The gangster film
Little Caesar (1930)
The Public Enemy (1931)
Bullets or Ballots (1935)
Marked Woman (1937)
The Roaring 'Twenties (1939)
The social conscience film
I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
Wild Boys of the Road (1933)
The fast-talking comedy/drama
Five-star Final (1931)
Lady Killer (1933)
Hard To Handle (1933)
42nd Street (1933)
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936)
The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
Captain Blood (1935)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
The Sea Hawk (1940)
The Letter (1940)
Now Voyager (1942)
Mildred Pierce (1945)
The film noir
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Big Sleep (1946)
Dark Passage (1947)
300 (2006) (Dir.: Zack Snyder)
The Abyss (1989) (Dir: James Cameron)
Jurassic Park (1993) (Dir. Steven Spielberg)
The Matrix (1999) (Directors Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) (Dir. James Cameron)
Toy Story (1995) (Dir. John Lasseter)
Watchman (2009) (Dir. Zack Snyder)
Amélie (2001) (Dir.: Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
Apocalypse Now (1979) (Dir.: Francis Ford Coppola)
The Dark Knight (2008) (Dir.: Christopher Nolan)
Exorcist (1973) (Dir.: William Friedkin)
Fight Club (1999) (Dir.: David Fincher)
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) (Dir.: Peter Weir)
Saving Private Ryan (1998) (Dir.: Steven Spielberg)
Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) (Dir.: George Lucas)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) (Dir.: James Cameron)
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) (Dir.: Werner Herzog)
Clash of the Titans (2010) (Dir.: Louis Leterrier)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) (Dir.: Jack Arnold)
Dial M for Murder (1954) (Dir.: Alfred Hitchcock)
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1, Part 2 (2010-11) (Dir.: David Yates)
Piranha 3D (2010) (Dir.: Alexandre Aja)
Superman Returns (2008) (Dir.: Bryan Singer)
Toy Story 3 (2010) (Dir.: Lee Unkrich)
Under the Sea 3D (2009) (Dir.: Howard Hall)
Springtime in an English Village (UK, 1944)
The West (Burns, US, 1996)
The Grapes of Wrath (Ford, US, 1940)
Dogville (Von Trier, US, 2003)
Hiroshima mon amour (Resnais, France, 1959)
Days of Being Wild (Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong, 1991)
Histoire(s) du Cinema (Godard, France, 1998)
All film viewing constitutes appropriate study activity for the subject of this chapter. In order to understand further the differences and relationships between mainstream and art cinema, careful viewing of the examples cited in the chapter – such as His Girl Friday, Bambi, Le Mépris and The Conformist – is recommended. You will also find the films cited in the sections on film form useful. Some further examples – chosen for the conspicuous and/or unusual use they make of particular techniques – are listed below.
Setting, props, costume and make-up
Black Narcissus (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1947)
The Fifth Element (Luc Besson, 1997)
Orlando (Sally Potter, 1992)
Ying xiong/Hero (Yimou Zhang, 2002)
All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)
Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955)
Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
The Man Who Wasn’t There (Joel Coen, 2001)
Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922)
Cinematography and special effects
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson, 1994)
The Matrix trilogy (Andy and Larry Wachowski, 1999, 2003, 2003)
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
JFK (Oliver Stone, 1991)
The Man with Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
Blackmail (Alfred Hitchcock, 1928)
The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)
Clearly all films raise issues in relation to spectatorship and response. The following twelve films, listed chronologically, are suggested for study purposes, as they raise particular questions or issues:
Early Cinema – Primitives and Pioneers (BFI compilation, DVD, 2005)
The Birth of a Nation (Griffith, US, 1915)
Man with a Movie Camera (Vertov, USSR, 1929)
Rear Window (Hitchcock, US, 1954)
Peeping Tom (Powell, UK, 1960)
Blow Up (Antonioni, UK/Italy, 1966)
Klute (Pakula, US, 1972)
Man Bites Dog (Belvaux and Bonzel, Belgium, 1992)
Natural Born Killers (Stone, US, 1994)
Festen (Vinterberg, Denmark, 1998)
Fight Club (Fincher, US, 1999)
Memento (Nolan, US, 2000)
Timecode (Figgis, US, 2000)
Hidden (Haneke, France, 2005)
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (1993)
Kill Bill Vol. 2 (1994)
Death Proof (2007)
Inglorious Basterds (2009)
This chapter explores the construction of Cruise’s star image and its implications for how we understand contemporary masculine agency. As such, the list of films below is instructive viewing inasmuch as it articulates some of the incoherence and ambiguities that define his star image. However, it is quite possible to employ a similar method as the one pursued here to analyse the star image of people such as Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Jodie Foster, Julia Roberts, and Nicole Kidman.
Knight and Day (2010)
War of the Worlds (2005)
Minority Report (2002)
Vanilla Sky (2001)
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Mission: Impossible (1996)
Interview with the Vampire (1993)
Rain Man (1988)
The Color of Money (1986)
Top Gun (1986)
Risky Business (1983)
One approach to the study of film genre is to track the ways in which any one genre has changed over time. As such, watch a range of films of the same genre from different periods. For example, if you were to investigate the western film then the following would give a good indication of both the continuities and changes that have occurred within the genre.
