A reader writes:
I enjoyed your review of the new TV show “Looking”, and I’m right there with you on your criticism of Philadelphia and Jeffrey and your praise for Weekend. I’m guessing we might agree on the bulk of gay films and TV shows out there.
Do yourself a favor and check out the new French film Stranger by the Lake [trailer here]. It’s a fantastic drama that just happens to take place within a specific sub-culture of the gay male population, but the story asks questions which can just as much be asked of anyone gay or straight: what are the risks of love and sex, and why do we take them? It’s honest and intelligent, but the bottom line is that it’s just plain entertaining as hell. I promise I’m not a troll working for the film’s publicity department. I’m just a film nerd always looking for good cinema that portray gay characters with honesty and respect and doesn’t treat us like fashion accessories.
Another sends the above trailer:
If you are looking for a more authentic account of gay life, try the film Keep the Lights On.
It’s about a relationship that finally goes south because of one partner’s meth addiction, but overall it’s totally free of all the things that make you cringe. Ira Sachs, the director, has another film at Sundance right now, Love is Strange, which in some respects eerily resembles the case recently covered on The Dish about the teacher in the Pacific Northwest who lost his job when he got married. Anyway, I think you’ll find that Keep the Lights On beautifully represents a couple plagued by many troubles, none of them necessarily related to being gay.
Another looks back a decade:
I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned Six Feet Under in your discussion of gay men in the media. The character of David Fisher (played by Michael C. Hall) was portrayed in such a compassionate, human way – we see him break up with his long term boyfriend because of his inability to come out; engage in a period of self-destructive behaviour; and eventually grow up, become emotionally healthier, come out, and form a family. For me, following the life of this character, which is written and acted so naturally (indeed, all the relationships in this show are astonishing for how natural and right they feel, even when they’re dysfunctional or falling apart) that it really hammered home the idea that ALL people have the right to form a family with whomever they choose.
I hear ya. There’s a lot of bad gay-themed drama out there, stuff that thought it could pull in an audience just because it was “gay-themed”, in a world where there wasn’t much in the way of gay-themed art; stuff that tried so hard to be “representative” or “sensitive” that it forgot to have characters (“Take Me Out” and dozens of others too forgettable to name); stuff that relied on the titillation factor of getting its characters naked (“Party”, “Naked Boys Singing,” “Take Me Out”); stuff that thought being shocking was enough (“Taxi Zum Klo,” “F*cking Men”); stuff where the gay men acted more like suburban couples from the Mad Men era (“Love, Valour, Compassion” – ugh!).
And, yeah, as brilliant as the British “Queer as Folk” was, I couldn’t get past the first episode-and-a-half of the American series.
In fact, in all my years of seeing gay-themed theatre in Chicago, I can think of just two plays so good I could recommend them to anyone without reservation. In the 1990s, “The Expense of Spirit” by Michael Barto, and from this decade, “The Homosexuals” by Philip Dawkins (a terrific young playwright with a half-dozen plays of diverse styles and themes under his belt – three of which were being performed simultaneously by different theatre companies in Chicago a year ago).
I look forward to seeing “Looking” (but since I don’t have cable, that won’t happen until it’s available on DVD).