Tag Archives: gay

108 – Bohemian Rhapsody

The road to banal and disappointingly homophobic biopics of rock legends is, as they say, paved with good intentions. The Queen story/Freddie Mercury biopic has been in the works since 2010, with creative differences amongst the filmmakers made public and Brian May and Roger Taylor apparently exercising tight control over how the story would be told. What they apparently wanted was sanitised, bowdlerised, pasteurised, inoffensive to the delicate sensibilities of an audience that would rather not look too closely at the sexuality of a gay icon. Which sounds absurd, but considering the old man sat near us in the cinema who audibly said, “oh dear”, when Freddie was shown kissing a man… Jesus, they might have had a point.

José expresses his disappointment at seeing yet another gay story in which being gay leads to isolation and unhappiness. Freddie is lonely, surrounded by cats in a vast empty house, pining for a woman. His gay relationships are chaste and the one openly gay character, comfortable with who he is, is cast as a snake, a villain. Freddie’s sexual drive bursts out of his music; are we supposed to believe he experienced no joy in being gay? Brian May – the character – is depicted as a particularly annoying pest, clean, perfect, and forever commenting on Freddie’s lifestyle and behaviour as if to vet it; or perhaps as if to ensure the audience is comfortable. The more we think about it the more homophobic it is.

Our discussion of the film’s attitude to and portrayal of Freddie’s sexuality is central, but two other key aspects to his life also come under criticism – his music, and his death from AIDS. The latter is skated over almost entirely, sympathetically included right at the end to help you feel good about feeling bad for him. The music can’t be hurt, of course, and it’s a pleasure to hear banger after banger, but as Mike says, you may as well go home, read the Queen Wikipedia page and put on the Greatest Hits. What drives the band, what drives Freddie, aren’t things the film appears to have even considered might be interesting questions. Things just… happen. In chronological order. Mainly.

Ultimately we ask ourselves who this film is for. We watch it at a distance, wondering why it is the way it is, not really involved in it until that final act in which Live Aid provides Freddie with the opportunity to make the entire world his own for twenty glorious minutes. And once we get there, everything else becomes insignificant for a while, because it all comes together, the music, the character, and the best parts of Rami Malek’s performance – his physicality and stage presence – and we get to watch Queen for a while. (Or at least a very good tribute act.)

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

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62 – 120 BPM

José has been obsessed with 120 BPM and was very keen to hear what Mike, who is much younger and not gay, thought of it. Is his obsession due to purely personal reasons – the film seems to reflect a part of his youth – or is the film actually as good as he thinks it is? Is it a niche film or does it have meanings and feelings to communicate to a broader audience? Is the movie really great or is just it something José’s particularly vulnerable to weeping at the mere thought of?

We talk about it in relation to Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance, currently on at the Young Vic in London. We also discuss the film as ‘director-as-editor’ filmmaking. We agree that despite the film’s length – almost the same as Infinity War! – there’s not a moment we’d cut. We discuss the opening sequences, all meetings, political actions, and introductions of characters; we agree that the sex scene in the hospital is one of the best ever filmed. Sex and desire in the film is always on the table and we discuss how it takes on different meanings. We also touch on film form but always only as a way of understanding what the film shows in a historical context.

Luckily for José, Mike liked it and was not sorry he’d bullied him into seeing it.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

58 – Love, Simon

A young adult romance with a twist, Love, Simon gives gay teens a high school movie with a decent budget and aimed at a wide audience. We both have mixed feelings on it, but find it well-meaning and substantially positive. We discuss some shortcuts it takes – the use of a queeny character to render Simon more acceptable, the setting in upper middle class suburbia making Simon’s sexuality the only issue in his life, a certain generic formulaicity – and ideas the film depicts as simple that could and should be more complex, including conversations we’d like to have seen Simon have with his best friend and the aforementioned queen. Not to mention the rather flat aesthetics.

It’s a discussion that does almost nothing but pick out flaws but nonetheless finds that the breadth of the film’s intended audience mitigates them and its goodness of heart shines through. Worth a watch!

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

40 – Call Me by Your Name

José revisits Call Me by Your Name, Luca Guadagnino’s romantic Bildungsroman, and re-evaluates it, both seeing some flaws where he initially hadn’t and also continuing to appreciate it in ways he had. It’s Mike’s first time seeing it, and he appreciates it from a distance but is primarily consumed with rage at his own lack of any type of this fun during his teenage years. And to make matters worse, José tests him on his knowledge of Judaism, revealing him to be a fraud of a Jew.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.