The Great Train Robbery (Edwin S. Porter, 1903)
Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)
My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)
Shane (George Stevens, 1952)
High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952)
Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)
The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
3:10 to Yuma (Delmer Daves, 1957)
A Fistful of Dollars (Sergio Leone, 1964)
Billy the Kid Versus Dracula (William Beaudine, 1966)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969)
True Grit (Henry Hathaway, 1969)
The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
Little Big Man (Arthur Penn, 1970)
McCabe and Mrs Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)
Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks, 1974)
The Outlaw Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood, 1976)
Back to the Future III (Robert Zemeckis, 1990)
Dances with Wolves (Kevin Costner, 1990)
Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, 1992)
Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, 1995)
The Quick and the Dead (Sam Rami, 1995)
Last Man Standing (Walter Hill, 1996)
Shanghai Noon (Tom Dey, 2000)
Tears of the Black Tiger (Wisit Sasanatieng, 2000)
Open Range (Kevin Costner, 2003)
Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)
The Proposition (John Hillcoat, 2005)
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones, 2005)
3:10 to Yuma (James Mangold, 2007)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)
True Grit (Coen Brothers, 2010)
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mitchell+and+kenyon&aq=f - links to a You Tube menu of Mitchell and Kenyon films
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLERFRQl5EY - extract from 'Nanook of the North'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xG5baCxTtgw - extract from 'Grey Gardens'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gImM_YV-VrY - extract from 'Housing Problems'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MKRKbZHA5E - extract from 'Salesman'
Baraka (Ron Fricke, 1992)
Basic Training (Frederick Wiseman, 1971)
Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (Walter Ruttmann, 1927)
Biggie and Tupac (Nick Broomfield, 2002)
Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore, 2002)
Capturing the Friedmans (Andrew Jarecki, 2003)
Cathy Come Home (Ken Loach, 1966)
Chronicle of a Summer (Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin, 1960)
Coal Face (Alberto Cavalcanti, 1935)
The Day Britain Stopped (Gabriel Range, 2003)
Don’t Look Back (Don Pennebaker, 1967)
Drifters (John Grierson, 1929)
Early Cinema: Primitives and Pioneers (BFI DVD)
Etre et avoir (Nicolas Philibert, 2002)
Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore, 2004)
Forgotten Silver (Peter Jackson and Costa Botes, 1995)
Gallivant (Andrew Kotting, 1997)
Gimme Shelter (Albert and David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin, 1970)
Granton Trawler (John Grierson, 1934)
Grey Gardens (Albert and David Maysles, 1975)
Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005)
High School (Frederick Wiseman, 1968)
Hoop Dreams (Steve James, 1994)
Housing Problems (Arthur Elton and Edgar Anstey, 1935)
In the Year of the Pig (Emile de Antonio, 1968)
Kino-Pravda (Dziga Vertov, 1925)
Kurt and Courtney (Nick Broomfield, 1998)
The Leader, His Driver and the Driver’s Wife (Nick Broomfield, 1991)
Little Dieter Needs to Fly (Werner Herzog, 1997)
London (Patrick Keiller, 1994)
The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon (BBC, 2004)
Louisiana Story (Robert Flaherty, 1948)
Man of Aran (Robert Flaherty, 1934)
Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
Moana (Robert Flaherty, 1926)
Murderball (Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro, 2005)
Nanook of the North (Robert Flaherty, 1922)
Night Mail (Harry Watt and Basil Wright, 1936)
Primary (Robert Drew, 1960)
Rien que les heures (Alberto Cavalcanti, 1926)
Robinson in Space (Patrick Keiller, 1997)
Roger and Me (Michael Moore, 1989)
Salesman (Albert and David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin, 1969)
Super Size Me (Morgan Spurlock, 2004)
Tarnation (Jonathan Caouette, 2003)
The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, 1988)
Tina Goes Shopping (Penny Woolcock, 1999)
Tina Takes a Break (Penny Woolcock, 2001)
Touching the Void (Kevin MacDonald, 2003)
Twockers (Pawel Pawlikowski and lan Duncan, 1998)
United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006)
Why We Fight (Frank Capra, 1943–45)
Here are some key models of animated film which repay viewing and analysis:
Akira (1988) (Dir.: Katsuhiro Otamo)
Asparagus (1978) (Dir.: Suzan Pitt)
Bad Luck Blackie (1943) (Dir.: Tex Avery)
Binky and Boo (1989) (Dirs: Derek Hayes and Phil Austen)
Boy Who Saw the Iceberg, The (2000) (Dir: Paul Driessen)
Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (1943) (Dir: Bob Clampett)
Dimensions of Dialogue (1982) (Dir.: Jan Svankmajer)
Dreams and Desires, Family Ties (2006) (Dir: Joanna Quinn)
Ersatz (1961) (Dir.: Dusan Vukotic)
Fast Film (2003) (Dir: Virgil Widrich)
Father and Daughter (2000) (Dir.: Michael Dudok de Wit)
Fatty Issues (1990) (Dir.: Candy Guard)
Give Up Yer Aul Sins (2001) (Dir: Cathal Gaffney)
Great (1974) (Dir.: Bob Godfrey)
Hand, The (1965) (Dir.: Jiri Trnka)
Harvie Krumpet (2003) (Dir : Adam Elliot)
Hat, The (1964) (Dirs: John and Faith Hubley)
Hotel E (1992) (Dir : Priit Pärn)
I Married a Strange Person (1997) (Dir: Bill Plympton)
Knick Knack (1991) (Dir.: John Lasseter)
Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase (1991) (Dir: Joan Gratz)
Morir de Amor (2005) (Dir: Gil Alkabetz)
Never Like the First Time (2006) (Dir : Jonas Odell)
Nose, The (1963) (Dir.: Alexander Alexieff)
Old Man and the Sea, The (1999) (Dir : Alexandr Petrov)
Pas de deux (1967) (Dir.: Norman McLaren)
Popeye the Sailor meets Sinbad the Sailor (1936) (Dir.: Dave Fleischer)
Red Hot Riding Hood (1949) (Dir.: Tex Avery)
Springer and the S.S. (1946) (Dir.: Jiri Trnka)
Stain, The (1991) (Dirs: Christine Roche and Marjut Rimmenen)
Street, The (1974) (Dir.: Caroline Leaf)
Tale of Tales (1979) (Dir.: Yuri Norstein)
Tango (1981) (Dir.: Zbigniew Rybczynski)
The Incredibles (2004) (Dir.: Brad Bird)
Three Little Pigs (1933) (Dir.: Walt Disney)
Triangle (1994) (Dir: Erica Russell)
What’s Opera, Doc? (1957) (Dir.: Chuck Jones)
Words, Words, Words (1999) (Dir : Michaela Pavlátová)
This chapter has focused mainly on Hollywood and British film and is therefore a selective view. In terms of gender the analysis has concentrated mostly on Hollywood film, partly because so much research on masculinity and feminity is based on the study of popular Western culture.
