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Queer and/or peculiar films that have mattered

Wednesday, Jul 10 2002
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At first, the 20th anniversary of Outfest seemed like a good excuse for the Weekly's film critics to do what critics love to do best -- make 10-best lists. But who cares, really, what we think? Instead, we've called and e-mailed a bunch of artists and filmmakers and asked one simple, scintillating question: "Which gay- or lesbian-themed film do you love most and why?" Their responses were warm and generous and full of surprises -- and included, we note with satisfaction, one 10-best list.

DAVID ANSEN (film critic, Newsweek)

One of the first movies that pops into my mind, although you could argue whether it's a gay movie or not, is Sunday, Bloody Sunday [1971; John Schlesinger, director]. Seeing it in 1971, it felt sort of post-liberated. It made no fuss. It accepted gayness very matter-of-factly. And the Peter Finch character was so moving. He was just this guy. There was no issue at all. That made a huge impression on me.

MIGUEL ARTETA (filmmaker, Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl)

The Times of Harvey Milk [1984; Robert Epstein, director] has so much humanity to it, so much compassion. I'm not gay, but my brother is, and watching that movie was a big moment in our relationship. I'd always felt, Oh, I understand him very well, yet watching that movie made me redefine our relationship. It took me by surprise. It's a movie I watch when I'm feeling like making films is bullshit. It helps me get closer to a feeling that says, "There is work to be done. Do not live a foolish life."

RON ATHEY (performance artist)

All things Pier Paolo Pasolini. Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom [1975] is the best example of how -- except for maybe in his unfinished novel Petrolio -- Pasolini used gay sex acts to attack, rather than entice. Set in fascist Italy, the jaded libertines, the big-dicked guards and the storytelling whores make edge-play as true to De Sade as allowable, and it's still almost unbelievable. Graphic sex on the screen is not always pornographic.

SHEILA BENSON (former chief film critic, Los Angeles Times)

What struck me about Aimée & Jaguar [1999; Max Färberböck, director] is that, except for Don't Look Now, it has the hottest love scene I've seen almost anywhere, between any two people, much less two women. And I was thrilled that on a recent Charlie Rose, Richard Gere got director Adrian Lyne to admit that, true to the immemorial tradition of American directors, the sexiest sequence in Unfaithful [2002] -- where Diane Lane's entire body shivers and trembles at her lover's touch -- was a direct lift from Aimée & Jaguar. Bless his heart, Gere made Lyne cop to it.

KAUCYILA BROOKE (conceptual artist, director of photography program, CalArts)

I saw The Killing of Sister George [1968; Robert Aldrich, director] after I first came out, and it terrified me -- the established lesbian relationship in the film is so dysfunctional -- but I saw it again in 1990 and thought, "This is fabulous." There's a scene in which George [Beryl Reid] -- I love that her name is George -- makes Childie [Susannah York] eat a cigar butt, and at first George gets off on Childie's disgusted face. But then Childie triumphs by pretending to love the cigar butt, that it's the best thing she's ever had. Power, playing back and forth. Later, an executive at the TV studio named Mercy, played by Coral Browne, seduces Childie in ä one of the hottest lesbian sex scenes I've seen. Childie is laying there in a kind of empire-waisted dress with a little white collar, and she's got a fall on, and has long hair and bangs -- very little-girl. And Mercy opens Childie's dress and pinches her nipple and sucks her nipple, and the way it's edited -- the expressions on Childie's face, the older woman/younger woman aspect of it, the shifting of power -- is extremely erotic. Really wonderful.

BILL CONDON (filmmaker, Gods and Monsters)

The last couple of times I've seen Parting Glances [1986; Bill Sherwood, director] I've been struck by how Sherwood does so much with the idea implied by the film's title. This movie has more exit scenes and exit lines than any movie I've ever seen. It's always people leaving, and I think that's part of the movie's underlying structure, so it really packs a wallop when the lead character, Michael [played by Richard Ganoung], goes over to his ex-boyfriend, played by Steve Buscemi, and declares that he's only been in love once and it was with him. In a movie about how people are constantly moving on to the next thing, the idea of this guy going back and trying to hold on to something really hits you. And, of course, there's this great resonance because we never got to see more Bill Sherwood movies [Sherwood died in 1990 from AIDS complications]. There's such exuberance and joy in the film, too. It's very special.

