When did queer cinema begin? What did it look like before the German New Wave breakthroughs of Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Ulrike Ottinger, before the flashpoint of William Friedkin’s Cruising, before its efflorescence in the ’90s? The popular understanding of gay and lesbian film prior to Stonewall—that pivotal moment in 1969—is often one of censorship and subtext, of sad young men and Dietrich in a tuxedo. This survey aims to revise that conception dramatically and from a number of different perspectives, considering homophile auteurs in classical Hollywood, visionary grindhouse fare, home movies, sapphic vampire pictures, underground camp stylings, and physique films alongside radical formal experiments and lavender touchstones like Leontine Sagan’s Mädchen in Uniform. Charting a course from the late 19th century to the cusp of liberation, the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s series An Early Clue to the New Direction: Queer Cinema Before Stonewall (April 22 – May 1) reveals the terrain of early queer cinema as far vaster and more varied than received histories might suggest.
“The subject of early queer cinema has long fascinated me; this survey has, in a sense, been in the works for over a decade,” said Programmer at Large Thomas Beard. “Now, the result of those years of research is manifest in the 30 programs that comprise the series, and I’m thrilled that audiences will have a chance to revisit classics like Hitchock’s Rope while they also discover the many rare items on offer, like Jacqueline Audry’s Olivia and Gregory Markopoulos’s Twice a Man.”
The most comprehensive survey of pre-Stonewall queer cinema ever assembled, this landmark series includes 23 features and 24 shorts, and spans 65 years of film history dating back to 1895—from Hollywood productions (Dorothy Arzner’s The Wild Party, John Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye, Vincente Minnelli’s Tea and Sympathy) and independent moviemaking (Shirley Clarke’s Portrait of Jason, Andy Warhol’s My Hustler), to films by international auteurs (Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Michael, Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, Germaine Dulac’s Princess Mandane) and bold work from the silent era (Alice Guy-Blaché’s Algie, the Miner, Sidney Drew’s A Florida Enchantment). The series also boasts many rarities: Jose Rodriguez-Soltero’s avant-garde Lupe Vélez biopic Lupe, Andrew Meyer’s An Early Clue to the New Direction, the program’s namesake, and a range of other curios, from ’50s home movie Mona’s Candle Light to No Help Needed, a fragment of vintage lesbian pornography.
Tickets now on sale! See more for less with a $150 All Access Pass or a 3+ film discount package.
Series organized by Thomas Beard. Special thanks to Harry Guerro, Ed Halter, Jenni Olson, Jake Perlin, Bruce Posner, Janet Staiger, Anthology Film Archives, the Bob Mizer Foundation, the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC), Harvard Film Archive, Istituto Luce Cinecittà, the Library of Congress, Milestone Films, the Murnau Foundation, the Museum of Modern Art, Oddball Film + Video, the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project for LGBT Moving Image Preservation, the Prelinger Archives, the Swedish Film Institute, and the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research.
Mädchen in Uniform
Leontine Sagan, Germany, 1931, 35mm, 88m
German with English subtitles
Starring an all-female cast, Mädchen in Uniform is an enduring classic of lesbian cinema. Manuela, a sensitive new arrival at a school for the daughters of military officers, falls hopelessly in love with a charismatic teacher, Fräulein von Bernburg, eliciting the wrath of the headmistress, pitiless martinet Fräulein von Nordeck zur Nidden. Made on the eve of Nazi ascendance, the film stands as a nuanced parable of authoritarianism, yet it’s also a moving portrait of burgeoning sapphic desire, rendered with great technical skill. “With this work the pre-war German sound film reached its highest level,” the film historian Lotte Eisner observed. “Leontine Sagan, a stage-actress, directed the dialogue admirably. She brings out the unselfconscious naïvety of the boarders’ confidences whispered across the dormitory, and the flush of love trembling in the cracked voice of the adolescent.” Print courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.
Friday, April 22, 6:30pm (Introduction by filmmaker Su Friedrich) – Walter Reade Theater
Tuesday, April 26, 2:30pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Reception to follow 4/22 screening, open to all ticketholders.
