The face of lesbian cinema is changing and heaven knows, it’s been a long time coming. Our stories are now being told in deeper and more interesting ways. Thanks to social media and the overall relaxing and accepting attitudes toward the gay community, we have a larger voice than ever before. For the first time ever, a movie with two queer female lead characters won the Palme D’Or at Cannes. The world is watching, and because of that, we can have much more nuanced and thought provoking films about our lives, loves and losses. Sure, plenty of tropes are still alive and well, but that certainly doesn’t only apply to lesbian/bisexual characters. As we evolve, as society evolves, so does our art…or perhaps it’s the other way around. Here’s a round up of the mega hits, the misses, and everything in between.
The Real Deal
Much of the focus of the French film, Blue is the Warmest Color has been unfairly placed on its rather graphic and highly controversial sex scenes. The scenes of note only take up about twelve minutes, a very small percentage of the films epic, three hour running time. The rest of the film is what truly explores the life and coming of age of its leading lady, Adele (Adèle Exarchopulos). Stylistically, it’s very reminiscent of French cinema. It meanders. It is lush with beautiful shots. It lingers on the faces and mouths of the actresses, inviting us to join in the intimacy of their love affair. Yes, there are sex scenes that some would and have painted as unrealistic. “The real way lesbians have sex” articles and commentary began popping up shortly after its release. However, it begs the question: Who gets to say what the right way to have lesbian sex is? If Blue is the Warmest Color has managed to open that dialogue, then it most certainly has done what great art has always set out to do: Make us ask questions. The love story between Adele and Emma (Léa Seydoux) is passionate, heartbreaking, and ultimately realistic. That is reason enough to watch this film.
Another stunner this season is Stacie Passon’s debut film, Concussion. This “indie” movie gathered a lot of attention from straight and queer audiences alike. Much of that can be attributed to the excellent script and an achingly good performance by Robin Weigert. Weigert plays Abby, a married suburban mother of two. Her wife is a high powered attorney, and life for Abby centers around spin class, grocery shopping, and picking the kids up from school. One day, she gets a literal and metaphoric shock to the system, which pulls her out of her rut and pushes her to explore a completely new world. Desire, fidelity, power, class. These are all issues that play out in Concussion. Whip smart and topical; it’s a shining example of the new guard of lesbian cinema.
Reaching for the Moon debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival was in theatres briefly this fall. It’s based on the real life relationship between Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Elizabeth Bishop and the famed architect Lota de Macedo Soares. Their love affair, which began in Brazil in the early fifties, lasted for two decades. Miranda Otto (of Lord of the Rings fame) plays the brilliant and troubled Bishop in this lovely period piece. The cinematography is beautiful, and the film boasts a top-notch cast. Reaching for the Moon will soon be available to a wider audience, with a release date set for Feb 2014, through Wolfe Video.
Light and Sweet
While it’s fantastic to have more complex and dramatic cinema to consume, there is still a lot to be said for romantic, lighthearted, or just plain funny films with lesbian characters and storylines. This year we have Margarita – a delightful little film, about a young Mexican woman, who is the live in nanny and jack-of-all-trades for a clueless Canadian family. When her employers are hit hard by the recession, their actions turn Margarita’s whole world upside down and her illegal status comes to light. Throw her non-committal girlfriend into the mix, and Margarita has a real mess on her hands. Overall, it’s a fun film that may have you wishing there was a lot more Margarita, and a lot less everyone else.
Geography Club is the feature film based on the best selling YA novel trilogy, The Russel Middlebrook Series. The film centers on Russell and his struggles to come out. He is invited to join a secret club of queers at the school, calling themselves The Geography Club. The club is led by Min (Ally Maki), whose girlfriend Terese (Nikki Blonsky) is also a member. Min is the driving force behind the club and provides friendship and a safe haven for Russel and the other queer kids on campus. We don’t see much of it, but the girls share a sweet, and affectionate relationship. The depiction of their love is something a lot of young lesbian/bisexuals could look at and see themselves positively reflected.