DENNIS COOPER (novelist, Frisk, Try, My Loose Thread)

One of the first amazing things for me was Kenneth Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome [1954]. It's one of his very poetic films, collaged and hallucinatory and just weird. It's not a sex movie, yet it's fused with a druggy kind of eroticism. Anger's Kustom Kar Kommandos [1965] is a great one too. It's just three minutes of this leather guy polishing an old hot rod. It's fantastic.

ALAN CUMMING (actor, filmmaker, The Anniversary Party)

[via e-mail] My favorite moment in a gay movie is in La Cage aux Folles [1978; Edouard Molinaro, director] when the drag queen is trying to eat toast in a manly way, but failing miserably. It's a really hilarious scene, and even though it's sort of a cliché, it's still an honest and warm movie. I love the U.S. remake, too, but you can't beat the French-toast bit!

MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM (novelist, The Hours, A Home at the End of the World)

[via e-mail] Adam Sandler's Big Daddy [1999; Dennis Dugan, director], which is not likely to strike many as a gay movie of any sort. It's a guy movie, actually. But Adam Sandler's colossally straight character has a posse of dudes he hangs out with, and two of them are gay men, who are each other's lover. It's mentioned, offhandedly, that they met in law school, fell in love, and that's that. The two men are clearly in love with each other; they're neither macho nor swishy (not that we're not entitled to be as macho and/or swishy as we want to be); they're smart and cool, and they rock along in the story with everyone else. Adam Sandler is seldom mentioned on any lists of those helping out with the revolution. And yet. With that movie he told uncountable Americans, the majority of whom are young straight guys, that it's officially uncool to be anything but utterly accepting of gay people, and for that I bless him. Rock on, Adam.

VAGINAL DAVIS (performance artist)

I've got so many favorites, but the one that ä really floored me was Taxi zum Klo [1981; Frank Ripploh, director]. The thing that made the movie remarkable, it was a narrative film that also featured hardcore sex in it. It wasn't a porno film. It was a fascinating story. And the sex was relevant to the film, and it was unabashed. When I saw that movie, I was in high school. My school sent me to the film festival where the film was playing. There I was, 16 or whatever, seeing this really raunchy movie with homosexual sex. That would not happen today. But people back then were smart enough to see that this movie was not just for prurient interests.

DAVID DRAKE (actor, writer, The Night
Larry Kramer Kissed Me
)

Does porn count? Actually, one movie I identify as having to do with my little faglette identity is, believe it or not, The Poseidon Adventure [1972; Ronald Neame, director]. The whole concept of the world being turned upside down, of struggling to follow one's instincts to find the way out, hit me very hard as a little gay boy.

SANDI SIMCHA DUBOWSKI (filmmaker, Trembling Before G-d)

I measure movies by how many blocks I cry after I've left the theater, and Debra Chasnoff's documentary, It's Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues In Schools [1996] really got me. The idea that eight- and 10-year-olds were discussing homosexuality in a serious way at school just floored me. It was too beautiful, too beautifully human.

JIM FALL (filmmaker, Trick)

In 1985, I was in college and Artie Bresson, who was a porno filmmaker, made this movie, Buddies, that was the first film to deal with AIDS. [Arthur Bresson Jr. died in 1987 of complications from AIDS.] I got to work on it as a production assistant. It's about this guy dying in the hospital and this uptight guy who volunteers as a buddy, and it's a very sad film, but it came at a time when there wasn't anything else. We were very much in mourning, and this film was cathartic. New Line Films distributed it. Actually, I just realized that Fine Line, which is part of New Line, released my movie, Trick. That's funny. I never connected that. That's very sort of amazing. Wow.

JOHN FLECK (performance artist, actor, starring in the Outfest 2002 film On_Line)

The first time I ever saw gay people was in Rebel Without a Cause [1955; Nicholas Ray, director]. Sal Mineo, the way he just melted whenever he was around James Dean. Back then I didn't know what the hell was going on, but it was kind of exciting, sexually. And Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot [1959; Billy Wilder, director] was kind of beautiful. It wasn't very homoerotic but it was gender-bending, which for a young kid in Cleveland, Ohio . . .