Fireworks + Un Chant d’amour + Blood of a Poet (TRT: 101m)
Kenneth Anger, USA, 1947, 35mm, 20m
Un Chant d’amour
Jean Genet, France, 1950, 35mm, 26m
Blood of a Poet
Jean Cocteau, France, 1932, 35mm, 55m
French with English subtitles
Rounding out the opening night of Film Society’s pre-Stonewall series are three essential instances of early queer cinema, beginning with Fireworks, one of Kenneth Anger’s first films. The movie develops like a fever dream, in which a young man, played by the director, ventures into the night and encounters a gang of hunky sailors, ready to rough him up. “This flick,” Anger quipped, “is all I have to say about being 17, the United States’ Navy, American Christmas and the 4th of July.” Equally oneiric is Un Chant d’amour—the only film by writer Jean Genet—a study of two prisoners in adjacent cells who share moments of great tenderness despite the wall that divides them. Both of these works, like many other experimental films, share a precedent in Cocteau’s Blood of a Poet, a richly imaginative allegory of aesthetic invention in which an artist journeys through the looking glass. Fireworks 35mm restored print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Preservation funding provided by The Film Foundation.
Friday, April 22, 8:30pm (Introduction by artist Nick Mauss) – Walter Reade Theater
Chained Girls: Sensationalism, Pulp, and Mid-Century Queer History
A lecture by film scholar Amy Villarejo
Tabloid, pulp, and sensational films documented queer lives in the mid-20th century, offering a fascinating glimpse into the world of the clandestine and the closet, revisited recently by Todd Haynes in Carol. What visions of lesbian and gay life do films like Joseph P. Mawra’s 1965 Chained Girls offer to us today, and how do they fit into a retrospective survey of LGBTQ films from the past century? Combining clips from a variety of oddball and orphan sources, this presentation looks into the recesses and margins of film history for hidden traces of our queer past.
Monday, April 25, 6:30pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Blood and Roses
Roger Vadim, France/Italy, 1960, 35mm, 74m
As historian Andrea Weiss perceptively observed, “Outside of male pornography, the lesbian vampire is the most persistent lesbian image in the history of the cinema.” Blood and Roses, a re-creation of the same Sheridan Le Fanu novella that inspired Dreyer’s Vampyr, is a high point of the genre. On the eve of her cousin’s wedding, glamorous aristocrat Carmilla tells a tale about the history of vampires in her family, all of whom were destroyed hundreds of years ago, except for one. Lured by unseen forces to an abandoned abbey, she encounters the tomb of her ancestor and becomes possessed by the bloodthirsty spirit, haunting the grounds of her estate thereafter in a flowing white gown, seeming only to crave the flesh of the women she encounters. A film that draws generously from the visual legacy of Cocteau, Blood and Roses proves to be sapphic horror story of a thoroughly stylish sort.
Wednesday, April 27, 9:00pm – Walter Reade Theater
Boys Beware + Passion in a Seaside Slum + Ron and Chuck in Disneyland Discovery + Hold Me While I’m Naked (TRT: 71m)
Sid Davis, USA, 1961, 10m
Passion in a Seaside Slum
Robert Wade Chatterton, USA, 1962, 16mm, 32m
Ron and Chuck in Disneyland Discovery
Pat Rocco, USA, 1969, 12m
Hold Me While I’m Naked
George Kuchar, USA, 1966, 16mm, 17m
George Kuchar began his career in pictures early, making brilliant dime-store approximations of Hollywood spectaculars with his brother Mike while still a teenager in the Bronx. Hold Me While I’m Naked, a stone-cold classic of underground cinema about a filmmaker who finds himself in a crisis when his lead actress quits, was his first solo outing, a candy-colored treatise on the humor and pathos of sexual hunger. Just as funny is Passion in a Seaside Slum, an 8mm rarity featuring the swishy stylings of homosexual clown Taylor Mead, in which he courts some rough trade on a Venice pier. The cruising is a bit more covert in Pat Rocco’s Ron and Chuck in Disneyland Discovery, an encounter between two men shot on the sly at the theme park of the title, though no less charming. Starting things off is Boys Beware, a cautionary educational film about the dangers of predatory gay men, shown here for maximum camp appeal. Boys Beware courtesy of the Prelinger Archives; Passion in a Seaside Slum preserved by Anthology Film Archives and Los Angeles Filmforum through the Avant-Garde Masters grant program funded by The Film Foundation and administered by the National Film Preservation Foundation; Ron and Chuck in Disneyland Discovery digital transfer courtesy of the Outfest UCLA Legacy Collection.
