Filmism.net Dispatch November 13, 2018

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Over the last few years I've been watching a lot of lesbian drama. Sounds a strange interest for a man in his late 40s to have, I know, especially since I'm not even talking about the relevant category on Pornhub. I'm talking about movies where women who don't realise their sexuality or have kept it hidden give in to it and embark on an affair with or fall in love with another woman.

I know you think you know the reason I like them, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that was one of them. Blue Is The Warmest Color contains a brain-meltingly sexy love scene that goes on for almost ten minutes and was so explicit apparently star Léa Seydoux had to wear a prosthetic vagina cover so co-star Adéle Exarchopoulos didn't get more intimate with her than either wanted.

But it's not just sexy because of the amount of boobs, butts or winsome sweeps of naked flesh on display. We're all adults here, and we all know how off-putting pornography can be when the performers are obviously just going through the motions, dead-eyed and disinterested. You want to believe people making love are experiencing enough joy and pleasure to make their toes curl, just like we all want during sex.

The sex scene in Blue Is The Warmest Color reflects the characters of Adéle and Emma, the former wide-eyed, a little nervous and embarking on a new adventure where she has to throw caution to the wind, the former more worldly, knowing who she is rather than discovering it. Adéle surrenders to her true self, Emma has self-assurance in who she is and their combined pleasure in who they are is what's sexy, not just all the jiggling and nudity.

Because as any true connoisseur of beauty knows, you don't need nudity or even sex to be sexy. Look no further than Room In Rome, in which Alba (Elena Ayana) and Natascha (Natasha Yarovenko) fall in love over the course of a heady night in a hotel room.

Russian Natascha is schooling Spaniard Alba in how to say her name properly, whispering the syllables seductively. I don't know what it was (although director Julio Medem obviously does it right with the framing and aesthetic), but when the camera zeroes in on Yarovenko whispering the sound '...sha' in her soon-to-be lover's ear, it's enough to give you heart palpitations.

But there's another, far deeper dimension to lesbian drama I love. If you saw American Beauty back in the day and Revolutionary Road more recently they have something similar. I love to see a story in which a character feels constrained by society, expectations or tradition and who breaks free and takes flight.

In American Beauty Lester Burnam (Kevin Spacey, our current understanding of him notwithstanding) finds and comes to love his true self by blackmailing his corrupt employers, starting to smoke pot and realising his life is full of unimportant clutter. The scene where he throws the couch cushion across the room and declares that it's all 'just stuff' is a moment of quiet but momentous liberation.

In Revolutionary Road, April (Kate Winslet) and Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) don't realise how much they're drifting through life on autopilot until they decide to throw caution to the wind and move to Paris despite the expectations and responsibilities that are baked into their existence. They decide that jobs and kids doesn't mean their paths are predestined and they decide to follow their dreams and live life to its exciting fullness. Watching them make the decision is like watching Lester throw the cushion. It's the beautiful moment their souls are freed.

By their very nature, the lesbian romantic dramas I've loved have been about the same thing. The best ones (Blue Is The Warmest Color, Room In Rome, Carol, Fucking Åmål/Show Me Love, Below Her Mouth) and even the ones that don't work so great (A Perfect Ending, Kissing Jessica Stein) are about a woman stifled in some way who finds herself and falls in love not just with her female lover, but herself, as if meeting her true self for the first time.

The genre comes with that inherent quality of self-discovery built in, so it's all about the promise that you can find your place in the world (or the stars) and do all the crazy things you never dreamed you'd have the courage for. Ultimately, that you can be happy.

The only mystery is why most of these movies go straight to video or VOD when the stories about gay men finding their true selves (Brokeback Mountain, Call Me By Your Name, Moonlight) seem to be awards season monsters. Is it the same reason we supposedly consider men's concerns and wishes more important that contributes to everything from the appalling gender pay disparity to the insidious reach of rape culture and the victim-blaming that comes with it?

Anyway, I thought I'd seen the best lesbian dramas around, but in researching this iteration of the Filmism.net Dispatch I realised I haven't even scratched the surface. Apart from those above there's also Circumstance and I Can't Think Straight, and I've already put Bumblefuck USA, Lianna, The Secrets, Kyss Mig, Liz in September, Better Than Chocolate, Jenny's Wedding, Cloudburst, The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love, But I'm a Cheerleader, The Handmaiden, Eloise's Lover, Lost and Delirious, High Art, Fire and Mosquita y Mari on my various lists and queues. I'll let you know how they turn out.

I've been a little bit out of the movie loop for awhile, so I'm reaching back a fair way this edition. If you missed Mission: Impossible – Fallout at cinemas it continues to hold the biggest and most successful torch for classic James Bond films, but I went very much against the grain by hating the critically beloved Lady Bird. Haven't we all seen this story of the rebellious, artistic teenager finding her place a million times?

Far more interesting was The Trust Machine. If you saw Alex (Bill and Ted) Winter's documentary Downloaded about the damage wrought by the internet on the music business, you'll get just as much out of his in-depth look at blockchain technology.

I was also (probably a little bit too) charmed by One Wild Moment, a French romantic comedy about a 40something man having an affair with his best friend's 17 year old daughter. If you know anything about my movie tastes you know an obscure Michael Caine comedy from the mid 80s called Blame it On Rio is my favourite guilty pleasure movie.

Itself remade from the 1977 French movie In a Wild Moment, the premise gets yet another modern update with Vincent Cassell playing the hapless and reluctant Lothario. Honestly (as I say in the review) it's kind of creepy, and only the French could get away with this kind of thing.

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