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Guest Post: A Perfect Ending — Lesbian Film, Art House Film or Both?

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by Nicole Conn
February 5, 2013 10:00 AM
7 Comments
  • |

So what is it that makes a movie a lesbian movie?   Does it require lesbians playing the roles of the characters?  Does the director have to be gay? Is there a quota of girl on girl “action” that determines the “gayness” of the film?  If it had been directed by men like the Bound (the former Wachowski Brothers), Lianna (John Sayles), or Personal Best, (Robert Towne), would A Perfect Ending have had a different trajectory?

And what’s the point of this question because shouldn’t every movie have a good story, excellent actors, a soaring score and just be a damn good movie?  No filmmaker wants their films to be diminished by any niche, lesbian or otherwise, yet the case is that there are not enough of “this type” of movies. Personally, I think this is the time, more than any other, for movies just to be categorized by the following: good, bad or indifferent.

I’m not kvetching. I’m a lesbian, proud of it, and proud of my company Soul Kiss Films.  I love all our lesbian fans and all the lesbians who donated to help get A Perfect Ending made as an almost entirely crowd-sourced film.

I just want to understand. When Ellen DeGeneres has an empire rivaling Oprah’s, when Jodie Foster can cavalierly add “oh yeah, and I’m gay” in her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, and when Rachel Maddow is one of TV’s most respected political journalists, when do our films get to belong? Why have we not have our own Brokeback Mountain?

I was deliriously captivated by A Perfect Ending because I was so certain it would crossover.  I had just finished Elena Undone which holds the record for longest on screen kiss in cinema history, and was feeling very empowered that it’s by two women. I thought to myself, surely A Perfect Ending is an entirely different kind of story so will at least be categorized as an indie/art-house film.

The response was “Maybe in Europe,” from our sales agents said as I tried to convince them that there are so many universal things about this film and a high concept hook that should help us cross the chasm…

Elegant and extremely uptight Rebecca (Barbara Niven) endures an excruciatingly pulseless marriage to irascible Mason (John Heard). She has a daughter from a previous marriage and two sons with Mason and fills her days with meaningless errands and Vodka. How much more universal does it get than family dysfunction, better living through chemistry and ugly secrets?  Rebecca reluctantly shares a secret she’s kept even from her best friends: She has never had an orgasm. One of them comes up with an unorthodox but perfect solution: Rebecca should hire an escort – a female escort: “they are so much more familiar with the manual.”  What ensues is a number of humorous missteps between Rebecca and Paris until they both find themselves drawn to one another and their ever-deepening connection leads them both to face their darkest truth.

In our first test screening 160 people were asked to categorize A Perfect Ending from five choices: LGBT, Indie, Art house, European, Mainstream.   They were also asked to state their sexual identity. 59 people thought the film was LGBT – all 59 were gay.  101 people marked, “indie” “art house” or “European.”  All 101 were straight.  The box:  “everyone should see this film.” All checked yes.

From my perspective, A Perfect Ending is BOTH an Art House film AND a Lesbian film which should be seen and enjoyed by all audiences. While it’s sad that most of the film’s audience will never see this feature in a theater; having a worldwide digital release has enabled the film to reach viewers across the planet and it has “crossed over” in ways that were unimaginable even five years ago when we released Elena Undone.

A Perfect Ending is newly available on DVD and Digital from Wolfe Video. Look for it at fine retailers everywhere including such popular outlets as Amazon, Netflix, iTunes and, of course, WolfeOnDemand.com!

____________________________________

Novelist and filmmaker Nicole Conn joins Wolfe Video for their sixth movie release together with A Perfect Ending. Conn's previous films released by Wolfe include her legendary lesbian drama, Claire of the Moon, her multi-award winning documentary little man, Moments: The Making of Claire of the Moon, Cynara: Poetry in Motion, and the hugely popular 2010 romance Elena Undone.

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7 Comments

  • Mary | February 6, 2013 5:13 PMReply

    True, "A Perfect Ending” is a love/empowerment story that deserves to be seen on a wider platform. Asking why can’t the cowgirl version of the Brokeback Mountain narrative become a reality is a legitimate question. My first reaction to that is, of course, money. Not the multimillion dollar production budget, but the multimillion dollar advertising budget. Can you imagine what Perfect Ending could be accomplished in today’s social media world with a $5 million marketing budget?

    I remember that Brokeback started small with a VERY limited engagement and let the buzz create the media. Officially, the movie was never billed as a gay film, the viewing community, on both sides of the political and social fringe, applied the labels. Did the controversy from blow-hards like Limbaugh help? Absolutely. There is no bad publicity. People saw the movie because of the controversy, they liked the movie because it was good, really good. The cinematography is beautiful, the subject matter at its root of star-crossed lovers is emotionally familiar, and the acting is incredible. I remember more nationally respected Conservatives (unlike Limbaugh) publicly announce their surprise at how much they were moved by the movie. Though quick to point out their disdain for a same-sex romantic pairing, they also had to admit how lost in the drama and pain they had become. So, the big question is how can the crossover appeal of Brokeback be accomplished with a lower budge indie film like A Perfect Ending? Perhaps the another question is, Was Brokeback ever a crossover at all?

    In “A Perfect Ending”, the acting is certainly there. Barbara Niven as Rebecca is so raw, so believable, so broken in human spirit that she has me at her first debilitated sigh. I could actually smell the vodka on her breath. Does the fact that she has never experienced an orgasm with a man make her a lesbian? Or does the fact that Rebecca’s eyes finally roll back in her head at the experienced touch of beautiful woman make her bisexual? Frankly, I don’t care. It doesn’t have to be gay, it just has to be good.

