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My Beautiful Laundrette (#110 of 3)

New York Film Festival 2013: Le Week-end Review

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New York Film Festival 2013: <em>Le Week-end</em> Review
New York Film Festival 2013: <em>Le Week-end</em> Review

Nick and Meg have barely stepped off the Eurostar in Roger Michell’s Le Week-end when it becomes evident that nothing bodes well for their hope of recapturing the magic of their honeymoon in Paris from 30 years before. The steps of Montmartre seem so much steeper, the hotel in which they once stayed has been tawdrily refurbished, but, most importantly, the middle-aged English couple, played with consummate skill by Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan, have reached a point in their married life where they can only irritate the hell out of each other.

Le Week-end is written by Hanif Kureishi, who in the mid ’80s, with movies like My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Roise Get Laid, delighted in being one of the bad boys of independent British cinema. Now two years shy of 60, which makes him about the same age as his characters, he’s writing in a more mature and introspective vein. Le Week-end is a portrait of a failing marriage, where the two partners, having endured a monogamous life together, are now questioning whether or not they should remain together. Meg can’t seem to summon up anything but scorn for her husband, a once-promising academic soon to lose his job at a community college in Birmingham. For his part, Nick is painfully aware that he’s totally dependent on his wife, and that he hasn’t lived up to his own potential. “I’m amazed at how mediocre I have turned out to be,” he remarks ruefully at one point.

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 ‘86: My Beautiful Laundrette

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Summer of ‘86: <em>My Beautiful Laundrette</em>
Summer of ‘86: <em>My Beautiful Laundrette</em>

Nineteen eighty-six never seemed as far away as it did when I rewatched My Beautiful Laundrette. What I remembered most fondly about Stephen Frears’ film is the sexual relationship between Omar (Gordon Warnecke) and Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis), the former school chum Omar hires to do his dirty work after his uncle gives him a laundromat to manage. The film’s straight-ahead treatment of that relationship, which is neither pathologized nor played for titillation but simply shown as a fact of both boys’ lives, was a boundary that still needed busting in those days. It made Laundrette an instant classic for me, one of those movies that validates your life experience and worldview at a point when it needs validating, making you feel as if you are not just seeing but being seen as you watch it. Seen now, without that brave-new-world charge, the sex scenes seem a little stagey and the chemistry between Omar and Johnny feels lame—especially in the final scene where the two splash water on each other’s bare chests, as self-conscious as bad actors in a porno.

Screenwriter Hanif Kureishi, like Omar, is a native Englishman with an Indian father and an English mother, and his insider’s perspective on the pain of assimilation was also pretty new—and much needed—when the movie came out. I remember absorbing what his screenplay had to say about the xenophobia and cultural dislocation endured by Indian immigrants in Maggie Thatcher’s England almost as if I were watching a Frontline documentary. Now that that perspective is no longer so rare in our media universe, what stands out for me is the didacticism of the script’s expository dialogue. Omar’s Indian relatives are forever making declamatory statements like: “In this damn country, which we hate and love, you can get anything you want. It’s all spread out and available. … You have to know how to squeeze the tits of the system.” Even one of Johnny’s ignorant, Paki-bashing friends gets into the act, warning him: “Don’t cut yourself off from your own people…everyone needs to belong.”