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Flaming Creatures (#110 of 3)

50 Essential LGBT Films

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50 Essential LGBT Films
50 Essential LGBT Films

You’ve sported a red equal sign on Facebook, watched Nancy Pelosi show Michele Bachmann her politically correct middle finger, and read some of those other lists that have compiled lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) films, hailing usual suspects like High Art and Brokeback Mountain as gay equivalents of Vertigo (oh, don’t Citizen Kane me; we’re talking regime upheaval here). Now, as you continue to celebrate the crushing of DOMA and Prop 8 (and toss some extra confetti for Pride Month while you’re at it), peruse Slant’s own list of LGBT movies you owe it to yourself to see. Curated by co-founder and film editor Ed Gonzalez, this 50-wide roster is a singular trove of queer-themed gems and classics, spanning the past eight decades and reflecting artists as diverse as Kenneth Anger, Derek Jarman, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. You won’t find The Birdcage among our ranks, but you will find Paul Morrissey’s Trash, Ira Sach’s The Delta, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, and Céline Sciamma’s Tomboy. Consider the list a hat tip to what’s shaped up to be a banner LGBT year, particularly on screen, with lesbian romance Blue Is the Warmest Color taking top honors at Cannes, and Xavier Dolan releasing the masterful Laurence Anyways, which also made our cut. R. Kurt Osenlund

Summer of ‘87: Dirty Dancing, Take One

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Summer of ‘87: <em>Dirty Dancing</em>, Take One
Summer of ‘87: <em>Dirty Dancing</em>, Take One

Shot in shaky black-and-white and presented in hypnotic stop-motion, the opening sequence of Emile Ardolino’s Dirty Dancing floods the screen with a whirring array of moving bodies. They’re clutching at one another in a slowed-down frenzy that is best described by the movie’s title (itself emblazoned across the screen in a daringly pink, lipstick-on-mirror font that later turned into a bankable logo). The pervading sense of uncorked voluptuousness—barely kept in check so as not to push the movie beyond its PG-13 realm—makes the scene play like a watered-down version of Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures, itself shot in the summer of 1963 (which is when Ardolino’s film takes place). As different as it can be from Smith’s Utopia of successful gender blur, Dirty Dancing nevertheless shares a crucial quality with Creatures…: namely, it’s a sexual reverie.

What’s Underground?: The Films of Jack Smith

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What’s Underground?: The Films of Jack Smith
What’s Underground?: The Films of Jack Smith

Who was Jack Smith? A question lodged at numerous parties I’ve recently attended. But that question might fade as Jack receives renewed attention in the coming months. Nearly all of his films will find screenings throughout April at the Museum of the Moving Image, Anthology Film Archives and at the series Dirty Looks, at Participant Inc. To top it off, a large solo show, curated by Neville Wakefeild, will open May 6th at Gladstone Gallery.

Jack was an underground visionary in every sense of the word. Jack poured glitter into everything he made: pasty creatures, plastic fantasias and moldy monsters. He was a performance artist, filmmaker, playwright, photographer, socialist, aesthete, installation artist, scene-stealer, writer, interventionist. He built a theater and movie-studio in his rickety loft out of street debris; an intricate and child-like universe, Cinemaroc, was equal parts Baroque and broke. For a contingency of art and theater fags, Jack, as Charles Ludlam once eloquently put it, “is the daddy of us all.” And quixotically, the fact that he remains a somewhat underground or cult figure, as opposed to canonized creature, attests to his legacy.