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Tag: LGBTQ+

Editorials

‘And Then We Danced’, Robyn, and Music in Queer Cinema

March 21, 2020

No, you’re not going to get what you need. Baby, I have what you want. Merab stands, cigarette in hand, topless, a crucifix on a chain around his neck. Come get your honey. Orange light floods the conservatory. Irakli’s dark eyes watch him as he puts on a white hat, adorned with feathers. I got your honey, baby. Then the beat kicks in. Every colour and every taste. Every breath that whispers your name. It’s like emeralds on the pavement. Merab dances, his body in perfect sync to the bass of the track. Irakli laughs, taken in by the jovial smirk on Merab’s face. The dance is part seduction, part game. It’s sexy and fun all at once. Then the music cuts. 

And Then We Danced, a film by Levan Akin, is a tender story of first love between two men in the world of Georgian folk dancing. Upon its release in Georgia, it was protested and considered a ‘moral threat’ by conservatives in the country. With this in mind, Robyn’s 2018 dance hit ‘Honey’ accompanying this tantalising seduction feels even more potent. The link between queerness and music has long been noted, from the adoration of icons like Cher, Madonna, Barbra Streisand, and Diana Ross, to the likes of Beyoncé, Carley Rae Jepsen, and, of course, Robyn, whose music regularly reverberates of the walls in queer night clubs today. Music, in fact, is one of the first-time’s queer people felt they had some semblance of power, of having a say in something. In the 1970s, to get a disco track to be a hit, the song had to be playing in gay bars. This connection, to the upbeat sound and lyrics about oppression and loss, scared white heterosexual executives so much they that formulated a consigned effort to invalidate its success, and thus entered the ‘disco sucks’ crowd.

Music and cinema have also always been intrinsically linked. From silent movies accompanied by live pianists to the use of the ‘Unchained Melody’ in Ghost to Mr Blonde’s mischievous dance to ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’, many of the most famous scenes in film have been set to now equally renowned music. In queer cinema, however, the relationship between the music and the characters feels more tangible, something that works on multiple levels. In 1970, Kenneth Nelson performed a truncated version of gay icon Judy Garland’s ‘Get Happy’ in The Boys in the Band. Garland’s popularity amongst the gay community is practically unparalleled, the phrase ‘a friend of Dorothy’ was historically used to discreetly describe gay men in reference to Garland’s most famous starring role. In 1989, Longtime Companion, the first studio movie to discuss AIDS, has a character lip-sync to the Dreamgirls cast album while unpacking boxes. The Broadway musical, a roman-à-clef based on the story of The Supremes, was a bit hit in 1981 and was recently described as having a ‘piercing message of self-empowerment and self-love’ that appeals to queer folk, both then and now. 1994’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert features a whole host of disco and camp classics on its soundtrack as three drag queens travel across the Australian outback in a supped-up bus. In essence, the music acts as the sound of liberation, freedom, and unabashed queerness. 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post
The Miseducation of Cameron Post / PHOTO: Vertigo Releasing

Often, music in queer cinema works not only as a soundtrack for the experience of the LGBTQ+ characters on-screen, but acts as a signpost to the queerness that exists beyond the edge of the frame. Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood features a pivotal moment set to ‘Diamonds’ by Rihanna, a current icon for the gay community, idolised for her no-bullshit attitude and pop music prevalence. Or Xavier Dolan’s use of Lana Del Rey, famous for her musings on deadbeat men and ethereal ‘sad girl’ energy, in his Palme d’Or, winning Mommy. Luca Guadagnino not only featured new songs by queer-friendly Sufjan Stevens in his coming-of-age story Call Me By Your Name but also included ‘Love My Way’ by The Psychedelic Furs, a song that was written for those who were struggling with their sexuality in the eighties. While Desiree Akhavan’s tale of youths in conversion therapy, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, sees a moment of jubilance and freedom to the 4 Non Blondes song ‘What’s Up?’, whose lead singer, Linda Perry, famously performed with the word ‘Dyke’ scribbled on her guitar at the 1994 Billboard Music Awards. 

That brings us back to Robyn, the Swedish queen of Europop and recent RuPaul guest judge, who has risen to be a substantial icon for the queer community. She was recently described, by Tom Rasmussen for Another Man, as a woman who ‘gets it’, ‘it’ being the queer experience. Her lyrics cater to the ‘outcast’ and capitalise on ‘the exact tension between the agony, and the ecstasy inside the agony.’ Her music understands the unrequited, the existential, the messy, the dramatic, the murky areas between the lines, and as such appeals to a lot of what makes queer desire so specific. 

