Tuesday, November 2, 2021

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Cinema '62: Something Queer

Lawrence of Arabia has the Turkish Bey, David and Lisa has David's smitten friend Simon. There's a scene in Tender is the Night sympathetic to a young one, That Touch of Mink has a running gag in fear of it, and there's definitely something happening between Claggart and the titular Billy Budd. And then, of course, there's Walk on the Wild Side, wherein the lesbian madam has taken her star attraction as a lover. The 1962 Academy Awards were full of winks, nods, and semaphore signals to the lavender set. Restrictions were loosening, thank goodness, and the button-pushers were coming out (ha!) to take advantage. Here are some other queer-tinged films released that year: 

Advise and Consent
dir/pr: Otto Preminger
scr: Wendell Mayes
cin: Sam Leavitt

The Presidential appointee for Secretary of State comes with a lot of baggage, and the Senate proves to be a nest of vipers in their approach. That's the plot, more or less, politicking and backroom deals and personal pettiness deciding who runs the affairs of the Free World. Most famous for its long subplot about one Senator's past homosexual dalliances coming back to haunt him, complete with mainstream Hollywood's first scene to take place in a gay bar. Oh, no one says the word, but it's not not explicit (and was a real hangout for New York gays of the time). It's obviously the aspect that intrigues Preminger the most, but it feels like it should be just one piece of a grander puzzle. Which it is, but...well, what I'm saying is that the 2hr18min runtime is not enough. Three hour epic, please, so we can also devote time to the President's health, Walter Pidgeon's relationship with professional party hostess Gene Tierney, and that piece of shit George Grizzard. I loved it, I wanted more of it.
Mr. Arkadin
dir/scr: Orson Welles
pr: Louis Dolivet / Orson Welles
cin: Jean Bourgoin

AKA Confidential Report. Globe-trotting, international production in which a smuggler is hired by a mysterious billionaire to investigate the rich man's own past. Uneven, with a cardboard lead at the center. Cavalcade of cameos, including Michael Redgrave cameos as a flamboyant rummage shop proprietor, but the queerest - as in oddest - aspect has to be Mischa Auer's flea circus trainer.

A Taste of Honey
dir/pr: Tony Richardson
scr: Shelagh Delaney and Tony Richardson
cin: Walter Lassally

Teenager finds she's pregnant, just as her sailor boyfriend ships out and her mum moves in with a new beau; luckily, she's made a new GBF! It's a great story - a fine film! - about the curious strength and adaptability of youths, yes, but also about the makings of "untraditional" family life. Murray Melvin is the gay friend and roommate - again not explicitly stated, but come on - in a performance that, were it to come out today, would be loudly embraced as iconic; as it stands, it's casually progressive. Dora Bryan, Robert Stephens, Rita Tushingham all good as well, plus it features Saturday Night and Sunday Morning's "Let's Slip Away."

dir: Basil Dearden
pr: Michael Relph
scr: Janet Green & John McCormick
cin: Otto Heller

The suicide of a former lover leads a married barrister down the path of a ruthless blackmailer targeting prominent homosexuals. Where others wink, this film states it all outright. You've got sympathetic, hostile, and neutral coppers; you've got blackmailers doing it for the morals and ones doing it for the money; you've got red herrings; you've got reluctant victims who feel trapped and inconvenienced victims willing to do what they have to to maintain appearances. Stirring performances, sublime writing. Basil Dearden, the man never misses!

A View from the Bridge
dir: Sidney Lumet
pr: Paul Graetz
scr: Norman Rosten & Jean Aurenche & Giuseppe Aldo Rossi
cin: Michel Kelber

An immigrant wrestles with his feelings for his niece, especially when she is courted by his wife's young cousin. Is it youth that he's obsessing over, her beauty compared to his wife's middle-aged coziness, or...or is it that this youth is quite handsome with a beautiful singing voice? I...don't think it's a very good story, as well-acted and -directed as it is. Feels overlong, and yet like there's a missing piece.

Tomorrow, a look at some of the year's crime thrillers!

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