|Index||8 reviews in total|
"Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema" serves as an interesting
introduction to GLBT cinema over the last 40 years. However anyone who
is familiar with the similar documentary, "The Celluloid Closet"
(1995), may be somewhat disappointed by "Fabulous!". It is distinctly
less ambitious in scope and depth - it spans a shorter period in time
(50-60 years) and therefore does not explore homosexuality in the early
history cinema - surely a crucial part of 'the history of gay cinema'?
Oddly, "Fabulous!" almost totally excludes European and World Cinema
while explaining that these were almost the only sources of gay cinema
in the dark days of homophobic censorship in the US. On the other hand,
the treatment of different ethnic and minority groups (e.g. Asian- and
African- Americans) in gay movies is explored in an interesting way.
A wide range of contributors (actors, directors and critics) give their opinions on the development of gay cinema - although this commentary often resembles the shallow contributions found on TV 'best of' compilation programs. The graphics, jumpy editing and music used also give the whole production a rather cheap and 'made for TV' feel.
Where this documentary is strongest is in gathering together a wide collection of (US) gay-related cinema, particularly from the last 20 years. For anyone interesting in exploring gay cinema further these films will provide a good starting-point. A humorous and light-hearted tone is maintained throughout meaning that the documentary should appeal to a wide audience and not just ardent film buffs.
If this film were called "The Story of American Queer Cinema" I would give it a higher rating, although --as it has been written in other reviews-- it only covers a small sample of its subject in American cinema, mostly independent films from recent years. It is neither a work on self-representation by American gay independent filmmakers, since it also covers a few motion pictures made by heterosexual directors, who --with varying degrees of respect-- have worked with homosexual or lesbian stories and characters. The lack of references to significant mainstream titles as "Mikaël" (1924), "Mädchen in Uniform" (1931) and the very bad "The Third Sex" (1957), the three being from Germany, the interesting British drama "Victim' (1961), Fassbinder's "Fox and His Friends" (1975), "The Best Way to Walk" (1976) and "The Wounded Man" (1983) from France, the Mexican black comedy "Doña Herlinda and Her Son" (1985), or Wong Kar-Wai's dramatic "Happy Together" (1997), omits the different and many aspects of what it means to be homosexual or lesbian in other cultures, so we are left with what it means to be "gay" or "queer", one-dimensional terms that many persons from all over the world (including myself) seem reluctant to apply to themselves or anyone. In the end this omission affects the work, making it appear too light and shallow in terms of world contribution to cinematic representation of same-sex eroticism, even when a few of the testimonies and analysis of a couple of motion pictures make the documentary moderately interesting.
I can't say that I agree with the earlier poster who claims the film
doesn't represent gay men's films. Hello, John Waters, Don Roos and any
number of other participants. There are far more glaring omissions than
a few enjoyable mainstream 1990s indies and "The Boys in the Band." How
about the entire history of avant-garde gay cinema, pre-1960s?
Regardless, any survey this broad is obviously going to be shallow. You'd need a miniseries to cover the entire history of queer cinema across all eras, countries of origin and genres.
This being an IFC documentary, it focuses on independent cinema. That makes sense.
For a broader historical perspective, albeit a very Hollywood-focused, U.S.-centric one, check out The Celluloid Closet.
Sure, for a newcomer, 'Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema' was educational. For people that have been around the queer-independent block a few times, it was ho-hum for the most part. Some interviews were insightful, mostly by John Waters, but others told us what's already been said before. And the time line they showed throughout was a bit off-subject, if this was, in fact, a documentary on "queer cinema" and not on miscellaneous gay events. However, they did hit the nail on the head with the overabundance of "coming out" and "AIDS" stories. I seriously thought I would pull my hair out if another one of either genre came out in the 1990s. I understand this movie came out in 2006, so thankfully they got to 'Brokeback Mountain' but missed the new trend in more recent cinema: the return of homophobic male-bonding/bromance features. I even liked 2009's 'The Hangover' but once again, it seems the new trend is the recent craze to justify homophobic behavior. People do see it as funny, but unfortunately it allows the young males seeing this justify their hatred or simply scared actions. Unfortunately, this documentary didn't touch on that, but still it was an insightful look at pre-coming out cinema (including 'Beefcake' features) and it was nice to see a documentary that's raw and uncensored (full frontal nudity and language abound.) It's worth a viewing.
