SIGNINGS - DISCUSSIONS
TALKS - PRESENTATIONS
Foreword by Simon Callow
'This is a must for any fan of gay movies…'
- Zone Magazine
Steven Paul Davies is a writer and broadcaster based in Manchester. He was the youngest ever news presenter on national commercial radio, presenting on Virgin Radio UK, but left to set up the successful national PR company One Media. He is the author of Alex Cox: Film Anarchist, Brat Pack: Confidential, A-Z Cult Films and Filmmakers, The Prisoner Handbook and Get Carter and Beyond: The Cinema of Mike Hodges.
|release date:||23 October 2008|
|binding:||pb with flaps|
|format:||246 X 189mm|
|images:||colour and b&w throughout|
For a review copy, or for further information,
please contact: Alexandra Bolton
using our contact form
|Publisher: Kamera Books
PO Box 394
Herts AL5 1XJ
Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1582 766348
UK Distribution: Turnaround
3 Olympia Trading Estate
London N22 6TZ
Tel: +44 (0)208 829 3000
Fax: +44 (0)208 881 5088
This is an essential purchase.
read the full review >>
- OUT NorthWest
Steven Paul Davies will be no stranger to outnorthwest readers as he wrote a fascinating piece for our recent Movie Issue around Hollywood’s portrayal of gay issues. This impressive book charts the progress of the film industry in its portrayal of our community - from politicised films such as Victim in the 60’s, through to the AIDS cinema of the 80’s, and beyond. The book also includes information on gay filmmakers and actors and their influence within the industry. Interspersed throughout the book are some of the most iconic scenes from gay cinema and the most memorable dialogue from key films. Whether you’re a film fan or not, this is an essential purchase.
This is a must for any fan of gay movies… Out at the Movies is the ultimate guide to gay cinema and the films that define it.
- Zone Magazine
This is a must for any fan of gay movies… Out at the Movies is the ultimate guide to gay cinema and the films that define it
If you thought porn was the only type of gay film about then Steven Paul Davies' new book will be your revelation.
read the full review >>
If you thought porn was the only type of gay film about then Steven Paul Davies' new book will be your revelation. Diverse gay characters in decent gay films do exist you know and Davies is here to celebrate them as he writes about his love for indie films, the avant garde, bad boys, camp comedies, musicals, gay rom-coms and more. It's your potted history of gay films so go educate yourself by getting your hands on this.
A new book about homosexuality on film will strike chords with many bashful Brits
read the full review >>
- Guy Dammann, The Guardian
In 1960, the British housewife's favourite pin-up, Dirk Bogarde, made a decision that would all but destroy his existing career. The actor now best remembered for his roles in tense studies of society's hidden underbelly had before then been famous as the heart-throb star of unchallenging comedies and romances, the staple, sugar-coated fare so essential to propping up the uneasy peace of 1950s normalcy. But then he signed up to play the part of Melville Farr, a gay barrister who decides to expose a gang who are blackmailing him with evidence of an illegal homosexual attachment, at the cost of his career, reputation and marriage.
When it came out in 1961, Victim, directed by Basil Dearden, provoked responses of disgust from the press, public and even members of its own production crew. It was the first film in which the quintessential cinematic line "I love you" found itself being addressed to one man by another, and in which therefore the emotional lives of gay men were represented as being in sync with heterosexual "normality" – rather than, as was usual, as emanating from a seedy, topsy-turvy world bearing no discernible relation to the feelings and lives of "the rest of us." In this respect, the course of Bogarde's career wasn't the only thing altered irrevocably by the film – although Bogarde, who never publicly came out as gay, always maintained there was nothing autobiographical in his performance – for Victim is credited in part for paving the way for the Sexual Offences Act of 1967, ending the blanket proscription of sex between men that had existed in British legislation since 1885.
It's a rare thing this. While lovers of the cinematic arts are used to seeing the world and its web of dreams, fears and desires reflected on the flickering screen, when it comes to politics, and above all sexual politics, the medium has for many proved a disappointment. Indeed, while Hollywood actors have become accustomed of late to wearing their political liberalism on their sleeves, the average movie release still draws on visions of gender and social relations that were probably already unfashionable at the dawn of the iron age. However much you shuffle the pack, the man with the gun and the girl with the pretty hair-do always seem to come back to the top.
