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August 4, 2008 | by  | in Film | [ssba]

The New Queer Cinema

After the AIDS backlash of the 1980s, a new generation of FILMS gay filmmakers rose to festival prominence, bringing highly articulate and frequently shocking takes on the modern condition and how THE GAYS fit into it – or not, as the case often was. Films like Poison, The Living End and Mala Noche told the stories of gay life in an unflinchingly violent manner, infusing the dark imagery and symbolism of Kenneth Anger and Derek Jarman with a bitter take on pop culture. They subverted the conservative stereotypes of the Reagan years with unprecedented skill, turning ‘gay panic’ on its head, using irony to completely deconstruct and obliterate the prejudices of the past.

The films of the New Queer Cinema had anger flowing through their every moment, none more so than those of Todd Haynes. He started his career with a bang, with Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, a 40 minute “fuck you” opus, telling the story of former child star/anorexic/gay icon Karen Carpenter. His next film Poison brought him to the head of the then emerging New Queer movement and showed his undeniable talent to the world. This three part/three style film tells the story of the Hero – a young boy frustrated with his life who shoots his father; the Horror – a sexually frustrated scientist who creates a sexual elixir and is transformed into a deviant monster; and the Homo – a male prisoner who finds himself attracted to another prisoner of the same sex whom he saw humiliated as a youth in juvie. A subsequent film Velvet Goldmine took this penchant for the homo and the glittery history of glam rock, and by doing so he created the glam rock Citizen Kane, in both narrative structure and quality. A great film in any right, it also brought us the great Christian Bale, the inconsistent Ewan McGregor, the objectively hot Jonathan Rhys Meyers and the evil Toni Collette, before they made it big.

Gregg Araki was one of the most well known and prolific of the New Queer directors but he wasn’t given the critical acclaim he deserved till twelve years after his Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy with the devastating Mysterious Skin, a film about the different reactions two young men had to their shared sexual assault and the lives they lead after it. His first foray into the New Queer genre came with the 1992 release of The Living End, his attack on Homophobic middle America and HIV fear, complete with Neo Nazi’s, nihilism and top/bottom dynamic.

One of the most forgotten film movements, its disestablishment was due to their success and willingness to expand beyond a single genre. New Queer icons such as Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Last Days and Elephant), Gregg Araki (Mysterious Skin, Splendour, Smiley Face) and Todd Haynes
(I‘m Not There, Far From Heaven, Safe) all went on to direct major studio films. This vanguard proved their worth as both gay filmmakers and artists.

Other Notable Queer Films:
Flesh (1968) Paul Morrissey
Satyricon (1971) Federico Fellini
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972) Rainer Werner
Salo (1975) Pier Paolo Pasolini
Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Sidney Limet
Jubilee (1977) Derek Jarman
La Cage Aux Folles (1978) Edouard Molinaro
Thelma and Louise (1991) Ridley Scott
My Own Private Idaho (1991) Gus Van Sant
Swoon (1992) Tom Kalin
Philadelphia (1993) Jonathan Demme
Heavenly Creatures (1994) Peter Jackson
Bound (1996) the Wachowski Bro’s
Batman and Robin (1997) Joel Schumacher
Happy Together (1997) Wong Kar Wai
Show Me Love (1998) Lukas Moodysson
Billy Elliot (2000) Stephen Daldry
Hedwig and the Angry Itch (2001) John Cameron Mitchell


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