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None of Haynes’s films have been so instantly, visibly influential as his groundbreaking feature debut: an intercut trio of explicitly gay-themed stories shot in a grab bag of styles, loosely inspired by the writings of Jean Genet, and saturated with the furious, death-haunted, theory-mad atmosphere of early-’90s LGBTQ culture. A true-crime short in which a Long Island boy takes revenge on his domineering father; a sci-fi nightmare filmed in what Haynes called “dank, cheesy” black and white; a prison love story that unfolds in blazing color: Poison almost single-handedly launched what came to be called the New Queer Cinema—but only after having weathered the pornography charges it came under by right-wing watchdog groups sight unseen. The film was full of sound and fury, but it signified much more.
Michael Wallin, USA, 1988, 16mm, 15m
Manohla Dargis called this found-footage short from the veteran San Francisco experimental filmmaker Michael Wallin “a profoundly moving, allegorical search for identity from the documents of collective memory.” The narrator of Decodings spends the film scrutinizing and narrating a vast spread of film clips drawn from moving images made in ’40s and ’50s America—a period Haynes has spent his career ambitiously working to map, unearth, and re-create.