It took 40 years after Victim before a gay sex scene was shown in mainstream cinema with anything approaching the candour with which heterosexual sex is now routinely displayed. Brokeback Mountain, and its now legendary tale of chaps in chaps, not only won three Oscars but brought tears to eyes that would hitherto have been averted as if in response to some mortal threat.
Brokeback Mountain and Victim are both given a starring role in a new book about the history of gay cinema. Following a rather gushy preface by Simon Callow, author Steven Paul Davies displays a well-judged queer eye for numerous ostensibly straight films, showing on a movie-by-movie basis how gay and lesbian sensibilities find themselves reflected throughout the history of modern society's love affair with celluloid. While evidently targeted at a gay readership – no prizes for guessing the colour of the cover – Out at the Movies presents us with a rare case of something genuinely progressive having been aided and abetted by commercial cinema.
I was, for many years, one of those who looked away. It wasn't that I wanted to, or that there was any genuine homophobia in my attitudes. Yet I simply found I just couldn't quite cope with the sight of Rupert Everett canoodling with Michael Jenn in Another Country, or Daniel Day Lewis getting it on with Gordon Warnecke in My Beautiful Laundrette. Now, though, with the progress of cinema's slow journey out of the closet and the gentle readjustment of my sensibilities - and perhaps those of millions of others, too – I can, with pleasure.
So as a man with a straight eye for a queer film, may I say thanks a bunch. It is rare that one can speak of cinema as being genuinely "improving", but in the case of gay films I can certainly say watching them has improved me.
A detailed decade-by-decade look at the movies, actors and directors who defined each period, with plenty of gems for your 'to watch' list.
- Gay Times
It's 23 years since the late Vito Russo published his groundbreaking book about homosexuality in the movies, The Celluloid Closet...
read the full review >>
- Paul Burston, The Independent on Sunday
It's 23 years since the late Vito Russo published his groundbreaking book about homosexuality in the movies, The Celluloid Closet. Later made into a documentary featuring everyone from Susan Sarandon to Harry Hamlin, the book has certainly dated. Read today, it seems awfully prescriptive. Russo's central thesis, that gay men and women have always been portrayed as one-dimensional figures, may have appeared true at the time, but fails to allow for the fact that some gay films, for example the much-maligned The Boys in the Band, were actually written by gay men who knew only too well the self-loathing stereotypes they were describing. Russo also forgets that one man's "negative image" might be another man's "own special creation", to quote from the popular gay anthem "I Am What I Am". But The Celluloid Closet still has much to recommend, not least its exhaustive account of how early films such as 1895's The Gay Brothers were celebrating gay relationships long before the Hays Code and the McCarthy witchhunts put a stop to positive representations of lesbians and gay men.
There have been several similar studies since, most notably the books of Richard Dyer, who combines academic insight with an obvious love of the movies. Now comes Out At The Movies. Subtitled "A History of Gay Cinema", Steven Paul Davies's book boasts a preface by Simon Callow, who played gay Gareth in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Somewhat self-congratulatory, Callow suggests that Gareth was "a new kind of gay character in films: not sensitive, not intuitive, kind and somehow deeply sad" and most importantly, "flamboyant but not camp". Well, I guess that depends on your definition of camp. For me Callow's fruity performance did as much to challenge gay stereotypes as those two interior designers who are forever throwing hissy fits on Channel Five.
Strictly speaking, this is not "A History of Gay Cinema" but "A History of Cinema Enjoyed by Gays". There are no gay characters in Mildred Pierce, for instance, and while Bette Davis may have earned her status as a gay icon, to compare her character in All About Eve to "every gay man who struggled to come out or get laid with a not-so-safe stranger" really is stretching things a bit.
Davies is better when he's drawing out the gay subtext of films such as Rebel Without a Cause, or tackling difficult films like William Friedkin's gay serial killer thriller Cruising, which has a reputation as one of the most homophobic films ever made – an opinion I have disagreed with on several occasions, and am pleased to see that Davies disagrees with too. As he points out, "gay life isn't always pretty rainbows, Pride marches and Will & Grace reruns." It certainly wasn't in 1980, which was the year Cruising came out. Rainbow flags and Will & Grace followed long afterwards.