There are a number of British films which would be well worth further investigation: Billy Elliot (2000) and Bend It Like Beckham (2002), for instance, would both be revealing to study in terms of gender and the protagonists reaching out to achieve success in areas which are not considered appropriate (ballet and football respectively). Dear Frankie (2006) shows a single mother creating an imaginery father for her son while ....An Education ...US films such as American Beauty (1999) and Happiness (1999) or In the Bedroom (2001) would be revealing to study in terms of gender and family life.
Films which portray women in powerful central roles such as Erin Brockovich (2000) and are interesting to discuss as to whether the protagonists really are playing stereotypical roles: ‘the tart with a heart’ for instance. Sex and the City 1 (2006) and 2 (2009) and Mama Mia (2008) have been internationally successful and would be interesting to discuss in terms of why they have appealed so strongly to a mainly female audience and how gender is represented.
Worldwide women’s cinema is rich and varied – countries as small and culturally diverse as New Zealand and Iran have contributed to this upsurge. As more women enter the film industry and take on key roles, the number of mainstream films made by women will hopefully increase.
Other chapters in this book refer to films by women: see Chapter 11. Unfortunately, many earlier films by women are difficult to obtain. The BFI and Cinenova (a film and video distributor that promotes films by women) hold a number of titles for rental. The latter’s comprehensive catalogue is well worth looking through.
The following films may all be hired through Cinenova at 113 Roman Road, London E2 0HN, tel: 0208 981 6828
- To Be a Woman (UK, Jill Craigie, 1953)
- Women of the Rhondda (UK, Esther Ronay, 1972)
- A Comedy in Six Unnatural Acts (US, Jan Oxenburg, 1975)
- An Epic Poem (UK, Lezli-Ann Barrett, 1982)
- Born in Flames (US, Lizzie Borden, 1983)
The following films are all available for rental or sale from the BFI and provide stimulating viewing:
- Orlando (UK, Sally Potter, 1993) (see Case Study 1)
- Wayward Girls and Wicked Women, vols 1, 2 and 3 (1992) (various women animators, often witty, poignant and hard-hitting)
- Sweetie (Australia, Jane Campion, 1989) (it’s anarchic, funny and strange!)
- Dream On (UK, Amber Films, 1992) (focuses on women on a north-east estate; realistic, hard-hitting with some lighter moments)
any of Gurinder Chada’s films are worth considered viewing and the latter two will be available on video/DVD:
- Bhaji on the Beach (UK, 1993) which is the story of an Asian women’s group’s journey to Blackpool
- What’s Cooking (2000)
- Bend It Like Beckham (2002) about an Asian girl who wants to be a footballer.
Aimee & Jaguar (Germany, Max Fäberböck, 1998) A bold telling of an incredible but true story set in Berlin during the later years of the Second World War. Two women, Lilly and Felice, one a Nazi super-mum and the other a Jewish underground resistance member, meet, fall in love and remain devoted to each other through dangerous times, and Felice’s capture by the Gestapo. The compelling narrative is framed by contemporary scenes showing the elderly Lilly, still honouring the memory of her lover.
All About My Mother (Spain, Pedro Almodovar, 1999) Featuring a search for a lost, transgendered father figure. A brilliantly queer, if rather phallocentric, reworking of the Hollywood classic, “All About Eve”. Thanks to Almodovar’s skilful work, the melodramatic storyline remains convincing. See also Bad Education by the same auteur.
American Beauty (US, Sam Mendes, 2000)A suburban comedy, very knowing in its portrayal of the repressed homosexual obsessions of the proto-fascist next door neighbour, as well as positive images of the gay couple down the street who are pillars of the community.For another constructive use of gay secondary characters in American mainstream film-making see The Opposite of Sex (US, Don Roos, 1999)
Another Way (Hungary, Karoly Makk, 1982) Said to be among Eastern Europe’s first films dealing with a lesbian relationship, this is an intelligent and finely-observed love story set just after the Hungarian uprising of 1956.
A Single Man (US, Tom Ford, 2010) Set in Los Angeles in 1962, the narrative follows one day in the life of George Falconer, a British college professor who is struggling to find meaning in his life after the death of his long-time partner, Jim. Colin Firth gives an outstanding performance. Julianne Moore, as in her other performances listed here, plays a key role in the vivid evocation of sexual attitudes of the place and time. See also Cabaret as a similar evocation of thirties Berlin, and a film based on a novel by noted gay author Christopher Isherwood.
À Toute Vitesse (Full Speed) (France, Gaël Morel, 1996) A bleak view of homophobia and racism among provincial French youth, contrasted with the bravery and loyalty of the central characters. Contains superb, compelling performances.
Beautiful Boxer (Thailand, Ekachai Uekrongtham, 2005) Fact-based biopic of a leading champion kick-boxer from a poor backgound who uses his winnings to pay for a sex-change. Caused controversy among Thai audiences not for the fact of its transgender leading character, but for its serious examination of the character’s motives and outlook. See also The Iron Ladies (Thailand, Thongkonthun Youngyooth, 2000) a lively, real-life based drama about how a gay volleyball team fought its way to become champions of the Thai league.
