Gay Directors, Gay Films?

Emanuel Levy. Columbia Univ., $35 (392p) ISBN 978-0-231-15276-1
In this comparative study of the lives and work of five openly gay present-day filmmakers, film historian and critic Levy (All About Oscar) asserts that the directors and their work have relevance outside the niche of gay cinema. Though similar in many ways, they are a diverse group, and Levy’s characterizations of them in chapter titles are spot-on. Pedro Almodóvar (“Spain’s Enfant Terrible”) is given the most in-depth treatment as Levy traces his development from an early “flamboyant bad boy” attitude through mid-career masterpieces to his recent, more idiosyncratic films. Britain’s Terence Davies (“Subjective Memoirist”) is known for adaptations of classics such as Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. Todd Haynes (“Deconstructive Queer Cinema”) consistently plays against audience expectations, and whose films tend to have a gay sensibility without overtly tackling gay subject matter. Gus Van Sant (“Poet of Lost and Alienated Youth”) has had successful forays into the mainstream with films like Good Will Hunting, but remains primarily an auteur with an outsider’s perspective. Finally, John Waters (“Queer as Trash and Camp”) began his career as a purveyor of self-declared bad taste, but his later films have a core of sweetness. Levy’s prose leans toward the pedantic, but his treatment of his subjects is comprehensive, and his passion always shines through. A helpful filmography concludes each chapter, and there is an extensive bibliography. This book is well-suited for the cinematic omnivore and the armchair aesthete. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/15/2015
Release date: 08/01/2015
Paperback - 392 pages - 978-0-231-15277-8
Ebook - 392 pages - 978-0-231-52653-1
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