Documentary purporting to show clips from landmark gay films and how they developed over the years. I'm giving it a 9 but I can't say I liked it. The movie focuses mostly on lesbian, independent and transgender films. There's nothing wrong with that--but totally ignoring gay male films is not right. Where's "Boys in the Band" or "Jeffrey" or "Love! Valour! Compassion"? Those were landmarks and the gay male films they do cover ("Making Love", "Brokeback Mountain") aren't shown in any depth at all. It should be titled "Fabulous! The Story of Independent Queer Cinema". That aside this is fascinating. It shows gay directors and actors talking about the films, how they were made and released. Some truly fascinating remarks are here. Well worth seeing but totally ignoring gay male films bothers me. I give it a 9.
For someone who is not familiar with the history of gay and lesbian
cinema, this was an outstanding introduction to the subject.
I was fascinated with the early "gay" films and the fact that they were basically pictures of muscle men. I can imagine the Governator in some of these films.
What was significant and more important than the lack of films was the fact that gay and lesbian youth did not have any role-models to tell them that they were OK in how they felt. How many suicides resulted in a lack of gay films and gay actors on television? Taking us through the early days to today and thinking about the future of gay and lesbian films, it was an eyeopening experience and a must see for anyone interested in cinema history.
Fabulous! will be most interesting to people who have no knowledge of
queer films. Anyone who already has a semi-decent working knowledge of
queer films will probably find Fabulous! to be an OK choice to
watch/listen to while going through a pile of unsorted mail. Anyone
hoping to find information about films they've never heard of will
probably be disappointed.
Fabulous! does a good job including many films that could be tagged L, G, B, T, and Q though it quickly passes over or neglects some that seem like they'd have a bigger role in a documentary like this.
There are a lot of interviews with makers and supporters of queer cinema. Actually it's essentially all interviews, Fabulous! is a talking head film with a few clips thrown in here and there. Some of the interviews, especially those with queer actors, offer little more than "Oh my god, I loved (insert queer film title here)!".
Ironically for a film about film Fabulous! could have been just as effective as radio documentary because it's not a film you really need to watch to get anything from. Most the time you're just staring at someone's face as he or she talks. Every now and then the talking heads are interrupted by a clip, still shot, timeline of 20th century gay history, or montage of queer film titles. The words and still images are thrown on the screen so briefly you can barely read anything or take in the images.
Over all Fabulous! (a terrible gay cliché title that doesn't describe all queer films) feels like a promotional film for a film fest, queer TV channel, or DVD rental service...Which it just might be as Netflix was somehow involved int the production.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a very disappointing documentary purporting to cover the
history of gay representation in cinema but lacking focus. The film
zips quickly from Anger's Fireworks to films produced in the late
1960s, without a mention of the upfront art cinema and sub-textual
mainstream films produced in-between. Instead we get supposed "experts"
in the subject who don't appear to know what they are talking about - B
Ruby Rich seems under the misapprehension that Jarman and Fassbinder
were making films pre-Stonewall.
After this barely credible preamble, the film settles down to talking about the series of New Queer Cinema films which were produced in the early 1990s. Many of these are important films, but the slant here is very US-centric and the discussion is rarely rises above the anecdotal. The story then zips forwards to a very uncritical look at how gay cinema has begun producing happy, shiny DVD fodder for middle-class audiences; it isn't surprising that Bruce LaBruce doesn't get a name-check! Nearly all of the talking heads here (with the exception of the great John Waters) cry out for a queer version of mainstream cinema; it would have been nice to have some dissenting voices. It would also have been nice to have a debate around a film like Basic Instinct - gay critic Camille Paglia loved the film but is airbrushed from the version of events presented here.
The bias of the film gives the lie to the cry at the end for a pluralistic gay cinema; on this evidence, most of the people here hail from a very narrow, middle-class American background and most of them want a very anodyne, US-oriented gay cinema. This makes the film feel cliquey and a massive missed opportunity.
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