Three movies may be too many for a single day...
But first a quick word of explanation to someone who should not need it.
The resigning Bishop of Rochester has complained of "secularist agendas which marginalise all faith but seem especially hostile to Christianity." No dear, we are not especially hostile to Christianity; it's just that, in this country at this time with an established church, it is Christianity which, on a day to day basis, currently has the power to hardm me and mine and so we get our retaliation in first as often as we can...Other religions wish us ill, but have less power; if they get it, we will sneer at them as well. As we do already, just not as much as we do at the Established Church.
In terms of real power, any talk of a secularist agenda is self-pitying nonsense by conservative Christians; most of what they are complaining about is the restriction of their right to impose their views on the rest of us by not eg doing jobs that they are paid to do.
The irony is, that he is throwing in his See in order to work on the question of real persecution of Christian minorities, something in which I can wish him more or less well.
It's not been a good day for religious believers at the film festival. I Can't Think Straight
had Jordanian Christian, and Indian Muslim, parents trying to keep two young women from coming out and being together; Steam
had obnoxious Catholic parents trying to control the choices of their lesbian daughter: Bi The Way
had occasional bigots in the mix in its discussion of the putative growth of bisexuality as an identity among the young. In both the fictional cases, they talked about God and His Laws, but what they actually meant was Social Embarassment, that most universally worshipped of idols.I Can't Think Straight
is a slightly tendentious rom-com with some appalling over-acting and an over-fondness for the joke about the oppressed servant who always spits in the matriarch's drinks and practically orgasms with glee when the lesbian daughter comes out. You couldn't possibly dislike it because the feel-good factor, and indeed the hotness factor, were both so intense and because it is a sanitized happy version of the writer-director and the producer's own experiences and true life love story. That doesn't mean it is especially good, but hey! I still quite like several of the Richard Curtis rom-coms and I don't confuse that with those being good either.Steam
is a neatly female-centred portmanteau film about three women confronting their destinies with the only link between their stories being that they sometimes chat in a Turkish bath, but don't exchange confidences. I liked it, but the issues dial kept going up to 11 and none of the bad guys - and there was a bad guy in each story - ever saw a moustache they did not want to twirl. Ageing widow Doris meets a widower whose lawyer son disapproves of the relationship - they are happy for a while, but he dies, and she has to console his son. A divorcee struggles for custody with her ex-husband who left her for a trophy bimbo, but gets upset when she has an affair with the boy's football coach; she starts fighting back and does not confuse the affair with true love. A young woman keeps her lesbianism from her religious parents and discovers political commitment even though her lover cheats on her with a boy; arrested at a needle-exchange, she refuses to be bailed by her parents.
The over-wrought parallels and thumping home of Messages are largely redeemed by the performances - especially Ally Sheedy as the football mom. God she is good and just as beautiful and talented as she was in The Breakfast Club
; I wish we saw her in more films. And Ruby Dee as Doris is so good that she actually gets away with what ought to have been the most OTT ending imaginable - she goes home from the hospital, opens up the piano she has neglected since her first loss, and sings 'Amazing Grace' in her old cracked voice. And broke my heart.Bi the Way
was full of good stuff without actually being all that good a documentary. I loved the ten-year-old Josh keen to get on with his gay dad and so horrifically precocious that I doubt somehow that he is going to be straight. Sixteen-year old Pam got thrown out by her father for her bisexuality - such great religion that causes people to throw their children away! There was an irritating couple of swingers who sent me to sleep a couple of times; and a smug actor boy who got on with his parents, which was nice, but not interesting; and a young African-American dancer worried that prolonged exposure to gay men might make him much queenier than he already was - which was moderately.
And some researchers denied male bisexuality because their studies of reaction to porn showed no heterosexual arousal in bisexual-identified men - and were gratifyingly mocked by the man from the Kinsey institute for poor methodology and bad definitions of what they were looking for. Dan Savage was in it; may I say, as someone who has been out and active since the 70s, how colossally embarassing and oppressive I find that bloody man. He is just as cock-sure as the Rush Limbaughs of this world and the fact that he does it in the name of a notionally gay liberationist position does not make him any more tolerable. He also committed the night's worst mixed metaphor when he said that the Madonna-Britney kiss 'held up a mirror to society and gave it a blow-job'. What does that even mean?
Irritated as I was by some of the mild creepiness on display from bi boys and that whiny 'I don't like labels, they're so limiting' cliche, I found Savage's sneers at their expense so enraging that I was slightly ashamed of myself for that irritation. Which is as it should be.
Of all the things that happened last year at Pride, the thing which rankles most with me still is not my own bad experiences but the idiotic gay men who heckled the bi marchers with a cry of 'Make your mind up'.
Because they already did - which is why they were there.