Sub-titled “a coming out of queer cinema,” Andre Schafer’s “Here’s Looking at You, Boy” is enjoyable entertainment for fest viewers and the cable and DVD crowd interested in taking a fast trip down memory lane. The road is pretty short, however, since the documentary journey begins in the 1970s with “the first films to mention gays positively,” a historically questionable assertion if ever there was one. Geographically, too, the film limits itself mostly to Europe and the U.S., ignoring the action in Asia and beyond.
Following in the tracks of “The Celluloid Closet” (1995) and last year’s “Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema,” this roundup is best viewed as a quite watchable filmmaker’s notebook of familiar gay titles and cheery interviews that should fulfill the goals of its consortium of small screen producers. Repeated refs to Berlin programmer Wieland Speck and the Teddy awards, as well San Francisco’s Frameline fest, highlight the increasing popularity of gay cinema on the festival circuit.
Defining queer to mean “not fitting a pattern,” former journalist Schafer intercuts arresting film clips with judiciously edited interviews, including big fish John Waters, Gus Van Sant and Tilda Swinton. The sizzling Waters casts himself as a veteran on the scene (his anarchic comedy “Pink Flamingos” dates from the pre-history of 1972) but comments he doesn’t feel like a gay filmmaker, because “being gay isn’t enough.”
Van Sant recounts his fight to preserve the shower scene with the two boys in “Elephant,” while recalling that he was originally slated to direct “Brokeback Mountain” with stars like Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.
Derek Jarmon’s muse Swinton, who played the gender-shifting title charcter in “Orlando” alongside Quentin Crisp as Queen Elizabeth I, has much to say against opting for a fixed sexual identity.
Euro films are staunchly repped in Wolfgang Petersen’s “The Consequence,” Paul Verhoeven’s “The Fourth Man” and Stephen Frears “My Beautiful Laundrette,” plus nods to Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Rosa Von Praunheim. On the U.S. side of the pond, Bill Sherwood’s New York-set story “Parting Glances” (1985) is justly celebrated.