Saturday, April 30, 5:30pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Dickson Experimental Sound Film + Algie, the Miner + Vingarne (TRT: 61m)
Dickson Experimental Sound Film
W.K.L. Dickson, USA, 1895, 35mm, 1m
Algie, the Miner
Alice Guy-Blaché, Harry Shenck & Edward Warren, USA, 1912, 35mm, 10m
Mauritz Stiller, Sweden, 1916, 35mm, 50m
Swedish intertitles with English subtitles
Dickson Experimental Sound Film is of consequence to cinema history as the only surviving film made for the Kinetophone, which combined the phonograph and the kinetoscope. Yet the scene it depicts, of two men dancing while a third plays violin, has long captivated queer artists and audiences alike. Algie, the Miner, meanwhile, is a gay-cowboy movie made nearly a century before Brokeback Mountain, whose fey lead is sent westward so that he might butch up in preparation for the task of heterosexual courtship. Anchoring the lineup is the rarely screened Vingarne, the first film to deal more or less explicitly with a gay relationship. Though once thought lost—a fire at the Svensk Filmindustri archives in 1941 destroyed the negative—a portion of the work turned up at auction in 1987, and from these elements, along with stills housed at the Library of Congress, the present version of Vingarne was reconstructed. Dickson Experimental Sound Film and Algie, the Miner prints courtesy of the Library of Congress; Vingarne print courtesy of the Swedish Film Institute.
Saturday, April 23, 1:30pm – Walter Reade Theater
An Early Clue to the New Direction + My Hustler (TRT: 107m)
An Early Clue to the New Direction
Andrew Meyer, USA, 1966, 16mm, 28m
Andy Warhol, USA, 1965, 16mm, 79m
Andrew Meyer first became known as a promising young experimental filmmaker, singled out by artists like Gregory J. Markopoulos for his lyrical small-gauge work. An Early Clue to the New Direction is one his best, starring cult actress Joy Bang, poet Rene Ricard, and early gay-rights activist Prescott Townsend, who holds forth on his “snowflake theory” of human sexuality’s myriad varieties. Like Meyer’s film, Andy Warhol’s My Hustler is a kind of underground chamber play whose characters jockey for erotic attention. The prize of this competition is studly Factory denizen Paul America, who plays a sex worker on the clock in Fire Island. Yet a victor never emerges, and after a flurry of brilliantly improvised banter the film is left unresolved. “Warhol’s films don’t have happy endings,” the art historian Douglas Crimp averred. “They don’t have endings at all. They just end.”
Saturday, April 30, 3:15pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Flaming Creatures + Lupe (TRT: 94m)
Jack Smith, USA, 1963, 16mm, 45m
Jose Rodriguez-Soltero, USA, 1966, 16mm, 49m
Jonas Mekas, along with Ken and Flo Jacobs, was arrested for screening Flaming Creatures in 1964, and the obscenity case that followed would become a central episode of the New American Cinema. The film’s images, idiosyncratically framed and etherealized by the outdated stock they were shot on, feature the extravagantly costumed voluptuaries of the title as they dance, preen, and, most strikingly, take part in a pansexual mock orgy. “Flaming Creatures is that rare modern work of art: it is about joy and innocence,” wrote Susan Sontag. “To be sure, this joyousness, this innocence is composed out of themes which are—by ordinary standards—perverse, decadent, at the least highly theatrical and artificial. But this, I think, is precisely how the film comes by its beauty and its modernity.” Also showing is the unjustly overlooked Lupe by Jose Rodriguez-Soltero, a lushly lo-fi biopic of actress Lupe Vélez starring drag legend Mario Montez.
Saturday, April 30, 1:15pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
A Florida Enchantment
Sidney Drew, USA, 1914, 16mm, 63m
Lillian Travers, a young heiress, travels from New York to Florida to surprise her fiancé, a doctor who’s seasonally employed at a St. Petersburg hotel. Upon arrival, however, she becomes furious to discover many of the female guests lavishing attention on her husband-to-be, and in a moment of frustration she swallows a seed that transforms men into women and vice versa. Her butch metamorphosis thus begins, and soon she’s kissing and courting every woman in sight, much to the chagrin of her erstwhile lover. Confusions comically mount, and by film’s end the doctor has tried the magic seed as well, to similar effect. In some respects, like its use of blackface, the film is odiously of its moment, yet in other ways it’s quite remarkable, offering an elaborate fantasy of gender variance that transcends the transvestite gags so common to the silent era. Print courtesy of Frameline.
