“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. [...]
Marketed as part- queer coming-of-age story part- bittersweet romance, Taiwan’s most popular film of 2020 landed on global Netflix in December. Complete with a seemingly deep and enigmatic title, Your Name Engraved Herein (Patrick Kuang-Hui Liu, 2020) sells itself as arthouse queer cinema out in the mainstream; it is, after all, the highest-grossing LGBT film in Taiwanese cinematic history. And yet, having reached the end of an intense and brooding 1 hour and 54 minutes, I couldn’t help but ask… am I missing something? [...]
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. [...]
“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. [...]
I watched this last weekend with some friends and I just had to find a way to process this clusterfuck of a movie. So here we go. Oh, and just to clarify, it’s not about incest …probably. Donne-moi la main, English translation: Give Me Your Hand, (Pascal-Alex Vincent, 2008) is a French-language film about a twin brothers’ journey across Europe. As they travel to the funeral of a mother they’ve never met, Antoine and Quentin confront their complicated sibling relationship, as well as perceptions of their own and each other’s desires.
This film could be mistaken for a simple and harmless lesbian teen rom-com. In the West and in 2020, we are lucky to have quite a few of those. But when it premiered 10 years ago in a then quite conservative Thailand, it was the country’s first lesbian film with a butch protagonist. Knowing this, the narrative’s insistence on focusing on Kim’s tomboyishness as a barrier to her friendships and relationships makes a lot more sense. We’ll go into that more later...
There are different kinds of silence in film. There is the uncomfortable, dominating silence that makes your muscles tense in morbid anticipation. Then there is the intimate silence, where a glance, a touch, a brush of skin tells everything; where words aren’t necessary to reassure both character and spectator and bring them in closer. This film gifts us both kinds of silence, and shows us the difference. Elisa y Marcela (2019) is a Spanish romantic drama film by the auteur filmmaker Isabel Coixet. [...]
I Am Jonas (Christophe Charrier, 2018) is a coming-of-age gay love story shrouded in dark mystery. Originally made for the (as the name suggests) artsy European TV network ARTE and then brought to Netflix in spring 2020, it tells the story of the eponymous Jonas and handsome troublemaker Nathan. We explore their teen romance, its subsequent murky demise and the long lasting after-effects. Watching with the original French language subtitles, the first closed caption of “musique oppressante” (no language prizes for guessing what that means) tells us we’re in for a bumpy ride. [...]