Beautiful Thing (UK, Hettie Macdonald, 1997) Two young men find love and comfort in each other's arms on a Bermondsey Council estate and start to explore the local gay scene. With themes of class, gender and community solidarity, this is a refreshingly optimistic movie. See Ros Jenning's fascinating reading of what she calls 'positive unoriginality and the everyday' in Griffiths (ed) 2006. For another entertaining British realist film, watch Get Real (UK, Simon Shore, 1998).
Beefcake (Canada, Thom Fitzgerald, 2000) An entertainingly camp and affectionate look at the activities of Bob Mizer’s famous 1950’s physique studio, the ‘Athletic Model Guild’ through the eyes of a well-built country innocent learning the ways of the world in LA.
Before Night Falls (US, Julian Schnabel, 2000) A powerful, engaging biopic of the Cuban Renaldo Arenas, whose gay sexuality, political activism and prolific writing are shown as inseparable aspects of his life. Spanish star Javier Bardem gives an excellent performance as Arenas. Also stars Johhny Depp as transvestite lover.
Bent (UK, Sean Mathias,1997) This film about the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany reflects the weaknesses of the stage play on which it is based. It is worth viewing, though, for its powerful performances and historically important subject-matter. Features Mick Jagger as a transvestite cabaret performer, and Ian McKellen.
Bound (US, Andy and Larry Wachowski, 1996) A post-queer lesbian private-eye film; two consciously stereotyped babes-with-brains in steamy union.
Boystown (Spain, D. Ayaso, J. Flahn, Rafa, F. Sabroso, 2007)This is a dark, comedy thriller set in Chueca, Madrid’s gay area, performed and edited with considerable gusto. The twists and turns of the plot and the overblown style owe a lot to Almodovar. An ordinary and likeable couple, Ray and Leo, are beset by such notable comic figures as Ray’s interfering mother, a murderously devious gay real estate agent, and an eccentric detective with her dithering gay son who finally unravel the mystery.
Brokeback Mountain (US, Ang Lee, 2005) A mainstream, big-budget Western about two cowboys whose love for each other changes their lives. Superb performances reflect the passionate feelings and social frustrations of their situation. ‘A grand romantic tragedy’ according to B. Ruby Rich, which has ‘reimagined America as shaped by queer experience and memory…’
Campfire (Belgium, Bavo Defune, 1999) Four short portraits of young male relationships, replete with inspired use of a range or gay imagery which pays homage to the Athletic Model Guild, Jean Genet and the chic photo-homoerotics of Pierre et Gilles. The themes of sexual exploration and awakening are given unity across the four films through Defune’s skilful use of his own range of visual metaphors; clouds, water and exteme close-ups.
The Celluloid Closet (US, Robert Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman, 1996) Includes clips from about a hundred films mentioned in Vito Russo’s seminal book, and interviews with screenwriter Gore Vidal, director John Schlesinger and actors Tom Hanks and Whoopi Goldberg.
Conversation Piece (Italy, Luchino Visconti, 1974) Burt Lancaster gives a remarkable performance as a retired, bookish professor reluctantly discovering his own latent homosexual passions. Visconti is, for me, a major queer auteur who is in need of close critical reassessment; see also Ossessione, The Damned, and Death in Venice.
Defying Gravity (US, John Keitel, 1997) Part of the growing gay genre of ‘coming out’ stories, this is set on an affluent American University campus, and involves a gay-bashing as well as racial, family and friendship issues. An engaging, film with good use of flashbacks, although, annoyingly, not a single character in it ever manages to utter the ‘g-word’ or directly name same-sex issues in any way. For other genre examples see Edge of Seventeen, Beautiful Thing and Trick.
Desert Hearts (US, Donna Deitsch, 1985) A rather idealised lesbian romance set in 1950’s Texas, which has provoked a range of reactions from critics such as Richard Dyer, Mandy Merck and Barbara Hammer.
Dona Herlinda and her Son (Mexico, Jaime Hermosillo, 1985) An entertaining comedy of sexual manners where a perceptive mother arranges her son's love-life to cater for his gay lover and her own desire for a grandchild. One of the first Latin American films to deal positively with a gay theme. For a somewhat angst-ridden portrayal of young gay love, see Broken Sky ((Mexico, Julián Hernández, 2006) and this director's much more successful and engaging Raging Sun, Raging Sky (Mexico, 2009).
East Palace, West Palace (China, Zhang Yuan, 1996) A ground-breaking work in terms of homosexuality and mainland Chinese cinema. A macho cop apprehends a young gay man, and the ensuing interaction makes him question himself deeply. Remarkable for the gay character’s assertion of selfhood. Slow-paced but elegiac, with excellent performances and cinematography. For a discussion of political considerations, see Chris Berry’s essay in Grossman 2005.
Everyone (Canada, Bill Marchant, 2004)
This intelligent, bittersweet social comedy portrays the lives of a group of friends and relatives coming together to celebrate a gay union. Script and acting skillfully combine sophistication with earthiness and a touch of satire. As with all good films of this genre, serious issues hover behind the well-crafted dialogue.
Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives (Canada, Aerlyn Wessman and Lynne Femie, 1992) Wonderful to watch: a fifties pulp-fiction style lesbian love story is interwoven with older women talking about their lives. Excellent docudrama.
Gohatto (Japan, Nagisa Oshima, 1999) The title is Japanese for ‘taboo’. Set in a samuai training academy in 1865. A beautiful young samurai warrior sets off a chain reaction of passions among his fellow trainees. Fascinating narrative tension in the depiction of how these passions conflict with strict samurai rules. Visually stunning, with excellent fight choreography.
Go Fish (US, Rose Troche, 1994) An outstandingly engaging independent look at the lives and loves of a group of lesbians living in San Francisco. See Pierson (1996) to read more about this. Bedrooms and Hallways (UK, 1998) by the same director presents a similarly original and engaging look at a group with diverse sexualities.
