“The daughter of a legendary thief, who sewed winter coats out of stolen purses. Herself a thief, pickpocket, swindler. The saviour who came to tear my life apart. My Tamako, my Sook-Hee.” So narrates Lady Hideko over perhaps the most celebrated scene of Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden (2016). In the emotional and symbolic climax of this two-and-a-half hour Korean epic, Sook-Hee and Hideko, class enemies turned lovers, destroy a library together, shouting a symbolic fuck you to the patriarchy in the process. In order to understand the full impact of this action for characters and spectators alike, we must first briefly circle back and work out how we got here. [...]
Crossing, double-crossing, triple-crossing. Failed heists, successful heists, twists. Lesbian sex scenes that reclaim symbols of patriarchy; lead characters defying expectations of womanhood and class in the repressive Japanese-occupied Korea; ripples and reprecussions of political and cultural history. This film has it all. And so much more. Then, just when you think you know what’s going on, your whole reality is turned on its head. Twice. [...]
Starting this film off, I had to google to check whether it was, in fact, queer. Fortunately, after an appearingly heterosexual opening, the lesbianism arrives ー slowly, and then all at once. Just to reassure you: the titular New York Christmas Wedding does end up being a New York Christmas Lesbian Wedding. More accurately, a A New York Christmas Surprise Lesbian Catholic Wedding. But we’ll get to that. [...]
As this film begins, hazy Indian street smoke partially clears to show us our main characters. Laila, a girl with cerebral palsy, sits in the back seat, gazing out the window in what is to be one of many journeys for her in Margarita with a Straw. Music mixes with busy road noise, and we are brought into an exciting and enchanting world. [...]
Duck butter, or “manteca de pato”, is a term for (and excuse the graphic description) thick white discharge around the vagina. Viscerally, this is quite an off-putting term, but it is also a lightly humorous one, and perhaps even subtly charming. This is a good representation of the film as a whole. And while the [...]
In 2020, it’s hard to believe that a film about a gay and a lesbian being each other’s beards (pretending to date each other so people think they’re straight) hadn’t been made. I suppose there was that one storyline on Glee… but still, here it is, finally, in full cinematic force. Of course, the main question is: does it live up to the hype? And the answer, of course, is complicated. Dating Amber (David Freyne, 2020) is a coming-of-age comedy set in oppressive 1990s Ireland. The story follows baby gay Eddie (Fionn O’Shea) and baby lesbian Amber (Lola Petticrew), and their developing friendship as they pursue a pretend relationship. [...]
Come one now. It’s a gay classic at this point. You’d think that a whimsical comedy about queer kids forced to attend conversion therapy camp wouldn’t work at all... but it so does. Let me tell you why. But I’m a Cheerleader (Jamie Babbit, 1999) focuses around the story of Megan (Natasha Lyone), a timid 17-year-old coming to terms with her sexuality. At an intervention, her friends and family affront her with hilariously problematic lesbian stereotypes that she seems to follow, such as “being a vegetarian” and “liking Melissa Etheridge’s music”. They decide that she should be sent to “True Directions”, a gay conversion therapy camp that imposes 1950s-style gender roles on its unwilling teenage attendees.
Coming into this, I think I was promised something like But I’m a Cheerleader: The Musical, in Spanish. What I got was, if you can believe this, so much more and so much wilder than that. My thoughts throughout were, to quote lovely fifth alternate Alyssa Edwards, 'what the fuck is going on in here on this day?' Avoiding any major spoilers, I will try to explain ー though I’m not sure to what extent that will be possible.
It's amazing how a film can be so rooted in the present when it's really about history. Personal history, romantic history, cultural and religious history all permeate the thematic presentation; and yet, the film's almost hyper-realistic style plants it so firmly in its present that you can't help but feel that you're there. Let me explain. Disobedience (Sebastián Lelio, 2018) tells the story of Ronit, a woman who, upon learning of the death of her father, returns to the Orthodox Jewish community where she grew up. Having fled the community in North London for New York as a teenager, she is now confronted with what she left behind: principally, her childhood friends Dovid and Esti. We witness the trio's internal struggle as they try to grapple with their conflicting cultural views and complicated history. And boy is it vivid. [...]
The Half Of It (Alice Wu, 2020) is your classic American teen romcom with a twist: it's GAY. Lesbian, specifically. Maybe bisexual on one half; it's hard to tell. Typical high school nerd Ellie Chu writes other people's school essays for money to help support her father. One day she is commissioned by Paul to write a love letter to beautiful popular girl Aster, and it works almost too well. Ellie writes with increasing passion to Aster, who thinks she's Paul, and a complicated pseudo-relationship progresses. I'm not going to lie, it's a great premise. And, despite some clumsiness, it mostly delivers. [...]