Samuel Goldwyn Films

The 10 Best Queer Films of 2017
The 10 Best Queer Films of 2017

5

4 Days in France

Finally a film about a classical music-listening, Rimbaud-reading, sweater-wearing gay man addicted to Grindr, though to be fair, writer-director Jérôme Reybaud’s 4 Days in France is about much more than just the digital sexual compulsions that afflict so many gays. This is a kind of ode to cruising writ large, to the intransitivity of cruising: looking for no object at all, but for its own sake. And there’s something endearing, if not uncanny, about the way the film evokes universal truths about erotic wandering through the extremely specific figure of the French gay man, and Parisian white and preppy gayness in particular. Queer mobility is here a luxury and a curse, enabled by an alfa Romeo, Parisian couture, and lots of free time, but beleaguered by isolation. There’s something liberating about such a steady creative hand that rejects justifying the twists and turns of a storyline, which becomes in 4 Days in France something akin to cruising itself. Pierre’s (Pascal Cervo) driving around, bearing a complete openness to strangeness and to the strangers he comes across, amount to an acclamation of not just this brand of fearlessness that gays tend to develop if they’re to survive at all, but of French joie de vivre. That is, a commitment to the present, to pleasure beyond productivity. Semerene

The 10 Best Queer Films of 2017

4

God’s Own Country

God’s Own Country is so moving because Lee manages to paint a multi-dimensional portrait of Johnny (Josh O’Connor) and his family dynamics—one that feels at once incredibly British and uncannily familiar. This is a film about masculinity as an impossible and necessarily toxic project. Writer-director Francis Lee captures not only what masculinity does and how it comes undone, but the complex apparatus that keeps it into place: the family’s surveillance, the silence, the shame. Johnny’s contentious relationship with his ailing father (Ian Hart) adds profundity and credibility to the young man’s excursion into queerness, or into pleasure writ large. Lee suggests that to be a man is to play a miserable game of replacement and reenactment, with the son picking up where the father leaves off. Masculinity in God’s Own Country is, despite popular belief, the most frail of human endeavors. It’s tenderness that’s ultimately aligned with life-giving strength, as in the way Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) resuscitates an almost dead newborn lamb by rubbing it like a mother would a child, or when Johnny musters enough courage to touch his father’s hand, as if for the first time. Semerene

The 10 Best Queer Films of 2017

3

Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo

Besides being a film about desire and the potential solidarity to arise from erotic scenarios, Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo is also about Paris. The city is perfectly set up for the most electrifying orgies to take place but also for dealing with whatever consequences come out of them in the most rational manner. Here, two gay men head to the hospital for post-exposure prophylaxis following an orgy with the same straight face one presents when going in for, say, a broken arm. Paris appears as an anti-Vegas of sorts, where instead of leaving the indignity of sex behind once it’s over, its delights are in fact never over because a commitment to pleasure is bound to produce it even, or especially, in the most unlikely places. The Paris of the film isn’t just the one “we will always have” in some kind of fantastic future, but what we have right now—despite the dread of AIDS or the perverse fleetingness of human relationships. This is Paris as a place for those who aren’t just shame-less about pleasure, but responsible for the pleasures that they give and the ones that they receive. Semerene

The 10 Best Queer Films of 2017

2

Call Me by Your Name

The love/lust story between Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) has gotten a lot of critical attention, but their relationship, in many respects, merely supports a larger cinematic accomplishment by director Luca Guadagnino. Namely, the film’s house. In Call Me by Your Name, Guadagnino is able to architect a fully fleshed fantasy world, one we may refer to as literarily pornographic in the best sense of the term, akin to the most masterful word-making feats in cinema such as the mansion of unspeakable perversions in Pasolini’s Saló: 120 Days of Sodom, James Bidgood’s gay utopia in Pink Narcissus, Manuel de Oliveira’s anthropomorphic home in Visit or Memories and Confessions, and even Maya Deren’s surreal abode in Meshes of the Afternoon. Elio and Oliver’s relationship would have risked falling flat were it not underpinned by the raw credibility of the most literal structures that house it. The house in Call Me by Your Name is a dream world where swimming pool water seems to render bodies permeable, effacing their borders while sparing the crisp integrity of book pages, and where living room couches pull parent and child together for either an orgasmic daily dose of German poetry, or the finest father-to-son speech in the history of cinema. Semerene

The 10 Best Queer Films of 2017

1

BPM (Beats Per Minute)

The queer art of survival through debauchery and improbable alliances meets the French gift for conversational sparring in BPM (Beats Per Minute), which dramatizes the frantic lives of ACT UP activists in Paris in the early 1990s. The result is one gut-wrenching ode to joie de vivre—a political orgy of sorts where queer kinship is the only buffer zone keeping dying and desiring from becoming the exact same thing. An army of lovers debates without end, like cruising, as if trying to speak their way out of death, or into it, ultimately exacerbating human condition’s most basic tenet: brevity. The average heart rate indeed. BPM avoids archival, pedagogical, and sentimental approaches to its material by placing a believable love story at the very core of its militant bacchanalia, provoking precisely the type of identification, or recognition, that ACT UP’s theatrical activism aimed to forge. Derek Jarman took ACT UP’s slogan, “Stop looking at us, start listening to us,” to its most radical cinematic conclusion in Blue, stripping the frame from everything but a single color. Writer-director Robin Campillo has more graphic demands in mind: the ruby redness of fake blood staining corporate carpet, the melancholy lilac of Kaposi’s sarcoma dotting the bodies of lovers-cum-makeshift-immunologists, the gut-wrenching darkness of the wake in the final sequence where friends and lovers show up to smooth over the edges of departure—and the deceased boy’s mother lets out, matter of factly, “Already?” Semerene

Previous

12