It wasn't until the mid-Eighties that we began to see a steady stream of films dealing with real gay lives – and deaths. Aids brought homosexuality out of the shadows and into the headlines, and gave a greater urgency to gay film-making. Independent films such as Parting Glances helped pave the way for the Hollywood treatment of Aids in Philadelphia (1993). Meanwhile, British films such as My Beautiful Launderette and Prick Up Your Ears showed gay men in many different lights, some more flattering than others.
While the 1990s brought us the self-consciously transgressive films dubbed New Queer Cinema, the decade also saw gay men – or at least, drag queens – go mainstream in the films Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. It also saw the appearance of sexy lesbians, like Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly in Bound, a far cry from frumpy old Beryl Reid in The Killing of Sister George. And who can forget Beautiful Thing, which arrived like a breath of fresh air, even if it was set on a housing estate in Thamesmead?
Since 2000, there have been a glut of gay romantic comedies, most of them pretty lame and designed to please the happy-clappy brigade who enjoy watching cute boys with their shirts off. But the defining moment was the release in 2005 of Brokeback Mountain. Gay critics are divided on the film. Some say that it merely retreads familiar territory, with the main characters ending up dead or grieving; but others celebrate the fact that two sexually attractive, leading Hollywood actors playing a sympathetic gay couple represents a major leap forward. I'm in the latter camp. And so, I'm glad to see, is Davies. Now all we need is for some sexually-attractive, leading Hollywood actor to come out of the closet. But that may take some time yet.
The Independent on Sunday
gaydarnation.com's interview with author Steven Paul Davies
read the full review >>
- Interviewer: Bree Hoskin, gaydarnation.com
Out at the Movies looks back decade by decade at the history of gay cinema, celebrating films which have defined the genre. Indie films, the avant-garde, sex on screen, bad guys, lesbian lovers, transgender films, camp comedies, musicals and gay rom-coms – it’s all here.
As well as highlighting key movements and triumphs in gay cinema, author Steven Paul Davies looks at the influence of gay filmmakers and actors within the industry, as well as some of the most iconic scenes from gay cinema and the most memorable dialogue.
We caught up with Steven to find out more about his definitive guide to gay cinema.
So what exactly constitutes 'gay cinema'?
Most people would define gay cinema as the one where homosexuality is the centre of the film’s conflict. However, in my book, I’ve also covered films that are loved and adored by gay audiences, but without a typical 'gay storyline'. The obvious example is The Wizard of Oz.
Tell us about your book, Out at the Movies. What can people expect?
Well, I’ve been writing books on film and TV for about six years and I’ve wanted to do this one for a long time. Most books out there on gay cinema are either too academic and for film studies students, or they are just A-Zs and reference guides.
I wanted to tell more of a story about the emergence of gay cinema. Celluloid Closet did that, but the last edition of that ends around the time of Torch Song Trilogy in the late 80s. There have been so many more developments since then. I think my book is more accessible and the kind you could have on the coffee table to dip in and out of.
I must say though, it was only after Brokeback Mountain that bigger publishers took interest. I think they could see the value of the pink pound! It’s out now, though, and I’m really happy with the end result. I love the way the book looks and the reaction has been good.
What sort of research went into the book?
I watched literally hundreds of gay-interest films, mostly on DVDs that were sent to me by various film companies, both in the UK and US. I also interviewed a few key people in the industry - people like Simon Callow, Sir Ian McKellen and Todd Haynes - and did quite a lot of research at the British Film Institute in London – they have great archives there.
What films featured in the book are among your favourites?
It’s difficult to choose one, but I’m a big fan of Beautiful Thing. It’s a coming of age film with a twist – all the usual teen angst coupled with the angst of realising and learning to deal with being gay. The main characters are believable and engaging, the story is compelling, and I'm a sucker for a (reasonably) happy ending.
I also loved Brokeback Mountain – it is the romance film of the decade. It has two of Hollywood’s greatest young actors playing roles we would never expect - and doing so outstandingly. For a lighter film, my favourite gay comedy has got to be Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The flamboyant costumes and design are outstanding and who could forget Guy Pearce lip-synching to opera inside an oversized stiletto on top of a moving shiny bus?
How were gay people represented in the early days of film?