The Hanging Garden (Canada, Thom Fitzgerald, 1997) A gay man revisits his family and meets the image of his previous, repressed younger self which haunts his father. A drama that makes the viewer question the nature of queerness.
Happy, Texas (US, Mark Illsley, 2002) A feelgood small-town comedy involving mistaken identity, a couple of gay designers and a lovelorn gay sheriff who eventually gets his man. For another feelgood gay-themed social comedy from the US see In and Out (Frank Oz, US 2001).
Happy Together (Hong Kong, Wong Kar Wai, 1997) Two young Chinese men try to patch up their relationship on an extended stay in Argentina. Particularly interesting for its use of sound, music and setting to portray and underline characters and relationships. For a discussion of political themes, see Chris Berry’s essay in Grossman (ed) 2005. See case study on accompanying website.
Head On (Australia, Ana Kokkinos, 1998) A powerful realisation of contemporary queer life in Australia. Centred on Ari, a young Greek-Australian battling to come to terms with his sexuality and his family. A salient product of queer cinema in its avoidance of any comforting character empathy or predictable narrative closure. See the essay on this film in Alderson & Anderson (eds).
Hellbent (US, David DeCoteau, 2005) A gay horror film, ‘the first to take its genre seriously, with gay characters played as honest-to-goodness people rather than for comic relief or cannon fodder.’ (Kevin Goebel, Planetout.com).
High Art (US, Lisa Cholodenko, 1998) A film that takes the lesbian sexuality of its main characters as natural and given, while looking at how they live their lives, make art, and love one another. Much admired by queer critics such as Daniel Cunningham (Daniel and Jackson: 12).
If These Walls Could Talk – 2 A notable and good-quality made-for-TV movie that traces lesbian lives and loves over three different generations in the late twentieth century. Feature Vanessa Redgrave as an older ‘lesbian widow’ and Sharon Stone as a young adventurer.
I Love You, Philip Morris (US, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, 2010) Hollywood comic superstar Jim Carrey portrays a real-life based conman who falls in love with another man while in prison. Carrey's character portrayal is imbued with humour and happiness as he explores his emotions, while remaining true to the star's zany persona.
Law Of Desire (Spain, Pedro Almodovar 1987) A gripping gay melodrama by one of Spain's leading contemporary directors. This was the precursor of several entertaining gay films from 1990’s Spain – see the essay in David Alderson & Anderson (ed) listed in Further Reading.
La Leòn (France/Argentina, Santiago Otheguy, 2006) An award-winning story with visually arresting settings in the Panama Delta of Northern Argentina, depicted with superb black and white cinematography. Alvaro, a quiet gay man, lives a simple and isolated life. He works for the violent El Turo, a captain of a water bus which links the isolated communities of traditional reedcutters. Alvaro’s sexuality aggravates El Turo, who feels threatened by his "difference" and sets about harassing him. Class as well as sexuality play a part in the narrative as Alvaro’s revenge on the odious captain is tacitly supported by his local community.
Like It Is (UK, Paul Oremland, 1997) A cross-class gay love story. Craig is a Northern boy who makes money from bare-knuckle boxing, and Matt is a smart, canny London record producer. Along the way Oremland gives a colourful look at the Blackpool gay scene and the Soho-based gay/music scene of the late nineties. Roger Daltry gives a creepy and compelling performance as a sleazy promoter. See also this skilful director's gay political thriller Surveillance (2007).
Longtime Companion (US, Norman Rene, 1990) An AIDS melodrama of historical significance as an example of Hollywood’s well-meaning attempt to tackle issues concerning a section of the gay community in the western world of the 1980’s. This has been criticised as simplistic, with a concentration on middle-class, white characters, but also a strong message of community support and hope comes across. For a more provocative view of aids watch the subversive gay road movie The Living End (US, Gregg Araki, 1992), a lively product of the New Queer Cinema.
Love Is The Devil (UK, John Maybury, 1998) A film biography of Francis Bacon which looks closely at the artist’s relationship with his lover and muse, George Dyer. Maybury produced some notable experimental gay video work in the 1990’s such as Remembrance Of Things Past (1993).
Luster (US, Everett Lewis, 2001) A quirky and engagingly perverse comedy about unrequited love and finding yourself, set in downtown LA. Gently satirises manners, big-city attitudes and life in the LA Anglo queer community. The DVD includes an excellent interview with the director where he talks articulately about queer culture and independent film-making, plus helpful director commentary.
Macho Dancer (The Pillippines, Lino Brocka, 1988) A romantic and sensual, conventionally structured melodrama that portrays the young male central character struggling to survive financially and psychologically in Manila’s gay underworld. Through his social realism and sympathy for the oppressed, the director was a leading force in the cinema of his country as well as a noted political dissident.
Madame X (Germany, Ulrike Ottinger, 1977) An avant-garde lesbian feminist pirate adventure. Challenging viewing in its attempts to find new ways of presenting women in film, but rewarding.
Mandragora (Czech, Wiktor Grodecki, 1997) ‘…a riveting, brutally honest portrayal of male teen prostitution’ said Variety magazine. A fictional feature version of Grodecki’s documentary on the same subject, Body Without A Soul (1996), which puts the subject in clear context. Neither film makes easy viewing; Grodecki is concerned to expose the exploitation happening since the opening up of the Eastern block.
Mango Souffle (India, Mahesh Dattani, 2002) Kamlesh, a lovelorn gay man in Mumbai, throws a party to make a personal declaration to his friends, with unexpected results. Western viewers might perceive some dated stereotypes here, but in terms of Indian cinema this portrayal of gay men, and closeted men oppressed by social expectations, represents a notable thematic breakthrough.