RICHARD GLATZER (filmmaker, Grief, The Fluffer)

Todd Haynes' half-hour short Dottie Gets Spanked [1993] is fantastic. He made it between Poison and Safe. It's about a little kid, six or something, who falls madly in love with a Lucille Ball­type character named Dottie. His worship of her marginalizes him in front of his parents and his schoolmates. The boy's parents never spank him, they don't believe in it, but he wins a contest to be on the Dottie Show, where she happens to get spanked. The boy instantly falls in love with the idea of spanking, because it's so clean and neat and something his parents won't do. Here is the imprinting of a little kid, and you just know his sexual life will be shaped by the moment. There's a beautiful ending where he realizes that he's got to try to be normal, so he makes this little casket lined with foil and buries this especially sensational picture he'd drawn of Dottie being spanked -- one that had really disturbed his father. And it's not a shameful thing, that burial. It's like he's storing it. You feel it will re-appear someday. The seeds of artistry.

CATHERINE GUND (documentary filmmaker, Hallelujah!)

John Grayson [After the Bath] -- he never let the limitations of the media stop him from expressing himself. When a form of expression occurred to him, he found a way to put it on the screen. He was a pioneer in that way. So was Sue Fredrikson [Black and White], in a different way. She used the medium less, she twisted it less, but didn't shy away from putting what she wanted on the screen.

STEPHEN GUTWILLIG (executive director, Outfest)

Todd Haynes is one of our most important filmmakers, and Velvet Goldmine [1998] is his least appreciated, most gorgeous film. It captures the period of glam rock with more energy and eroticism than anyone would have thought possible and also seems to me to tie together 100 years of queer history. It's an enormous triumph.

CHARLES HERMAN-WURMFELD (filmmaker, Kissing Jessica Stein)

There are so many movies, yet, in a way, so few movies. The Celluloid Closet [1995; Robert Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, directors], based on the Vito Russo book, is the one that helps me understand what gay movies are, that makes me say I'm only going to make queer movies.

ANDREW HOLLERAN (novelist, Dancer From the Dance and In September, the Light Changes)

For me, growing up in the '50s, it was the Danny Kaye movies, like On the Riviera [1951; Walter Lang, director]. Kaye was so fey, so quick-witted and alive. And he could dance! Oh, and there were the pirate movies. So many pirate movies. All those half-dressed men with their chests all oiled up. Just wonderful. For real movies, of course, there's Suddenly Last Summer [1959; Joseph L. Mankiewicz, director] and that terrifying sequence when Sebastian is being pursued to his death by street urchins -- a gay man who's made the wrong pickup one time too many.

DAN IRELAND (filmmaker, The Whole Wide World, The Velocity of Gary)

Gallipoli [1981], directed by Peter Weir. It's a gay movie. I'm sorry, but it is. It's about two guys [Mel Gibson and Mark Lee] in love, with one who wants to be with the other so badly that he sacrifices his life in the end. It's so beautiful. They're so much in love. Peter knew what he was doing. I don't think Mel did. Just the scene where they climb up the pyramid, and they're sitting there watching the sun go down and the camera lingers on them, just sitting there next to each other, smoking a cigarette. I mean . . . call it what you want.

ALEXANDRA JUHASZ (co-producer, Watermelon Woman)

I'm more interested in documentary than narrative film, and the films that come to mind are those that pushed new boundaries and broke newä ground for other filmmakers to follow. Marlon Riggs' Tongues Untied [1991], an amazing documentary that mixes traditional and avant-garde filmmaking styles, and does important work for minority groups and the minoritized gay community. It was the object of national political debate, and it worked at both the local and national levels to give exposure to the issues in the gay and black communities. Also Gregg Araki's The Living End [1992], which is a brilliant film out of his interesting body of work. It's important for where it pushed HIV/AIDS representation in films, as well as for its portrayal of gay male sexuality. And Senorita Extraviada [2002] by Lourdes Portillo, an examination of misogyny and masculine culture, about a town in Mexico where poor working-class women are being murdered. It's a beautiful, really smart film.