Tuesday, April 26, 6:45pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
A Fragment of Seeking + Geography of the Body + The Case of Mr. Lynn (TRT: 76m)
A Fragment of Seeking
Curtis Harrington, USA, 1946, 16mm, 14m
Geography of the Body
Willard Maas, USA, 1943, 16mm, 7m
The Case of Mr. Lynn
Reuben Siegel, USA, 1955, 16mm, 55m
An early film by Curtis Harrington, made while he was still a student and long before he would go on to direct horror movies with AIP, A Fragment of Seeking is a study of adolescent narcissism that articulates the labyrinth of the psyche through an experimental design reminiscent of Maya Deren and Jean Cocteau. Geography of the Body, by contrast, takes as its subject not the mind but flesh itself, abstracting the human form through a montage of extreme close-ups. These avant-garde works set the stage for one of the truly deep cuts of the pre-Stonewall series, The Case of Mr. Lynn, a fascinating document of the carnal at odds with the inner life. The reel is an actual filmed therapy session with a troubled young homophile, made in 1955 under the auspices of Penn State’s Psychological Cinema Register. “When you say that you’re queer,” Lynn explains, “it automatically sets you apart.”
Tuesday, April 26, 8:15pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
The Girl with the Golden Eyes
Jean-Gabriel Albicocco, Italy/France, 1961, 35mm, 90m
French with English subtitles
Henri Marsay, a rakish lothario, enjoys sex as something of a gamble and a sport. While participating alongside his friends in elaborate scenarios of erotic gamesmanship, he becomes increasingly preoccupied with his latest conquest, and grows distraught upon discovering a rival in her lesbian paramour. Though now relatively obscure, The Girl with the Golden Eyes was not without enthusiasts upon its initial release. Amos Vogel even arranged a special presentation of the work at his influential film society Cinema 16, situating it as an alternative to the Nouvelle Vague offerings of the era. “A mysterious, perverse Gothic tale, derived from Balzac and transposed to a deceptively contemporary Paris, probes the secret of a bizarre love in an atmosphere of sophisticated decadence,” wrote Vogel in his program notes. “Opulent in its artificiality, the film is especially noteworthy for its visual pyrotechnics, luxuriant imagination and unexpected continuity.”
Thursday, April 28, 9:15pm – Walter Reade Theater
Friday, April 29, 5:00pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Glen or Glenda?
Edward D. Wood Jr., USA, 1953, 35mm, 65m
Though it was developed as an exploitation film meant to capitalize on popular interest in Christine Jorgensen’s transition, then a tabloid sensation, Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda? is, for its time, an astonishingly sympathetic portrayal of cross-dressing and gender nonconformity. Nominally resembling an educational reel, the film relates the stories of Glen, who struggles to tell his fiancée that he covets her angora sweaters, and a GI who undergoes reassignment surgery, but Wood conveys this narrative in a style bizarre beyond measure. While the director’s more famous Plan 9 from Outer Space is regarded as the ne plus ultra of bad, low-budget moviemaking, Glen or Glenda?, with its inexplicable dream sequences, portentous narration, stock-footage hyperbole, and terrifically stiff acting, is no less bewildering in its composition.
Sunday, April 24, 9:00pm – Walter Reade Theater
The Killing of Sister George
Robert Aldrich, USA, 1968, 16mm, 138m
Actress June Buckridge (Beryl Reid) plays a kindly nun in a popular British soap, a role altogether distinct from her off-screen persona: a fabulously brassy butch with a sadistic streak who hits the bottle hard. Her life begins to unravel when plans are made to kill off her character, and, making matters worse, one of the show’s producers has eyes for her much-younger girlfriend. The writer Terry Castle described The Killing of Sister George as “a lesbian fable at once so jolting and so sophisticated, so true and so false, so intelligent and raffish about what women do together, it seemingly had to be forgotten immediately.” Yet revisiting the film, she concluded that “one may feel one still hasn’t caught up with it. Susannah York in lingerie and bunny skuffs, chomping on a cigar fished from the toilet by her lover, a raddled Beryl Reid: it’s a revolution in awareness still waiting to happen.”