Levan Gelbakhiani & Bachi Valishvili, stars of And Then We Danced / PHOTO: CAROLINA BYRMO

‘Honey’, which has been described by Robyn herself as being about a sweet and gloopy ‘state of mind instead of the actual substance’, features lyrics of delicate and sensual longing, a desire to provide and open up for a lover. In Merab’s case, he’s been taken in by the dark and brooding Irakli, his passion is seeping from his skin, his longing visible in each pained stare. In this moment, as the only two people awake late at night, they share an intimate moment so palpable, so crammed with sexual tension, that heart rates will pound along to the electronic beat. 

And Then We Danced is the latest in a long line of queer films that utilise that relationship between LGBTQ+ people and music, specifically their connection to the content and power that music historically brings. So often cinema, like music, is an act of translation. Queer people find a way to relate to the stories on screen that rarely represent them, but in those that do, it feels exciting and even liberating. For a soundtrack to acknowledge that musical connection is like acknowledging the whole notion of queer struggle and how music has been central to queer lives for years. 

And Then We Dances (Official Trailer)

And Then We Danced is available to rent / download now

Also Read: “Birds of Prey” and the Curse of Being Casually Queer

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Editorials

The Best LGBTQ+ Films of the Decade (2010 – 2019)

December 12, 2019

If the 1990s gave us New Queer Cinema, and the 2000s gave us mainstream successes, like Brokeback Mountain (2005), then what did we find in the 2010s? There was, of course, more mainstream entries like Love, Simon (2018) or Dallas Buyers Club (2013). There was the return, whether we liked it or not, of Queer Eye (aptly dropping ‘For The Straight Guy’ from its title) which showed that LGBTQ+ centric content was on the minds of studio executives but that maybe they were still making the same mistakes.  

However, a dominant swell of independent cinema (sometimes called New-Wave Queer Cinema) that took on identity, the intersection between sexuality and race, homophobia, our collective history, the AIDS epidemic, sex, and so much more came to the forefront. Yes, LGBTQ+ independent film left few stones unturned over the past ten years as it portrayed varied and nuanced experiences. Even so, there is still a significant lack of representation of disabled LGBTQ+ folk, as well representation of trans folk and people of colour is still substantially lower than it should be which will hopefully change in the decade to come.

These films from the past 10 years grappled the challenging decade it has been and found hope, anger, and desire in the process. Here are some of the highlights…


Pariah‘, dir. Dee Rees (2011) 

Focus Features: 2011

Dee Rees’ has become one to watch over this past decade, with her work on HBO’s Bessie and Netflix’s Mudbound, her hazy and fresh style landed her an adaption of Joan Didion’s The Last Thing He Wanted (scheduled for release next year). But it all began with Pariah, adapted from her earlier short film, it is a story of a teenager in Brooklyn navigating identity, first love, and familial pressures. 


Weekend‘, dir. Andrew Haigh (2011) 

Peccadillo Pictures: 2011

In this early indie hit, Russell and Glen men meet at a bar and go home together. Over the following days the two battle with the idea of commitment, monogamy, intimacy, and love in Andrew Haigh’s debut film that is simple, subtle, and modern with a mixture of pathos and joy. 


Stranger by the Lake‘, dir. Alain Guiraudie (2013)

Les films du losange: 2013

A French sexual thriller that dared to be bold and vivid, the film utilised graphic portrayals of sex and violence. The film revolves around a murder in a prime cruising spot and a sexual relationship that is complex and dangerous, passionate and risky. Featuring stark nudity, rising tension, and gorgeous cinematography, Stranger by the Lake is a sultry and dangerous ride. 


Tangerine‘, dir. Sean Baker (2015)

Magnolia Pictures: 2015

A genuinely original independent production shot entirely on iPhones, Tangerine is a brash, bold, and initiative film filled with humour and struggle. Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor star as two sex workers looking for an ex-boyfriend on Christmas Eve in LA, and their performances are deeply grounded and light up the screen with a flurry of energy and presence. Also, it’s the best queer Christmas movie to date!


Carol‘, dir. Todd Haynes (2015)

The Weinstein Company: 2015

The slow, cold, burn of Todd Hayne’s Carol whipped people into a frenzy in 2015. The adaptation of famed lesbian author Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt, the film saw Cate Blanchett’s housewife fall for Rooney Mara’s sensitive shop-girl in a wildly cinematic romance that could put classic cinema to shame. 


