The Secret History of 2015’s Best Gay Movies

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Why should a Best Gay Movie List rubber-stamp mainstream Hollywood? How dare anyone compose such a list when Hollywood still depicts LGBT life strictly as political causes rather than emotional experience that connects to the world?

2015’s best gay films defy the clichés that commercial Hollywood is most comfortable marketing; clichés that distort or stereotype gay folk by keeping them in the repressive past or sentimentalizing them as pathological test cases. There’s a difference between high-profile marketing that exploits the desire for social acceptance and good, edifying filmmaking. (Why the French remain best at this deserves a separate article.) The best gay films confront stereotypes and resist them, bringing out “the secret history” (as one film put it) of gay life that no longer needs to remain secret. 

1. The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet - Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet got to the heart of same-sex affection through the innocence of a boy inventor (Kyle Catlett) who leaves home and goes out into the world (a story the Stonewall movie botched). He discovers the strength of devotion through self-realization and a sense of family that’s as complicated as community. This year’s most moving fable, it also provides the boldest gay metaphor since Tennesee Williams: Spivet invents a Perpetual Motion Machine--what gays will recognize as love.

2. Salvation Army - Abdella Taia adapts his autobiographical novel into a powerful expose of triumphant gay self-reliance. This real-life, sexually explicit T.S. Spivet emerges from the Muslim third world into a new Europe. 

3. Love at First Fight - Thomas Cailley uses the intricacies of LGBTQIA identity as the basis of a millennial rom-com. Out actress Adele Hanael and Kevin Azais make gender expectations complicated and surprising. 

4. In the Name of My Daughter - Andre Techine, France’s greatest gay director, puts Adele Hanael, Catherine Deneuve and Guillaume Canet in a true-crime melodrama. His insight and sensibility reveals sexual tension at the core of social behavior. This is the movie Carol should have been.

5. The New Girlfriend - Francois Ozon explores transexual psychology and spirituality when Romain Duris’ deep femininity uncovers Anais Demoustier’s deep friendship. Their performances, plus Ozon’s elegant humor,  fill-in The Danish Girl’s laughable gaps.

6. Eastern Boys - Robin Campillo cruises the two-way street of sexual exploitation when Parisian Olivier Rabourdin picks up Russian immigrant hustler Kirill Emelyanov. Their personal and political needs mesh, resulting in the year’s most intimate sex scene. 

7. Appropriate Behavior - Not only is Desiree Akhaven’s autobio-bisexual debut the American gay movie of the year, it’s a comic breakthrough.

8. Girlhood - Celine Sciamma finds beauty and liberation in the struggles of Afro-Parisian girls who discover their sexuality through Rihanna’s girl-power example. This Female Gaze on females is an aesthetic breakthrough.

9. Stanford Prison Experiment - Kyle Patrick Alvarez combines ‘70s clone erotica with a cautionary tale. He turns an infamous case of psychological research into an exploration of male sexual power dynamics, showcasing a dozen talented American actors.

10. Gerontophilia - Taboo-buster Bruce LaBruce makes his most daring and compassionate film, challenging the age-ism of gay culture with this wise, affectionate and ultimately universal romance.

11. Tangerine - Sean Baker’s lo-fi day in the life of two Los Angeles trans hustlers is raucously anti-Hollywood. Shot on cell phone technology it makes sub-cult secrets personal and relatable. Sisterhood and butt-dialing redefined.

12. The Duke of Burgundy - Sometimes justice and jollies come from unexpected places. Peter Strickland’s campy tribute to ‘70s hetero porn, muff-dives into serious and defendable lesbian intimacy. Chiara D’Anna and Sidse Babett Lnudsen’s fine acting and sensitivity provide the emotion Carol lacks.  

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