Based on the classic novella by Thomas Mann, this late-career masterpiece from the great Luchino Visconti is a meditation on the nature of art, the allure of beauty, and the inescapability of death.
A fastidious composer reeling from a disastrous concert, Gustav von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde, in an exquisitely nuanced performance) travels to Venice to recover. There, he is struck by a vision of pure beauty in the form of a young boy named Tadzio (Björn Andrésen), his infatuation developing into an obsession even as rumors of a plague spread through the city.
We’re only throwing back to 2012 this week. Sure, that’s not long ago, but the new DVD re-release of The Paperboy, out this week (and available herefor just $9.46), made us want to take another look at this much-maligned slice of weirdness.
A sexually and racially-charged film noir from Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels (Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, The Butler), The Paperboy is set in backwaters of steamy 1960s South Florida, as investigative reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) and his partner Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo) chase a sensational, career-making story. With the help of Ward’s younger brother Jack (Zac Efron) and sultry death-row groupie Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), the pair tries to prove violent swamp-dweller Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) was framed for the murder of a corrupt local sheriff.
The biographical 1987 drama Prick Up Your Ears offers up a chilling and graphic portrayal of the life and death of British playwright Joe Orton. The film is a masterful tribute to a man who fearlessly attacked English morals and customs.
Restrained but emotionally involving, this harrowing tale of a woman who becomes physically allergic to the environment doubles as an AIDS allegory. Safe, an indie classic from Todd Haynes, was greatly misunderstood back in 1995, when it was first released. Over the years, it has become a critically-acclaimed cult classic and has garnered a reputation as a subversive stand-out of the New Queer Cinema movement.
David (David Schachter), a naive graduate student, has volunteered to work as a ‘buddy’ for people dying of AIDS. Assigned to the intensely political Robert (Geoff Edholm), a lifelong activist whose friends and family have abandoned him following his diagnosis, the two men, each with notably different world views, soon discover common bonds, as David’s inner activist awakens and Robert’s need for emotional release is fulfilled.
One of the British New Wave’s most versatile directors, John Schlesinger came to New York in the late 1960s to make Midnight Cowboy, a picaresque story of friendship that captured a city in crisis and sparked a new era of Hollywood movies.
Jon Voight delivers a career-making performance as Joe Buck, a wide-eyed hustler from Texas hoping to score big with wealthy city women. He finds a companion in Enrico “Ratso” Rizzo, an ailing swindler with a bum leg and a quixotic fantasy of escaping to Florida, played by Dustin Hoffman in a radical departure from his breakthrough in The Graduate.
Back in 1991, Christopher Marlowe‘s notorious 16th century play was radically adapted into this gay cinema masterpiece by the late, great queer iconoclast Derek Jarman – and it’s easily one of his most powerful films.
Using anachronistic imagery, modern dress, gay activists battling riot police and Annie Lennox singing Cole Porter, the story of Britain’s only openly gay monarch and the persecution he suffered is given a contemporary resonance by Jarman, paralleling the injustice with prevailing modern-day homophobia.
“Where do these people come from? Where do they go when the sun goes down? Isn’t there a law of something?” -Rex Reed
Glamour has never been more grotesque than in Female Trouble,John Waters‘ 1974 classic, dubbed at the time “a new high in low taste.” The film injects old-school Hollywood melodrama with anarchic decadence. Divine, Waters’ larger-than-life muse, engulfs the screen with charisma as Dawn Davenport, the living embodiment of the film’s lurid mantra, “Crime is beauty,” who progresses from a teenage nightmare hell-bent on getting ‘cha-cha heels’ for Christmas to a fame monster whose ego-maniacal impulses land her in the electric chair.
Although it’s attitudes and perspective are somewhat dated, this strange pseudo-doc is often hilarious, highly original and still pretty convincing.
Rock Hudson’s Home Movies, originally released in 1992, offers up a revisionist interpretation of Rock Hudson’s film career and life – and seeks to discover the “real” Hudson through his “reel” persona. Was this Hollywood hunk completely out of touch with his secreted sexuality, or did he, throughout his entire career, offer subtle – or not so subtle – hints at his homosexuality?
A highly obscure 48-minute short film from the Netherlands, released way back in 1990, To Play or to Die, based on a story by Anna Blaman and directed by Frank Krom, a former assistant to Paul Verhoeven who made his own cinematic debut here, is a still a powerful psychological drama, but feels a bit taboo when viewed through a modern lens.
The film follows Kees (Geert Hunaerts), an introverted young boy who attends an all-male Dutch school where powerful bullies and sadomasochistic games are the stock in trade. Kees is fascinated by the extraordinarily handsome young Charel (Tjebbo Gerritsma), ringleader of the tormentors. Seeking to turn the tables and stem his victimization, Kees invites Charel back to his house while his parents are away. His plan is to take revenge… but Charel gets the upper hand. So begins a difficult and painful pas de deux with surprising results.