Here at Quench Film & TV, one of our favourite topics to discuss is The Importance of Queer Cinema, because we all get bored of watching the same heteronormative narratives on our screens. Now that we’re stuck indoors, why not celebrate some of our favourite Queer films and shows?
Quarantine? More like Quarantine!
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
By Phoebe Bowers
If you want scenes of windy French coasts, want to tantalise the sea-air, indulge in beautiful art, and have a cry, Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) is ideal for your Queerantine. The film follows a queer romance in the 18th century written and directed by a queer woman – Céline Sciamma. Sciamma is renowned for interrogating themes of female identity and sexuality within her films (usually with girls in their formative years), and her newest piece does so entangled in historical revisionism.
Painter Marianne is given the task of painting her subject, Héloïse, in secret by Héloïse’s mother. It is required that Héloïse has a portrait in which to send to her Milanese suitor, but this is a planned marriage which Héloïse has no interest in and refuses to. Amidst this all, Marianne and Héloïse’s attraction to one-another complicates their respective situations and love between the two of them begins to formulate.
Every still shot feels like an oil painting. Every bit of light, every bit of shadowing is stunning; you want to freeze time, immortalise its beauty – elongate what time Marianne and Héloïse have left together.
Something I found to be particularly poignant in my viewing of this film, was the quietness. Very little music and dialogue was used, and this silent atmosphere seems to only amplify and draw out every look or every time the two protagonists touch. There is something sentient and simple about their love for each other. Of course no one else could have known about it, but it also feels like no one else needs to because it is theirs. The running sort of post-feminist allusion to the Orpheus and Eurydice’s myth throughout the narrative makes for a really striking and emotive ending, but it is also a refreshing retelling of a mythological story that we’ve seen re-hashed in the same heteronormative way time and time again. Like the spectral image of Héloïse in white that Marianne can’t shake away, this film haunts you – it stays with you.
By Alex Daud Briggs
So, if you’re looking for an LGBTQ+ series that’s a little bit different? Look no further than to Sarazanmai, a Japanese Anime that might just take the cake. Imagine a story about three boys who are turned into kappa (Japanese water goblins). They must use their newfound abilities to stop kappa zombies – people turned into malevolent spirits – by purifying their souls.
They do so by pulling the souls out of the kappa zombie’s anus. Oh, and it’s also a musical.
I know that sounds completely insane, however this kind of insanity is normal of director Ikuhara. He’s relies heavily of post-modern symbolism through wacky scenarios and imagery to tell a deep and heartfelt story. The biggest theme of the tale is connection. Every character whether they be the boys, the zombies or the gay police officers turning people into the zombies, have desires to connect to others in their lives. Unfortunately, through hidden secrets, misunderstandings and bad communications these connections can end up destroyed or becoming toxic.
The show presents a wide range of relationships, from young love, emotional abuse, and failing romance but they are all bound by the idea that connection is ruined because of our own secrets and manipulations. One boy attempts to express his love for another only to get jealous of the third boy who they are spending more time with, becoming more and more distant from both of them. The show of course does this while also having characters getting vored and probed all the while featuring some catchy songs. The show has a musical feel not only in the songs but I how the characters express themselves and their feelings. Along with the vibrancy of the colour palette creates an eye-catching flair that feels distinct even among its anime contemporaries.
By Robert Cooil
Pose dazzles with its depiction of LGBTQ+ history, often overlooked within popular culture. The show is exactly what we as a society need right now, providing hope for audiences in these uncertain and bleak times. The era defining series, represents the underground ballroom scene of 1980s New York City, delivering on drama, emotion and humour through its heartfelt writing and high budget production by non-other than Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (American Horror Story, Glee).
The drama centres around the lives of mostly queer people of colour, struggling to survive in New York City, at a time where prejudice and discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ communities was rife. Filled with diversity, the show has made history with the largest transgender cast in scripted television ever, a huge step forward for inclusivity and visibility on mainstream screens. The show has received widespread success in both the US and UK, airing on BBC2 here and later on BBC iPlayer, recently renewed for season three, with production postponed due to the current pandemic. It has achieved this success due to its authentic storytelling and talented ensemble cast including Billy Porter, MJ Rodriquez and Dominique Jackson. Pose serves to educate and entertain through its storytelling, with its sensitive tackling of the HIV/AIDS crisis, exploring the widespread effects it has had on the community and government inaction.
As a society, we are repeatedly shown images of a heteronormative narrative, enforcing certain expectations surrounding gender expression and sexuality.
Pose is a breath of fresh air and a glimmering example of how to represent diversity in all its forms, in a streaming age filled with endless media content. The show exhibits the lived experience of marginalised communities, often underrepresented in mainstream media, de-stigmatises sex work and subverts the traditionalist notions surrounding rigid binaries.
The widespread success Pose have received is a testimony to its intelligent and heart-warming writing depicting queer stories and themes many mainstream audiences will be unfamiliar with, also enabling queer audiences to see themselves reflected on television. Pose has proved itself to be rich and full of vitality, certainly one of the most revolutionary LGBTQ+ shows ever made.
By Catarina Vicente
With most LGBTQ+ movies ending unhappily ever aftert, audiences are starting to search for queer love stories with happy endings. I wasn’t expecting to find such a story in a South Korean movie set in the 1930s about a pickpocket who partakes in a con to steal an heiress’s fortune.
The Handmaiden is told from the perspectives of Sookhee, a Korean pickpocket who disguises herself as a maid as part of the plot, and Hideko, a Japanese heiress for whom she starts to fall for. In the first part, we see the plot unfold: Count Fujiwara, the mastermind behind the con, attempts to seduce Hideko into a marriage to then commit her to an asylum and run away with her fortune. Hideko and Sookhee’s unlikely romance is the heart behind a narrative that is otherwise sombre and pessimistic. Especially with Sookhee’s growing regret over her part in the ploy, which is thrown into disarray once she learns of Hideko’s own ploy with Count Fujiwara.
It has received plenty of praise since its release, winning a British Academy Film Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but no number of trailers or reviews can fully capture the movie’s uniqueness – the plot is incredible, expertly written, with various changes in tone and twists that never seem out of pocket. It is divided into three parts, all from the perspectives of the two female protagonists, and despite the shifts in narrative, there is never a wasted or slow moment.
The world in which the characters live in is fully fleshed, created with utmost detail and effort, in the intricate, dark architecture of high-class Japan, to the detailed dresses and costumes.
The cinematography is beautiful: the movie’s beginning scenes have little light, mirroring the desperation of war-torn Japan, but eventually become lighter as the story progresses, as the main characters’ relationship grows. The movie does have its graphic and violent scenes, so be warned. But if you’re looking for a complex, riveting plot with interesting characters, and most of all, a queer love story with a happy ending, then I suggest you give The Handmaiden a try.