With San Francisco's Frameline Film Festival and LA's Outfest mere weeks away, it's that time of the year when the festival circuit gets a little queerer. And so, for those cinephiles looking to celebrate LGBT Pride Month at home, here are ten queer cinema essentials you can stream now.
"Un Chant d'Amour" (Fandor)
It seems fitting to begin with Jean Genet's shattering 1950 short about gay male desire slithering behind prison walls. Shot in illusory black-and-white, the film's highly stylized, dislocating sex scenes are as shocking today as they were then. Genet forayed into theater and literature many times throughout his life as a libertine in France -- from his play "The Maids" to the bewitching novel "Our Lady of the Flowers" -- but this song of love was his only cinematic effort, and one he would come to loathe as much as he did his own skin.
A straight-and-narrow lawyer, happily married to a woman, is blackmailed by a community of conspirators when his secret life in the gay closet is mistakenly outed. Often left out of the queer canon, Basil Dearden's radical British masterpiece spit on the face of social nicety in 1961 when it became one of the first films to use the word "homosexual" in English -- in other words, movies were finally starting to name the thing they had been suggesting all along.
"The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant" (Hulu)
In 1972, German workhorse R.W. Fassbinder adapted this fascinating, devastating film from his own psychologically charged play about the tectonic shifts happening below the surface of female relationships. The whole film takes place in woebegone fashionista Petra's (Margit Carstensen) garish apartment, with the camera nimbly circumventing then, finally, fully inhabiting the contradictory feelings of love and hate stirring between three women. (Also check out Fassbinder's Genet adaptation "Querelle.")
Todd Haynes' 1991 Sundance revelation is a trilogy of mythic tales -- and an open wound of gay agony that the world, at that time, urgently needed to see. One story is a mockumentary parable about a lonely little boy who could fly; another is a B-movie-style sci-fi horror story about sexuality gone leprously awry; and the third is a luminous retelling of gay prison novel "The Miracle of the Rose" by Jean Genet, to whom all these filmmakers are, in one way or another, indebted.
"Love Is The Devil" (Amazon)
Is there a more beautifully upsetting gay love story in all of cinema? Watching Derek Jacobi and Daniel Craig batter each other emotionally and physically is a gloomy pleasure in John Maybury's 1998 take on the life of expressionist painter Francis Bacon. Originally made for British television, and an Un Certain Regard contender at Cannes, the film contains eerie visuals to die for, and a million dollar bathtub shot you won't want to miss.