MOISÉS KAUFMAN (founder and artistic director of Tectonic Theater Project; filmmaker, The Laramie Project)

Law of Desire [1987; Pedro Almodóvar, director]. Beautifully written, beautifully shot, and Antonio Banderas is naked in it.

MICHAEL KEARNS (actor, director, acting coach)

I remember seeing Some Like It Hot [1959; Billy Wilder, director] as a kid and being completely entranced by the idea that these men were wearing women's clothing. And by Marilyn Monroe in her every scintillating moment. But it was the last line of the movie [spoken by Joe E. Brown to Tony Curtis], "Nobody's perfect," that really hit me, that sent out some sort of message that whoever you're attracted to is okay, as long as it's genuine. That's what went into my little head.

SHANNON KELLEY (director of programming, Outfest)

I finally saw Parting Glances [1986; Bill Sherwood, director] one night a few years after it was released, on a fuzzy, pirated cable station. I was still in the closet then. And even though the picture quality wasn't good, I drank in as much of it as I could. It was thrilling. Here was a social world that had its own beauty and its own way of absorbing pain, where people supported each other. It would be another several years before I finally did come out, but I think of that film as having been a personal resource for me. It gave me hope.

ROBERT LEE KING (filmmaker, Psycho Beach Party)

My favorite lesbian movie is Bound [1996; Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, directors], because that scene where Gina Gershon is fixing Jennifer Tilly's sink actually gave me a movie boner, which I didn't think was possible in a lesbian movie. And, of course, Scarlett O'Hara remains a great inspiration.

RANDAL KLEISER (filmmaker, The Blue Lagoon, Grease, It's My Party)

[via e-mail] My favorite gay film of all time is Cabaret [1972; Bob Fosse, director]. I was in college and felt like I was living the life of the Michael York character, that he was going through the same conflicts I was experiencing. There's a montage where Liza [Minnelli] and Michael smile at each other across a room that inspired a sequence in Blue Lagoon [1980; Randal Kleiser, director] between Chris Atkins and Brooke Shields, and the near-three-way scene inspired a scene in Summer Lovers [1982, Randal Kleiser, director].

BRUCE LaBRUCE (filmmaker, Hustler White)

[via e-mail] The gay-themed film I love the most is The Boys in the Band [1970], because although it was directed by William Friedkin, who also directed The Exorcist and Cruising, it is much scarier than any other film he ever made.

GREG LAEMMLE (vice-president, Laemmle Theaters)

There was a time when one of my young sons was really into pink. He had a pink tutu, and he would dance around the house and say he was going to grow up and be a pretty pink ballerina. I didn't have a problem with it, really. Whatever. In this same time, I saw Ma Vie En Rose [1997; Alain Berliner, director], and there's that scene where they find the boy in the freezer, and I thought, "Oh, God, this is what can happen if you're not sensitive to whoever he is."

CHI CHI LARUE (adult-film director, drag queen personality)

Female Trouble [1975; John Waters, director] changed my life. I was living in Minnesota and was a fan of Divine's music and persona, but her movies certainly didn't play there. When it finally came to the video store, my friends and I rented it as a sort of perverse inquiry. I watched it over and over. It changed my look on everything freaky and brought me screaming out of the drag closet. I was always afraid to shave my mustache off, thinking that I was keeping a little of my masculinity, but Divine showed me I could be big and beautiful. And dirty!

EVERETT LEWIS (filmmaker, The Natural History of Parking Lots, Luster, featured in Outfest 2002)

One night in New York, over 20 years ago, when I was starting out on an architectural career, I went to see East of Eden [1955; Elia Kazan, director], which blew me away and made me want to make movies. I came out of that theater floating. It was like a drug. And for years I thought it was the movie, but recently I realized that the movie was nothing and James Dean was everything. And that I went into this whole moviemaking thing, in essence, in pursuit of a guy, led by desire for a guy.

CRAIG LUCAS (playwright, screenwriter, Prelude to a Kiss, Longtime Companion)

[via e-mail] Hi. I don't know if you can call it gay/lesbian-themed, but the movie that gave me the most pleasure with a gay leading character and storyline was The Opposite of Sex [1998; Don Roos, director]. It made me laugh and laugh and think that there may be hope for independent movies after all. Hope this helps.

