After the Moonlight fades: what’s next for LGBT cinema

The shock Oscar win of the low-budget drama about a black gay humen life has set in motion a year that might finally offer a substantive opinion of sexuality

A week after Moonlights stunning best image upset at the Academy awardings, were beginning to put the bizarre circumstances of its coronation to one side and to focus on the equally astounding fact of the victory itself. Rewarding a micro-budget all-black character examine steeped in Asian and European arthouse aesthetics is already an unprecedented reach for the organisation that famously swept Do the Right Thing aside in 1990 but by adding the movies complex queerness to the equation, we leap even further into the void.

Eleven years ago, when Brokeback Mountain was astonishingly defeated by Crash following rumblings of discomfort among older, rightwing voters over the former movies gay content, a message was sent out that such narrations were still marginal; only last year, when Todd Haynes lavishly acclaimed lesbian romance Carol failed to score a Best Picture nod, the limitations of the old guard were once more suggested. Warm and wistful and sexually inexplicit, Moonlight is not a highly revolutionary work in the annals of fag cinema, but it shall now eternally be regarded as a pathbreaker: the movie that got LGBT tales fully past the establishment. It changes everything, extol the movies post-victory billboards across Hollywood a grand statement that somehow, at this moment, doesnt voice too grandiose.

History, of course, will reflect that Moonlight changed little all on its own. Just as it follows a long string of crossover fag successes from Carol to Brokeback to Boys Dont Cry to the oeuvre of Almodvar that loosened some of the stones for its breakthrough, its also part of an increasingly noisy contemporary wave of LGBT cinema making its presence felt on and beyond the festival fringes. Even before Oscar night dedicated the movement a red-letter day for the ages, 2017 was shaping up as a banner year for fag film-making and film-makers. Just two months and two big-league festivals in, more major gay-oriented movies have premiered than we once could hope for in an entire year all bound for cinemas in the months to come.

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It began in January at Sundance, typically a hothouse for square, largely straight American indie quirkfests which this year revealed an unusual curve to its programming. For once, the uncontested breakout make of the blizzardy Utah festival wasnt American, but the kind of Euro auteur vision youd expect to see unveiled at Cannes or Venice: accommodated from Andr Acimans celebrated 2007 novel, the Italian director Luca Guadagninos Call Me By Your Name is an unabashedly queer coming-of-age love story, steeped in the peachy, sensuous pleasures of gay erotic waken.

Detailing the bittersweet summertime dalliance between a precocious 17 -year-old( the remarkable Timothe Chalamet) and an older American academic( Armie Hammer) in 1980 s Italy, it constructs good on the sensory eroticism with which Guadagnino pestered us in A Bigger Splash and I Am Love; the gay costume drama doyen James Ivory, meanwhile, had a hand in the script. Sundance reviews were ecstatic across the board; Sony Picture Classics wasted no time in scooping it up for distribution, reportedly with an eye to next years Oscars.

If Call Me By Your Name seems to be this years gay cinema event the one, like Moonlight and Carol before it, that adult viewers of all persuasions construct dates to see its supplemented by equally fine works of slightly more specialised appeal. Another Sundance make, the Yorkshire-based film-maker Francis Lees windswept, rough-hewn love story Gods Own Country, was already been dubbed the British Brokeback a tag thats both glib and irresistible, given that Lees film also details the gruff courtship of two hardy shepherds in the hills. That basis aside, this deeply moving movie has very much its own narrative to tell, particularly with its stirring anti-Brexit stance: the fans here are a surly young Yorkshireman and a dreamy Romanian migrant worker, complicating the films politics of social prejudice. Lee was a popular winner of the festivals world cinema directing award; Picturehouse will release Gods Own Country in the UK subsequently this year while a US release is yet to be confirmed.

Harris Dickinson in Beach Rats. Photo: Cinereach

Lees film could demonstrate a star-making vehicle for its gangly, winning young star Josh OConnor, while another British newcomer, Harris Dickinson, made an equivalent impact in another gay-themed Sundance prizewinner, Liza Hittmans Brooklyn-set Beach Rats. It was the darkest of this years queer visions at the celebration: a portrait of a cripplingly closeted teenage dudebro exploring his sexuality via gay chatrooms while maintaining a surface life of straight laddish misbehavior, it prompted parallels to Moonlight in its rare focus on homosexuality in the social margins, albeit to less hopeful effect.

In addition to devoting Gods Own Country and Call Me By Your Name a second hurrah along with the South African Sundance highlight The Wound, a fascinating examine of unspoken homosexuality in the countrys tradition-bound Xhosa community last months Berlin film festival also dedicated the neglected trans quadrant of LGBT cinema some welcome attention.

Naoko Ogigamis gentle Japanese drama Close-Knit offered a fresh perspective on transgender maternity and was quietly praised, but was exhaustively overshadowed by the Chilean director Sebastin Lelios A Fantastic Woman, a riveting, profoundly empathetic narrative of a trans woman frozen out by her male partners family following his death. Its elegant Almodvar-esque stylings earned it a best screenplay award from the jury and a hefty distribution is being dealt with, again, Sony Classic. At a time when the casting of cishet actors in transgender roles is still a phase of debate, Lelios film follows the likes of Tangerine in standing boldly for the alternative: the trans actor Daniela Vega is a sensation in the lead. Boasting fellow auteurs Pablo Larran and Maren Ade among its producers, its a movie that constructs 2015 s fusty trans-themed Oscar winner The Danish Girl feel about half a century old.

And what of the multiplexes? Slower to catch on, of course, but even blockbuster cinema is oh-so-gradually making allowances for gay narrations. A much-vaunted gay character in Disneys Beauty and the Beast may have turned out to be a bit of a damp, stereotyped squib, with the director, Bill Condon, eventually admitting that what he had touted as an exclusively gay moment for the Mouse House was overblown by hype but the very conversation it inspired is one we can expect to recur more often with regard to studio movie-making.

The internet is already speculating on the fate of the Alien franchises first gay couple: in advance footage for Ridley Scotts Alien: Covenant, set for release in May, Demin Bichir and Nathaniel Dean are shown kissing and canoodling. Its ostensibly an unremarkable moment, but gay romance is rarely made to seem unremarkable in the mainstream. As the likes of Moonlight continue to push the envelope in the arthouse, even a most unexceptional outcome for Scotts burly outer-space fans would be advance of a sort: perhaps 2017 is the year LGBT representation onscreen comes to seem not so queer.

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