    The challenge lies in the marketing. Once the label is applied, there is no going back. Let’s face it, Nicole, you have the Sapphic sisterhood in your back pocket...ok, maybe your clutch. Look at some of the comments already; “I’ve watched the film three times...six times” There is so little available content depicting a romantic female/female relationship that as long as the outcome doesn’t involve another beating, battering, or beheading, I’m going to watch...and watch over and over again. What I hear you saying is that you want the so-called straight consumer to experiment a little...don’t we all. Marketing the movie in a certain way (indie film festivals, suburban independent theaters, urban playhouses) can certainly lead the hoards to water, but it’s the searing human condition that will make it want a drink. That’s why movies with a certain controversial subject matter often times have two trailers, an abridged one for the American audience, and a European one that is more liberal in its messaging. Most are going to tell me that we shouldn’t have to do that, and you’re right. But this is America; wake up and smell the conservatism.

    In the end, labels are only beneficial on canned beans and couture. It probably comes at no great surprise that I prefer my entertainment naked.

  • aaron krohn | February 6, 2013 10:06 AMReply

    I've now seen "A Perfect Ending" 6 times!
    I've seen both "COTM" and "Elena Undone" many times!!
    As a 68 year old white male hetero, I watch "lesbian" movies" for a few reasons.
    One, the sex. Let's face it, lesbian sex is erotic, but it's also very romantic.
    Two, female relationships, whether they include sex or are platonic friendships, are usually much more intimate than male-female or male-male (non-gay) relationships.
    Three, there is a certain thrill I get at seeing a straight woman seduced into having lesbian sex, especially when the women have been BFF.
    "Elena" is a "lesbian movie".
    Why?
    Because it has a die-hard lesbian as one of its two main characters.
    (Even though Peyton had done the "straight thing" through her early 20's!)
    But once you get past the lesbian leanings, you have in "Elena" a romance, a relationship, pure and simple!
    Instead of boy meets girl, boy and girl have problems, boy marries girl, you have girl meets girl, girl and girl have problems, girl and girl live happily ever after!
    Bravo!
    In "A.P.E" (what an odd acronym for a "woman's film"!!), you don't even HAVE a lesbian in the film!!
    Rebecca surely isn't!! (Although some of her best friends ARE!)
    And neither is Paris! (What a GREAT name for an exotic "European" woman!!)
    She'd had lesbian sex before Rebecca came along, but it was only as part of her job as a high-end call girl!!
    I assume most of her clients were male!
    Also, she'd had a boyfriend, and they had sex.
    No, they were NOT lesbians when they met, and, at the end, they still weren't!
    They were LOVERS, again pure and simple!
    I see "A Perfect Ending" (Let's drop that beastly acronym, shall we??!!) as being more a "woman's film" and a "European film"
    It's surely NOT a "lesbian movie", since both women are straight!
    And I have a strong distaste for "art-house" films! (Or is that "cinema"? UGH!)
    To me, "art-house" cinema (sic!) are unintelligible, artsy-fartsy, and, worst of all, BORING!!
    (Think "Blow-up"!)
    European movies have intelligent dialogue, beautiful women (and scenery!(, and (usually) more graphic nudity and sex than do American films.
    I LOVE the movies "Before Sunrise/Before Sunset"!
    They have the great conversations, the beautiful woman (Julie Delpy), and great Viennese and Parisian backdrops.
    The only thing "lacking" is the graphic sex and nudity!
    But, in those two movies, who needs it??
    "A Perfect Ending" HAD to have the "graphic" sex and nudity.
    After all, the main reason Rebecca went for a call girl was to have her first orgasm!!
    (And WOW, did she ever have one!!!)
    I LOVE "A Perfect Ending".
    And after 6 viewings (so far!!), I'm undertstanding it better than ever.
    (Although I'd love it if Nicole would pen a "novelization" of it, as she did so wonderfully with "COTM" and, especially, "Elena Undone"!! (The latter is one of favorite novels...of ANY kind!!)
    Congratulations, Nicole.!

  • Linn D. | February 6, 2013 1:01 PM

    Fascinating. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Mr. Krohn.

  • Dawn Bellville | February 6, 2013 8:16 AMReply

    Saw this movie in Provincetown during Women's Week. This was a beautifully made film. The cinematography was amazing, as were the visualizations and depth of emotions. All were wonderfully portrayed. The actresses were real and believable in their roles. Thank you for this breathtaking and heartfelt experience.

  • Lynn Hawkes | February 6, 2013 3:12 AMReply

    Great movie, really loved it, really moved me, well done to all involved. I've watched it 3 times already, I have lost count of how many times I have watched Elena Undone, also an amazing film. I own all your films and can't wait for your next project. Thanks for making such lovely, high quality films.

  • Susan Schendel | February 5, 2013 11:54 PMReply

    Nicely written blog, Nicole. A Perfect Ending is a beautiful movie - a wonderful and very funny love story for both gay and straight. It's been interesting and frustrating for me to try and get my straight pals to watch Elena Undone and A Perfect Ending. The are oddly resistant ...I keep telling them that I really enjoy a man/woman love story if it's well done, why couldn't they enjoy a well done lesbian themed love story? You can tell they just haven't thought of it that way. It's so surprising to me STILL! I really can't thank you enough for bringing us these quality films.

  • Susan Schendel | February 5, 2013 11:54 PMReply

    *They are oddly resistant

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