MING-YUEN S. MA (experimental video artist)

The Japanese film Black Lizard, written by Yukio Mishima, is a wonderful, very campy '60s-noir over-the-top crime story in the style of Aubrey Beardsley, all decadence and deco illustrations, very twisty. Black Lizard, this beautiful female criminal mastermind, is played by an onnagata, one of the male kabuki actors who specialize in playing females. For half the film, Black Lizard is a real, convincingly beautiful glamour girl. The other half she looks like a bad drag queen.

TIM MILLER (solo performer, author of Body Blows)

I remember seeing Derek Jarman and Paul Humfress' Sebastiane [1976] at the old Four Star on Wilshire when I was in high school. Such an amazing movie, so full of heat and sex. It's a re-telling of the Saint Sebastian story, set on some remote Mediterranean island full of cute men whipping each other. I remember that the film kept burning up, literally, five or six times. I think of that melt, that explosion, as the movie's content eating through the celluloid.

JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL (actor, filmmaker, co-creator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch)

[via e-mail] I'm in a bit of seclusion now, writing. Let me be the gay Leonard Maltin. My favorite gay-themed movies, in no particular order, are:

Taxi zum Klo, a sweet 1981 tale of a German elementary-school teacher/leather queen that has the best narrative use of explicit sex that I've seen in a gay film.

Happy Together (1997), Wong Kar-Wai's best.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975), goes without saying.

The Naked Civil Servant (1975), John Hurt as Quentin Crisp!

Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971), bisexual love triangle, John Schlesinger's best.

This Special Friendship (1964), love in a French boarding school.

Boys Don't Cry (1999), uh-huh.

Mala Noche (1985), Gus Van Sant's first and best, still not on video.

Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Joe Orton's 1970 black comedy.

Un Chant D'Amour, Jean Genet's 1950 prison poem, featuring a fine black-and-white hard-on.

The Hours and Times (1991), John Lennon's gay moment by the last of the true L.A. independents, Chris Muench.

Paris Is Burning (1990), Jennie Livingston's classic doc.

The Times of Harvey Milk (1984), genius history lesson.

Falconpac 1-15, porn from back when sex was in.

DAVID MORETON (filmmaker, Edge of Seventeen)

Head On [1998; Ana Kokkinos, director] is a great rush of a movie, so energizing that it made me want to make more movies. But I also want to name What's Up, Doc? [1972; Peter Bogdanovich, director] because I sometimes think it's the movie that single-handedly made me gay. With Barbra and Madeline Kahn and Ryan O'Neal in those boxer shorts -- for me, it was gay nirvana.

EILEEN MYLES (novelist, Cool for You)

My favorite lesbian movie is The Parent Trap [1961; David Swift, director] with Hayley Mills. I love that movie so much. I saw it when it was new, and I had a best friend who I was in love with, and this was our favorite movie. We studied it endlessly and got our hair cut like theirs and adored Hayley Mills, who was sort of an early-teen butch icon in 1961. Well, you have to understand butch from a 10-year-old perspective. She was as tomboyish as you got at that time, and she had a theme song, and she had a best friend/girlfriend who looked just like her. She had everything. And the double image played right into that place of imagining what it would be like to have sex with someone who was like you.

CASSANDRA NICOLAOU (filmmaker whose short Interviews With My Next Girlfriend screens at Outfest 2002)

It was way back in 1987 that I saw I've Heard the Mermaids Singing, Patricia Rozema's (When Night Is Falling, Mansfield Park) first feature film. I was on my very first date with my very first girlfriend, and to be honest I'm surprised I made it out of there alive, what with my sweaty palms, my heart palpitations and girls kissing on screen. Aside from the debut of Anne-Marie MacDonald (who's in my film at Outfest) and a magical use of the now-overused Delibes' Lakmé, the thing I most remember about Mermaids is that it proved to be great foreplay.