Ma Vraie Vie A Rouen (The True Story of My Life in Rouen) (France, Olivier Ducastel & Jacques Martineau, 2002) Through audacious and skilful handling of its video diary structure, the film succeeds brilliantly in inviting the viewer to critically observe the elements of family life and heterosexuality surrounding the main character, Etienne. Skating sequences serve as a powerful symbol of growing self-confidence and a vivid portrait of a young man’s growing self-awareness is presented. See also Presque Rien and Drôle de Félix for portrayals of the lives of young gay men in France.
Milk (US, Gus Van Sant, 2008) This portrays the challenges and triumphs of California's first openly gay elected official, Harvey Milk, who was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone by San Francisco Supervisor Dan White. Sean Penn gives a committed and convincing central performance, but script and filming make clear to the audience the social milieu from which Milk gained his strength and determination.
The Monkey’s Mask (Australia, Samantha Lang, 2000) A lesbian detective thriller. Jill, ex-cop and private eye, falls for Diane, a woman implicated in a murder. Makes good use of the interplay of cinematic looks through use of video evidence, and gently satirises Sydney’s literary scene.
My Beautiful Laundrette (UK, Stephen Frears, 1986) A well-made social comedy featuring a gay relationship between a white skinhead and a young Asian businessman.
Nitrate Kisses (US, Barbara Hammer, 1992) A mixture of meditation and documentary, this richly textured film explores lesbian and gay sexuality through history, politics and poetry. Especially noteworthy for its lively portrayal of older lesbians, this is a feast for the eye and the mind.
Okoge (Japan, Takehiro Nakajima, 1992) A social comedy of love and compromise with graphic sex scenes and a background of Tokyo gay life.
Pandora's Box (Germany, G.W. Pabst, 1928) A beautiful and amoral femme fatale has several male lovers, but her lesbian lover proves to be the most devoted of her followers. A classic of early German cinema, and one of the first positive and sustained portrayals of a lesbian character.
Parting Glances (US, Bill Sherwood, 1986) A beautifully-made depiction of a group of people, gay and straight, in New York City. Nick, the central character played with gently compelling humour by Steve Buscemi, has AIDS, and enjoys the love and support of his friends.
Salmonberries (Germany, Percy Adlon, 1991) A close emotional involvement between an Eskimo woman, played by k d lang, and a teacher fleeing her past. Compulsively watchable performances and locations.
She Must Be Seeing Things (US, Sheila McLaughlin, 1987) This film touches on many uncomfortable aspects of lesbian sex, loving and looking. It does so in a stylish and articulate way. A key film in the history of lesbian representation, it provoked strong reactions among lesbian viewers; read Teresa de Lauretis (Bad Object Choices: 223).
Skin Deep (Canada, Midi Onodera, 1997) A male actor plays a woman passing as a man. This character, a transgender loner, becomes involved with a lesbian filmmaker and her long-suffering girlfriend. Overstuffed with incident, but fascinating.
Stonewall (UK, Nigel Finch, 1996) A passionate and tragicomic version of the historically crucial gay riot of 1969, this film deserves particular credit for the way it puts drag queens, their music and their culture at the centre of it all in a historically accurate way.
Strangers on a Train (US, Alfred Hitchcock, 1951) Hitch’s directorial skill somehow evaded the censors here to present Bruno, one of the great gay characters of classic Hollywood. His psychological prey is played by gay icon Farley Grainger. Based on the thriller by noted lesbian writer Patricia Highsmith.
Surveillance (UK, Paul Oremland, 2007) A political thriller centered on the idea of the British establishment using all means possible to conceal the identity of a gay Royal. Oremland has the makings of a notable British gay film auteur (see Like It Is in this list). Again, we see directorial themes of class, family and power skilfully interwoven with sexuality. Again, a small budget has evidently been stretched to the limit. Here the power is visually rendered throughout by prying point of view shots of CCTV, mobile phone cams and other spying technology.Simon Callow gives an amusing performance as a cynical Royal equerry.
Victim (UK, Basil Dearden, 1961) A landmark early work in the portrayal of gay life and its difficulties in pre-liberation London. A detective story involving a memorable performance from Dirk Bogarde as a bravely honest gay lawyer. See the essay on Bogarde as queer film star in Griffiths (ed) (2005).
Virgin Machine (Germany, Monika Treut, 1988) A journey of lesbian self-discovery and exploration for a young German journalist in San Francisco. Wacky and provocative views of that city's lesbian scene. See the essay on Treut in Wilton (1995) which discusses this director’s emphasis on transcending the label ‘lesbian’.
The Watermelon Woman (US, Cheryl Dunye, 1997) Cheryl, an aspiring film-maker who is making a documentary about a beautiful and elusive 1930’s black film actress, is coolly seduced by the beautiful Diana. Fans of Dunye should recognise her quirky and attractive style in this feature, starring Dunye herself and Guinevere Turner, which explores lesbian visibility and interracial romance.
The Wedding Banquet (Taiwan/China/US, Ang Lee, 1993) A cross-cultural comedy full of delightful characters. A Chinese gay man living in New York with his lover puts on a show wedding to keep visiting Mum and Dad happy. Themes of honesty, coming out and selfhood.
We Were One Man (France, Philippe Valois, 1979) A beautifully-crafted love story with a bittersweet ending set in rural France during World War Two which chronicles an affair between a wounded German pilot and a young French peasant.
When Night Is Falling (Canada, Patricia Rozema, 1995) A glossy and stylish lesbian romance with circus acts and a plot that closely echoes Desert Hearts. For another quirky and attractively watchable film of lesbian interest see Rozema's I've Heard The Mermaids Singing (1987).
Wilde (UK/US/Japan/Germany, Brian Gilbert, 1997) At times simplistic in its account of the life and times of this great gay artist, the film offers a moving portrayal of the sexual passion that brought about Wilde's doom.
