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Monday, January 13, 2014

Looking at the Best of Contemporary Gay Cinema

Posted By on Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 8:00 AM


There's something incredibly refreshing about a movie character admitting that his breath smells like "cock and bum" the morning after a one-night stand.

Some audience members might think it's TMI while others will suddenly feel the urge to chew on some Dentyne Ice. Others, however, will relate to the honesty and frankness of such an admission even if it is somewhat embarrassing and yes -- perhaps TMI.

But so plays out the scene between Russell and Glen in Andrew Haigh's 2011 critical darling Weekend. It tells the story of two working class blokes who meet at a club, shag on that same night and wake up the next morning only to find that there might be something more between them -- if they can remember each other's names of course.

It's a story all too familiar to the masses and yet there's something novel about a movie that unflinchingly depicts two gay men having sex and then falling in love. And to do so without the artificiality of Hollywood rom-coms or the stereotypical we-love-Cher soundtrack of mainstream gay fare -- well that's just plain revolutionary and dare we say, fabulous.

It's no wonder Andrew Haigh was tapped to help create, direct and executive produce HBO's upcoming series Looking, a show that promises to be a revealing look at contemporary gay life in San Francisco while addressing everyday truths familiar to everyone regardless of sexual orientation.

In preparation of the show's January 19 premiere, SF Weekly has compiled a list of recent films filed under "gay" that are worth a view for their unapologetic insight into modern gay life and, most impressively, their insight into the universal human condition.


Andrew Haigh's bittersweet slice-of-life is a reminder that sometimes it's best to strip a story away of all cinematic artifice in order to tell a story that resonates in its simplicity.

Keep the Lights On

Ira Sachs' film is drama with a capital D. What makes this one truly special is you forget that it's about two gay men because their issues are much larger than merely sexual orientation. This one's a tale of drugs, ambition and insatiable libidos and what a toxic cocktail that all amounts to.


This one's a charmer not because of Ewan McGregor or his adorable dog. It's all due to Christopher Plummer's Oscar-winning performance as McGregor's octogenarian father who decides to come out in the twilight of his life. His discovery of house music gives new meaning to the word glee.


Poetic and sumptuous, Dee Rees' film is one of the best in recent memory that deals with self-discovery. She too has been hired to produce a still-in-development series for HBO.


This one's also a story of self-discovery but of the quirky kind. Based on an early collection of short essays by David Sedaris, this film cements Jonathan Groff as the go-to-guy for all things gay. Ain't nothing wrong with that.

Blue is the Warmest Color

This list wouldn't be complete without this much-talked-about, NC-17 French import. Yes the sex scenes are graphic and yes they're absolutely crucial to this story. It's instrumental in generously allowing us access into every facet of this volatile, passionate and all-too-relatable relationship.


True, it's an animated film, but it's worth mentioning for one of the cleverest and most surprising gay reveals of any film. Bold for a mainstream kid's film. Kudos.

Now tell us. Did we leave off any of your favorites?

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF, Jonathan at @jonramos17, and like us on Facebook.

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