LAURA NIX (filmmaker whose feature The Politics of Fur screens at Outfest 2002)

Pee-wee's Big Adventure [1985; Tim Burton, director] is a movie that is so clearly gay without ever using the word "gay." At the end of the film, when Dottie asks Pee-wee if he would like to go to the drive-in with her, he falls down on the ground laughing. He isn't mature enough to date yet, but we also know that even if he was, he wouldn't take a girl to the movies. And then he explains to her "Dottie, this is about things you couldn't understand." When Simone asks Pee-wee what he dreams about, he tells her "a snake and a donut." A kid watching that doesn't get it, but a gay audience knows exactly what he means. Pee-wee's Big Adventure is one of the most gender-subversive films I've ever seen. I wish more films were like it.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE (filmmaker, Boys Don't Cry)

My first choice is La Dolce Vita [1960; Federico Fellini, director] because when I first saw it as a kid, I was totally obsessed with Anouk Aimée and Anita Ekberg, and didn't know why, then finally figured it out. I love that it celebrates desire and sex without apology, which is very homo to me. My second choice is Heavenly Creatures [1994; Peter Jackson, director] because I love those girls -- love their desire and love their rage.

JOHN RECHY (novelist, essayist, City of Night, Rushes, The Coming of the Night)

Howard Hawks' Red River [1948] stars two iconic but opposite gay figures -- John Wayne and Montgomery Clift. One very macho, one very sensitive, struggling against each other. I doubt that I thought so in 1948, but when I've seen the movie subsequently, I think, "This is a gay relationship." It ends up in a great fistfight between the two men, a fight that is very sensual, in a sense, because you just know, even if they don't, that they really want to do otherwise.

DAN SAVAGE (syndicated columnist, "Savage Love")

South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut [1999; Trey Parker, director]. It's the best gay movie in the last 20 years. The love scenes between Saddam Hussein and Satan were really moving, they really touched me. The movie had a queer sensibility that was completely thrilling, and the movie played like one long joke for musical-theater queens, because every song is a takeoff on a very specific number in another musical. It showed how thoroughly integrated into the culture gays and lesbians are -- that you could do this movie with Satan as a sensitive, thoughtful man in an abusive relationship. It's completely queer. And you know, who needs a coming-out film anymore? Thirty years ago it was a huge issue, because it was so much more scarring and traumatic. Now, it's nothing. Now, Satan's out.

DIRK SHAFER (filmmaker, Circuit, Man of the Year)

Longtime Companion [1990; Norman René, director] devastated me, really made me cry, because it brought back memories of so many friends I’d lost. Especially then, when so many more were dying. Even today, I can’t stand on the beach without thinking of all those characters who’d died coming back at the end, holding hands, coming across the beach — it gives me chills just to talk about it.

MICHAEL SILVERBLATT (KCRW, Bookworm)

Jean Genet’s 1950 silent film Un Chant D’Amour ["Song of Love"] is smoky, grainy and erotic. The prisoners share cigarettes through some sublimated version of a glory hole. The trancelike state held me captive. I saw it someplace in downtown Manhattan as a teenager, maybe the Anthology Film Archive. There, I also saw the terrifying Vinyl [1965], Warhol’s early take on A Clockwork Orange. With its professional sadist torturing Gerard Malanga (I think) and its creepy "scenario" by Ronald Tavel (a real genius and hero of the underground), I was launched. It led me into a porn house, where I saw The Pledgemasters [1971; David P. Parrish, director], purportedly a documentary filmed at a real fraternity initiation/hazing. These films had a shared S/M behavioral-modification subtheme, linking sex, imprisonment, humiliation and (weirdly) freedom. They stayed in my imagination and created a whole pool of psychoerotic imagery that still haunts me.

KEVIN THOMAS (Los Angeles Times film critic)

Rosa von Praunheim’s It’s Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, but the Situation in Which He Lives [1970] is an extraordinary film. It’s about a young gay kid who comes from a small town to Berlin and gets a job as a waiter and falls in love with another waiter and finds paradise on Earth, and of course the whole thing falls apart in about three weeks. He gets used up, is reduced to hustling, and, finally, there’s a fanciful epilogue in which he’s rescued to a halfway house and nursed back to health by very handsome men. Wishful thinking! But the film suggests how gay society takes on straight views of youth and materialism and magnifies them many times over. And how destructive that can be. It’s rather crudely made, in Rosa’s inimitable semidocumentary style, but it’s very powerful and timeless.

