February is for love 💖
... and, in the UK, it also happens to LGBTIQ+ history month … perfect excuse to update last month’s Cine and PJs.
Happy Valentine, Galentine, Happy Love Day!
Today and everyday - Love is Love 🌈
I’ve lost count about the number of weeks since this version of lockdown began and to have survived January, blue Monday, Groundhog Day and a cold snap is nothing short of a miracle. With restrictions still firmly in place - and no end in sight - 'leisure time' is now mostly spent walking to the local park or having another glass of wine - even the plethora of new hobbies - from puzzles to crochet - are now driving us around the bend. Hang in there folks, spring is on her way!
If you are looking for some distraction - you're in the right place! Building on last month’s list, I bring you some of my favourite LGBTIQ+ films - hot on the heels of It’s A Sin. Like I’m sure most of you who have seen it (and if not, what are you waiting for?), I've really enjoyed the series – and the music (more on that below!). It ticks the right boxes and pulls at the right heartstrings - bar, or course, the characterisation of Jill - as the archetypal, selfless Black female carer, juggling a successful acting career whilst also looking after the boys and giving them all everything. What struck me when the final credits came, was how far we had come on some issues, but how far we still have to go in challenging the outdated representation of women and un/paid care work.
As I set out to list my top 5 (6 - actually) LGBTIQ+ films - set in London - it became obvious that many of them are centred around gay men - able, mostly white males – but hardly surprising if you consider that historically lesbianism was barely acknowledged, and unlike male homosexuality was never actually criminalised.
And because they are so few trans flicks, I’m starting with Orlando (Sally Potter, 1992) - based on Virginia Woolf’s gender bender time travelling tale. Starring Tilda Swinson – who else? – as the gorgeously androgynous Orlando, who is ordered by Queen Elizabeth I (Quentin Crisp) to stay forever young before embarking on an epic journey that takes us all the way to modern London and sees Orlando explore gender fluidity in the process. In Woolf’s own words: Orlando had become of woman there is no denying of it. But in every other respect, Orlando remains precisely as he had been. The change of sex, though it altered their future, did nothing whatever to alter their identity. The film remains particularly salient at a time of increased anti-trans activism and as MPs debate the Gender Recognition Act, threatening trans and non-binary people’s rights.
Plus ça change …
Next, I turned my attention to finding lesbian films depicting contemporary London and unearthed these two beauties:
Stud life (Campbell X, 2012) whose main character, JJ, a Black Lesbian ‘Stud’, shares her life and job with best friend Seb, a pretty white gay boy. The film follows them through everyday south london and their inevitable pursuit of love. While it didn’t receive rave reviews, I thought it hit some important notes in bringing us a very watchable slice of life full of under-explored subjects – and not least, race - and it's sexy!
In Break My Fall (2011), Kanchi Wichmann observes four friends during drug fuelled, hedonistic three days and nights in which they gradually tear each other apart. Shot against a backdrop of pre-Olympics East London (and how things have changed!), this low budget urban drama focuses mainly on the tension between girlfriends and band mates, Sally and Liza, and the relationship with their gay friends Jamie and Vin. An honest depiction of lesbian love and breakup.
I couldn’t possibly mention Quentin Crisp above for his role in Orlando, without listing The Naked Civil Servant (Jack Gold, 1975). Based on a biographical account of his life, John Hurt captured Crisp’s defiant flamboyance, campness and fearlessness beautifully.
Finishing the list with two more mainstream, but nonetheless excellent films – both during the dreaded Thatcher years - My Beautiful Laundrette (Stephen Frears, 1985) and the delightful Pride (Matthew Warchus, 2014).
Stepping out narrow perimeter I imposed myself to focus on LGBTIQ+ films set in London, you'll find tons of brilliant LGBTIQ+ films - BFI have an impressive list of their top 30, trans, lesser known films and some series.