Sunday, May 1, 8:00pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Lot in Sodom + Salomé (TRT: 100m)
Lot in Sodom
James Sibley Watson & Melville Webber, USA, 1933, 28m
Charles Bryant & Alla Nazimova, USA, 1923, 35mm, 72m
“While obeying the biblical account concerning Lot and his family and the function of the two angels who investigate Sodom at the Lord’s behest,” critic Parker Tyler once noted, “the Watson-Webber work uses all its creative accents to depict the sensual responses of the male homosexuals of Sodom to the physical beauty of the foremost angel. Naturally the angel repulses their advances and proceeds (not finding fifty chaste persons present) to condemn Sodom to the flames, but not before we have witnessed, at some length, the orgiastic pleasures of the all-male population.” Lot in Sodom has often shared a double bill with Alla Nazimova and Charles Bryant’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé, and the combination is fitting, as the latter is an equally homoerotic riff on scripture. In reference, no doubt, to the film’s Aubrey Beardsley–inspired mise en scène and rumors of its exclusively gay casting, Kenneth Anger dubbed it “Nancy-Prancy-Pansy-Piffle and just too queer for words.” Prints courtesy of Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film 1893-1941, sponsored by Anthology Film Archives, New York, and Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt am Main, and underwritten by Cineric, Inc.
Saturday, April 23, 3:00pm – Walter Reade Theater
Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 1964, 35mm, 92m
Italian with English subtitles
For Love Meetings, Pasolini traveled throughout Italy, from the factories to the beaches, and interviewed passersby about their attitudes toward sex. A charismatic interlocutor, he questions them, mic in hand, on a wide range of topics: the importance of sex in everyday life, prostitution, homosexuality, the legalization of divorce. And while discussing the customs of the country and its changing mores, invariably his subjects begin to broach other topics as well, like the way ideas about sex are informed by nationalism or religion or gender relations. Though a lesser-known entry in Pasolini’s filmography, Love Meetings is endlessly compelling, both as a social artifact and a work of art. “Every man is made differently,” the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti remarks, referring both to their physical constitution and their spiritual disposition. “Therefore all men are, in their own way, abnormal. All men are, in a way, in contrast with nature.” Print courtesy of Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Wednesday, April 27, 4:30pm – Walter Reade Theater
Friday, April 29, 9:15pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Carl Theodor Dreyer, Germany, 1924, 35mm, 93m
German intertitles with English subtitles
Like Mauritz Stiller’s Vingarne, Dreyer’s film is drawn from Herman Bang’s 1902 novel Mikaël. While Stiller’s approach is significant for its film-within-a-film reflexivity—there, an adaption of Bang’s book is accompanied by a framing story about the making of the adaptation—Dreyer takes a different tack. His variation on the love triangle between a famous artist, the protégé he pines for, and a penniless aristocrat is comparatively muted in its homoeroticism, yet no less powerful as a result. Dreyer counted Michael as a favorite of his early films. The picture speaks through its sumptuous decor, its subtle performances, and, perhaps most crucially, its compositions, expertly lensed by the influential cinematographer Karl Freund. Indeed, Dreyer’s close-ups in Michael, which convey emotion so delicately as to make words superfluous, anticipate those in The Passion of Joan of Arc. Print courtesy of the Murnau Foundation.
Saturday, April 23, 5:00pm – Walter Reade Theater
Tuesday, April 26, 4:30pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Mona’s Candle Light + Olivia (aka The Pit of Loneliness) (TRT: 116m)
Mona’s Candle Light
Director unknown, USA, ca. 1950, 35mm, 28m
Olivia (aka The Pit of Loneliness)
Jacqueline Audry, France, 1951, 35mm, 88m
French with English subtitles
“Scripted by Colette, Olivia offered hothouse lesbian passion in an upper class French girls’ school,” wrote Vito Russo in The Celluloid Closet, his classic account of homosexuality and cinema. “It was a perfect ‘shadow people’ film for the Fifties. It featured dark doings in school corridors and ended in the obligatory tragic circumstances. American censors assured the delicacy of treatment for which Pit of Loneliness was touted. One censor’s notation read: ‘Eliminate in Reel 5D: Scene of Miss Julie holding Olivia in close embrace and kissing her on the mouth. Reason: Immoral, would tend to corrupt morals.’” Audry’s feature is preceded by Mona’s Candle Light, an amateur short film shot at popular San Francisco bar Mona’s circa 1950, providing a unique opportunity to consider a big-screen depiction of sapphic yearning alongside a rare, rediscovered lesbian home movie from the same moment. Mona’s Candle Light 35mm print courtesy of the Outfest UCLA Legacy Collection; Olivia print courtesy of the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC).
