Literally translating the Chinese title to “Who Started Loving Him First?” gives us a lot more insight into what this film is actually about; perhaps, rather, it could have been “Who Did He Start Loving First?” ー the “he” referring to recently deceased Song Zheng-yuan. We spend the film with the people who surrounded Zheng-yuan’s life: his teenage son Song Chen-hsi; his ex-wife Liu San-Lien; and the male lover Chieh he left them both for in his final few weeks and months of life. When a battle for Zheng-yuan’s life insurance money forces these three characters into each other’s company, chaos ーpredictablyー arises. [...]
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. [...]
Home videos, car journeys and small town Americana vibes quickly move aside to reveal the harsh security and even harsher rules of one gay conversion therapy programme. Participants read out increasingly strict rules in an arresting first 10 minutes: “members must be supervised by staff in all restrooms visits”; “no physical contact with any member at any time apart from the briefest of handshakes.” I think this film might be a little more intense than But I’m A Cheerleader [...]
“Call me by your name, and I’ll call you by mine.” It really is the perfect eponymous quote for a film about narcissism and projected self-obsession. Suggested by Oliver to his younger male lover, it reads from his mouth as a yearning for lost youth. Yes, this film is beautifully shot, and yes, the stylisation is exquisite; but this love story is far from pure. [...]
Paraíso Perdido is Portuguese for paradise lost. Set almost exclusively at night in a Brazilian cabaret club lost in time, I could think of no more appropriate a name. Paraíso Perdido (Monique Gardenburg, 2018) follows the lives of a family who own and work at the club after which the film is named. We also meet other performers ーa kind of extended familyー and are introduced to the scene through Odair, a policeman who is given the club’s flyer by a speeding motorcyclist. Odair acts as a way-in for the spectator, and we discover the club, the family and their secrets alongside him. The more time he spends there, the more we all learn about this twisted family touched by tragedy. [...]
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.
If the success of Fleabag is anything to go by, Andrew Scott playing sexy Irish anything is guaranteed to be a hit. Before he was a sexy Irish priest in that hit TV show (that’s hit TV show, Nina), he was a sexy, Irish and even on-the-cusp-of-homoerotic teacher in Handsome Devil. Top Tip: Try not to get distracted by Andrew Scott’s beauty. Or his seductive Irish accent. Or his brooding eyes. What were we talking about?
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. [...]