Though the struggle to legalize gay marriage continues across the country, there’s some cause for celebration. Today, in nineteen states (and D.C.), same-sex couples have the freedom to marry. Advances in gay rights have been hard-won, and there's still much work ahead, but Sunday presents an opportunity to embrace all the progress to-date. It’s a day for Pride.
Gay-themed movies have been gaining traction for years, though some of the finest still don’t get the recognition they deserve. Here are several titles new to my list that merit a wider audience.
This caustic, stinging biopic, set in "swinging sixties" London, casts a harsh, unsympathetic light on Francis Bacon (Derek Jacobi), the British painter renowned for his raw, almost grotesque imagery. The story begins when handsome small-time crook George Dyer (Daniel Craig) breaks into Bacon’s studio, and ends up being seduced by his intended victim. Bacon is initially enthralled by the raw sexuality of his new lover, but as his feelings cool, the unschooled younger man becomes an annoyance. The emotionally abused Dyer then turns to drugs and alcohol, eventually reeling out of control.
“Making the Boys” (2009)
It was impossible to predict the effect Mart Crowley's Off-Broadway play, “The Boys in the Band” would have on the public during the transformative 1960s. In fact, it became a smash hit (later on Broadway), and its movie adaptation was the first mainstream, gay-themed Hollywood film. However, controversy arose over whether it actually enhanced society's understanding of gay life or merely perpetuated hateful stereotypes. Featuring evocative clips and period footage, this documentary reignites the debate forty years later, via incisive interviews with artists, writers, critics, and Crowley himself.
“We Were Here” (2011)
This moving doc presents the true stories of five San Francisco residents who were present when the mysterious and deadly virus soon to be known as AIDS arrived on the scene. Through eloquent, brutally honest testimony from these survivors, directors David Weissman and Bill Weber re-examine the social and political issues arising from the crisis, while conveying the devastating personal toll the disease took on scores of lives. Fittingly, the film also pays tribute to a group of people who found the strength to work for positive change, and help those in need.
“Stranger by the Lake” (2013)
Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps), is searching for love - or at least sex- at a bucolic summer cruising spot along a lake in rural France. He notices the hunky but mysterious Michel (Christophe Paou), and is immediately attracted. When Franck surreptitiously witnesses Michel drowning his lover in the lake, the crime only fuels Franck's desire. The two finally meet and start a torrid affair, which continues even as they become suspects in the murder investigation. An unnerving study in irrational, erotic obsession, this daring, sexually explicit film shapes up as a first-rate thriller, irrespective of your sexual preference.
There are more gay-themed films to choose from on my list, and any one is sure to enhance your own Pride festivities.
What titles come to mind when you think of Pride Sunday? Let me know on Facebook.