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, gay characters were usually cast as the leading man’s effeminate friend or as the sissy, with their sexual orientation understood, but never discussed. Later, especially from the late 50s through to the 70s, gay characters always seemed to be portrayed as emotional wrecks, many of them suicidal, or as villains and people to be feared. Things are better now, though!
Which period in history or key movements do you see as being the most important for the genre?
Throughout the decades, there have always been a few films, here and there, which broke new ground. Victim in 1961 was instrumental in paving the way for the legalisation of homosexuality in Britain. Dirk Bogarde, at the time Britain’s revered matinee idol, risked his career to portray a closeted gay lawyer who stands up to blackmailers at a time when being gay was a crime. Today, yes, things are different, but Bogarde was born in 1921, and homosexuality was only finally legalized in Britain in 1967. As an actor, he risked a great deal to take a crucial role at a time when it made a difference.
Real progress was also made with the rise of independent cinema in the 80s - films like Parting Glances (1986) and Poison (1991). Then Hollywood studios began embracing gay-themed movies with films like Philadelphia (1993) and, of course, Brokeback Mountain (2005), which was a total triumph and a monumental moment in gay film history.
How does American gay cinema compare to European gay cinema?
I think on the whole, from the 60s onwards, gay filmmakers across many European countries produced more artistically significant queer-themed films than their American counterparts. A lot of European gay cinema seems to look at conflicts between classes and generations. I love the films of Visconti, Pasolini and Fassbinder, as well as Derek Jarman and Almodóvar.
What do you think is next for gay cinema?
Since Brokeback Mountain’s success, producers have been dusting off old gay-interest scripts, so there should be some good gay movies coming out without the old stereotypical characters. Gus Van Sant is about to release Milk with Sean Penn and I’m really looking forward to seeing how I Love You Philip Morris turns out - Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey playing gay.
When did you first become interested in film?
I really started getting into film when I was about 15 or 16, watching Alex Cox’s BBC2 series Moviedrome - lots of unusual quality films from around the world. I realised then that I had a taste for the offbeat, genre-breaking stuff - films that were a bit different to Hollywood big bangs and boring rom-coms.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
A couple of years ago, I bought a loft apartment in Manchester’s gay village. It’s one of only seven apartments with the world famous Canal Street address. Very Queer as Folk! So a lot of my time is spent socialising with mates – Manchester’s a great city, not just the restaurants, bars and clubs, but culturally, too.
I also quite like spending time at my place in Herefordshire to relax. It’s nice to have both – the city life and some time in the country, too. I also travel a lot, usually city breaks, and I spent six weeks driving around Europe last year.
Interviewer: Bree Hoskin
a solid pink-cinema primer. Three Stars.
read the full review >>
- Jamie Russell, Total Film
'Without homosexuals there would be no arts,' Elizabeth Taylor once said. But as Steven Paul Davies shows in this history of gay cinema, Hollywood's recent openness - from Brokeback Mountain to upcoming biopic Milk - has a troubled, often shameful history. Concise sections on key films and out'n'proud celebs may be light on detail, but this is still a solid pink-cinema primer. Three Stars.
A thoughtful and well-presented overview of the subject with insightful perspectives on the complex role and social, political, and artistic impact of gay cinema within modern culture.
read the full review >>
- Carol J. Binkowski, Library Journal
In this lavish history, Davies (A-Z of Cult Films and Filmmakers) examines gay cinema from its earliest days through the present. He organizes the material by decade, beginning with pre-1960s cinema, and discusses various films within their social contexts - from when the subject was off-limits and expressed on-screen only via symbolic codes and icons, through Stonewall and AIDS, to when gay people and gay themes were openly accepted and became central to certain films.
Davies follows each chapter with biographical summaries of key actors and directors and includes in-depth examples of the genre's development, from Midnight Cowboy (1969) and La Cage aux Folles (1978) to Torch Song Trilogy (1988), Philadelphia (1993), and Brokeback Mountain (2005). A generous selection of photos and movie stills and an excellent foreword by Simon Callow nicely complement this work. A thoughtful and well-presented overview of the subject with insightful perspectives on the complex role and social, political, and artistic impact of gay cinema within modern culture.
Carol J. Binkowski
Copyright © 1999/2013 kamerabooks.com