"Far From Heaven"
Julianne Moore and Todd Haynes prove the second time's a charm with their sophomore collaboration (he first directed her in "Safe") "Far From Heaven." Done in the style of a Douglas Sirk ("All That Heaven Allows," "Imitation of Life") lush melodrama, "Far From Heaven" stars a never-better Moore as a 1950's housewife whose idyllic life begins to crumble after discovering her husband (an affecting Dennis Quaid) locked in a heated embrace with another man in his office, after hours. Being the 1950's, he expresses regret when confronted by his wife and agrees to see a psychiatrist to 'cure' his ways. Haynes does Sirk proud while elevating Sirk's style beyond its artifice to ground "Far From Heaven" in real, profound emotions. And Moore delivers the performance of her career. [Nigel M. Smith]
Arguably John Waters best film, there's nothing particularly LGBT about "Female Trouble" save for the fact that its directed by Waters and stars his drag queen muse, Divine. But considering the collective contribution of these iconic figures of American queer culture, that's more than enough to warrant inclusion of this or any of their films. The film gives us the extraordinary cinematic gift that is Dawn Davenport (Divine), one of the trashiest girls to ever hit the silver screen. Following her evolution from schoolgirl to fame-obsessed mass murderer, "Female Trouble" is a delicious, disgusting and bizarrely insightful riot. [Peter Knegt]
In the first film in Deepa Mehta's Elements trilogy, the Indian-Canadian filmmaker tells the story of two women who were not fulfilled in their marriages (played by Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das). The two couples are getting ready to start families in Delhi, but the women are having second thoughts about the contracts they entered into. To make up for the lack of love in their lives, the two find love in each other. Finding inspiration in Ismat Chugtai's pre-Parittion short story "The Quilt," Mehta shows two women fiercely in love with each other, ending with a "trial by fire" right out of the Ramayana. The film was released in the middle of the rise of the Hindu right, especially the ultra-conservative Shiv Sena, who protested the film when it debuted in India. [Bryce J. Renninger]
At first glance, Paul Morrissey's "Flesh" isn't a movie so much as a vintage beefcake editorial at 24 frames per second. The delicious, barely legal Joe Dallesandro is in every scene and spends much of his screen time completely nude. The film is composed of sharp jump cuts and formless, improvised scenes shot with no money on weekends. However, "Flesh," a day-in-the-life film about a bisexual hustler has a powerful immediacy, starkly representing an intersection of straight and gay worlds during the Stonewall era. It's a gutsy film for 1968. It's about gay sex, and it upends years of cinematic voyeurism with its central male nude. Plus, it's got a hilarious scene with Warhol's gorgeous trans superstars Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis. [Austin Dale]