When it was first made and released way back in 1978, Nighthawks was billed as the first British film to deal with gay life in positive light. Viewed almost thirty years later it seems as if life hasn’t changed all that much. London’s gay scene, and one man’s search for belonging in it, are explored in this sensitive and intelligent drama.
Ken Robertson plays a quiet teacher who divides his time between the classroom and the closet – and spends his evenings aimlessly cruising the city’s gay bars and discos. Using mostly unprofessional actors, this gritty, heartfelt drama has surprising depth despite the lack of any discernible plot, as it sympathetically portrays one man’s homosexual lifestyle without resorting to theatrics, hysterics and stereotyping.
Made over thirty years ago, the film has a “period” feel, offering strong evidence to the rapid change of gay lifestyles and gay men, specifically, in both how they accept their homosexuality as well as the social possibilities offered.
Inter-cutting outtakes from his groundbreaking original film with new footage, director Ron Peck narrates this personal journey of sexual and political self-discovery and growth – and links it with the nascent 1970s gay liberation movement as well. In this mesmeric documentary, the director recounts his childhood growing up in the closet, his first forays into the secretive gay world of the London bar and pick-up scenes, and his determination to make a film about that lifestyle.
The best sequences are the ones describing the ’70s world of gay men seeking sexual abandonment, where liberation meant having sex with as many men as you could. It is that change of thinking from the sexual to the social and political that changed both the life of the director as well as the direction of the gay movement.
Covering a fascinating subject in gay history, both films are made with great insight and feeling. You can catch both Nighthawks and Strip Jack Naked: Nighthawks II at TLAgay.com. Both films are available on DVD as well as VOD.