FROM INDIE QUEER CINEMA TO THE HOLLYWOOD MAINSTREAM, THE PINK LENS PUTS THE DEPICTION OF LGBT+ PEOPLE IN CINEMA IN THE UK UNDER THE MICROSCOPE.
BEST OF THE 70s
10. DEATH IN VENICE (1971)
Dirk Bogarde stars in this melancholy piece about a man who refuses to leave Venice despite a cholera epidemic because he’s following the young man that he has become enamoured with. A subtly nuanced story of obsession and desire, this is pretty creepy from a 2019 perspective, particularly because of how young the boy he is following actually is, but it’s a beautifully made movie that shows off the beauty Venice at the start of the twentieth century.
9. PINK NARCISSUS (1971)
Essentially developed as erotica, this series of technicolor vignettes sees the sexual fantasies of a hustler, shot throughout the 1960s. An early LGBT cult classic, the origin of this hyper-sexualised film was shrouded in mystery as it had been released without the director's consent, instead assigned to 'Anonymous'. After a revival and a journalistic investigation, it was discovered to be the work of fashion photographer James Bidgood, who had transposed his sexual fantasies about his model - and subsequent star - Bobby Kendall on screen.
8. THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VAN KANT (1972)
A deftly layered character study of a woman teetering on the verge of self-destruction, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s most strikingly LGBT film follows Petra, an arrogant fashion designer who falls in love with an icy beauty who wants to be a model. This is a theatrical slow-burner that allows its characters to be unflinchingly detestable, unabashed and gives Petra some seriously great wigs.
7. THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT (1975)
In his BAFTA-winning tour-de-force, John Hurt stars as the flamboyant icon Quentin Crisp in this adaptation of his seminal autobiography. Uncompromising in his determination to express himself, the film shows Crisp's refusal to conform, even against the threat of prison. Funny and thoroughly uplifting, Hurt's performance is almost as iconic as the person he's playing.
6. DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975)
Based on the true story of a bank robbery that goes wrong and turns into a hostage situation in New York, Al Pacino stars as Sonny, the somewhat dim ringleader, whose sexuality becomes a major plot-point in the later stages of the film. Married to a man who is just beginning his transition to become a woman, the robbery began as his attempt to obtain money to fund the surgery. As such, this Hollywood crime thriller thrust both sexuality and gender centre-stage at a time when this was relatively unheard of. With Oscar nominations aplenty, this is 70s cinema (and Pacino) at their very best.
5. PINK FLAMINGOS (1972)
There's no denying that Pink Flamingos is a disgusting film. Its purpose was to shock and appal and to play on the grim fascination of revulsion-junkies to gain as wide an audience as possible. And it completely succeeded. As the resplendently vile Divine competes with a sleazy couple for the title of "The Filthiest Person Alive", the film's nauseating climax has gone down in film legend. But the significance of the Divine/Waters long-term collaboration cannot be understated in terms of Queer Cinema. In equal measure fascinated and appalled by their work, audiences came from far and wide to see bawdy celebrations of Queer Culture. And despite its lurid nature in Pink Flamingos, this was a massive step.
4. THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975)
No list of LGBT films would be complete without The Rocky Horror Picture Show, despite my personal dislike for it. Its cult status and cultural significance continues to this day, as audiences go wild for the bizarre tale of a couple whose car breaks down, leading them to visit the zany and dangerous home of the transvestite Dr Frank-N-Furter. Playing on transvestism as an element of horror, its lingering popularity is unsettling, but its high-camp and zesty vigour makes this a refreshingly energetic pastiche, with songs that even I accept are pretty damn catchy.
3. CABARET (1972)
Is there a film much gayer than Cabaret? With Liza Minnelli in her Oscar-winning role as the iconic Sally Bowles, songs that have become the staple gay man's diva standard AND a storyline that includes its lead male's bisexuality, it's like the Gay Fairy sneezed and accidentally made a film. But above all of this, Cabaret has a phenomenal story with one of the darkest plots ever to appear in a musical. Set in 1930s Weimar Berlin, Sally finds herself in the middle of a sexually confused love triangle while the Nazi Party is rising to power. Using its cabaret performances at 'The Kit Kat Club' (where Sally performs) to reflect the film's context like a Greek Chorus, the depiction of the sleazy Berlin lowlife makes its narration as unsettling as its action. A real masterpiece. And tremendously gay.
2. THE BOYS IN THE BAND (1971)
Though definitely outdated in its stereotypes, The Boys In The Band is a landmark film that put a group of gay men onto the big screen for the very first time. Taking place over the course of an evening, the story focuses around a dinner party where a straight man is unwittingly invited to a Birthday party with several gay men. With a rentboy gifted as a present, bitchy queens and gay men revelling in self-loathing, this early piece of Queer cinema is a fascinating time capsule and definitely worth revisiting from a postmodern perspective.
1. LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (1978)
An early LGBT film with widespread appeal, La Cage follows a gay couple who try to conceal their sexuality and ownership of a drag club from their son. A French farce that makes no attempt to conceal its celebration of campery, the film was an outstanding succces, leading to the Broadway musical and its eventual Hollywood remake, The Birdcage. With its older protagonists delightfully uncensored, La Cageportrays a strong and clearly loving relationship between two men within the context of prima donnas and showmanship. After its release, this film was the highest grossing foreign-language film of all time.