Sunday, April 24, 6:30pm – Walter Reade Theater
Monte Hanson and Tony Gallo + Queens at Heart + The Queen (TRT: 96m)
Monte Hanson and Tony Gallo
Bob Mizer, USA, 1964, 6m
Queens at Heart
Director unknown, USA, 1967, 35mm, 22m
Frank Simon, USA, 1968, 35mm, 68m
An evocative time capsule, Frank Simon’s debut takes in the sights and sounds of 1967’s Miss All-America Camp Beauty Pageant. Drag artists throughout the land descended upon Town Hall to vie for the title, but, notes emcee Flawless Sabrina, “There can only be one queen.” Praising its humor and its style, Renata Adler saw the film as a revelation: “It shows us another America.” Made just prior to The Queen, Queens at Heart provides glimpse into the twilight world of ball culture, offering a series of probing interviews with four transwomen, in which they speak with great candor to the struggles of their moment as well as to their hopes. Striking a somewhat different chord is a physique film by the prolific and pioneering gay pornographer Bob Mizer. Here, two scantily clad men pose, wrestle, and jokingly try to out-flex one another in what amounts to a beauty contest of its own. Queens at Heart 35mm print courtesy of the Outfest UCLA Legacy Collection; The Queen print courtesy of Harvard Film Archive.
Sunday, May 1, 5:45pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
No Help Needed + Therese and Isabelle (TRT: 124m)
No Help Needed
Director unknown, USA, ca. 1940, 16mm, 6m
Therese and Isabelle
Radley Metzger, France/USA/Netherlands/West Germany, 1968, 16mm, 118m
Based on the novel by Violette Leduc, Therese and Isabelle begins with a woman visiting the school grounds of her youth; the buildings are empty, so she speaks “to the ghosts.” Memories from 20 years prior flash into her mind, and she recalls a budding sapphic tryst with a free-spirited classmate. Metzger crafts this saga of first love with emotional honesty and a sensual visual intelligence—no wonder Kathy Acker once wrote that she wanted her dreams to be like Therese and Isabelle. Complementing this masterly softcore effort is No Help Needed, a rare fragment of vintage lesbian pornography from the personal collection of filmmaker and queer film programmer Jenni Olson.
Sunday, May 1, 1:00pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Oblivion + Winged Dialogue/Plan of Brussels + Twice a Man (TRT: 74m)
Tom Chomont, USA, 1969, 16mm, 4m
Winged Dialogue/Plan of Brussels
Robert Beavers, Greece/Belgium, 1967-8/2000, 16mm, 21m
Twice a Man
Gregory J. Markopoulos, USA, 1963, 16mm, 49m
“I wish to demonstrate by the film Twice a Man, a new narrative form which is based on very brief film-phrases used in clusters to evoke thought through imagery,” Gregory J. Markopoulos declared in a statement about his modern restaging of the Hippolytus myth. By intercutting these fleeting moments into longer sequences, he found novel ways to convey the shape of consciousness via cinema, highlighting the psychological and aesthetic force of individual film frames, and the space between them. Beyond the innovations of his approach to composition, Markopoulos was also a tremendously supportive and influential figure for young gay experimental filmmakers in the 1960s, such as Nathaniel Dorsky, Jerome Hiler, Edward Owens, and Warren Sonbert, as well as Robert Beavers and Tom Chomont, represented here by important early works that, each in their own distinct way, plumb the depths of the erotic imagination through complex superimposition and pulsing montage.
Friday, April 29, 7:15pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1966, 35mm, 85m
English and Swedish with English subtitles
What’s so queer about this Swedish auteur? More, perhaps, than one might expect. “The first important lesbian images in cinema for me were: Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona,” the writer Sarah Schulman recently explained, “particularly the moment where their intensity of feeling burned up the celluloid.” One of the filmmaker’s most enigmatic works, Persona is the story of an actress who was suddenly fallen mute, and retreats to the countryside with her nurse to convalesce. But this bucolic interlude exacts a psychological toll on the two women, especially the garrulous caretaker, who grows increasingly intimate with, and ultimately resentful of, her silent charge. Aided by Sven Nykvist’s elegant camerawork and artful punctuations in the sound design, an air of violent eroticism prevails throughout. Persona, one of the great movies about the precarious nature of identity, shudders with neurotic life.
