Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema

Fabulous! The Story of Queer CinemaSynopsis: The most entertaining gay history lesson you’ve ever had.

The superstars of gay and lesbian cinema shine in this amazing overview of LGBT film history. Fabulous! The Story Of Queer Cinema is packed with smart interviews and a tremendous array of film clips from the greatest movies of the genre celebrating more than half a century of queer independent filmmaking from Kenneth Anger’s pioneering, Fireworks (1947) to the smash hit blockbuster Brokeback Mountain. Starring John Waters, Wilson Cruz, Guinevere Turner, Peter Paige, B. Ruby Rich, Gus Van Sant, Alan Cumming, the list goes on…

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Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema 7.5

eyelights: the insightful interviews and commentary. its overview of queer cinema.
eyesores: the lack of historical perspective.

“For the longest time I couldn’t put a name to who I was. I didn’t have an image of anybody else who was like me, and it was torture.”

After watching ‘The Celluloid Closet‘, my gf and I were left a bit disappointed. The film gave us a sense of how Hollywood treated gay characters and issues throughout the years, but it didn’t reflect the pro-gay work being done by the LGBT community. It really felt as though a large part of the story wasn’t being told.

In comes ‘Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema’.

‘Fabulous!’ is exactly what was missing from ‘The Celluloid Closet’: it’s a look at the inroads being made by queer cinema over the years, the landmarks on their journey out of the closet and the future of queer cinema as they prepare for battle on new fronts and with totally new perspectives.

Featuring interviews with a horde of LGBT film industry leaders, such as Donna Dietch, Arthur Dong, Alonso Duralde, Todd Haynes, Jane Lynch, John Cameron Mitchell, Jenny Olson, Don Roos, Guinevere Turner, Gus Van Zant and many others, this is a documentary for and by the community at large.

Of all the interviewees, John Waters was my favourite. He’s a no-BS guy. His films don’t interest me at all (the ones I’ve seen really haven’t appealed to me) but I find him a fascinating character, and love hearing what he has to say. To me, he was the highlight of a group that was generally quite interesting.

I learned a lot about queer cinema in watching this film. I had never heard of gay landmark “Fireworks” or the lesbian landmark ‘Desert Hearts’, had no idea that ‘Saving Face‘ was the first Asian-American lesbian love story, and that Andy Warhol had made a film not unlike ‘Orgasm!‘ with 1964’s ‘Blow Job’.

At various intervals, ‘Fabulous!’ goes through a timeline, denoting important moments in queer cinema before stopping at the most significant ones and discussing them at length. It’s a perfect device because it create a sense of history that would otherwise be missing for anyone new to the subject.

I was particularly impressed with Arthur Dong’s efforts at humanizing the so-called enemies of the LGBT community, by making feature documentaries about them despite his peers’ protests. His perspective is that the only way to win the war is to create greater understanding between the two camps. Pretty brave.

I also loved hearing Angela Robinson say that all she wants is to make a movie that some closeted girl will stumble upon and connect with, much like she did as a girl. And I loved that, at the time this was made (2005), many of these filmmakers were now seeing possibilities for queer cinema beyond activism.

As B. Ruby Rich says: “I want to see all kinds of movies about people living lives that I led, lives that I didn’t lead, lives that I saw but didn’t see on screen and lives that I hadn’t imagined that I want to discover on screen. There’s no reason to shut down shop now. There’s lots more movies still to be made.”. So true.

If anything, the LGBT community aspires to the same thing that any group aspires to: to find a place, a purpose and acceptance. Needless to say, they want to see themselves reflected, not having to hide, to be ashamed, to be ostracized. And as ‘Fabulous!’ makes abundantly clear, queer cinema is finally here.

Get used to it.

Post scriptum: While I think that ‘Fabulous!’ is an excellent documentary, even a smidge more interesting than ‘The Celluloid Closet’ was, I think that in order to get a comprehensive look at the subject, both are required viewing. In fact, they make for a great double feature, as they complement each other perfectly.

Dates of viewings: March 2+4, 2014

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