Querelle 1982 Directed by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Sailors, thieves, and murder.
The 1982 movie was the final film of the storied Rainer Werner Fassbinder and it’s one of his most personal. While based on the dense and difficult Jean Genet novel, Querelle De Brest, it’s filtered through Fassbinder’s own life experience and the fact he’d come to realise that he was gay himself (he had a rather complex sexuality). It’s an impressive mix, keeping the philosophical literary pretensions of Genet, while turning a book most thought was unfilmable into something that feels almost like a trip into one man’s mind. —Big Gay Picture Show
Wild Reeds 1994 André Téchiné
Sexual awakening during the Algerian War.
Telling the stories of four young adolescents at a boarding school, Téchiné manages to raise issues with such a light, careful touch that his script never becomes about the issues instead of its specific circumstances. I can’t think of many other films that deal with war, political strife, or homosexuality, as thoroughly as this one does without overstepping into dogmatic lecturing. There’s so much astute observation and nuance in the portrayals of the characters here that when you combine it with the excellent ensemble acting (with an especially good turn by Élodie Bouchez, as Maïté, the only girl in the group of lead characters), you’re almost willing to forgive every imaginable flaw. —Movie Martyr
Broken Sky 2006 Julián Hernández
The pain and longing within a love triangle.
There are some really appealing and good-looking young actors in “Broken Sky,” which centers on the love affair of two university students, Gerardo (Miguel Angel Hoppe) and Jonas (Fernando Arroyo). They have sex, study together and hang out at clubs. Life is good until Jonas, in a moment of lust, becomes obsessed with another boy and begins to tune out Gerardo. Confused and angry (brooding is more of an accurate description — a lot of brooding in this film), Gerardo begins an affair with another student, Sergio (Alejandro Rojo). —SFGate
Tropical Malady 2004 Apichatpong Weerasethakul
A Thai folk-tale romance in the woods.
The lushly beautiful Tropical Malady evokes the overwhelming nature of desire: even in the quirky early scenes between the lovers, there’s the sense of intense feelings that are on the brink of erupting, and it’s after they have licked one another’s fingers that Tong silently wanders off into the darkness. Later as Keng’s pursuit of his quarry leaves him battered and bruised, he’s encouraged by a talking baboon to kill a tiger “to free him from this world or let him devour you to enter his world”. The leisurely storytelling may frustrate some viewers, yet this mysterious film succeeds in casting its own sensual spell. —BBC
Lost and Delirious 2001 Léa Pool
Inspired by The Wives of Bath by Susan Swan, set at an all-girls boarding school.
Lost and Delirious” is a hymn to teenage idealism and hormones. It has been reviewed as a movie about steamy lesbian sex in a girls’ boarding school, which is like reviewing Secretariat on the basis of what he does in the stable. The truest words in the movie are spoken by Paulie, the school rebel, when she says she is not a lesbian because her love rises above mere categories and exists as a transcendent ideal. —RogerEbert.com
Maurice 1987 James Ivory
Thwarted romance and sexual repression during the Edwardian era.
Maurice’s and Alec’s main strain isn’t sex but class. Forthright Alex is from the rural lower class, Maurice is a stockbroker. They must meet furtively — in hotel rooms or the boathouse of Clive’s country home. The potential for true love seems limited. But Maurice, at least, is liberated. And so are the heterosexuals among us. While “Maurice” is only a modest artistic success, it gains ground in affirming love between men on the screen. You figure, if we can watch soldiers’ guts splashing on the camera lens in “Platoon” or women being raped elsewhere, homosexuality should be a relative breeze. —Washington Post
Get Real 1998 Simon Shore
Based on the play What’s Wrong with Angry? by screenwriter Patrick Wilde.
Although “Get Real,” adapted from a play by Patrick Wilde, has its sudsy moments, it offers a far more realistic and compelling vision of teen-age growing pains and peer pressure than any of the recent high-school movies from Hollywood. —New York Times
Head On 1998 Ana Kokkinos
A repressed Greek youth finding himself through a series of sexual encounters in Melbourne.
Though his stern, self-consciously macho demeanor is difficult to read, over the eventful course of 24 hours, his fitful encounters with other characters provide some clues to his psyche. Head On’s explicit, intensely physical sex scenes are a testament to Dimitriades’ overwhelming desire, but he keeps his distance from two out friends—flaming Greek drag queen Paul Capsis and level-headed college student Julian Garner—and entertains the idea of a phony “normal” marriage with a drug-addicted lesbian. His knowing hypocrisy creates an anxious knot at the film’s center, and Kokkinos exploits it to gripping effect. —A.V. Club
Go Fish 1994 Rose Troche
Opposites attract in a heartfelt indie lesbian drama.
Go Fish’s novelty lies in its milieu. The movie looks at love and match-making from within the lesbian community. It follows a contemporary group of five friends and their, shall we say, fishing expeditions. This Chicago-set, low-budget, black-and-white, lesbian romantic comedy is a groundbreaking work for both its naturalism and its protagonists. Though the subject matter may be familiar, we have never seen lesbian romance in the movies portrayed quite like this. Most often, we have seen stories of unrequited love, coming out sagas, or frustrating tales of love and desire between lesbians and straight women. But with Go Fish we have a commercial, contemporary lesbian romance that looks and sounds like the world we know and recognize. —Austin Chronicle
The Sea Purple 2009 Donatella Maiorca
Examining gender roles in a 19th-century Italian village. Based on Giacomo Pilati’s book Minchia di re, a true story.
Italian helmer Donatella Maiorca’s 19th-century Sapphic costumer, “Purple Sea,” goes way over the top and yet is based on true events: When a woman refuses to renounce her lesbian lover, the church and ruling aristocracy are blackmailed into declaring her a man, despite all evidence to the contrary. Complex class and gender politics make the film’s one-note love story seem simplistic by comparison, despite the beauty and sensuality of the femme leads. Operatic Sicilian meller, driven by Gianna Nannini’s swelling, rhapsodic score, has generated buzz on the gay circuit, but crossover appeal seems limited. —Variety