Watching a Pedro Almodóvar film comes with certain expectations. Loud, outrageous, female-fronted melodrama has become his trademark, and he works it beautifully. For decades he has managed to walk the fine line between bad taste and camp almost perfectly as in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Volver, and even his few misfires (What Have I Done To Deserve This?) are worth admiring in their transgressive nature.
This is why Pain and Glory, his 21st feature, might surprise even his fervent followers for its sober tone and austere aesthetic. It’s Almodóvar at his most earnest, without the tricks and shock value. Some of his idiosyncrasies are present, and the movie doesn’t lack his usual moments of levity, but even the comedic aspects ring sincere. He hasn’t made it a secret that this is an autobiographical piece of work, and though only he can attest to how personal it is, it definitely reads as honest.
The Criterion collection is not the most inclusive of lists. The majority of films introduced into the canon belong to cisgender and heterosexual filmmakers. While the lack of representation reflects cinema as a whole, and Criterion tends to lean towards an era not known for acceptance, it’s still a disappointing fact. Regardless of this, there are a handful of gay filmmakers whose works have been given the Criterion seal of approval, a trusted sign of the contributions they have made, not only to the art of filmmaking, but to the gay cinematic community as a whole.
Mysterious Object at Noon (2000)
Weerasethakul, affectionally known by his fans as “Joe”, is an experimental filmmaker whose interest in the unconventional makes his feature-length debut, Mysterious Object at Noon, a must-watch from Criterion’s archive. Taking the concept of exquisite corpse (a surreal method by which art is assembled based on chance), Weerasethakul combines documentary filmmaking with art-house style, pushing the boundaries of cinema and successfully creating a patchwork story from various interviewees across Thailand.
Though Weerasethakul’s debut does not explicitly address sexuality, the theme is often explored across his work, alongside various subjects such as nature, Western perceptions of Asia, and dreams. His passion for looking beyond the expectations of the mainstream is undoubtedly influenced by his homosexuality. “For me, the word queer means anything’s possible,” Weerasethakul explained in an interview, allying himself immediately with the concept of queer cinema.