Young Soul Rebels (UK, Isaac Julien, 1991) A gay murder is solved. In the process, two young DJ's, one gay and one straight, fight racism, find romance and promote their brand of black soul music. A vivid evocation of the London club scene of the late 70's set against the background of the Silver Jubilee, with a lively soundtrack.
- Dorothy Arzner: The work of the only woman to pursue a career solely as a director in classic Hollywood is currently undergoing reassessment by critics of lesbian film such as Judith Mayne. Here are some key films:
The Wild Party - 1929
Christopher Strong - 1933
The Bride Wore Red - 1937
Dance, Girl, Dance – 1940
- Ulrike Ottinger has been making films for lesbian audiences for a number of years. Read about her (Kuzniar: 139) and watch some of the following:
Madame X – An Absolute Ruler – 1977
Freak Orlando – 1981
Dorian Gray – 1984
Joan of Arc of Mongolia - 1989
Derek Jarman - a master of queer cinema
Painter, writer, activist and acclaimed British gay/queer auteur Derek Jarman was a provocative figure and an inspiration for younger artists and film-makers. Here are some key films. See also the documentary Derek (UK, Isaac Julien,2008) narrated by Tilda Swinton, which shows much notable work from his early Super-8 production.
Sebastiane - 1976
Jubilee - 1978
The Tempest - 1979
The Angelic Conversation - 1985
The Last of England – 1987
Queer Looking: Bruce La Bruce
This outstanding queer film-maker from Canada is well on his way to forging a distinct authorial voice through his use of outrageous situations made watchable by a distinct use of humour. His later films have played with a variety of genres including horror, comedy and documentary.
For example, in Sugar (Canada, Bruce La Bruce, 2006), a young man learns about life through his love for a handsome, drug-addicted hustler. There are superbly downbeat, convincing performances from the two leads as well as the understanding mother and the weird, compulsively watchable parade of clients we see being serviced. See also:
No Skin Off My Ass - 1992
Hustle White - 1994
The Rasberry Reich - 2004
Otto, Or Up With Dead People - 2008
Julianne Moore - a queer icon?
Moore has worked on a variety of projects with gay or lesbian themes a related subtext. Bearing this in mind, you may wish to assess her career and the various strands of her star persona.
Safe - 1995
The Hours - 2002
Far From Heaven- 2002
Savage Grace - 2008
A Single Man - 2009
The Kids Are All Right - 2010
Key European Films
These films by major European directors are important as gay texts and as such will reward further study using the insights of gay history, psychoanalysis and auteur theory.
The Color of Pomegranates (USSR/Georgia, Sergei Paradjanov, 1969)
Orphee (France,Jean Cocteau, 1946)
Ossessione (Italy, Luchino Visconti, 1942)
Querelle (Germany, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1982)
Theorum (Italy, Pier Paolo Pasolini,1968)
George Cukor - a gay director.
This director was widely regarded in his time as a 'women's director' and known throughout the Hollywood community as gay. The critical consensus is that he mediated his sexual outlook through sympathetic portrayals of women acting strongly and independently, as in The Women (US, 1939) although his ensemble pieces such as Adam's Rib (US, 1949) offered skilful explorations of male-female relations involving equality and respect. Watch and think about these viewpoints.
1920 Within Our Gates (Oscar Micheaux)
1929 St. Louis Blues (Dudley Murphy) Short music-and-story film, commonly called a soundie, featuring a rare screen performance by blues musician Bessie Smith.
1933 King Kong (Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Shoedsack)
1934 Imitation of Life (John Stahl)
1939 Gone with the Wind (Victor Flemming)
1941 The Blood of Jesus (Spencer Williams)
1948 The Quiet One (Sidney Meyers)
1964 Nothing But a Man (Micheal Roemer)
1968 Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (William Greaves) Experimental documentary in which Greaves appears to abdicate his role as director leaving the crew to ponder their roles.
1972 The Harder They Come (Perry Henzell)
1973 Wattstax (Mel Stuart)
1976 Car Wash (Michael Schultz)
1977 Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett)
1979 Bush Mama (Haile Gerima) Black-and-white UCLA film focused on a mother’s political awakening.
1984 Hairpiece: A Film for Nappy-headed People (Ayoka Chenzira) Animated film that humorously depicts the history of African American hairstyle practicies.
1985 The Color Purple (Steven Spielberg)
1989 Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee)
1991 Boyz in the Hood (John Singleton)
1991 Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash)
1997 Dancehall Queen (Rick Elgood and Don Letts)
1997 Eve’s Bayou (Kasi Lemmons) Lyrical drama about a young girl’s troubling memories; most profitable independent film of 1997.
1998 Tree Shade (Lisa Collins)
2000 Bamboozled (Spike Lee)
2001 That’s My Face (Thomas Allen Harris)
2002 String of Pearls (Camille Billops and James Hatch)
2004 Reckless Eyeballing (Christopher Harris)
2006 Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (Michel Gondry)
2008 Cadillac Records (Darnell Martin)
2008 Medicine for Melancholy (Barry Jenkins)
2009 Precious (Lee Daniels)
2009 Me Broni Ba/My White Baby (Akosua Adoma Owusu) Not-quite-narrative documentary on hair salons in Ghana; voiceover narration reminiscent of themes expressed in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.
2010 Erie (Kevin Everson)
2010 For Colored Girls (Tyler Perry)
2010 Night Catches Us (Tanya Hamilton)
2010 Better Mus Come (Storm Saulter)
2010 The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (starring Jill Scott) HBO adaptation of novels by the same name; a young woman starts a detective agency with an inheritance from her father.
Simply put, there is a lot of Indian cinema out there to watch and thanks both to global distribution of blockbuster films and DVDs, it is possible to watch a range of films hitherto unavailable.