GUINEVERE TURNER (screenwriter, actress, Go Fish)

Hedwig and the Angry Inch [2001; John Cameron Mitchell, director] blew me away. It represents to me a new wave of queer cinema. We've gone from "We're here, we're queer" to "Figure this one out." It's so much more complex, exactly the kind of film I want my mom to see.

TINA TYLER (adult-film star and director)

I was 15 and living on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, a tiny sports-minded town four hours from any major city. I was a social outcast in my teens, feeling lonely, not good enough, not worthy of love. And I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show [1975; Jim Sharman, director] and thought, "These are my people. I need to be hanging with them. I need to move! I need to get to where there's people like this."

BRUCE VILANCH (humorist)

I’m tempted to say What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? [1962; Robert Aldrich, director], because it reminds me of so many gay relationships: One of them is always in drag, the other can’t get out of bed. But since I’m sure you’d like a serious, soberly considered answer, I’ll nominate the picture that moved me the most, an independent film called Parting Glances [1986; Bill Sherwood, director]. It’s an ’80s item about friendship and loss and fag hags and middle-class people living as bohemians and the beginnings of the AIDS catastrophe and commitment of many different stripes. And there’s a great show scene.

BILL WEBER (filmmaker, The Cockettes, screening at Outfest 2002 Awards Night)

I was going to Kansas University in 1972, and gay films pretty much didn’t exist, except The Boys in the Band [1970; William Friedkin, director], which literally scared me. I hadn’t come out of the closet, and I thought, "Oh my god. Are these my ancestors?" But then Tricia’s Wedding [1971; Milton Miron, director] came around. It was a movie of a play the San Francisco performance troupe the Cockettes produced that parodied Tricia Nixon’s White House wedding — they did it the night of the wedding — with bearded drag queens and people who looked like women but didn’t have breasts. Doing drugs and doing a send-up of the White House. I thought, "My god. These are my ancestors!"

YVONNE WELBON (filmmaker, Living With Pride: Ruth Ellis at 100)

I don’t have one that I love most, but I do have one that I loved first: Entre Nous [1983; Diane Kurys, director]. I saw it over and over again. It wasn’t explicit, but the two women in it were both beautiful. I was still in college and trying to figure stuff out for myself, and in the postscript it said it was a true story, that it was Diane Kurys’ mother’s story. I loved that. This was real, this had really happened to somebody. Maybe it could happen to me.

WASH WESTMORELAND (filmmaker, The Fluffer)

I chose for my special movie My Beautiful Laundrette [1985; Stephen Frears, director] because it was the movie my last-ever girlfriend took me to see. This was in the north of England. I was 19. She was very smart so afterwards, she sat me down and said, "Well, what did you think of that?" I was so shaken by the movie that certain images and ideas from it have stayed with me ever since. There's that famous scene when Daniel Day-Lewis and his Pakistani lover are making love in the back of the laundrette and he squirts champagne into his lover's mouth. It's so charged. I think at certain ages we go to the movies for explanation or identification and this film provided both for me. It was a doorway to a different way of looking at the world.

EDMUND WHITE (novelist, A Boy’s Own Story, The Married Man)

The first movie I ever saw that spoke to my condition was Rebel Without a Cause [1955; Nicholas Ray, director]. I was 14 or 15. Until then, it had never occurred to me that a movie could address me and my life. Earlier films had moved me (Two Years Before the Mast, because Alan Ladd was half-naked in it and severely beaten), but this was the first one that was about a gay boy who hangs out with a straight couple and is in love with them — which was exactly my case in high school. The aimless, apolitical rebelliousness of the ’50s and the covert homosexuality of Sal Mineo, which found an object of love in the covert homosexuality of James Dean — this was a life-changing experience for me.

MARY WORONOV (artist, writer, actress, Eating Raoul)

Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together [1997] is very urban and terribly romantic. But not romantic in the way they try to put a happy heterosexual ending on so many of these gay affairs. No, this was terribly true to life, and it was so powerful how the main character accepted his fate and just went on. Very beautiful and tragic.

Editorial assistance was provided by Amy Nicholson and Pandora Young.

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