Saturday, April 23, 8:45pm – Walter Reade Theater
Portrait of Jason
Shirley Clarke, USA, 1967, 105m
Portrait of Jason is an extended interview with its eponymous subject: a gay African-American man and a brilliant raconteur. When asked by Clarke early on what he does for a living, he succinctly responds, giggling: “I hustle… I’m a stone whore, and I’m not ashamed of it.” This might be the ultimate film about hustling and being hustled. It becomes clear that Jason’s identity is assumed in more ways than one. He spins hilarious yarns—recounting affairs gone sour, his days of indolent splendor as a houseboy, raising money for a nightclub act that he has endlessly deferred—but eventually they start to unravel. To borrow from Jason’s elaborate lexicon, things get… confused. Are his theatrics for us, or for himself? Are we being had or entertained? Or has Jason shifted around the particulars of his autobiography so often that he’s found it illegible? Maybe all are true, or none.
Sunday, May 1, 3:30pm (Introduction by writer Hilton Als) – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Germaine Dulac, France, 1928, 35mm, 74m
French intertitles with English subtitles
Though best known for avant-garde works like The Seashell and the Clergyman and The Smiling Madame Beudet, lesbian filmmaker Germaine Dulac also made a number of features, like the beguiling and little-shown Princess Mandane, a loose adaptation of Pierre Benoît’s novel Forgetfulness and her final commercial production. “In my film,” Dulac once said, “Benoît’s hero becomes a victim of the cinema. His obsession with all the glorious adventures on the screen forces him to abandon his peaceful life and roam the world. He becomes transported into a country full of wonders, a marvelous kingdom ruled by a fairy princess. A moral ends the story: After many adventures, my hero prefers to find happiness in simplicity.” Though with this fable comes a final twist, a turn of events that, it has been argued, constitute one of the most explicitly sapphic moments in Dulac’s cinema. Print courtesy of the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC).
Saturday, April 23, 7:00pm – Walter Reade Theater
Reflections in a Golden Eye
John Huston, USA, 1967, 35mm, 108m
“There is a fort in the South where a few years ago a murder was committed.” So begins John Huston’s adaptation of Carson McCullers’s Reflections in a Golden Eye. Overflowing with gothic atmosphere, the film circles around the stoic, marble-mouthed Major Weldon Penderton, a character rigorously embodied by Marlon Brando. He silently pines for a mysterious young soldier (Robert Forster, in his first screen role) who has secrets of his own, like a fondness for naked horseback riding and a peculiar fixation with the negligee of the Major’s wife, Leonora (Elizabeth Taylor, in a performance so tempestuous it rivals her turn in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?). Less inhibited is the neighbors’ houseboy Anacleto, a fey, scene-stealing esthete who refuses to conform to the strictures of the military environment that surrounds him, making him something of a rare bird in this stirring examination of repressed longings and their unbearable weight.
Saturday, April 30, 9:30pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1948, 35mm, 80m
“It’s supposed to be about homosexuals, and you don’t even see the boys kiss each other,” Jean Renoir once said of Rope. “What’s that?” This comment, seemingly dismissive, actually reaches to the heart of the movie, a work very much about what we see, and what we don’t. A virtuosic formal achievement, Rope plays out as a single continuous shot, accomplished by the use of hidden cuts. Hitchcock’s first color film was adapted by gay screenwriter Arthur Laurents from a stage play that was, in turn, based on the infamous 1924 Leopold and Loeb case, in which two young lovers murdered a 14-year-old boy in cold blood. Yet the on-screen depiction of homosexuality was verboten in the 1940s, so Farley Granger and John Dall, the queer actors cast as the killers, gamely maneuvered through a scenario that, even by the standards of a Hitchcock film, is drenched in innuendo.
Sunday, April 24, 4:45pm – Walter Reade Theater
Monday, April 25, 2:00pm – Walter Reade Theater
George Cukor, USA, 1935, 35mm, 95m
English and French with English subtitles
Condemned by the Legion of Decency and a disappointment at the box office, Sylvia Scarlett was revived decades later and now enjoys a reputation as one of the highlights of Cukor’s impressive filmography. In a scheme to help her embezzling bookkeeper father escape Marseilles for London, young Sylvia (Katharine Hepburn) cuts her hair, dons a fedora, and changes her name to Sylvester. En route, they encounter a “gentleman adventurer” (Cary Grant, at his most louche) and together the trio starts grifting, though Sylvester proves too high-minded for the criminal life. Cukor’s sexuality sometimes found a subterranean expression in his pictures, and this is nowhere more apparent than in Sylvia Scarlett, a gender-bending picaresque tale in which the terms of erotic identification are constantly, cleverly evolving, for the cast and audience alike. “I know what it is,” one character memorably declares to Sylvester, “that gives me a queer feeling when I look at you.”
