Gentleman Jack (2019) makes me feel that my life is possible. As a long-time fan of Sally Wainwright, I trusted her to do justice to Anne Lister’s diaries. My expectations were high, but after having been let down time and time again by most lesbian-centered representations, they were still within reason. Before the series premiered, I expected a brilliant portrayal of Lister – one that is done with respect and empathy. However, on the topic of lesbian sexuality, I had far less hopes. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Gentleman Jack unabashedly delights in including its lesbian audience, and revels in speaking only to lesbians. The series goes beyond merely portraying lesbians on the screen, and takes lesbian representation a notch further by being unapologetic about its depiction of lesbian desire, lesbian sex, and lesbian mannerisms.
Just as the real Anne Lister was proud of her ability to seduce women, Lister’s fourth-wall breaks in the series seduces the audience, charms them with her wit, and most importantly of all – remind lesbians that we have always existed. In-between 200 years ago and now where our lives have been violently annihilated by virtue of homophobic cruelty, we always have existed, and we continue to exist.
In her short film This Perfect Day (2019), Australian-Chinese Director Lydia Rui paints an intimate, and quietly moving portrait of isolation, longing and reconciliation. We begin with a young adult, Jules, (Michelle Keating) who nervously braces themselves in a car before entering a music store, while their girlfriend (Hannah Koch) assures them that there is a reason why they are here today. They enter the music store and look around anxiously, as if suggesting to the audience that a robbery is about to happen. However, what happens next is a profoundly empathetic study on the desire to reunite with the ones we love, even when there is so much that can no longer be salvaged. Continue reading “Tribeca 2019 Review: On Reconciliation and Hope in ‘This Perfect Day’”→
When scrolling through Netflix’s recent catalogue, it’s gratifying to see a lot of content focusing on under-represented minorities, especially in genres that are commonly concentrated on white, straight stories of privilege. While some, such as Pose and Everything Sucks!, manage to establish effective narratives of inclusion, others, such as Insatiable, fail miserably and feed into dangerous prejudice. It’s a relief that Special – the world’s first dramedy series about a young gay man with cerebral palsy – is not only respectful towards its subject, but also conscious of other struggles surrounding him.
In most cases, a man in a leather mask masturbating while watching a young man dance would be a red flag. But at the sex club in the opening of Yann Gonzalez’s Knife+Heart, this is expected and even encouraged. The masked man and the young dancer go home together, presumably for a night of fun. However, it all goes downhill when this man reveals he has a dildo knife and kills his partner. This is Gonzalez’s ridiculously delicious opening of his queer slasher for the ages about a killer tracking down porn stars in Paris during the summer of 1979.
Anne Parèze (played by the ethereal Vanessa Paradis) is a porn producer who exclusively makes gay male porn at a discount. Her performers are constantly demanding payment, even discussing their paychecks mid-blow job. Meanwhile, Anne won’t stop drinking her pain away after a breakup with her girlfriend of 10 years, who is also her editor. Amidst this turmoil, someone begins picking off her porn stars one by one, casting a shadow of fear over the studio. But while performing her grief, Anne decides to use these crimes as inspiration for her next porno, Homo-cidal. The narrative intertwines her desire to make the next great porn film, her investigation into the killer, and her declining mental state in the face of a broken relationship.
Many critics of Desiree Akhavan’s The Bisexual have condemned it for not being explicitly subversive enough, somehow implying that because of Akhavan’s bisexuality, she necessarily has to write a neat arc which leads up to a climatic acceptance of main character Leila’s sexuality. I believe that form of criticism in itself is worth interrogating: Why do we expect LGBTQ-centered media (particularly, those by LGBTQ artists) to live up to a totalising and universalising narrative, when all of us have differing experiences on sexuality because of our varied socio-political circumstances? And why do we place the burden on LGBTQ people to figure out all there is to do with sex, gender and sexuality when the world is persistently denying and censoring our access to all these things? Continue reading “Art, Autobiography, and Sexuality in Desiree Akhavan’s ‘The Bisexual’”→
The Freddie Mercury biopic has been cooking up since 2010. Originally meant to be a Sacha Baron Cohen and David Fincher collaboration, the biopic’s direction had shifted into the hands of the remaining members of Queen. This led to Baron Cohen leaving the project due to artistic disagreements, envisioning a much more adult version of Bohemian Rhapsody. Eventually, Anthony McCarten’s screenplay was green-lit with Bryan Singer (ugh) attached to direct. Soon they found Mercury in Rami Malek, as well as some reforms after Singer was fired from the project, some backlash for the lack of inclusion of the AIDs crisis, and accusations of “de-queering” Mercury’s depiction the film (more ugh)! It’s almost impressive that a project with such an infamously-controversial development stage could amount to a film this dull.
But here we are. Bohemian Rhapsody, despite a mixed critical reception, hit the #1 spot of the box office, making an estimated $50 million dollar earning. Somehow, this has only sparked more controversy as a quite irritating critics-versus-audiences conversation has formed once again. I think we have bigger things to worry about, considering the director credit has gone to an accused pedophile (he is currently being campaigned for by Fox for best director as part of the upcoming awards season). Simply put, this film already gave me a headache before I even got the chance to see it. Dubbed the “unseasoned chicken” of cinema by our editor-in-chief, Dilara, and writer, Iana, Bohemian Rhapsody is not only the blandest on-screen version of Mercury’s extravagant life possible, but it also does a major disservice to the gay and bi men who have looked up to the idol since the 80s. While the “de-queering” criticism may be slightly hyperbolic as Mercury’s sexuality is a large thread within the film, it is not handled with the amount of care to be worthy of high praise.