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Garland, but with a little sex. And even that is so sweet it's tweet. (In Broadway Damage two young lovers climb up a tree for their first kiss. No kidding.) It makes sense that O'Haver, who evokes the retro spirit with such expert elan, has signed with Universal Pictures to direct a movie of the Archie comic book. We can't wait to see if Archie gets to pining over Jughead.
Not every gay film wants to be a Minnelli musical. Three of the new gay dramas, all about artists in extremis, are traditional in another sense. They locate the not so divine decadence--all that is theatrical, naughty, self- destructive--in gay sex. Bill Condon's Gods and Monsters stars Ian McKellen in a parable about '30s Hollywood director James Whale (Frankenstein, Show Boat). Like Billy, he is consumed with sexual longing, but here it is the ultimate form of masochism: a desire to be killed. The erotic charge sizzles in Lisa Cholodenko's High Art, a pensive throwback to the drug-and-sex angst of the '70s. It tosses Ally Sheedy into heavy, fraught clinches with Patricia Clarkson and Radha
Mitchell. (Mitchell: "It's hot in here." Sheedy: "No. You're hot.")
John Maybury's Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon examines the English painter's long affair with a petty thief and his need to be the submissive partner in sadomasochistic sex. The film is broken into shards of images like shrapnel: coupled male bodies mime the exertions of Greco-Roman wrestling; Francis bends over for a whipping, or to be tattooed with a hot cigarette. Which makes the film both exquisitely observed and tough to watch.
The reach of either of these genres--happy-gay or sad-gay--is limited. They appeal to people who are open to gays and to modestly experimental films. Jenni Olson, whose PopcornQ website compiles data on gay and lesbian movies, warns against expecting one with Titanic or even Full Monty box office. "They can cross over to a straight art-house audience," she says. "We're not talking about an 'Oh, let's take the kids to a gay movie' crossover." The point isn't that everyone needs to see these films. It is that "out" films are finally and fully out there.
GAZING AT GAYS Mainstream milestones in films on homosexuals:
Longtime Companion, 1990. Bitchy bonhomie leavens Craig Lucas' story of AIDS. $4.6 mil. U.S. B.O. The Crying Game, 1992. A love story with a surprise in the middle. $62.5 mil. Philadelphia, 1993. Tom Hanks as a gay man dying of AIDS. $77.3 mil. The Birdcage, 1996. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane hit a joyful new style in family values. $124 mil.
In & Out, 1997. Kevin Kline isn't gay--is he? Just ask Tom Selleck. $64 mil.
TIME Magazine, August 24, 1998