lee’s Gods Own Country is far more than a mere British Brokeback. Delivering a highly personal and loving journey into male belonging and escape. While in turn offering us a positive and heartwarming ending, something rare in LGBTQ cinema. However, it is also clear why comparisons continue to be made to Brokeback. With isolation, repressed male emotions and fear surrounding the narrative. The isolation and freedom of the mountain landscapes in Brokeback replaced by the fields and moors of Yorkshire. The baron and hauntingly beautiful rurality encapsulating the barriers of emotional honesty and openness in men.
Francis Lee delves into his own experience of rural Yorkshire in creating what is undoubtedly a modern masterpiece. Transcending the boundaries of LGBTQ storytelling by embracing much broader themes of love, isolation and belonging. While in turn providing commentary on pre-Brexit Britain and the importance of connection and diversity in personal change. The result is a film full of grit, emotion and life, as the shroud of loneliness is lifted from Josh O’Connors ‘Johnny Saxby’ by a visitor (Alec Secareau) who carries the key to his future happiness.
The Long Day Closes (1992)
Following the outstanding on from his notable film Distant Voices, Still Lives. Terence Davies returned with a deeply personal exploration of early adolescence. One that screams sincerity as it offers a tender, loving and haunting perspective on family life. At the same time, wrapping us in the broader social pressures of religion and emerging sexual orientation.
11-year-old Bud is wrapped in the warm and tender cocoon of a caring mother and supportive siblings, his father having passed away (Just as in Davies own childhood). However, despite his family support, Bud is essentially a lonely boy. His inner thoughts only increasing his loneliness as he struggles to accept his emerging sexuality in a Catholic community. Davies exploration of religious guilt and burgeoning sexuality is personal, nuanced in delivery. The result is a film that echos the challenges of coming of age and the confusion of navigating sexuality and religion.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Forty minutes into Sidney Lumet’s outstanding piece of crime drama, you may be forgiven for asking the question of why it sits on our list of LGBTQ Journey’s. After all, while the set-up is delicious, humorous and riveting, it doesn’t exactly shout LGBTQ. In fact, it plays more to the legacy of Vietnam while dissecting American politics and class. Even straying into racial oppression themes as a freed black hostage is treated as criminal by trigger happy police. However, like a bolt from the blue, we discover the reason for our anti-hero Sonny’s actions. His only wish to pay for a sex-change operation for his gay lover. A man he can’t bring himself to fully accept, their relationship one of anger, denial and control. But this is a man he equally cannot be without, his wife and children sitting in the wings.
What follows is nothing short of outstanding in both direction and performances as Sonny’s motives are slowly unpicked in the sweltering heat of a bank under siege in the Brooklyn summer. Themes of isolation, equality and class threading through every sentence of dialogue as the American dream is dissected. However, strangely Dog Day Afternoon remains in the shadows of LGBTQ film history. Its themes and social commentary held aloft in wider film circles but forgotten in LGBTQ communities. However, coming just five years after the Stonewall riots. Lumet seized the anger and hope of a dramatically changing American society in a manner many other films simply could not.