Sunday, March 06, 2005

De Awful

When is Hollywood finally going to come to terms with homosexuality ?

I can scarcely think of any films in which the subject has been handled with tact, sensitivity, intelligence- or all of the above. The latest lemon which I subjected myself to is "DeLovely" a bioflick based on the life of Cole Porter. The film wavers (unsuccesfully) between straight (!) biography and a series of Porter songs put together for the film. Incidentally, DeLovely has more songs than three Hindi blockbusters collectively. It runs into deep trouble when it tries to focus on Porter's sexuality. We discover very early on that Porter is either bisexual or (more likely) gay. The film focuses on CP's relationship with his wife (Linda) who knows perfectly well that she is marrying a gay man. Despite some tension (and several songs arising from it) Linda appears to come to terms with Porter's homosexuality. Indeed, she is seen to be providing him with at least one of his male partners.

The problem I have with this film is not the naive belief that a confused marriage is OK if it produces a lot of great music. It is for their treatment of Porter's homosexuality that the director (Irwin Winkler) and stars (Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd) should be shot. Hanging is simply too good for them. If DeLovely is to be believed, Porter's relationship with Linda was the inspiration for all of his music- his gay lovers had no part to play in this. There is not even a flaccid attempt at trying to understand any of them. The gay lovers usually appear in darkness or in shadows and seem to have stepped out of a Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue. One of them emerges to fill the gaping void that is left behind when Linda dies. My ironing board has displayed greater emotion than the actor chosen to play this part. Finally, to add supreme insult to injury, the Porter song "Love for Sale" is set in a gay bar - fine, except the song and the accompanying visuals are set to a bunch of male hookers. Indeed the grand finale ends with Porter handing over a stash of dollars to procure the goodies on display. Ergo, all the men in Porter's life are symbolised as a bunch of hookers who had no role to play in the creation of some of the finest songs of the jazz age.

This is truly unforgiveable. DeLovely is not only a distortion of history, but it undermines, simplifies or writes off (depending on how you look at it) an important component of Porter's life - his sexuality. I guess every cloud does have a silver lining. In this case it is the songs - rendered by a number of contemporary singers (Sheryl C, Alanis M, Robbie W, Diana K, Natalie C, Elvis C) who appear in the film. This was not enough to balance out the sheer rage I felt at the rest of the film.

Ah well. It is only a film.


Blogger coral said...

Philadelphia wasn't bad at all
Boys don't cry?

6:26 pm  
Blogger Uber Homme said...

Ok Ok. I concede. Philadelphia. ONE film in a century ! Boys don't cry is not really gay in my sense of the word. There have been some others (the odious "Making Love") but the less said about them the better!

1:14 pm  
Blogger Sin said...

Have you seen "Lilies"? It's somewhat awkwardly-done Franco-Canadian film, but not completely awful. Philadelphia though, I have issues with!

11:25 pm  
Blogger Sin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:29 pm  
Blogger Uber Homme said...

I have issues too with Philadelphia ...especially poor Antonio hopelessly miscast. But I cannot deny that the film qualifies as a "gay" film ...Will try and get "Lillies"

11:24 am  

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