When Pride Month ends, LGBTQ films keep on coming! July brings a handful of queer cinema classics along with some new releases to streaming services, DVD, and other platforms.
Criterion is issuing a 10th Anniversary DVD of Dee Rees’ outstanding 2011 feature debut based on her 2007 short of the same name. Alike (Adepero Oduye) is a teenager who hides her AG (aggressive) butch identity from her religious mother Audrey (Kim Wayans). Audrey suspects her daughter is a lesbian —“I’m tired of [her] tomboy,” she laments — and asks her husband, Arthur (Charles Parnell), to talk to his daughter about her sexuality. Meanwhile, Alike experiences all of the high-strung emotions of a confused teenager grappling with her desires, most notably when she makes a connection with Bina (Aasha Davis), a student at her school. The dazzling cinematography reinforces images of Alike’s gender, sexuality, and identity, and Rees gives her characters quiet moments to reveal themselves. “Pariah” lets the drama and family dynamics come to a head in the expected confrontation, but it is still a searing, shattering moment. Rees may have made a familiar coming out story, but its reliance on the tropes do not make Alike’s articulation of her desires and frustrations seem cliché, in part because of the filmmaker’s sensitivity and Oduye’s incandescent performance.
This is a fun horror-comedy-mystery in which a handful of residents, including a gay couple (out actors Cheyenne Jackson and Harvey Guillén) are trapped in an inn during a storm. Oh, and a werewolf is on the loose, killing people and pets. But don’t fear — the film is more amusing than scary. Available on demand July 2, this is not necessarily a queer-themed film but has out gay actors.
The God Committee
This movie includes out gay actors Colman Domingo and Peter Kim as two members on a board at a New York hospital that makes decisions about which potential heart patients will receive a much-needed organ donation. The film allows Domingo and Kim’s characters to address some ethical issues, but some of the other board members (Kelsey Grammer and Janeane Garofalo) are less principled.
On July 7, OVID.tv is screening the first and last films by the late, great gay filmmaker Derek Jarman. Set in 303 AD, Jarman’s groundbreaking feature debut chronicles a group of able-bodied Roman soldiers in exile. The title character (Leonardo Treviglio) disobeys the orders of his commanding officer and is repeatedly punished. Still, he still fascinates the men, who alternately befriend and fight with him — until he is martyred in a scene that is at once violent and erotic. Throughout the film, Jarman clearly enjoys fetishizing Treviglio, and the sexual tension that exists as Sebastiane is spied while showering, or tied down in the desert, is palpable. A sequence in which two soldiers make love in slow motion in the water and one where the men unwind in the bath are highlights.
Made in 1993, Jarman’s final theatrical release was an extraordinary experimental documentary about his life with HIV. A static image is a symbol of his sightlessness — AIDS had destroyed his retinas. This may sound like a rigorous approach to presenting film — and at times, it feels that way — but Jarman’s poetic narrative, full of beautiful imagery, stream of consciousness candor, and justified outrage, creates a powerful, revealing self-portrait. “Blue” is full of fascinating insights, as when Jarman equates his hospital with an S&M club, where everyone is anonymous. This is an appropriate, elegiac last film.
Out gay filmmaker Eytan Fox’s poignant dramedy, out July 13 on DVD, has New York Times travel writer Michael (John Benjamin Hickey) arriving in Tel Aviv on assignment “to write about the city as it is.” He sublets an apartment from Tomer (Niv Nissim), a student who makes “artistic horror” films. As Michael settles in to soak up the city, he allows Tomer to stay and act as his guide. As they come to know each other over five days, the very different men exchange impassioned thoughts about monogamy (Michael appreciates it, Tomer resists it); musicals (Michael loves them, Tomer loathes them); and even attitudes about Germany (Michael reflects on the history, whereas Tomer sees a new opportunity). But “Sublet” is best when Michael gets out of his comfort zone. This happens a few times, but it is most affecting during a meal at a Kibbutz with Tomer’s mother (Miki Kam). Hickey gives a wonderfully understated performance, while screen newcomer Nissim exudes charisma.
Here Comes Your Man
Out July 27 on DVD, this is the film version of a TV series about Aaron (Jason Alan Clark) who meets Jordan (Calvin Picou) on an app for sex. There is an odd vibe as Jordan is a bit reluctant to jump right into bed with Aaron. He wants to get to know him a bit first. It soon becomes clear why — this is Jordan’s first time having sex with a man. Aaron, meanwhile, discloses that he is HIV-positive. And although they are both feeling good about their encounter, Jordan ghosts Aaron afterwards; he is in a relationship with a woman. “Here Comes Your Man” is a genial, low-budget production, and it has an amateur aesthetic both in terms of its style and the acting. That gives the film a bit of low-key charm as Jordan reconnects Aaron and they spend more time together.
But as their relationship develops, and includes threesomes, there is a question of whether these two men are going to stay together. Issues of communication come into play during an anniversary getaway. “Here Comes Your Man,” is buoyed by Jason Alan Clark’s upbeat, outgoing performance, whereas Calvin Picou plays Jordan too close to the vest, which makes him hard to read at times. At least the supporting best friend characters, Cassie (Noelle Miller) and Malcolm (Clay von Carlowitz) add some humor and verve to this slight but passable time-filler.