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Queer and/or peculiar films that have mattered

Wednesday, Jul 10 2002
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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)

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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.

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