There’s a veritable pile-up of film festivals at the moment, and queer movies took centre stage at the recent BFI London Film Festival, plus of course the Iris Prize LGBTQ Festival in Cardiff. Jack Cline reports on some of the best.
Two of the best films in London centre on black experience. Steve McQueen’s Mangrove (first in BBC’s Small Axe series on 15 Nov) is a razor-sharp film about the 1968 trial that first exposed police racism in Notting Hill. The other standout is Regina King’s feature directing debut One Night in Miami…, a ripping drama about a night in 1964 when Mohammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown grappled with their roles in America’s racial culture.
The highest profile gay film is Supernova (in cinemas 20 Nov), starring Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as a long-term gay couple travelling around Britain while one faces early onset Alzheimer’s. It’s a gorgeous film, sensitive and warmly observed, and finely played by both actors. And the closing film, Ammonite, is a queer romance between Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan from writer-director Francis Lee (God’s Own Country).
Two sexy films from South America won awards at other festivals: the Chilean thriller The Prince is a full-on gay fantasia of sex, nudity and violence in a lurid 1970s prison cellblock that’s been given over to the queens. And from Brazil, Dry Wind is a steamy romantic triangle about friends with benefits who are shaken by a beefy stranger.
Quieter films include Cicada, a freeform New York drama about a complex romance between two young men who have rather a lot of baggage. It’s shot improv-style, so the dialog is bracingly authentic. For arthouse lovers, Taiwan’s Days traces a collision course between two men from very different backgrounds, leading to a massage and, yes, happy ending.
And two queer documentaries tell distinct stories. From France, If It Were Love is a gorgeous look at a theatrical dance piece exploring sexuality and connection. And from Kenya, I Am Samuel follows a remarkably brave gay man in a country where having sex with his smiley boyfriend is a felony.
Still to come is the 28th Raindance Film Festival (28 Oct-7 Nov), opening with the UK première of Stardust, the David Bowie biopic starring Johnny Flynn. Queer features include the comical thriller A Dim Valley (set in the American backwoods), Drag Kids (a doc about under-12 cross-dressing performers in Montreal), Born to Be (about pioneering transgender medicine) and Madame (exploring the gay Swiss filmmaker’s childhood sexuality). There’s also a large selection of queer shorts, and a digital festival pass is just £19.99.
The Boys in the Band
Perhaps the gayest movie ever, this remake of the 1970 classic stars an all-queer cast including Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Andrew Rannells as lively queens celebrating a birthday when the host’s closeted university friend turns up. Bitchy, funny and emotional, it’s packed with sharp characters from rivals, old boyfriends and sluts to a dim-but-pretty rentboy who’s a birthday present. (Netflix)
Unflinchingly honest, this French-Canadian drama features explicit real sex in its depiction of a messy relationship between a businessman (Sebastien Ricard) and a hairy-muscly trapeze artist (Yury Paulau) in snowy Montreal. It’s a provocative, intense film that grabs attention with full-on physicality, including a bit of S&M. (on demand)
Summer of 85
Iconic French filmmaker François Ozon tells the intimate story of 16-year-old Alex (Felix Lefebvre) and his summer romance with David (Benjamin Voisin). There are echoes of Call Me By Your Name, but the plot has a striking trajectory that’s sexy and sweet. It’s also full of great characters, punchy themes and terrific 1980s hits. (in cinemas)
Jacki Weaver plays a woman who travels from her churchy Texas life to San Francisco after her son’s death, discovering that he was gay and owned a failing drag club. So she decides to whip the queens into shape. This is a warm-hearted comedy-drama with a serious bite. (on demand 16 Nov)
Paul Bettany plays a closeted professor in this 1973-set drama as a series of events force him to come out to his boisterous family. The plot is a bit overwrought, but Bettany is wonderful in the role. With an ace supporting cast, he manoeuvres around the melodrama to a hopeful, bittersweet conclusion. (Amazon Prime 26 Nov)