In Between‘, dir. Maysaloun Hamoud (2016)

Peccadillo Pictures: 2016

The story of three women who share a flat in Tel-Aviv who have to navigate their conservative families and the cultural divide. One that leaves them influenced by the West but living in the Middle East – a situation that brings into question things like religion, sexual violence, tradition, sexuality, and female kinship. The director, Maysaloun Hamoud, had a fatwa issued against her for her frank depictions of sexuality, drugs, and womanhood.


Moonlight‘, dir. Barry Jenkins (2016) 

A24: 2016

Taking the Best Picture Oscar at the 89th Academy Awards, Moonlight cemented itself into cinematic history. The film explored queer longing and desire from the black masculine perspective in a way that was tender with cinematography that firmly placed male beauty and black men at its centre.


120 BPM (Beats Per Minute)‘, dir. Robin Campillo (2017)

Memento Films: 2017

Boldly political and deeply enthralling, Beats Per Minute follows the Parisian branch of ACT UP in the 1980’s as they fight for visibility and recognition. It’s an elegy for the people who were lost and visceral protest for them too. Enthrallingly rich, sexual, personal, and queer BPM is queer cinema at its most perfect. 


A Fantastic Woman‘, dir. Sebastian Lelio (2017)

Sony Pictures Classics: 2017

Sebastian Lelio brings his hazy glow to the story of Marina (Daniela Vega), a waitress and nightclub singer, who is grieving the loss of her boyfriend while also facing suspicion from the police that she was involved in his death. Vega’s performance is one of the best this decade with nuance and anger rolled into a mish-mash of jubilation and sadness.


God’s Own Country‘, dir. Francis Lee (2017)

Picturehouse Entertainment: 2017

Set in the Yorkshire countryside, Francis Lee’s protagonists find romance amongst premature lambs and blistering cold. Decidedly dark and moody, the film is beautifully tender with erotic sex in the mud, self-sabotage, and questions of commitment, xenophobia, and love. 


1985‘, dir. Yen Tan (2018) 

Peccadillo Pictures: 2018

1985 flew mostly under the radar but packed an emotional punch into its short runtime. Adrian, (Cory Michael Smith) returns home to his family with some news he’s reluctant to tell them. Smith and Jamie Chung, who plays Adrian’s high school best friend, are superbly matched in this tribute to a generation of LGBTQ+ people who were abandoned. Brutally emotional and superbly considered, 1985 is a true revelation.


The Miseducation of Cameron Post‘, dir. Desiree Akhavan (2018) 

Vertigo Releasing: 2018

The decade brought with it a Vice President of America who believed in conversion therapy. Akhavan’s sweet, harrowing, mature, and underrated tale about a group of young people finding each other at that one of those camps was the perfect antidote. Both politically and emotionally engaging, Akhavan blends the format of a teen comedy with the prevalent spectre of right-wing bigotry as the film found joy in the kinship of queer folk, the awkward nature of teenage sexuality, and examined the evil within those that want to convert them.


Pain and Glory‘, dir. Pedro Almodóvar (2019) 

Sony Pictures Releasing International: 2019

No list on Queer Cinema would be complete without Pedro Almodóvar and his deeply personal 2019 film about legacy, mortality, and memory was extraordinary. Through the vessel of Antoni Bandaras, Almodóvar creates a portrait of himself, his losses and his relationships with supreme precision and emotion. It is a master working at the height of his craft and it’s thrilling to watch. 


Portrait of a Lady On Fire‘, dir. Céline Sciamma (2019)

Pyramide Films: 2019

Radical and tender, Portrait of a Lady on Fire oozes with longing and passion. It’s part gothic novel and part feminist reclamation of the past. There is a trend of ‘repressed lesbian period dramas’ of late, but this film feels more modern than most movies released in 2019 with its approach to examining female autonomy and gaze, with an exceptional retelling of a famous Greek myth to-boot. A true must-see!


Honourable Mentions: And Then We Danced (2019) / End of the Century (2019) / Can You Ever Forgive Me (2018) / Sauvage (2018) / Paris 5:59: Theo & Hugo (2016) / Certain Woman (2016) / Nasty Baby (2015) / Grandma (2015) / Pride (2014) / Love is Strange (2014) / Lilting (2014) / Keep The Lights On (2012) / Kaboom (2010) 

Also Read: Rebel Without A Pulse, Art Without A Soul

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