The plethora of film festivals dedicated to Indian films has made it possible to watch art house and independent films. Catalogues from film festivals are excellent guides for procuring DVDs online. Please refer to online archives of Cannes, Venic, Toronto international film festivals; 3rd I Film Festival in San Francisco is dedicated to independent filmmaking in South Asia and the diaspora. In addition to film festivals it is worth tracking a history of retrospectives on Indian films at the National Film Theater in London, Musuem of Moden Art in New York, Pacific Film Archives, and so on to understand the expanding canon.
The online blog PASSION FOR CINEMA is an excellent resource on small budget films as well serving as a forum between filmmakers and cinephiles.
Deus e o Diabo na terra do sol (Black God, White Devil) (Rocha, 1963)
Bye Bye Brasil (Diegues, 1979)
Pixote (Babenco, 1981)
Ônibus 174 (Bus 174) (Padilha and Lacerda, 2002)
Carandiru (Babenco, 2003)
El castillo de la pureza (The Castle of Purity) (Ripstein, 1972)
Doña Herlinda y su hijo (Doña Herlinda and her Son) (Hermosillo, 1984)
Danzón (Novaro, 1991)
Japón (Japan) (Reygadas, 2003)
El Violín (Vargas, 2005)
La historia oficial (The Official Version) (Puenzo, Argentina, 1985)
Mundo grúa (Crane World) (Trapero, Argentina, 1999)
Bolivia (Flores, 2001)
Nueve Reinas (Nine Queens) (Bielinsky, Argentina, 2002)
El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret in their Eyes) (Campanella, Argentina, 2009)
La muerte de un burócrata (Death of a Bureaucrat) (Alea, Cuba, 1966)
Lista de espera (Waiting List) (Tabío, 2000)
Suite Habana (Pérez, Cuba, 2003)
Tres veces dos (3x2) (Giroud, 2004)
Habana Blues (Cremata, 2005)
VHS = available on video
DVD = available on DVD
16mm = available to hire on 16mm
Where neither symbol is listed, the film is not available to buy or rent
Selected Russian films of the 1910s
Sten’ka Razin, Vladimir Romashkov-Drankov Studio (VHS)
A Sixteenth-century Russian Wedding, Vasili Goncharov (VHS)
The Queen of Spades, Petr Chardynin (VHS)
Rusalka/The Mermaid, Vasili Goncharov (VHS)
The Brigand Brothers, Vasili Goncharov (VHS)
The Peasants’ Lot, Vasili Goncharov (VHS)
The House in Kolomna, Petr Chardynin (VHS)
Merchant Bashkirov’s Daughter, Nikolai Larin (VHS)
Twilight of a Woman’s Soul, Evgeny Bauer (DVD)
The Child of the Big City, Evgeny Bauer (VHS)
Silent Witnesses, Evgeny Bauer (VHS)
After Death, Evgeny Bauer (DVD)
Children of the Age, Evgeny Bauer
Daydreams, Evgeny Bauer (VHS)
Happiness of Eternal Night, Evgeny Bauer
Antosha Ruined by a Corset, Eduard Puchal’ski (VHS)
A Life for a Life, Evgeny Bauer (VHS)
The 1002nd Ruse, Evgeny Bauer (VHS)
The Queen of Spades, Yakov Protazanov (VHS)
For Luck, Evgeny Bauer (VHS)
Grandmother of the Revolution, Boris Svetlov
The King of Paris, Evgeny Bauer
The Dying Swan, Evgeny Bauer (DVD)
The Revolutionary, Evgeny Bauer
Satan Triumphant, Yakov Protazanov
Jenny the Maid, Yakov Protazanov
Little Ellie, Yakov Protazanov
Still, Sadness, Still, Petr Chardynin
Selected Soviet films of the 1920s–40s
Film-Truth, Dziga Vertov (a series of newsreels)
Aelita, Yakov Protazanov (DVD/16mm)
Cigarette-Girl from Mosselprom, Yuri Zhelyabuzhsky
The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr West in the Land of the Bolsheviks, Lev Kuleshov (16mm)
Kino-Eye, Dziga Vertov (DVD)
Strike, Sergei Eisenstein (DVD/16mm)
Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein (DVD, 16mm)
The Death Ray, Lev Kuleshov
The Mother, Vsevolod Pudovkin (VHS/DVD/16mm)
A Sixth of the World, Dziga Vertov (16mm)
The End of St Petersburg, Vsevolod Pudovkin (DVD/16mm)
The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty, Esfir Shub (DVD/16mm)
The Great Road, Esfir Shub
October, Sergei Eisenstein (DVD/16mm)
The Russia of Nicholas II and Lev Tolstoy, Esfir Shub
Storm Over Asia, Vsevolod Pudovkin (DVD/16mm)
Arsenal, Alexander Dovzhenko (DVD/16mm)
The Man with a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov (DVD/16mm)
The New Babylon, Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg
Old and New or The General Line, Sergei Eisenstein (16mm)
Ranks and People, Yakov Protazanov
Turksib, Victor Turin
Earth, Alexander Dovzhenko (DVD/16mm)
Enthusiasm, Dziga Vertov (16mm)
Chapayev, Sergei and Georgy Vasiliev (VHS)
Aerograd, Alexander Dovzhenko
The Youth of Maxim, Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg (16mm)
Alexander Nevsky, Sergei Eisenstein (DVD/16mm)
We from Krondstadt, Yefim Dzigan (VHS)
Ivan the Terrible: Part I, Sergei Eisenstein (DVD/16mm)
Ivan the Terrible: Part II, Sergei Eisenstein (DVD/16mm)
The Secret Life of Sergei Eisenstein, British Film Institute Publishing, London, 1987 (VHS)