Thursday, 21 August 2014
Why Gay Films Suck
I just watched the fabulous French film Yves St. Laurent starring the brilliant Pierre Niney as the tragic designer. It was so gorgeous and sad and true. Why then, does it get 46% on the Rotten Tomatoes enjoyment metre? Why are all the reviewers calling it ‘empty’ and ‘overdressed’ and ‘about nothing? I’ll tell you. Because it’s gay. Very gay. And not in a nice way either.
If you want a NICE gay movie there are a lot of them out there. People are making new ones all the time. For instance, there’s a really nice gay movie opening soon with Alfred Molina and John Lithgow, erroneously titled Love is Strange. Critics are raving about it, and I’m sure it will be a big hit.
It sounds perfectly horrid. It’s about a portly old pair of very unsexual looking gay men who have been together for thirty-nine years and are forced to live apart. Why? Because one of the older men (Alfred Molina) is fired from his job as a Catholic school teacher (“Aww……!”) cuz he’s gay. Gee whiz, I can feel the tears welling up already. And John Lithgow, who is forced to live in a house with his young possibly gay nephew, teaches the young man some unique (unsexual of course!) lessons about life. The crux of the film is that these two messily bearded, lovable old piles of dough can’t stand to be apart for more than five minutes after thirty-nine years. (To repeat: “Aw……!”)
The title is of course a misnomer. It should be called ‘Love is The Same for Everybody and It’s Unbelievably Banal.’ Or perhaps ‘Love is a Cloyingly Sentimental Figment of Hollywood’s Imagination.’
Jalil Lespert’s Yves St. Laurent is, on the other hand, the story of two gay men (Yves St. Laurent and Pierre Berge), who were also lovers for four decades but whose lives don’t have the antiseptic, homespun, family-centred cheeriness that will undoubtedly warm the hearts of the masses in the upcoming Love is Strange. No, Yves St. Laurent is a very real and somewhat gritty look at a deeply touching open relationship between two very sexual queer men, one of who (St. Laurent) has a drug problem. Yves St. Laurent dares to urges us to sympathize with two very real guys, who have a lot of sex with a lot of people — and who like to party and have a good time — and there are no impressionable nephews or Catholic schools in sight.
This is the sad and sorry state of gay film — and also, to some degree, of film in general. We are entering a period (how long will it last, oh Lord, how long?) of depressingly banal sentimentalism — where wit has been replaced with gentle humour, and ideas replaced with homespun thoughts. There is reason to be afraid; the last era of aesthetic sentimentalism lasted almost two hundred years — from 1700 to 1900. It was a dark age for theatre; David Garrick issued in ‘bardolatry;’ a movement devoted to making Shakespeare palatable by giving his plays happy Christian endings. It took the likes of Oscar Wilde and Alfred Jarry at the turn of the last century to drag us out of all the mediocre schmarmy muck.
The amazing thing is that the heartbreaking new French film Yves St. Laurent has the same theme as the musical Coco. Coco was a huge musical comedy hit in the early 70s, starring Katherine Hepburn. In Coco, the leading character — Coco Chanel — weighed her rejection of family values against her devotion to fashion. At the end of the musical a vast array of Chanel’s designs were displayed to Andre Previn’s soaring score, the message being: Coco Chanel’s art redeemed her imperfect life. Everybody loved it. No one called it ‘empty’ or ‘pointless.’
Yves St. Laurent’s art redeemed his imperfect life in quite the same way, and that is the point of the director Jalil Lespert’s film; but I guess nothing redeems the life of a promiscuous, drug addicted homosexual, does it?
Call me crazy, but that’s one heartwarming, homespun thought I had conveniently forgotten.