Sunday, April 24, 2:45pm – Walter Reade Theater
Monday, April 25, 4:00pm – Walter Reade Theater
Tea and Sympathy
Vincente Minnelli, USA, 1956, 35mm, 122m
John Kerr and Deborah Kerr reprised their roles from Robert Anderson’s popular Broadway play Tea and Sympathy for Vincente Minnelli’s screen adaptation, a sensitive consideration of virulent homophobia at a boarding school, delineated here in a resplendent color palette by cinematographer John Alton. Tom Lee is different from the other boys, an introvert more inclined toward sewing, gardening, and crooning folk songs than tossing the pigskin, and his fellow classmates terrorize him as a result. He finds a confidante in faculty wife Laura Reynolds, however, and gradually a love flowers between them. Their relationship would suggest that the whispers about Tom are unfounded, but the narrative still raised the hackles of the Production Code office. “In retrospect,” Minnelli recalled, “it wasn’t a very shocking picture, but it might have set up a brouhaha at the time. Ostrich-wise, the censors refused to admit the problem of sexual identity was a common one.”
Wednesday, April 27, 6:30pm – Walter Reade Theater
Thursday, April 28, 4:30pm – Walter Reade Theater
Basil Dearden, UK, 1961, 35mm, 100m
“It is extraordinary,” Dirk Bogarde recalled in his autobiography, “in this over-permissive age, to believe that this modest film could ever have been considered courageous, daring or dangerous to make. It was, in its time, all three.” Shot in the wake of 1957’s Wolfenden Report, a hotly debated government study that recommended the decriminalization of same-sex relations in Britain, Victim is a supremely artful message film. Taking the shape of a detective story, it concerns a closeted barrister who becomes embroiled in a blackmailing scheme targeting gay men, prompting him to take on the extortionists despite the cost to his marriage and promising career. As the first commercial production in the UK to fully address homosexuality, Victim is a social landmark, yet its reverberations can be felt still further across film history; it made a tremendous impression, in particular, on a then-teenage Terence Davies.
Thursday, April 28, 7:00pm – Walter Reade Theater
Friday, April 29, 3:00pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Who Killed Teddy Bear?
Joseph Cates, USA, 1965, 35mm, 94m
In a far cry from his signature role as the doe-eyed, crushed-out Plato in Rebel Without a Cause, Sal Mineo is seen to his advantage in Who Killed Teddy Bear? as a brawny busboy working at a New York discotheque. He spends his downtime as a peeping tom with a penchant for making obscene phone calls to his co-worker Norah (Juliet Prowse), who also finds admirers in the club’s tough-talking lesbian manager (Elaine Stritch) and a cop dedicated to the assiduous study of sexual deviancy (Jan Murray). Set amid the smut shops, peep shows, and porno theaters of old Times Square, Joseph Cates’s cult classic anticipates Scorsese’s Taxi Driver with its wonderfully seedy tale of obsessive desire and urban alienation. Print courtesy of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research.
Saturday, April 30, 7:30pm – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
The Wild Party
Dorothy Arzner, USA, 1929, 35mm, 77m
Though officially closeted, as a lesbian filmmaker in the classical Hollywood era, Dorothy Arzner was a unique figure. Following her time as an editor, she eventually worked her way up to the director’s chair with 1927’s Fashions for Women, and would go on to earn a reputation as a star-maker, kick-starting the careers of Lucille Ball (Dance, Girl, Dance) and Rosalind Russell (Craig’s Wife), among others. As Paramount’s first sound movie, The Wild Party marked a turning point for both Arzner and the industry. Clara Bow, the original “It” girl, stars as a student at a women’s college who is “The life of the party and HOW!” Though the plot is driven by the vicissitudes of her blossoming romance with a young anthropology professor, modern audiences are likely to be just as intrigued by the film’s account of female friendship, and the sapphic implication of the homosocial milieu.
Sunday, April 24, 1:00pm – Walter Reade Theater